Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks
Our nation’s two most visited national parks every year are Yellowstone and Yosemite. It’s easy to see why. They both exhibit magnificent scenery and natural values. Yellowstone in Wyoming was the first in 1872 while Yosemite in California didn’t get federal protection until 1890.
The two parks are similar and yet very different. Both have spectacular waterfalls, Yosemite’s the highest and most conspicuous. You can’t miss it. Yellowstone has geysers and a rich variety of wildlife. But this park has been written about—at least in Utah and hereabouts—far more than Yosemite.
Let’s focus on the California national park. Explorer John Muir did much to tell the world about this Valhalla’s natural wonders after President Abraham Lincoln mentioned it as a possible new park. It was so close to the big cities of San Francisco and Oakland that when the word got out, vast crowds crushing in were inevitable. My family and I visited it on a July evening, entranced as we followed the Merced River. I love rivers like the meandering and placidl Merced and even more when told it was a trout stream. That meant it was alive with creatures of all shapes and sizes, insects, crustacheons and minnows which feed those trout. It was a lovely vision.
The thing that struck our family upon entering the park was the smooth-domed and towering mountains interspersed with emerald meadows beneath those tall peaks. Ponds reflecting aspens and conifers . Yellowstone has the meadows but not the precipitous and imposing mountain peaks nearby. Yosemite is most of all, a wow on first sigh…and then, “Let’s get out of the car and start walking for a close-up view of everything!”
Yosemite is a climber’s park. High and smooth mountain walls just naturally invite such adventure. Of course, all such activities including remote area backpacking must be coordinated with park officials. Interestingly, the roadless wilderness that is this park extends almost all around it. There is Ansel Adams Wilderness (named after the famous black/white image photographer), Hoover, Devil’s Post Pile etc.
There is so much to see from whatever gate you enter. There are three such gates. They follow highways 120, 140 and 49, north to south. There is one less used entrance on the east side, away from the big cities, a continuation of 120. Parking can be a problem but like Zion National Park, shuttles are used and run often.
Yosemite Valley is home to Half-Dome and some of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls.[/caption]Most RVers from southern Utah will drive I-15 and I-58 to Bakersfield, switch to I-99 and then follow the signs to Yosemite. California has several other national parks in enroute, including Kings Canyon and Sequoia, for way stops.