Did you know that Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park has more waterfalls concentrated in a small area than anywhere else in the world? And that its famous Vernal Falls hike boasts a 1,000-foot gain in altitude up to the top, drawing people from around the world to see its waterfalls? For a summer vacation that will open your family’s eyes to some of America’s most spectacular western wonders, pack your bags and head to Yosemite, advises the Chicago Tribune in a recent article.
150 and better than ever
This month marks the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln, which set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove as the first protected wild land in the country—the first time scenic, wilderness lands were set aside specifically for preservation and public use by the federal government. This set a precedent for the 1872 establishment of Yellowstone Park as our nation’s first national park. (Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were combined with Yosemite National Park in 1906.) All year long, there will be special events at and around Yosemite to celebrate.
Today, Yosemite is the third most visited park in the country, welcoming more than 3.6 million visitors a year—more people than Yellowstone. (Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited in the country, the Grand Canyon is second and Yellowstone is fourth.)
Tons to do, tons to see
Yosemite is enormous—1,200 square miles, about the size of Rhode Island—and is also one the best places in America to teach kids about conservation, preservation and the supreme importance of protecting public land. It offers some 800 miles of hiking trails, 12 miles of paved bike paths, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding and even rafting in summer on the Merced River. There’s also the Junior Ranger program which helps kids actively explore and enjoy the park, and the hands-on Pioneer Yosemite History Center at Wawona.
As well as being visually eye-popping, Yosemite is also a place where you can try something new together as a family, such as a rock climbing lesson with the Yosemite Mountaineering School. The nonprofit Yosemite Conservancy offers naturalist walks, special-interest hikes and guided family camping trips this summer in Tuolumne Meadows. Who wouldn’t love a camping trip where someone else sweats all the details?
Leave the electronics behind
Refreshingly, whether your family members are outdoors lovers or not, Yosemite is a place where your kids can be persuaded to unplug. There is so much to see and do, so much to discover, that hopefully staring at a small screen will lose some of its interest (at least while on the trip). Where else will they see something as breathtakingly stunning as the Giant Sequoias in the Mariposa Grove? The tallest tree is about 290 feet tall—taller than the Statue of Liberty. Nothing beats a selfie at the famous California Tunnel Tree, where a tunnel was cut through the trunk to allow stagecoaches to pass through it, or at Glacier Point with its stellar views of Yosemite Valley’s rock formations.
However you encounter Yosemite, by car, bike, foot or raft, make a point to visit this summer. You and your family will never forget it.
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