Yosemite National Park has a long history with some unique facts that may not be known to everyone.  Let’s find out about these interesting facts of the park.  Yosemite National Park is one of the largest and least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, and the park supports a diversity of plants and animals. The park has an elevation range from 2,127 to 13,114 feet (648 to 3,997 meters) and contains five major vegetation zones: chaparral and oak woodland, lower montane forest, upper montane forest, subalpine zone, and alpine. Of California’s 7,000 plant species, about 50% occur in the Sierra Nevada and more than 20% within Yosemite. There is suitable habitat for more than 160 rare plants in the park, with rare local geologic formations and unique soils characterizing the restricted ranges many of these plants occupy.

Yosemite National Park is internationally known for its spectacular waterfalls, soaring monoliths (El Capitan and Half Dome might ring a bell), and overall stunning landscape, but there’s more to this California park’s history than its naturally picturesque views. 

The Guardian of Yosemite

Galen Clark was born in 1814 and made his first visit to Yosemite in 1855.  He was known as a conservationist who enjoyed the trees and scenery of Yosemite.  Soon he built a cabin near a trail that led to Yosemite Valley.  He was instrumental in the founding of Yosemite National Park though his conservation efforts.  For 24 years, Galen served as the Guardian of Yosemite National Park.  Mount Clark located east of Yosemite Valley was named in his honor.

Evening Horsetail Fall

Yosemite - Horsetail fall

During the early weeks of February, the sunset West of the park, shines through the waterfall creating an orange and red glowing effect known as “firefall”.  The glowing waterfall must have optimal conditions and the colored waterfall only occurs for minutes in the late evening.

Many things need to happen to view this phenomenon.  This includes the sun hitting the waterfall as the right angle and this can really only occur in February.  Obviously, the waterfall needs to be flowing from the melting snow so the temperature must be such to melt the snowpack.

Horsetail firefall is becoming a popular event with the number of parking tickets limited.  You may hike to the viewing area but to park your vehicle, you will need one of 300 free permits (250 available online and 50 on a first come, first serve basis.)

Camp 4, First come First served Campground

Camp 4 Yosemite National Park

Yosemite’s granite monoliths and challenging climbs make the park a major attraction for rock climbers. Since the 1950’s, adventurous climbers have visited Camp 4, a campsite in the park known for extreme rock climbers who camp at the site. Both amateur and world-class athletes have trained, traded techniques, and set up shop at the grounds, which earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Parks First Protectors

Yosemite - Buffalo Soldiers

The Buffalo Soldiers were African-American Army soldiers who in 1899 were assigned to patrol Yosemite and other protected areas in the West. Historians have recorded the service of these Buffalo Soldiers on the Western frontier, but their service in some national parks has been nearly forgotten. Approximately 500 Buffalo Soldiers served in Yosemite National Park and nearby Sequoia National Park with duties from evicting poachers and timber thieves to extinguishing forest fires. Their noteworthy accomplishments were made despite the added burden of racism.

13 Comfortable Campsites

Yosemite - Campsites

There are 13 different camping sites in Yosemite National Park to stay at. It is one of the most common things to do at Yosemite. The sites are all different, from the views to the amenities. Yosemite offers a select number of High Sierra campsites for those who want to backpack through the high country during the day without worrying about where to camp at night. Each camp provides meals, clean water, and access to bathrooms and canvas tents (complete with comfy beds and wood-burning stoves). You’ll have to enter a lottery system to nab one of these in-demand sites.

Most Famous Hotel of Yosemite

When socialites of the late 1920’s rejected the primitive lodgings in the area, the idea for the Ahwahnee Hotel, a luxury hotel on park grounds, was born. Years later, it was leased by the U.S. Navy to serve as a naval hospital during World War II. The facility was originally meant for psychiatric rehab but transitioned to offering more holistic treatments for patients.  In 2016 the Ahwahnee Hotel was renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel because of a legal dispute.

Grab a Drink in Soda Springs Cabin

Yosemite - Soda Springs Cabin

The Soda Springs Cabin was put on the list of National Register of Historic Places in 1979.  The cabin is located in Yosemite National Park and was built by John Baptist Lembert in 1889.  Mr. Lembert was one of the first settlers in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite.

Soda Springs cabin is located on top of a gaseous spring.  In lieu of a dwelling, some think the cabin may have functioned as a springhouse.  The cabin may have been constructed to keep livestock from spoiling the spring.

Driving Through Trees

Yosemite - Wawona Tunnel Tree

One of Yosemite’s most famous giant sequoias was the Wawona Tunnel Tree. Located in Galen Clark’s Mariposa Grove, the Wawona tunnel was carved in 1881.  During the next 88 years, the tree was a favorite photo spot for tourists until a snow storm knocked the tree down in 1969.  Today, you can visit the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree which was the new name given to the tree after the fall.

Winter Sports at Yosemite

Yosemite - Winter Sports

Originally considered a summer destination, Yosemite became a popular location for winter sports in the early 20th century. Glacier skiing and back-country skiing are the most attractive sports for the camper. The park’s improved winter activity offerings inspired Yosemite’s bid to host the 1932 Winter Olympics. Though the event was held in the United States, the honor went to Lake Placid, New York instead.

The Half Dome Village

Yosemite - Half Dome Village

Beneath the grandeur of Glacier Point, Half Dome Village is known for the same warm, hospitable feeling that was instilled by its founders, David and Jennie Curry in 1899. Half Dome Village features standard hotel rooms, wood cabins and canvas tent cabin accommodations. Numerous dining options and activities are available at Half Dome Village.  During your stay at Half Dome Village, you can take a guided tour of the park, hike, rock climb, swim, and view the wildlife.

The Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite

Yosemite - Holiday Tradition

Each year in December, the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly known as the Ahwahnee Hotel) holds an event known as the Bracebridge Dinner.  The first year of this dinner event was in 1927.   During the Bracebridge Dinner, the hotel room is resurrected to 18th century England.  The dinner takes attendees back to the Christmas days of Old England.  Attire is typically tuxedos or dark suits for the men and formal evening gowns for the women.  Ansel Adams directed the elaborate dinner production from 1929 to 1973.  The Bracebridge Dinner is all night event lasting over 3 hours.  Bring your cash as the cost of dinner is approximately $384.

Landslides Can’t Stop The Visitors

Yosemite - Landslide

During March of 1987, a landslide dropped over 1.5 million tons of gravel, rocks, and debris at the bottom of the Valley. The area remained closed to tourists for months. Cleanup was a large endeavor. Each year, more than 4 million people travel to this destination.

If you have never been to Yosemite National Park, please make it priority to visit this historic national park.  The numerous granite structures, wildlife, waterfalls, and historic areas make this a “must visit” park.