• HIDDEN GEM An hour and a half northeast
of the valley, Tuolumne Meadows is both
lovely and a jumping-off point for hikes into
the high country.
• WHERE TO STAY A lawsuit brought by the
previous park concessionaire has given all
in-park lodgings new names. In the valley,
the Majestic Yosemite (aka The Ahwahnee)
is regal and pricey. The Yosemite Valley
Lodge (aka Yosemite Lodge) is motel-like
but comfy. Out of the valley, Big Trees Lodge
(aka the Wawona) is sweetly historic. All
can be booked through travelyosemite.com.
Outside the park, Tenaya Lodge, near the
south entrance, is luxurious. Near the west
entrance, the Evergreen Lodge is a historic
resort handsomely redone. Nearby, the
Evergreen’s owners have just opened the
appealing Rush Creek Lodge.
It’s the flagship park of the entire park sys-
tem. The views of Half Dome and El Capitan
helped establish the very idea of the national
park in the American mind.
It is also wildly popular, with 4 million visitors last year. Therefore, Yosemite is a park
that requires you to have a strategy. Do stuff
early in the morning — a trail mobbed at noon
will be blissfully quiet at 8 a.m. In Yosemite
Valley, park once, then use the bus shuttle (or
your own feet, or bicycle) to get around. And
consider a post–Labor Day visit, when the park
quiets down. But don’t let crowds deter you:
Yosemite is an icon for a reason. nps.gov/yose
• DON’ T MISS The view-filled Four-Mile Trail
from Glacier Point down to Yosemite Valley.
Book a ride on the Hikers Bus ($41) from the
valley to Glacier Point and hit the trail to return.
Destinations / GO PARKS
Above: Yosemite Valley.
This image: El Capitan and
the Merced River.
SURE, YOU THINK, you don’t care about bureaucratic birthdays. The fact the National Park Service is turning 100 this year doesn’t excite you. But it should. Really. The NPS has preserved 59 of the greatest places on earth for your enjoyment. And five of the absolute best are here in Northern California. Their pleasures range from big trees to volcanoes to California condors. All make ideal getaways for summer or fall.
When it comes time to explore the
wonders of America’s national parks, think
Northern California first. BY PETER FISH