May 5, 2013

Yosemite a spectacular nature trip for city folk

A return visit as an adult reveals why the California park is one of the most popular in the country.

By KATHY MATHESON The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Yosemite Valley as seen from Tunnel View with three of the park’s best-known natural attractions: El Capitan summit on the left, the granite peak known as Half Dome in the distant center and Bridalveil Fall on the right.

Photos by The Associated Press

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The pathway to Yosemite Falls.



After enjoying all that beauty, I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that Yosemite is the third-most visited national park.

Actually, I could have guessed as much considering the array of tourists we saw on the trails -- women in yoga pants and running shoes, seasoned hikers with backpacks and walking sticks, children wearing sandals and grandparents in collared shirts and sweaters.

And the park's popularity is why timing proves crucial. Summers at Yosemite are known for crowds and traffic jams, but the park seemed blessedly quiet during our mid-April trip.

That said, we had to book six months in advance for a room at the lodge, though there are other options both inside and outside the park.

Also, some waterfalls, scenic overlooks and roads are seasonal; Yosemite Falls, for example, is fed by snowmelt and tends to run dry in early fall.

A note for travelers coming from afar: We drove in on Route 120, which is a twisting, unlit mountain road that I wouldn't want to navigate at night.

Consider an early flight or bookend the trip with overnight stays in San Francisco, a four- to five-hour drive away, so you can arrive at Yosemite during daylight hours.

That will also help ensure you'll enjoy the gorgeous views as you descend into the valley; there are plenty of vehicle turnouts, so keep your camera handy.

The landscapes become even more breathtaking once you reach the valley floor, and a plethora of travel options -- walking, shuttle bus, guided tour or bicycle -- makes it impossible not to see something beautiful at every turn.


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