Author Archives: Scott Moey
Author Archives: Scott Moey
One of the best parts about visiting Yosemite National Park is going on different kinds of hikes in Yosemite Valley. You can get some incredible views by going on these hikes through this valley. Millions of tourists come to Yellowstone every year because they enjoy the variety of hikes that are possible along with the numerous amounts of outdoor activities that you can partake in too. Most people who come to Yellowstone do not enjoy hiking so you may be able to have some peace of mind by getting away from the large crowds in the spring or summer by being able to go hiking on the trails.
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Distance: 17 miles for a round-trip
Hiking Time: 12 to 14 hours depending upon expertise level
Elevation Change: 4,800 feet
Trailhead: The route to the top starts with the Happy Isles, which is shuttle stop #16. You are going to need to follow the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Fall. Lastly, you’ll follow the signs leading you to the top of Half Dome.
Half Dome has the distinguished reputation of being the most popular hiking destination in the valley. While it is the most famous of all the hiking trails, it is also the most challenging to do. You have to ascend over 8.5 miles to reach the summit and then it’s another 8.5 miles back to complete the trail. The actual hike can take up to two days or less. You have to be in top physical and mental shape in order to accomplish this hike. You may need to use metal cables and a harness in order to help yourself to the summit. You need to be strong to make it to the top but once you do, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views in the whole Yosemite National Park.
Distance: 3 miles for a round-trip
Hiking Time: 3 to 4 hours total
Elevation Change: 1,000 feet
Trailhead: The Mist Trail also starts within the Happy Isles like the Half Dome trail. You can go to the shuttle stop #16, which is at the eastern end of the Yosemite Valley. After you get to that shuttle stop, you need to cross the stone bridge and follow the path to the left.
While Half Dome is the most famous and the most strenuous trail, Mist Trail is the most popular with Yellowstone hikers. It’s pretty popular because you can see some of the most amazing scenery when you’re hiking along the trail. You can go by the banks of the Merced River and then head up the stone steps to see the Vernal Fall, which is 317 feet high and is an amazing and awe-inspiring waterfall. You should be aware that this particular trail could get quite crowded especially during the summer season at Yellowstone. However, if you’re not looking for too much of a challenge but want to see the beauty of the national park, Mist Trail is a good option.
Distance: 7 miles for a round-trip
Hiking Time: 4 to 5 hours
Elevation Change: 1,900 feet
Trailhead: At the end of the Mist Trail, start at the top of Vernal Fall on the way to Nevada Fall.
From the Mist Trail, it’s pretty easy to go on the Nevada Fall hike afterwards. It only takes a little over a mile from there to get to the top of the Nevada Fall at about 600 feet. You’ll have much less hikers to deal with since it’s less popular than the Mist Trail and you can get a lot of beautiful, and scenic views there too. In order to return to the beginning of the trail, you can loop around back using the John Muir Trail.
Distance: 7.6 miles for a round-trip
Hiking Time: 4 to 5 hours
Elevation Change: 2,600 feet
Trailhead: Begin at Camp 4 to start the trail. Then, you’ll take a shuttle to Yosemite Lodge, which is Stop #7 to cross the street to Camp 4. The hike starts between the camping ground and the parking lot.
To get to some beautiful waterfalls that are over 2,000 feet in total height, you’ll have to undergo the strenuous hike of Yosemite Falls. It will not be easy physically, you’ll sweat a lot, and it will be a long way up to the top, but the views of Yosemite Falls are truly incredible. You can even see the Upper Yosemite Fall after going up the 135 switchbacks in total. You’ll be able to go above the waterfall itself to see the entire area. If you’re not willing to put in all of that effort, you can go to the Columbia Point instead, which is only about 1.2 miles away from the trailhead. It’s not as strenuous of a hike, and you will still get some great views of the valley.
Distance: 9.2 miles for a round-trip
Hiking Time: 5 to 7 hours
Elevation Change: 3,200 feet
Trailhead: To begin the Four Mile Trail, you’re going to need to go between Sentinel Beach and the Swinging Bridge on Southside Drive.
While millions of tourists come to Glacier Drive for the spectacular views, you can earn them and get some exercise by going through the Four Mile Trail. It’s a great hiking trail because you can get clear views of all of Yosemite Falls. If you don’t want to hike the 3,200 feet up to the top of Glacier Point, you can choose to take a shuttle bus up there instead and just hike down the 3,200 feet down into Yosemite Valley. If you want more than just the Four Mile Trail, which is actually over nine miles round trip, you should consider doing the 11.5 mile hike, which includes the scenic Panorama Trail and ends at the Mist Trail. If you’ve got the energy, it’s one of the best hiking trails in Yosemite on par with Half Dome in terms of its’ difficulty and also its’ reward.
Start planning for your next trip now! Know the perfect time to visit the national park. Check this guide: The Best Times to Visit Yosemite
If you really want to get the full and immersive experience at Yosemite National Park, camping there overnight or for a couple of nights with some friends or your family is a great way to experience both the wilderness and the wildlife. When it comes to the number of total campsites at Yosemite, it is estimated that there are about 1,445 with thirteen different campgrounds to choose from. You can reserve up to 1,000 campsites in advance, which is recommended to do especially during the peak season at Yosemite, which is June, July, and August. Luckily, these campsites are freely available to the public and are filled up on a first-come, first-serve basis. You should try to reserve your campsite a couple of months in advance because one these campsites become available, they usually are booked within an hour or so of becoming available online. If you plan on staying at a campsite or campground during the weekend, you need to keep in mind that there is going to be a high level of competition for those spots. In case the campgrounds at Yosemite become full, there are a number of campgrounds near the national park that you can choose to camp at instead.
This question can be up for debate because there are over a dozen or more unique campgrounds to choose from. However, there tends to be a consensus that the most popular and well-known campgrounds are the Lower Pines Campground, the Upper Pines Campground, Camp 4, and the Tuolumne Campground. It’s important to be aware of the positives and the negatives of each campground because they’re not perfect but some campgrounds are better than others in terms of comfort and other factors.
If you want to get the best experience with camping, you may want to consider choosing a campground in the Yosemite Valley where there are four options. Because of the beautiful granite cliffs and stunning waterfalls, it’s the most popular part of Yosemite National Park so the campgrounds are likely to fill up quickly if you don’t reserve ahead of time. The campgrounds at Yosemite Valley aren’t too high up with the elevation being only 4,000 feet. You’re likely to have a comfortable time there due to the fact that there are bathrooms with running water and toilets that flush. Hot showers are also available to purchase for a small fee if you want to warm up a bit. Yosemite Valley also has a free shuttle that you can take between the four different campgrounds that are available to camp in.
Open: From April until October
Cost: $26 per night
Lower Pines Campground has about sixty different campsites available near the southern banks of the Merced River. It is quite popular due to its location where you can see nice views of the Half Dome and be located right next to the river. Some people consider this campground the best that the Yosemite National Park has to offer. Because it’s so popular, you should try to reserve your campsite months in advance especially if you’re planning to visit during the summer season. If you’re bringing an RV to the campsite, make sure that its’ length doesn’t exceed forty feet.
Open: From March until October
Cost: $26 per night
On the other side of the Merced River, located near the riverbanks is the North Pines Campgrounds, which is also considered to be one of the best campgrounds in Yosemite. Because of the popularity of this campground, you should book and reserve your campsite months in advance in order to secure a spot. Luckily, there are over eighty campsites at North Pines to choose from. It’s also not too far from Lower Pines if you decide to go there to visit people or check out the views from there.
Open: The entire year
Cost: $26 per night
Known as being the 2nd largest campground in all of Yosemite National Park, Upper Pines is located on the eastern end of the Yosemite Valley and is close to the two other pines campgrounds. Upper Pines has over two hundred and forty campsites to choose from and is open year round for visitors and tourists alike. However, you will need to make a reservation from mid-March to November due to the increased amount of campsite requests. However, from December to the beginning of March, campsites are available on the usual first-come, first-serve basis.
Open: The entire year
Cost: $6 per night
Camp 4 has the distinction of being the only campground that you can book on a first-come, first serve basis from the high season months of April to November. There are only thirty-five campsites available so demand is quite high. It’s important to book your campsite at Camp 4 about six months in advance depending on when you plan to visit the campground. This campground is not that big so you will not be able to park your car, RV, or trailer. There are parking areas nearby so you’ll have to put your vehicle there first before walking in to the campground. There are also no pets like dogs allowed so you’re going to have to leave Fido at home. If you enjoy rock climbing, Camp 4 is the most popular campground for that activity in Yosemite Valley. Because of its’ proximity to El Capitan or other hiking trails, Camp 4 remains one of the best campgrounds in Yosemite National Park.
There are campgrounds available for the sixteen miles that go from Wawona Road to Glacier Point. Glacier Point is located thousands of feet above Yosemite Valley and has really nice views of Half Dome, Nevada Falls, etc. There are a number of hiking trails nearby so it’s pretty easy to go on day hikes through this part of the national park.
Open: From June/July until September
Cost: $18 per night
The most popular campground located along Glacier Point Road, you can get to the Bridalveil Creek campground in about an hour driving up from the Yosemite Valley. During the high season of April to November, it’s first-come and first-serve. There are over one hundred and ten campsites to choose from so it’s a bigger campground overall. RVs and Trailers are allowed to park within the campground too without any problems.
Big Oak Flat Road is a long road that is about seventeen miles in length that winds up to Yosemite Valley. While it’s not very scenic, you can easily access the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias without needing to drive your car or RV. You can also be close to Yosemite Valley, where the two campgrounds along the Big Oak Flat Road are located.
Open: From July to October
Cost: $26 per night
The location of Crane Flat is perfect if you want to be close to the famed Yosemite Valley. It’s only about fifteen miles away from Yosemite Valley and you can drive there in about thirty minutes. You can easily make a reservation in advance up to a couple of months and there are over one hundred and sixty campsites available at any given time during the year. You can also drive your RV or car to park within the campground.
Open: The entire year
Cost: $26 per night
Hodgdon Meadow also has a very good location in that it’s located close by to the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station and is about twenty-five miles away from Yosemite Valley, which is about a forty-five minute drive. While there are only about one hundred and five campsites, you’re still have the ability to make a reservation in advance from the high season of April to October. Otherwise, during the months of November to March, it’s on a first-come, first-serve basis that comes with no reservation. You can bring your RV or a car in to the campground as well.
If you want to be in the heart of Yosemite National Park, you’ll want to go camping along Tioga Road. You can experience being close to the High Sierra Mountains where there is great scenery of the alpine and maple trees. You can also check out Tuolumne Meadows, which is accessible by car from Tioga Road. All campgrounds along Tioga Road are available on a first-come, first-serve basis making it more accessible than other campgrounds in Yosemite. However, because of uncertain weather conditions it is possible that some of these campgrounds will not be open during the winter months.
Open: From July to October
Cost: $12 per night
Tamarack Flat Campground is located in the southern part of Tioga Road and is a couple of miles east from Big Oak Flat Road. There are only over fifty campsites available and you’ll need to set up a tent if you plan to stay there overnight. It is not a very big campsite so you’re going to need to leave your RV or your car in another parking area because those vehicles can’t enter this campground.
Open: From July to September
Cost: $18 per night
White Wolf campground is in a good location. This campground is located halfway between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows and you can drive to both locations within an hour or so. There are over seventy campsites, which are all first-come, first-serve so you won’t need to make a reservation in advance. The elevation of this campsite is high up at 8,000 feet so bring a jacket because temperatures can be quite cold at night. You can bring your RV or another type of vehicle into the campground.
Open: from July to September
Cost: $12 per night
Just a stone’s throw from White Wolf is the Yosemite Creek campground. There are seventy-five campsites available for use on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are a variety of ways that you can do to get the most out of this campsite. You can set up a tent to spend a few nights there. However, there are no RVs or Trailers allowed in this campsite. Because of the elevation is high at almost 8,000 feet, temperatures can be cold at night. This campground is along the creek itself so it’s in a beautiful location. You can also hike to the top of Yosemite Falls if you want to check out the views from there.
Open: From July to October
Cost: $12 per night
If you want to be right next to Tuolumne Meadows, the Porcupine Flat campground is an ideal choice. It is entirely a first-come, first-serve campground and is very busy during the summer season, especially since it’s cheaper than other campgrounds. There are over fifty campsites and you can use your RV or car when you’re at the site. Bring a jacket though because it gets cold at night due to being at 8,000 feet in elevation.
If you want to be at the base of the High Sierra Mountains, being at a campground in the Tuolumne Meadows is the way to go. The scenery is spectacular and you can cool off in the meadows if you decide to camp there.
Open: From July to September
Cost: $26 per night
Tuolumne Meadows Campground has the double distinction of being the biggest campsite in Yosemite National Park at over three hundred available spots as well as being the highest in terms of elevation at over 8,600 feet. For half of the campsites, you need to reserve in advance, and for the rest of them are first-come and first-serve.
Open: The entire year
Cost: $26 per night
Over ninety campsites that are at the southern fork of the Merced River, the Wawona Campground is a pleasant site located not too far from the Yosemite Valley, and where you can reserve a spot especially when it comes to high season from April to October. You can park your RV, trailer, or car there as well during your stay at Wawona.
Check out this guide: Best Hikes In Yosemite Valley
How complete is this guide?
The answer? Not very complete. Like most national parks, this place is pretty big. In fact, you can likely write a book or two about it. If you feel something is missing or needs to be updated, you are welcome to contact us and contribute.
When you think of national parks, chances are that Yellowstone National Park is one of the first things that comes to mind. The iconic landscape of this massive piece of land is synonymous with raw beauty, untouched wilderness areas, and ridiculously amazing landscapes. Throw in the fact that Yellowstone is one of the most seismically active places in the world, and you´ve got the recipe for a truly one of a kind natural experience.
Yellowstone National Park, is a pretty huge place; almost 3,500 square miles to be exact. Trying to plan a weekend getaway or even a weeklong vacation can seem like a pretty tall task with so many different options and attractions. In this complete guide to Yellowstone National Park, we´ll do our best to guide you through all of the different attractions that are available to you and your family so that your next trip to Yellowstone will be unforgettable and unique.
While many of us might think that Yellowstone began once it was formally declared a national park, indigenous people have been living in the park for well over 11,000 years; following the herds of buffalo over the mountains and plains. There are over 1,000 archaeological sites scattered throughout the park giving testament to the rich, anthropological history of the area.
In the early 1800´s, during the Lewis and Clark expedition, John Colter, accidentally got separated from the expedition while off trapping animals. He eventually found his way to what is now a portion of Yellowstone National Park. He suffered through an entire winter in the park occasionally fighting with indigenous tribes that inhabited the area and miraculously survived.
When he eventually made it back to the expedition, he told tales of a place that reeked of fire and brimstone (in apparent allusion to the geysers and seismic activity). The rest of the group thought his tales to be the result of too many months out in nature by himself and playfully referred to the place as “Colter´s Hell.”
During the Civil War, in 1862, the area which now compromises Yellowstone was given over to the Department of the Interior. Ten years later, the U.S. Congress and President Teddy Roosevelt the union general who fought during the Civil War, declared Yellowstone a national park, the first ever national park on a worldwide scale.
Yellowstone National Park gets its name from the nearby Yellowstone River which has its headwaters within the park boundaries. The Yellowstone River was named by a pair of French Trappers who translated the river from the native Hidatsa name for the river, which roughly translates as Rock Yellow River.
Since being founded as a national park, Yellowstone has continued to attract the wonder and fascination of millions of people from around the world.
Yellowstone became a national park on March 1, 1872.
It is the United States first national park and is also considered to be the world´s first national park.
Yellowstone National Park is so large that it actually takes up three different states (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming) and is close to 3,500 square miles in size. This makes Yellowstone larger than both Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
Because of how it is located above seismically active tectonic plates, Yellowstone receives anywhere between 1000 and 3000 earthquakes each year!
As a national park, Yellowstone has more active geysers (300) than waterfalls (290).
Yellowstone is home to 67 species of mammals, 285 species of birds, 16 species of fish, 6 species of reptiles, 5 species of amphibians, and more than 7 aquatic nuisance species.
The Canadian lynx and the grizzly bear, both of which are endangered species, find extensive habitat within the park´s boundaries.
Yellowstone has over 450 miles of roads throughout the park allowing you to explore from your car if hiking isn´t your thing.
If you do enjoy hiking, however, you´ll find over 1,000 miles of trails throughout the park.
In 2015, over 4 million people visited Yellowstone, the vast majority during the peak summer months.
Old Faithful, the park´s most famous geyser, gets its name because of the regularity with which it erupts. Every 92 minutes, almost on the dot, Old Faithful will erupt sending up a spout of hot, sulfur-smelling water into the air.
One of the biggest attractions of Yellowstone National Park is the hundreds of geysers that dot the landscape throughout the park. While some of them, like Old Faithful, “erupt” every certain amount of time, others are simply unpredictable, making this land of “fire and brimstone” as it was called by one early explorer, a landscape unlike any other. But what causes Yellowstone to be such a hotbed of seismic activity?
Yellowstone National Park sits on top of the northeastern part of the North American Tectonic Plate. Directly underneath this tectonic plate is a stationary mantle hotspot of lava, magma, and other signs of seismic activity. Since Yellowstone is on the boundary of this plate, there are hundreds of places throughout the park where the hotspot just below the earth´s crust emerges to the surface in the form of geysers, hot springs, and sulfur spouts.
Furthermore, the Yellowstone Caldera is the largest volcanic system in North America, commonly called a “super volcano” because of the strength and frequency of the eruptions. When you´re hiking across Yellowstone, a thin crust of earth and rock is all that separates you from one of the largest magma chambers in the world that is thought to be 37 miles long, 18 miles wide and up to 7 miles deep!
Over half a million years ago, a massive volcanic eruption, over 1,000 times more powerful than the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in nearby Washington, created the current landscape and seismic activity. This eruption was so powerful that many scientists consider that it shaped the weather patterns that characterize our current civilization.
This extremely powerful history has left the landscape of Yellowstone with over 10,000 geothermal features including hotspots, geysers, hot springs and much more. Over 2/3 of the world´s geysers are located within the boundaries of the National Park.
Though you shouldn´t be too concerned, hundreds of scientists in collaboration with the U.S. government have set up a permanent station at Yellowstone to study the possibility of future mega-volcanic explosions. Taking a trip to Yellowstone, then, should be considered an adrenaline pumping experience, knowing that you´re visiting a place that could potentially explode at any minute!
With over a thousand miles of trail and 3,500 square miles of mostly wilderness area, Yellowstone certainly has more than enough areas to explore. While it is hard to narrow down the list of “must-do” hikes to just a few, we´ve attempted to give you list of the top five day hikes at Yellowstone that will introduce you to the incredibly rich and diverse landscape of the park. For more options, be sure to visit the Visitor´s Center once you get to the park, and always check with park rangers since some trails are periodically closed off due to abnormally high geothermal activity.
From the South Rim of the Yellowstone Canyon Area, Uncle Tom´s Trail offers a short but strenuous hike that will give you some fantastic views of some of the best waterfalls in the park. The trail is actually a metal staircase that will take you down 328 steps to the rim of Yellowstone Canyon. The views of the canyon and the Lower falls are spectacular, though the hike back up will certainly tire you out. It´s not every day, however, that you´re able to descend into a steep canyon without the use of ropes and climbing gear.
This 8 mile round trip hike leaves near the Mammoth Campground. If you´re looking for a quality hike that will take you by rivers and creeks, through steep canyons, and also offer quality overlooks, this is the hike for you. If you´re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of a herd of buffalo passing through the river which is a sight definitely worth seeking out.
Just north of Canyon Village, you will be able to find the Mount Washburn Trailhead. This 6.4 mile round tripper is a fairly easy hike with only a few moderate uphill climbs making it a great option for a family hike. There are several sweeping lookout points that will give you access to incredible scenery. These lookout stations are also some of the best places in the park to look for wildlife including grizzly bears, buffalo, and everything in between.
If you make a reservation to see one of Old Faithful´s early eruptions, don´t head back to camp right away. Just north of the Old Faithful Geyser you will find the Fairy Falls trailhead. This easy 5 mile round trip hike will take you very near the Midway Geyser Basin and the Grand Prismatic Spring. The Grand Prismatic Spring is easily the most colorful geyser in the whole park and will remind you of a deserted Caribbean beach, minus the not so lovely smell of sulfur. There is also a new growth forest that can help young children understand the importance of reforestation efforts.
Not every traveler or visitor to Yellowstone is content with the short and fairly easy day hikes. While the day hikes definitely show you some of the most unique features of Yellowstone, they are also usually pretty crowded with tourists, especially during the summer months. If you´re wanting to explore a bit of the less explored areas of Yellowstone, below you´ll find several quality backpacking trips that will take you into the places inhabited by only buffalo and grizzly bears.
The Sky Rim Trail is a one of a kind backcountry trail that traverses the Gallatin Mountain Range in the northwestern part of the park. Bordering the park is the Gallatin National Forest, and this trail takes you right along the edge of the park. The 21 mile round trip is strenuous at times, especially during the summit of the 9,899 foot Big Horn Peak. Once you make it up to the top, however, you´ll be rewarded with some of the best panoramic views the park has to offer, including an uninterrupted view all the way to the Grand Teton National Park which you can see on a clear day.
Another attraction of this trail is the herds of sheep, found appropriately on Sheep Mountain, another moderately difficult summit that you´ll have to cross. Start your trip at the Dailey Creek Trail, and if you plan to spend a night or two camping on the trail, apply for a backcountry permit and seek out the best view for a perfect night. There are frequent afternoon storms, so be careful when picking the best spot for camping.
This is only an 18.5 mile hike, but the scenery is so astounding that you will want to stretch it into a day or two hike. Also located in northeastern Yellowstone which is one of the least developed parts of the park, this trail starts at the Thunderer Cutoff trail before taking you through the Cache Creek drainage all the way to the Lamar River where you´ll meet up with the relatively easy Lamar Creek Trail.
This trail is only meant for serious backpackers as you´ll spend a little bit of time off the trail through creek beds, but is well worth it if you have some basic navigational skills. Just before you make it to the Lamar River, you´ll be able to see Death Gulch, which is a geothermal basin for Wahb Springs. If you want to (carefully) explore some of the geothermal activity of the park on your own, this is a great opportunity.
Near the Cache Creek and Lamar River you have a pretty good chance of running into herds of bison as well, so make sure to be on the lookout for all sorts of wildlife.
This 20 mile backpacking trip will take you into a different part of Yellowstone which may make you feel like you´re in a completely different ecosystem. The thick grasslands of the Central Plateau of Yellowstone are the favorite abode of the herds of bison, and you might find that you run into a traffic jam of buffalo during your trip.
For adventure seekers who have always wanted to look for a grizzly bear in the wild, this is most likely the best place to do it. Fatal bear attacks have occurred in this area, so take precaution and make lots of noise to alert the bears of your presence.
This unique trail starts in the grasslands, rises through thick pine forest before taking you to Mary Lake, a charming small mountain lake which is synonymous with true wilderness.
You don´t have to venture into the wilderness to brave the bears and bison in order to enjoy Yellowstone. There are dozens of family oriented and family centered activities that make Yellowstone a great place for a memorable family vacation. Below we´ll explore four different activities that can be enjoyed in family and leave your kids with lifelong memories of the beauty of this one of a kind national park.
Without a doubt, one of the best attractions of Yellowstone for young kids is seeing the super-hot and sulfur-smelling water erupt hundreds of feet into the air in the form of geysers. A child´s imagination can run wild when contemplating these truly unique spectacles along with boiling mud pots, steam vents, and hot springs that look like a tropical beach.
The Upper Geyser Basin has the highest amount and concentration of geothermal features anywhere in the park (and in the world, for that matter). A nice boardwalk makes for an easy path allowing kids to see the unique geothermal features while also keeping them at a safe distance. Midway Geyser Basin is home to the world´s largest hot spring and is also a family friendly place to stop.
Though you might not want to take young kids for a cycling tour on the paved roads that you´ll have to share with cars, Yellowstone National Park also has hundreds of miles of dirt roads that are open to mountain biking.
Blacktail Plateau Drive is a sweet seven mile trip through meadows, mountains and forests and will definitely get you some great opportunities for wildlife sighting. Another good family ride to consider is the 5 mile cruise along the Old Gardiner road which is graveled. This old road is the best place in the park to spot elk and pronghorn which might be a bit safer for young kids that going into the heart of grizzly country.
There are several places around the park where you can rent bikes, including near the Old Faithful Geyser which allows you to explore some of the geothermal activity in the area from the safety of your bike.
If you´re not a huge fan of pedaling, signing up for a horseback riding trip is the quintessential family activity, and you´d be hard pressed to find better scenery for a trip that at Yellowstone National Park. The wide open meadows and plains of Yellowstone make it a perfect place for a horseback ride and can get younger children a higher vantage point to spot distant wildlife and appreciate the views.
There are a number of horseback riding outfits in and around the park, and you could even sign up for a covered wagon ride so that you and your family can get the true Wild West historical experience. Most horse operations require children to be at least eight years old to sign up, so make sure to plan accordingly.
Trying to hold on to your tube while going through a class five rapid might not sound like a great family activity, but the rivers that run through Yellowstone National Park have a number of easy to moderate rapids that are family friendly. The Yellowstone River, Madison River, and Snake Rivers all offer cool rafting expeditions, with the Snake River being the most intense of the three.
Some rafting companies even offer complete packets that combine zip lines with white water rafting adventures; a perfect combination for family fun.
There simply isn´t enough space here to list ALL the great things to do and places to explore around Yellowstone. One of the most unique aspects of this park is that its natural biodiversity allows it to offer all different types of activities for different people. While the vast majority of visitors to the park stick to the most well-known attractions, getting “off the beaten path” and doing things that most visitors would never think of is a way to make your Yellowstone trip stand apart from the rest. Below you´ll find a couple of quality options to spice up your trip to Yellowstone.
Old Faithful is arguably the park´s most well-known and famous feature. Especially during the summer months, thousands of people line up to see it´s timed explosions. The park has even built bleachers too help accommodate the crowds but if you don´t get there on time, chances are that you´ll be trying to see the eruption over the head of someone in front of you.
For a more “private” showing of and Old Faithful eruption, simply walk around to the back of the geyser along the boardwalk. From there, you can leisurely hang your feet over the boardwalk and watch Old Faithful erupt without all the fanfare of hundreds of other tourists crowded around you.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is another favorite for tourists, along with the beautiful Upper and Lower Falls at the canyon. Instead of trying to meditate on the beauty of nature while surrounded by hundreds of talkative tourists, try this alternative, little-known path to get a view with solitude of the Canyon and the falls.
From the Upper Falls parking lot, walk left of the overlook (most of the crowds just go to the overlook). A short trail over two wooden bridges will get you a beautiful view of the upper fall complete with rainbows and mist. Best of all is that you will most likely have the place all to yourself.
While most of the thermal pools around Yellowstone are so hot that they´d end up giving your third degree burns, there is one gem of a pool that allows you to swim in it comfortably. Not many tourists know of this tiny, thermal pool, but it´s only a ten minute drive from Mammoth.
Head north until you reach a sign that says “welcome to Montana.” There, park on the right side of the road where you see a trailhead. Only 1/3 of a mile up the path you will find the Boiling River which is (as its name implies) a thermal river that is boiling hot. Though you can´t bathe there, a couple more minutes up the path and you´ll find that the Boiling River flows into the Gardiner River (which is a regular cold water river.
Where these two rivers meet you´ll find a perfect mix of hot and cold waters and steam rising up around you. This unique thermal pool is truly a one of a kind Yellowstone experience.
If you are wanting to get a National Geographic-esque wildlife picture while at Yellowstone, Mud Volcano offers you a great chance for a great shot. Herds of buffalo usually enjoy the Yellowstone River near Mud Volcano, and a couple of geysers rising out of the river banks are also a place the bison go to warm up. Getting a shot of these majestic animals while geothermal steam rises up around them with the Yellowstone River in the background is definitely Instagram worthy.
The vast majority of tourists show up to Yellowstone during the summer months and for good reason. The summer weather at Yellowstone averages a comfortable 75 degrees and offers long days of sunlight. At the same time, all the park attractions are open (unless unexpected geothermal activity is occurring). The downside of visiting Yellowstone during the summer, however, is the crowds which can be suffocating, especially at some of the most famous attractions such as Old Faithful.
In the spring months of April and May, you´ll be able to miss the biggest crowds, though the weather is unpredictable. Temperatures can rise into the 60´s, but a snowfall isn´t out of the question either. Some of the main roads will probably be closed until mid April meaning that some things will be off limits. However, the beauty of watching the park emerge from its winter hibernation is well worth the extra cold.
Early fall time is our recommendation for the best time to visit Yellowstone. The weather is still decent while the main summer crowds will have started to diminish. It´s also a great time to see certain types of wild flowers while the bison and other wildlife will just out foraging before the winter months hit.
Winter at Yellowstone is a treat for adrenaline seekers. Be forewarned that the park experiences heavy snowfall and bitter cold. However, if you come prepared, you´ll get the deepest type of solitude and some truly magnificent winter scenery.
There aren´t many places in our world where you can go and say that you were walking around the mouth of a super volcano ready to erupt at any moment. Yellowstone National Park offers visitors a unique perspective of the geothermal activity going on just below the earth´s crust. At the same time, Yellowstone is a place alive with herds of bison, elk and pronghorn and one of the best places in the lower 48 states to see a grizzly bear.
In this complete guide to Yellowstone National Park, we´ve done our best to choose some of the best hikes, backpacking trips, family activities, and other unique activities to make your Yellowstone experience truly unforgettable.
Welcome to our guide about Joshua Tree National park. Just a quick note before we get started:
How complete is this guide?...
Like most national parks, this place is pretty big. In fact, you can likely write a book or two about it. If you feel something is missing or needs to be updated, you are welcome to contact us and contribute.
When we think of national parks, the first image that comes to mind is that of pristine mountain lakes, towering mountain ranges, and roaring rivers where all sorts of wildlife find an abundant habitat. Very rarely do we consider an arid desert to be the representation of an unspoiled natural area.
Nonetheless, deserts are unique ecosystems that offer home and habitat to thousands of different types of flora and fauna. And despite their apparent harshness, many deserts around the world are actually fragile ecosystems that warrant protection and preservation.
The Joshua Tree National Park is one of the nation´s largest desert areas that is officially protected by the U.S. government. Spanning an area that is larger than the state of Rhode Island, this desert paradise offers a whole range of outdoors activities, from desert hiking to star gazing.
In this complete guide to the Joshua Tree National Park, we give you all the information you need to plan a one of a kind trip to one of our nation´s most unique ecosystems.
Joshua Tree National Park officially became a national park only a little over two decades ago. However, it has been a National Monument since the 1930´s. The park is named for the Joshua tree, Yucca Brevifolia in Latin, an inimitable desert tree that is appears to be a hybrid between a palm tree and a cactus. The abundance of these increasingly rare trees in the National Park may make you feel like you´re in the middle of a scenery painted by the famous children´s author Dr. Seuss.
Minerva Hoyt was one of the United States first female environmental activists and spent her life struggling to protect the desert areas of her native southern California. Despite her concerted efforts to protect the area now known as Joshua Tree National Park, over 250,000 acres of the park were given over to mining interests in the 1950´s.
However, when the park became a park in 1994 due to the signing of the Desert Protection Act by the U.S. Congress, most of those acres were reincorporated into the protected area of the park.
The park has over 790,000 acres, making it larger than the state of Rhode Island
Over half of the Joshua Tree National Park is a designated wilderness area waiting to be explored by desert lovers
The famous band “U2” has an album named after the national park´s namesake: The Joshua Tree
The name “Joshua Tree” was given by early Mormon settlers who thought that the tree looked like the biblical character of Joshua who raised his hands to the heavens
In Spanish, the tree is called “izote del desierto”, roughly translated as desert dagger
Joshua trees are an indicator species that designate an area as a desert
The Joshua Tree National Park is unique in that it encompasses two distinct desert ecosystems: the Colorado Desert which is a lowland desert and the higher Mojave Desert which is over 3,000 feet in elevation
Over 2.5 million people visited the park in 2016
Despite officially being a desert ecosystem, the Little Bernandino Mountains run through a part of the park and can occasionally receive snow fall during the winter months
Geologists estimate that the rock formations in the park are well over 100 million years old
There are also several oases located throughout the parks where lush green vegetation contrasts sharply with the dryness of the surrounding landscape
One of the most interesting and fascinating aspects of Joshua Tree National Park and desert ecosystems in general is their unique geology, ecology and botany. While most people are under the impression that deserts are harsh, cruel environments where few forms of life exist, deserts are actually teeming with different forms of life that have adapted over the course of millions of years to the specific climatic conditions.
From a Geographical standpoint, the national park is unique in that while all of the park is considered to be a desert, it is actually made up of two very distinct desert ecosystems. The Mojave Desert is higher and significantly cooler than the Colorado desert which is much lower. It is in this higher desert where the Joshua Tree best grows.
The eastern part of the park is where you will find the lower and hotter Colorado Desert. This desert ecosystem has much less Joshua trees and more typical desert type flora including desert scrub and cacti.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Joshua Tree National Park are the unique rock formations that can be found around the park. Visitors often describe the rock strewn landscape as otherworldly with comparisons to Martian and Lunar landscapes common.
Geologists estimate that the unique rock formations scattered around the park were formed over 100 million years ago as molten lava boiled up to the earth´s surface and cooled just before the earth´s surface. This eventually formed a type of granite rock called monzogranite where a bizarre collection of rectangular joints, slow erosion, and ground water percolation eventually created these massive rock formations that continue to fuel our imagination.
Though it may be hard to imagine, the geology of the national park was also formed by flash floods and times of wetter climate when rain and rivers also contributed to the slow erosion of the rock faces.
While most travelers come to the park to see the oddly formed, Dr. Seuss-reminiscent Joshua Tree, there are dozens of other unique plant species that make up the botany of the park. Among the rock outcroppings, especially in the cooler Mojave Desert, you can find desert tree species such piñon pine, Juniper and a number of desert oak trees that are hard to find in almost any other part of the world.
The lower desert in the south and east parts of the park has large sand dunes, cacti and other scrub bush. Native California palm trees, called Fan Palms, occur throughout the park where oases form.
Without a doubt, one of the main attractions for nature lovers who come to Joshua Tree National park is the fairly large network of hiking trails. If you are worried about hiking into a desert for a multi-day trip, there are also a number of nature trails and short day hikes that will give you a unique insight into the desert reality.
Below we look at the top five trails in the park, three of which are longer hikes and two shorter hikes that pretty much anyone can handle.
This three mile round trip hike is a good middle ground for people who want a little more desert exposure than what you can get on the nature trails, but aren´t quite ready to haul with them several gallons of water into the desert night.
This trail also will allow you to explore the oasis ecosystem where the contrast with the dry desert surroundings will make you feel as if you have found a Garden of Eden. The unique Californian Fan Palms surround the oasis where, especially during certain times of the year, you will even be able to find standing water. Imagine taking a swim in the middle of the desert!
The hike to the oasis is moderately strenuous, but you should be able to find abundant wildlife, especially a number of unique bird species that populate the oases in the park.
Not all oases are the same, and the 7.2 mile hike to the Lost Palms Oasis is significantly different than the previous hike we reviewed. This hike starts at the Cottonwood Spring, which is an oasis in itself that is worth seeing. This spring has been used for hundreds of years, starting with the Cahuilla indigenous group that lived in the region prior to western settlement.
From the Cottonwood spring, a fairly easy hike through the desert will take you to a spectacular overlook of the Lost Palms Oasis. From there, you can choose to wander into the oasis which is actually situated within a canyon.
For more adventurous hikers, some boulder scrambling can be found nearby at Victory Palms and Munsen Canyon. This hike can take anywhere between 4-6 hours (and more if you decide to explore other nearby areas) so be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen with you. If you have some simple purification equipment, you can refill your water supply at the oasis.
Be on the lookout for bobcats and mountain lions as several visitors have claimed that the Lost Palms Oasis is a prime spot for spotting these hard to find cats.
If you are wanting a true desert adventure that can be turned into an overnight experience, the Boy Scout Trail is the hike for you. At just over 16 miles round trip, this hike isn´t for novices, and you will have to carry with you a fair amount of water.
This unique trail passes through the Wonderland of Rocks, which offers seemingly endless vistas of the unique, otherworldly rock formations that dot the park. This trail is also shared by horseback riders, so if a member of your family isn´t keen on hiking through the desert on their own two legs, you should be able to rent a horse for the day as well.
Spending the night under the desert sky is an experience that should not be missed, and the Boy Scout Trail is perhaps the best place in the park for an overnight trip. Any number of rock outcroppings along the trail offers a quality desert shelter. Make sure to check out the Backcountry Board once you get to the park to find information on overnight use for this trail.
For less avid hikers who still want to get the desert experience, the Hidden Valley Nature Walk is a great alternative. Much shorter than the previous three trails, this one mile loop trail will take you among massive boulders and offers vistas of a number of desert panoramas.
Because this valley is situated in between the two desert ecosystems, visitors to this trail will be able to observe pretty much every type of tree that grows in the park. From the infamous Joshua trees, to piñon pine, Juniper, desert oak trees, cacti and scrub brush, this trail will give you the full park experience in only one mile of hike.
The large rock formations are also a popular destination for mountain climbers and you´re bound to find a number of climbers hanging perilously from the sides of rock faces. This makes for an interesting side attraction. A nearby campground is also available year round.
If you are looking for the best place to enjoy spectacular desert panoramic views and sunsets, look no further than Ryan Mountain. At 5,456 feet, Ryan Mountain towers over the rest of the landscape. The relative lack of vegetation on top of the mountain allows for spectacular vistas of the surrounding desert.
While the hike to the top is only a mile and a half long you will be ascending over 1,000 feet, making it a moderately strenuous hike. The views of the Pinto Basin and the Lost Horse Valley are well worth the climb, and the sunsets from the summit turn the surrounding desert landscape into a blaze of intense colors.
While the hiking trails throughout the park are undoubtedly one of the main attractions in the park, there are also a number of high adrenaline climbing activities. Since none of the rock formations are very tall (most of them are actually under 200 feet in height), the climbs aren´t very long.
There are, however, varying degrees of difficulty, and you can design your own climbing circuit throughout the park. There are over 400 different objects to be scaled in the park, and thousands of potential routes.
If climbing isn´t your thing, you can also find places around the park for bouldering. Below we look at three of the best places to get the adrenaline flowing on the rocks. All three of these climbs are easily accessible from Quail Springs.
While the name doesn´t sound classy, this popular crag has a number of different routes for all levels of expertise. The more commonly climbed west face is great for beginners, and can be mastered with even the minimum of training and experience. The eastern face of the rock, however, presents significant challenges.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are not permanent anchors at Trashcan Rock so you will need to bring along your gear anchors. Also, if you´re looking for a bit of solitude on your climb, don´t come during the weekend when the rock is almost always filled with amateur climbers.
This rock face is actually composed of two separate rocks with a narrow canyon in between. History tells us that it used to be the site of a long since abandoned mining camp. To get to Hound Rocks, you´ll need to drive to the Quail Springs parking lot, and then follow a simple path over some sand dunes.
The two best routes on this climb are named the “right Baskerville Crack” and “Tossed Green.” Both of these receive a good amount of sun early in the morning. If you´re looking to stay cool during your climb consider adding this climb to your route during the afternoon hours.
If you are looking for a place to prepare for a bigger climb, say at Yosemite National Park, then the White Cliffs of Dover offer a quality training grounds. The White Cliffs of Dover have a number of features that are pretty similar to the legendary granite rock faces at Yosemite.
The cracks and corners on the climb will prepare you for what you´ll find if you are preparing for Half Dome or El Capitan in Yosemite. Furthermore, this is one of the only areas in the park where you´ll find smooth, fine grained granite. Most of the other rocks don´t have the smoothness because of the desert climate.
While mountain biking or hiking, there are also a number of other great activities that you can incorporate into your planned trip to Joshua Tree National Park. The unique desert ecosystem offers a number of unique opportunities for activities such as birding, mountain biking, and four wheel driving. For people who live in cities or other urban places with massive amounts of light pollutions, the desert nights and the dark sky also make amateur astronomy a great enjoyment for the whole family.
For bird watchers, the idea of finding a plethora of species in the desert might sound counterintuitive. From experience, most birders know that the majority of bird species flock to places where there is an abundance of water and tree habitat, no exactly what you would expect to find in the desert. Nonetheless, Joshua Tree National Park is home to over 250 species of birds, many of them rare species who only live in harsh desert climates.
The several oases around the park provide needed refuge and habitat for several species of birds who find themselves “trapped” by desert on every side. In many ways, the relatively small spaces of oases make birdwatching almost too easy, as you´ll likely see dozens of different species during any visit.
If you are looking for some of the rarer desert species such as greater road runner, the cactus wren, or several different types of mockingbirds, they are also quite prevalent throughout the different areas of the park. Some of the rarest species that birders come to look for include the ladder backed woodpecker and the oak titmouse.
Since most of the bird species can be found most easily around an oasis, you can combine a hike to one of the oases, with a planned overnight backcountry trip where you will be able to search for birds during the evenings and early mornings.
For many folks who come from the city, one of the most awe inspiring sights in Joshua Tree National Park doesn’t have to do with anything that is actually in the park, but what is above it during the night. While most of southern California is infamously renowned for its massive amounts of light pollution and smog that essentially block out the lights from the stars. Joshua Tree National Park is far enough away from the urban area to escape these phenomena.
Furthermore, the desert night usually produces clear skies with very few clouds and very little humidity or other forms of interference. For these reasons, the park is also a favorite for astronomers and star gazers.
According to the Bortle Dark Sky scale, the park has a dark sky rating of 3-4, which is significantly darker than most other places around the country. Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars and some simple sky maps to help you navigate the constellations. If you can plan your trip around a known meteor shower, you´ll find it difficult to sleep while watching hundreds of falling starts rip across the massive sky above you.
Joshua Tree National Park is also a great spot for people looking for a mountain biking or four wheel driving adventure. While there are several paved roads throughout the park, there are much more relatively solitary backcountry roads that the park allows 4 wheel drive vehicles to enter. Make sure you stay on the road, whether you´re on a bike or in a truck since tracks in the desert can last for years and disrupt the vulnerable desert ecosystems.
Below we look at three backcountry roads that are great for either a mountain biking trip or a four wheel drive experience.
This twenty mile road is a challenge for mountain bikers. It takes you deep into a canyon and then through flood plains. The soft sand might be a challenge to pull your bike or car through, so come prepared for some tough terrain.
This backcountry trip is an adventure and a geology lesson all wrapped into one. The roughly 18 mile round trip has 16 stops along the way to help novices understand the subtle differences in the fascinating rock formations that you´ll be seeing. Make sure to bring along an informative brochure that explains each of the 16 stops so you´ll know what you´re witnessing in geological terms.
For a different route consider the Black Eagle Mine Road. This route will take you through the Eagle mountains, through several different dry washes, and along the Pinto basin. After nine miles or so you will leave the park, but the road continues where you´ll find remnants of several old, abandoned mines.
Just a quick tip from a reader, you should book a campsite months in advance. Even during the week, during peak season.
The best time of year to visit the park really depends on what you are looking for and wanting to do. For hikers, one of the main attractions is finding wildflowers bloom in the desert, a unique experience in itself. In order to see the flowers, however, you will have to plan a trip in the late fall.
If you want to avoid the crowds, the winter months are the best though the desert can get cold and even experience snowfall at the higher elevations. For milder temperatures to avoid heat exhaustion while exploring the desert, your best bet is to visit during the early spring. No matter when you come, however, Joshua Tree National Park always has something to offer.
It goes without saying that those who visit national parks do so to satiate a pull towards nature. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to be mindful of the wildlife surrounding you and remind yourself that you are visitors in their home.
Tortoises are frequently were killed by negligent drivers. Park officials have advised drivers to look out for large boulders or rocks that could actually be tortoises, PLEASE BE CAREFUL
The urgency to protect these tortoises comes from their status as a threatened species, but an increase in their deaths could lead to having them put on the endangered list. As spring blooms increase, so does the presence of hungry tortoises. Be sure to do your part in keeping these tortoises safe in their natural habitat.
While taking the path less traveled can seem appealing for many reasons, it also carries with it several dangers. Here are some tips to maneuver the unbeaten trail:
Do your research, plan your route, and study your map beforehand.
Consider factors such as weather, wildlife, and terrain.
Be over-prepared for “what if” situations. If you twist an ankle off trail and your one-day hike suddenly turns into a two-day hike, will you have enough food and water to sustain yourself?
Be honest with yourself: are you fit enough to handle the trail? Know your limits and start off small.
The amount of water you carry should be dictated by the time of year. Pre-hydration is essential, so drink at least 1 liter before starting your hike. Water filters can cut the amount of water you carry, but this depends on how many sources of water you will come across.
Familiarize yourself with the wildlife that inhabits the park. This includes being prepared for mosquitos and storing your food safely from rodents.
Take extra precautions. It’s fairly common for people to mistake soft terrain for solid ground, lose their footing, and fall several feet off path. This could lead to serious injuries coupled with being out of range of other hikers and park rangers, delaying rescue time.
When considering off trail hiking, be sure to stay within park restrictions. In many cases, off trail hikers who were rescued from accidents were found in restricted areas. On top of having to pay for medical bills, they were written citations for breaking park rules. Off trail hiking not only puts you in danger, but it also puts the lives of rescuers in danger as well.
The risks that come with off trail hiking automatically increase if you are hiking off trail alone. The intimacy with nature that comes with solo hiking is understandable, and while many can advise you against hiking off trail alone, the decision is ultimately yours.
Leave an itinerary with someone back home including the date and time you expect to get back.
Consider investing in a GPS device, but don’t rely too heavily on it.
Always have a map and compass for guidance.
Check in with park rangers along the way.
The biggest dangers that come with off trail hiking are getting lost and getting injured, but with enough preparation, it is possible to successfully execute an off trail hike.
Without a doubt, Joshua Tree National Park offers a unique desert geography, otherworldly geological rock formation, spectacular hiking trails, high adrenaline climbing and mountain biking paths, and so much more. For a truly authentic desert experience, look no further than Joshua Tree National Park.
The first effort to protect the area that is now Yosemite National Park was actually done by President Abraham Lincoln (a pretty influential person in American history) who signed a bill to protect parts of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa grove of Sequoia trees.
John Muir, one of the best known American environmentalists, loved exploring the vast wilderness areas of northern California. The destruction of subalpine meadows around Yosemite Valley lead Muir into a prolonged struggle to protect the area which eventually lead to Yosemite becoming the nation´s second National Park (after Yellowstone) in 1890.
Even though the park was protected by the national government, the city of San Francisco, California had long been planning to dam the Tuolomne River as a source of drinking water and hydroelectric power for the city. Despite another long, political struggle (with Muir again at the forefront), the river was eventually damned. There are still efforts underway today to recover the natural state of the Tuolomne River which runs through the Hetch Hetchy Valley.
When it comes to any large place, it's hard to say the guide is "complete" - many of the places we write about can have a book (or even books) written about them.
We do our best to visit, write, research, about all the places on this site. But alas, there are only so many hours in one day.
That said, if you want to contribute, or feel something somethign is incorrect, feel free to contact us to help make this guide a better places on the interwebs.
Yosemite gets around 4 million visitors each year
The vast majority of those visitors never go beyond Yosemite Valley, a beautiful valley that only makes up 1% of the parks total area
Over 95% of Yosemite National Park is considered to be wilderness area.
Yosemite is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Yosemite Falls, the parks biggest waterfall, falls 2,425 feet making it one of the tallest waterfalls in the world
The park has an elevation range that ranges from 2,127 to 13,114 feet
The original name for Yosemite was “Ahwahnee”, a term used by local indigenous people which meant “Big Mouth”
The park gets its name from another indigenous group (the Yohhe'meti) that lived in the region before being driven out by the U.S. army during the “Indian Wars”
Yosemite Valley has been inhabited for close to 3,000 years, a remarkable fact when considering the continued ecological health of the region
In 2016, over 5 million people visited Yosemite National Park
Among other attractions, Yosemite has 1600 miles of streams, 350 miles of roads, and 800 miles of hiking trails
Yosemite National Park is a land of extremely diverse topography and landscapes. The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (https://pubs.usgs.gov/dds/dds-43/) was fundamental in mapping out the entire Sierra Nevada ecosystem where Yosemite is located and offers us an abundance of information regarding the natural wonders of Yosemite.
One of the best known features of Yosemite are the massive granite cliffs that rise throughout the park. “El Capitan” and Half Dome are two of the most easily recognizable (and most sought out by mountain climbers).
These granite cliffs began forming around ten million years ago when geological forces caused the Sierra Nevada to lift up and tilt to its side. This caused steep eastern slopes where much of Yosemite is located.
During one Ice Age, around one million years ago, glaciers dominated the high alpine meadows in the region. Scientists imagine that the ice around what is today Yosemite National Park might have been upwards of 4,000 feet thick, more than ¾ a mile thick. When that mass of ice began to slide downwards off the mountain, it carved out the U-shaped valley which is today called Yosemite Valley, the most famous part of the park.
Yosemite also has over 300 species of vertebrate animals in the park. Black bears, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and the grey wolf are some of the most sought after animals by tourists, though catching a glimpse of the grey wolf takes a considerable amount of patience and good luck.
Yosemite also has three separated and isolated groves of Sequoia Forest, which are home to some of the largest trees in the world. Outside the sequoia groves, the majority of the vegetation is made up of coniferous forest. Over 225,000 acres of old growth forest still remain standing and intact in Yosemite National Park, one of the few areas in the continental United States where old growth forest remains.
If you don’t mind the crowds of picture taking tourists, visiting Yosemite Valley in the peak summer months is the way to go. You won’t get any sort of solitude and seclusion, but it can be fun to share the beauty of the valley with others. If, however, you want a more unique Yosemite experience, you will want to consider alternative times to visit the park.
To avoid the crowds in Yosemite Valley, you will have to avoid the summer peak period of June to August all together. However, if you want to explore the other 99% of the park outside the Valley, you can pretty much go any time during the year.
Spring time is by far one of the best times to visit the park. School hasn’t let out for the summer meaning that you’ll miss most of the family vacations. Furthermore, the relatively chilly nights will keep other tourists away.
The snowmelt is at its peak meaning that the waterfalls will be gushing and if you time your trip right, you will also be greeted by a mosaic of wildflowers throughout the park.
When most people think of Yosemite National Park, the first thing that comes to mind is the image of adrenaline seeking mountain climbers hanging off of the sheer granite face of Half Dome. While they certainly are fun to watch, that´s not exactly a family friendly activity. Taking on a 4,000 foot incline to make it to the top of Yosemite Falls with two toddlers also makes for quite a strenuous hike that isn´t exactly made for families.
If you have small children or a large family, there´s no reason to put off a vacation to Yosemite until the kids are grown and off to college. There are dozens of family friendly activities all throughout the park. From panning for gold in a pristine mountain river to enjoying easy nature hikes, we´ve got all the information you need to plan a quality family vacation to one of America´s most iconic national parks.
What could be more unique than taking your tiny children to stare up into the canopy of the massive sequoias. One of the pleasures of being a parent is watching your children explore the natural world and express their awe and wonder and what they see around them.
Children love to explore the relatively easy trails throughout the two different groves of Sequoias in Yosemite National Park, and are encouraged to touch and explore the gigantic trees. At the very least, it will make for a great photo opportunity.
The Merced River is a great river for family fun. Unlike other mountain rivers with their quick currents and rapids, the Merced flows peacefully throughout Yosemite Valley. The relatively shallow areas with large sandy beaches make it a great place for a family picnic, some fun mini-tubing practice, and a chance to cool off from the warm summer temperatures.
You can also give your kids a history lesson on the California Gold Rush, as bits of gold can still be found in the Merced River. Read up on how to pan for gold, bring along some basic equipment, and see if your children can find some gold specks in the river sand.
An essential part of visiting the beautiful areas of our nation´s national parks is also teaching our children about the importance of protecting these pristine areas. Yosemite has a fantastic Junior Ranger program that is both educational and participative. Your kids will have to fill out a workbook on the park, learn about some of the park´s wildlife, and do a “service project” to help keep the park clean in order to earn their badge.
Just because your kids aren´t able or willing to endure a grueling 10 mile hike up to the top of Half Dome doesn´t mean that you can´t enjoy the stunning panoramic views that Yosemite offers. A short drive up to Glacier Point can be done with your kids which will offer you unbelievable views of the surrounding valley and most recognizable mountains.
For a real stunning experience, consider driving up around sunset during the full moon phase to watch the sun set and the moon rise. You can also enjoy a unique opportunity for star gazing at Glacier Point to get your kids interested in the heavens above.
These are just a few of the activities that you and your family can enjoy while at Yosemite, but there are virtually unlimited amounts of activities that you can plan for the entire family. Ask the ranger station for other ideas for family centered activities at the park and you´ll soon find that your kids won´t ever want to leave.
If you can’t make it to Yosemite in the spring, don’t fret. Each of the four seasons in Yosemite offers truly magical sights. The sunny, summer days are rightfully a crowd favorite, and if you don’t like cool temperatures, the warm, dry air is perfect for hiking and getting the best views.
Fall time in Yosemite also offers a way to avoid the crowds since most people stop visiting after Labor Day. The crisp night air often times drives out the summer haze leading to beautiful panoramic views. There is no better time of year to go stargazing at Yosemite than in September or October.
Though many of the parks roads close in winter time, the park service does regularly plow Glacier Point Road up to Badger Pass. Driving up to the pass after a night of snow fall will offer a magical glimpse of Yosemite´s winter wonders.
Furthermore, if you can make it to Yosemite in February, you will get to watch the Firefall, one of the most amazing natural phenomena in the world. The setting sun at that time of year is at such an angle that the sun illuminates Horsetail Falls in such a way that the falls glow orange and red while the sun sets.
With 1,200 square miles, Yosemite is a backpacker and hikers dream. Since the majority of the crowds never leave Yosemite Valley which only makes up 1% of the park, you should be able to find plenty of solitude and untouched, natural beauty, whether that be on the cliffs of a high granite peak or in an unexplored valley.
Below we offer our five best hikes for true nature lovers. Four of these hikes are day hikes while one can be done as an overnighter.
This 17 mile round trip hike isn’t for folks who are out of shape. If you think that you have the energy and the stamina to make it up one of the largest granite rocks in the world, however, you will be rewarded with a once in a lifetime experience.
To begin your hike you will go by past two gorgeous waterfalls, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, before hiking through thick pine forest. As you approach the top of the granite dome, you will have to pull yourself up with the aid of granite steps (think stairway of hell) and wire cables.
Once you make it to the top, however, the views are otherworldly with sweeping panoramas of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding landscape. You do need a permit to do this day hike so plan in advance.
If you make it Yosemite, you have to at least to try to climb up to the top of North Americas highest waterfall. The upper Yosemite Falls hike is a 7.2 mile round trip hike, though be warned that the majority of the trail is made up of steep, gruesome switchbacks.
Once you make it to the top of the falls, however, you will have gorgeous views of Half Dome and parts of the Yosemite Valley. You will also be able to say that you were at the headwaters of the largest waterfall on the continent.
If you are looking for a less strenuous hike, Taft Point is a relatively easy 2.2 mile round trip hike that takes you to the edge of Yosemite Valley and offers breathtaking views of the park’s main attractions.
You will also get to travel by deep cracks or crevices in the rock that extend several hundred feet downwards, displaying the geological and seismological activity of the park.
If you have never walked through a towering sequoia forest, it truly is a one of a kind experience that makes you see your life in perspective and consider your relative insignificance in the grand scheme of things.
There are a number of different trails leading through the forest, but you should definitely try and see the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree, two of the most iconic giants.
Nothing is quite so pleasant as spending the night camping in the wilderness on the shores of a pristine mountain lake. The Ostrander Lake trail isn’t as popular as some of Yosemite’s other trails, but that is what makes it so desirable.
If you are looking for great wilderness solitude, this 12.7 mile round trip hike will take you through meadows and prairies before climbing steeply to the Lake. You will also be gifted with breathtaking views of the Clark Mountain Range. Make sure to get a back country permit at the park offices before heading out to camp for the night.
Another fantastic overnighter to get away from the crowds is a hike through Sentinel Meadows. Besides offering fantastic views of pristine meadows and wildflowers, you also have your best bet of viewing grizzly bears along this trail.
The Sentinel Meadows Trail is managed by the Firehole Bear Management Area and is closed until Memorial Day Weekend every year. Once it opens, however, you have a pretty good chance of sighting a grizzly bear or two. Make sure to use precaution, but enjoy the adventure.
For folks who are looking for more of an adrenaline rush than what hiking offers, there are a number of opportunities to mountain climb throughout the park. Yosemite is often considered to be a mountain climbers dream with numerous sheer granite cliffs and vertical faces over 3,000 feet high.
Below we offer some advice on two of the best climbs for adrenaline junkies. Make sure to check for any closures before planning your trip as the park often times unexpectedly closes a route for restoration. Also, if you are looking for guided mountain climbing trips, consider Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (http://www.symg.com/trips/rockclimbing/)
This monster of a climb is one of the best crack climbs you can find. It is also a relatively easy climb for beginners since it is basically a manufactured climb with plenty of pin scars making it easy to find your way to the top.
Climbing half dome is on every mountain climber´s bucket list. The granite face of Half Dome looks almost unclimbable from the base, but once you get started, you will find it impossible to turn around. During your ascent, there are a number of places where curious hikers will admire your insanity as you take the “short cut” to the top.
You will need a partner and lots of problem solving ability to be able to master this climb though most of the climbing in itself is actually moderate if you pick the right route.
Originally we had a small section here of places to stay. To put nicely... We didn't do an amazing job of maintaining it.
If you are interested in checking out the original listing or would like to add your hotel or place to stay, check out the article here.
The incredibly varied landscape of Yosemite offers so many different, unique views and adventure activities that pretty much anyone find something they love. From meandering through groves of giant Sequoias to climbing up a sheer granite face, Yosemite National Park is one place that everyone should visit.
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Has this article got you thinking about Camping? Remember to keep your food fresh & drinks cool with our recommended camping coolers. Check our guide it before you plan your next trip. We think you'll enjoy it.
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States, and rightfully so. The beautiful mountains, pristine rivers, herds of wild buffalo, blazing hot springs and Geysers and so much more make this place a truly one of a kind environment.
It can be frustrating, however, to head to Yellowstone in hopes of getting a taste of the natural wilderness only to find that everywhere you go, you are surrounded by thousands of talkative tourists whose radios, picture taking and the like kind of takes the magic out of the moment.
While Yellowstone is known for drawing a crowd, there are also some fantastic places you can go to get away from the crowds and experience the essence of the wildness of one of America´s most iconic national parks. Below you´ll find information on five fantastic overnight hikes in Yellowstone National Park.
If you are looking for a hike that will take you away from the crowds as quickly as possible, this is the option for you. While it is only a 1.4 mile hike to this backcountry campground, that is more than enough distance to separate you from the majority of tourists who frown upon carrying their bed in a backpack.
They call this trail the chain of lakes because the trail follows a number of mountain lakes that form in descending fashion throughout the mountain. Ice Lake is the closest one, and you can choose how far you plan to go. Wolf Lake is about a 4 mile hike making it a bit more secluded than Ice Lake.
For experienced backcountry backpackers who like the thrill of trying to blaze their own trail, the Howard Eaton Trail offers a unique challenge. This trail hasn’t been maintained in a number of years. While there are still parts of it where a trail is recognizable, other parts have been lost to vegetation.
Trying to find your way along a lost trail offers a healthy dose of adrenaline to anyone. Throw in the fact that this is prime grizzly bear country and you´ll find yourself instantly on your toes during the entirety of the hike. The old Howard Eaton Trail is the best place in the park for people wanting to explore on their own.
If you want a little longer hike, the Bighorn Pass backpacking trip will take you close to 9 miles into the wilderness. This hike takes you along the Gallatin River and is one of the best places to find black bears, grizzly bears, and herds of elk.
There are a number of backpacker only campsites along the way and you might even be able to find a campsite near a marmot colony. Their friendly chirping will keep you entertained throughout the night.
The best place in the whole park to see the Lamar Valley and offers perhaps the best scenic, panoramic views. Furthermore, along the Lamar River you will most likely find bison footprints, and if you know how to recognize, the iconic gray wolf.
This area is known as the American Serengeti because of the huge amount of wildlife including bear, elk, antelope, wolves, and much more.
To get away from the crowds at Yellowstone, you can´t simply take a tent and sleeping bag and head into the wilderness. All backcountry travelers and campers need a permit to camp outside of the regular campgrounds.
You will need to apply at least 48 hours ahead of your planned trip. If you are planning to hike during peak summer season, you might also find that many of the backcountry campsites that you wanted to reserve have already been reserved, so plan accordingly.
If you have seen Old Faithful and done some of the more common day hikes at Yellowstone but want to get away from the crowds, the backcountry of Yellowstone offers a glimpse into a whole different side of this classic National Park. Do your planning ahead of time and pick any of these five fantastic backpacking trips to get a taste of the unspoiled wilderness of Yellowstone.
Washington State isn’t often considered to be one of the most ecologically diverse states of our country. Nestled into the top northwestern corner of the United States, it often gets passed up on for other supposedly more exotic locations for hiking.
The difference between eastern and western Washington are so striking, however, that it might feel like you´ve travelled across the world after a short 5 hour car drive. From the lush Cascade Mountains and the Hoh Rainforests in the western part of the state to the dry, wheat fields and prairies of the eastern part of the state, Washington offers a number of uniquely different ecosystems and environments.
A fantastic vacation idea would be to start in the Spokane area of eastern Washington and drive all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way be sure to check out some of these awe-inspiring day hikes.
The Blue Mountains in the south-eastern part of Washington aren’t as famous as their western counterparts, but they still have plenty to offer. The ridgeline trail that goes through the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness will take you to a beautiful overlook. On a clear day you will be able to see down into the valley of wheat fields and open spaces.
There is something undeniably magical about mountain lakes, and the Tolmie Peak Lookout stairs down into the pristine Eunice Lake which shines like a sapphire amidst an emerald green softwood forest.
Located near Mount Rainier National Park, this simple day hike will offer you beautiful views of one of the most iconic peaks in the state of Washington while also taking you up to almost 6,000 feet elevation.
Mount Saint Helen´s might not be as active as it was a couple of decades ago, but this trail in the South Cascades region offers you a pretty unique experience. You will be able to take in pretty cool views of the old volcano itself while also appreciating the roaming herds of elk.
The South Coldwater Trail rambles through treeless valleys which still give testament to the power of destruction that Mount Saint Helens caused. At the same time, the renewed landscape filled with wild flowers speaks to the power and resiliency of the natural world.
In the northern part of the Olympic Mountains you can find a unique trail in Sunrise Ridge. This trail which is within Olympic National Park is a wildflower-lover´s delight. If you time it right you will find field upon field of every type of wildflower including lupine, larkspur and everything in between. This is also a great trail to come upon all sorts of wildlife.
Really? A rainforest in the United States. While many of us might think that rainforests only exist in Brazil or Indonesia, the United States does have its own swath of untouched, virgin rainforest in the Hoh National Park.
Walking through the lush greenness of the Hoh Rainforest Trail is an experience unlike any other. Monstrous trees hung with thick moss and the unending song of hidden birds will make you feel like you´re in another country. The relatively open understory allows you to truly take in the beauty of America´s only rainforest.
While many people might think of the beach as a place to relax on the sand, the Pacific Coast of Washington is a perfect place to explore sea side cliffs and forests. The Rialto Beach and Hole-in-the-Wall offers a short 4 mile loop trail that is coastal hiking at its best. If you´re lucky, you might even find some tide pools filled with starfish and other unique sea creatures
In the Central Cascades, Larch Lake trail offers one of the most secluded places you can get to in a day. This hike isn´t easy as you´ll gain over 2,500 feet of elevation in 12 round trip miles, but if you make it to the lake you´ll be greeted by one of the Cascades best kept secrets.
Hiking this trail in early fall is by far the best time as the azure glow of Larch Lake will contrast beautifully with the golden leaves of fall time.
If you are in the Cascades Region, you will also want to check out Spider Meadow. A 13 mile round trip hike will take you through meadows and alpine highlands while giving you glimpse into the unique ecosystem of Glacier Peak Wilderness area.
Chances are that during your cross-state excursion throughout the state of Washington you´ll also come across dozens of other beautiful areas beckoning for you to stop and explore. You might not even be able to drive more than a couple miles without feeling the itch to see what´s over the hill. Exploring Washington State through these day hikes will offer you a glimpse into the natural beauty this state has to offer.
Let´s face it: not everyone is built for enduring the elements during a five day, strenuous backpacking trip up some 14,000 foot mountain. That´s what makes the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee so great. Even a few steps off the road and you´ll feel like you´re enveloped in a beautiful, pristine wilderness.
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park at 6,643 feet. You can take the leisurely drive through the forest to the top of the dome where you will be greeted by outstanding panoramic views of the hazy, surrounding mountains. There is simply no better place to catch a sunset here in the park.
If you are not in the best shape or don´t enjoy hiking up steep mountains, the Laurel Falls Trail offers a nice stroll through the woods. The 2.6 mile loop trail is mostly flat with a few small hills. But don´t let the ease of the hike fool you into thinking you won´t get to see much.
The culmination of the hike is a view of a gorgeous 80 foot high waterfall splashing into a small pool at its base. If you plan it at the right time of the year, you can also enjoy the flowering rhododendrons. This is a great hike to do with young children as it will open up to them the wonders of the natural world without not being too strenuous for their young legs.
While the Laurel Falls are pretty accessible to anyone, the Ramsey Cascades Trail is a pretty strenuous trail. This 8-mile hike increases close to 2,000 feet in elevation which means that you probably won´t run in too many other people.
The trail takes you through beautiful forest and follows the gushing waters of a stream. If you make it to the end of the trail, you´ll be greeted to the park´s tallest waterfall with over 100 feet of fall. In the small pool at the bottom of the fall you should be able to find uniquely colored salamanders.
One of the most unique places in the park to see the autumn foliage is Campbell Overlook. It is the best place in the park to see towering Mount LeConte and other forests. You can get there by car, or, if you prefer, through numerous hiking trails.
The Alum Cave Bluff Trail will take you up to the top of Mount LeConte, the most iconic peak in the Smoky Mountains National Park. While there are several different trails to help you get up Mount LeConte, this trail is the steepest, less-frequented, and offers several unique sights along its way.
From a spot called Inspiration Point you can hike through an arch and get a view of the “Eye of the Needle” a hole in a rock in a nearby ridge.
The Applachian Trail goes from Georgia all the way to Maine. If you´re not up for spending 6 months crossing the entire country by foot, you should at least hike a part of the trail that crosses through the Smoky Mountains. Standing Indian Mountain is our pick for the best place to get on the AT and can easily be done as a simple overnight backpacking trip.
If hiking isn’t your thing, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail takes you into the heart of the Smokies. You will pass by old homesteads and also have the option to walk to the Rainbow and Grotto Waterfalls, both of which should not be passed on.
There are hundreds of things to see in the Smoky Mountains, but one thing that you absolutely can´t miss is Cades Cove. This beautiful rolling meadow offers a loop tour that you can hike, drive or bike and offers a glimpse into centuries past.
Cades Cove used to be an agrarian settlement and you can still see beautiful constructions of old log cabins hidden in the thick woods. It´s also a great spot to catch a glimpse of a black bear, if you´re lucky. Like most places in the park, the best time of year to visit is in the fall time to enjoy the beautiful colors on the trees.
Any of these travel ideas throughout the Smoky Mountains will offer you a truly unique experience. From backwoods hiking to comfortable and accessible wilderness, the Smokies offer a little bit of everything for families, independent adventure seekers, and everyone in between.
How Complete Is this guide?
South Africa has a lot of amazing national parks and places to visit. Although we try our best, its difficult to cover every single detail about these parks. In fact, you can likely write books about many of these places. It is far from complete and the guide is still growing.
If you feel we left something out, feel free to reach out and suggest changes or contribute.
Located 72 kilometers from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province, The Addo Elephant National Park is the third largest park in South Africa. The Addo region surrounds the Sundays River, which has its entrance at the mouth of the Indian Ocean.
The park was established in 1931 to protect 11 Elephants on the brink of extinction. Today, the thick bushveld is the sanctuary of hundreds of elephants, as well as Cape buffalos, endangered black rhinos, Transvaal lions, spotted hyenas, a variety of antelope species, hundreds of bird species and the endangered flightless dung beetle.
Mile after mile of the Sundays River Valley is vegetated with evergreen citrus trees that bear fruit all winter and fragrance the air with their blossoms in spring. Interesting fauna and flora can also be found in the Zuurberg Mountains, which falls within the park, such as three rare cycad and two yellowwood species.
The park covers 120,000 hectares of land.
The average annual rainfall is 450 millimeter and is spread throughout the year, although peaks do often occur in February/March and October/November.
The Sundays River has its entrance at the mouth of the Indian Ocean and is tidal from the mouth for 17 kilometers.
The park is home to more than 350 elephants and 280 Cape Buffalo.
The Addo Elephant National Park encompasses a unique and complex bit of earth history covering about the last 500 million years.
Bird Island, which is included in the park, is home to the world's largest breeding colony of gannets – about 120,000 birds – and also hosts the second largest breeding colony of African penguins.
The largest remaining population of the flightless dung beetle (Circellium bacchus) is located within the park.
The park receives about 120,000 visitors annually. International visitors make up 54% of this number, with German, Dutch and British nationals in the majority.
Visitors can choose between guided game drives, hop-on guides and self-drive game viewing. Two-hour guided game drives take place in the morning, afternoon and night, as well as at sunrise and sunset. Visitors are also allowed to view wildlife from their own vehicles and local hop-on guides are available to accompany them.
Visitors have the choice of two horse trails: the Addo Horse Trails (where large game can be viewed from horseback) and the Zuurberg Horse Trails (which does not provide encounters with wildlife but instead offers beautiful scenic views from the mountains.
The Bedrogfontein 4x4 trail provides breathtaking views and is rich in history. This route was the scene of fierce battles between the Afrikaner and British and Afrikaner troops during the Anglo-Boer war. Rock art paintings can be viewed throughout the area. From the route a variety of the South African vegetation types can be observed, including riverine thicket, afromontane forest, fynbos and arid nama-karoo.
The park offers numerous hiking trails. The Alexandria Hiking Trail is a 32 kilometer, two-day circular trail – with the first day covering a distance of 18.5 kilometers and the second day a distance of 13.5 kilometers. Shorter hiking trails are also available. One-hour and three-hour trails can be hiked in the Zuurberg Mountains, while the PPC Discovery Trail is a short walk in the main camp.
Visitors interested in seeing a great white shark and/or southern right whale might want to partake in a Marine Eco-tour.
Day visitors can enjoy something to eat in the picnic area.
Situated at the southernmost tip of Africa in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, the Agulhas National Park stretches for 45 kilometers along the coastline, from east to west, and extends up to 25 kilometers inland. The cold Benguela current, of the South Atlantic Ocean, and warm Agulhas current, of the southwest Indian Ocean, meet at the edge of the Agulhas Bank.
Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was the first to discover the southernmost tip of Africa on 16 May 1488. In 1999 the Agulhas National Park was declared as a formal protected area not only because of its geographical location, but also to protect the lowland Fynbos, the unique wetland systems, the rich cultural heritage aspects and the diverse marine life of the area.
Cape Agulhas Coast is known as the Graveyard of Ships because numerous shipwrecks of early explorers – attempting to conquer the wild seas off the southern tip of Africa – dot the coastline. The navigators of the 1400’s to the 1700’s, who discovered the sea route around the southernmost tip, observed the sun at noon when it passed the meridian and found that the magnetic compass pointed to true north. Today it points some 25 degrees west of true north.
The park expanded to 21,971.0161 hectares in 2014.
As of 3 July 2015, Agulhas National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The highest point in the park is 309 meters above sea level.
The region has a Mediterranean climate – hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters.
The mean annual air temperature is 15˚C, with the average temperature in summer at 21˚C and the average temperature in winter at 14˚C.
Sea temperature averages 21˚C in summer and 14˚C in winter.
Annual rainfall varies between 400 and 600 millimeters, with 60 to 75 percent of the precipitation occurring between May and October.
Prevailing winds are westerly in winter and south-easterly in summer. Cape Agulhas is the windiest area along the South African coast year-round, with the least number of calm days.
It is believed that the waves at the southernmost point are, after those at Cape Horn, the highest in the world.
The sea is shallow, with the 30 meter isobath situated between 3- and 8 kilometers offshore.
Agulhas National Park has approximately 2000 species of indigenous plants, including 100 which are endemic to the area, and over 110 which are Red Data Book species.
People have occupied the Agulhas area for well over a million years and the Agulhas Plain is an exceptionally rich archaeological region. Tools from the Middle Stone Age (200,000 to 20,000 years ago) and the Early Stone Age (2 million to 200,000 years ago) have been found. Stone hearths, pottery, shell middens and tidal fish traps from the Later Stone Age (20,000 years before pre-colonial history in southern Africa) have also been discovered.
In the 1700s the Europeans settled as stock farmers in the area and pioneered the merino wool farming industry in South Africa.
The Cape Agulhas Lighthouse was the third lighthouse to be built in South Africa, and the second-oldest still operating. It has been in operation since 1849. The design of the lighthouse was inspired by the Pharos of ancient Egypt. Attached to the lighthouse is the former keeper’s house, which currently houses a restaurant and museum.
A cairn marks the exact location of the tip where the Atlantic and Indian oceans officially meet.
The remains of the Meisho Maru 38 wreck can be seen on the shores of Cape Agulhas. Showpieces from other shipwrecks found along the Agulhas coastline are also on display at the Bredasdorp Shipwreck museum.
The Agulhas National Park is one of the world’s six floral kingdoms. The Agulhas Plain has great diversity of indigenous flora and unique vegetation such as limestone fynbos. Most species bloom between May and September, but there are flowers to be enjoyed year-round.
The Park has exceptional birdlife, including endangered avifauna, such as the African Black Oyster-catcher. A famous birding spot is the Springfield salt pan, which was exploited by the Springfield Salt and Farming Company (Pty) Ltd, from 1914 and 1950, and the remains are now part of the cultural heritage in the park.
The Southern Tip is a preferred spot for rock- and deep sea fishing.
Agulhas National Park provides wonderful vantage points from which to spot whales. Whale watching season is from June to September.
Agulhas National Park offers two hiking trails. The circular Two Oceans Hiking Trail covers a total distance of 10.5 kilometers, which takes four to five hours to complete. However, two alternative routes with shorter distances are offered on the trail. The circular Rasperpunt Hiking Trail covers a distance of 5.45 kilometers and takes three hours to complete.
In the heart of the Lowveld, nestled between South Africa’s northeastern provinces Limpopo and Mpumalanga and bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the iconic Kruger National Park is the largest national park in South Africa and one of the largest national parks in the world. The park is approximately 352 kilometers long and has an average width of 60 kilometers.
The park was first proclaimed in 1898 as the Sabie Game Reserve by the then president of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger, and later expanded into the Kruger National Park in 1926. The park was initially created to regulate hunting and protect the diminished number of animals in the park.
In 1927 the first three tourist cars entered the park. Today, hundreds of thousands of local and international tourists enter through the park’s nine gates each year – hoping to catch a glimpse of Africa’s Big Five (the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and rhinoceros).
Approximately 950,000 people visit Kruger National Park annually, with South Africans accounting for 80 per cent of all visitors. According to the SANParks Annual Report, 1,659,793 people visited the park in the year ending on 31 March 2015.
The park covers a massive 1.9485 million hectares.
There are almost 254 known cultural heritage sites in the Kruger National Park, including nearly 130 recorded rock art sites.
More than 300 archaeological sites of Stone Age man have been found in the park, as well as cultural artifacts for the period 100,000 to 30,000 years ago.
The park provides a sanctuary for 147 mammal species, 500 species of birds, 116 reptiles, 34 amphibians, 49 fishes, 457 types of trees and shrubs, 1 500 smaller plants and countless insects.
A 2,600-kilometre network of all-weather roads allows visitors to explore the diverse habitats in the park in their own vehicle.
Income from tourism and trading activities generates more than R200-million per year, and the Kruger Park plays a major role in the Lowveld's economy.
Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino
Buffalo Weaver, Elephant Shrew, Leopard Tortoise, Ant Lion and Rhino Beetle
Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard, Lappet- faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Saddle-bill Stork
Baobab, Fever Tree, Knob Thorn, Marula and Mopane
Letaba Elephant Museum, Jock of the Bushveld Route, Albasini Ruins, Masorini Ruins, Stevenson Hamilton Memorial Library and Thulamela
Visitors eager to spot the Big Five can make use of the "Park and Ride Scheme."
The Kruger National Park offers several trails through its wilderness areas and has numerous rest camps. The duration of all the wilderness trails is two days and three nights. Longer backpacking trails, lasting four days and three nights, are also available.
The park’s guests can take advantage of early morning and afternoon guided walks, where two armed field guides accompany a small group of guests to share their knowledge of the fauna and flora to explain natural wonders.
Morning-, sunset and night drives are available.
The park offers several self-drive 4x4 routes ranging in distance from 48 kilometers to 500 kilometers. A guided one-night, motorized adventure trail is also available.
Mountain bikes are supplied to visitors, who can then cycle the unspoiled bush along with two armed field guides.
Surrounded by the rich wildlife sanctuary, the Skukuza Golf Course sits unfenced within the park – allowing for uninvited spectators to make their appearance during a round of Golf.
The park has an abundance of avifauna viewing opportunities. Some of the bird species in the park cannot be found anywhere else in South Africa.
A game drive takes visitors to an open area filled with burning lanterns and fires where, whilst listening to the sounds of the bushveld and the distant animals calling, the food is grilled on open fires.
Located at the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the Free State Province of South Africa, near the Lesotho border, Golden Gate Highlands National Park was officially proclaimed on the 13 September 1963. The park is more renowned for the beauty of its landscape, which offers panoramic views, than for its wildlife.
The grassland biome of the park is pierced by multi-hued, eroded sandstone cliffs and outcrops. Golden Gate derives its name from the color of the setting sun on the west facing sandstone cliffs, especially the picturesque Brandwag Buttress cliff. The park also features the spectacular Cathedral Cave – a 250 meter long and 50 meter deep cavern carved into the sandstone over millions of years by water, wind and fluctuations in temperature.
During the 1800s the plains around Golden Gate was swarming with game – most of which were migratory in nature. Today, the highland habitat is the refuge of a variety of mammals (mostly antelope species), birds, snakes and fishes. The rare bearded vulture (lammergeier) and the equally rare bald ibis can be found in the park.
The park covers 11,630 hectares.
The park is situated in one of the most important Water Catchment Areas in South Africa and more than 50% of the water supply of South Africa comes from this area.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park is currently the only proclaimed National Park that protects the grassland biome, which is the most neglected biome from the point of view of conservation.
There are more than 50 grass species in the park. Three of the most common species are the Tambookie grass (Miscanthidium erectum), Red grass (Themeda triandra) and Thatch grass (Hyparrhenia hirta).
The ouhout (Leucosidea sericea) is the most common tree in the park.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park has 10 antelope species, which are the eland, red hartebeest, black wildebeest, blesbok, springbok, mountain reedbuck, grey rhebuck, grey duiker, steenbok and the endangered oribi.
Over 210 bird species have been observed in the park.
There are seven snake species in the park, including the puff adder, mountain adder and rinkhals.
At a height of 2829 meters above sea level, Ribbokkop is the highest loose standing peak in the park as well as in the Free State Province.
The first ever fossilized Triassic dinosaur eggs were found in the park at Rooi Draai in 1973. An array of examples of fossilized dinosaur bones, roots, ferns and footprints were also discovered in the Park.
Upon completion of the Golden Gates Tourist facilities, there would be a total of 526 beds available in the park.
Visitors can abseil the cliffs of the park under the guidance of certified guides.
Canoeing is offered on the Gladstone Dam, under the guidance of experienced guides, for groups of 4 to 20 guests.
Guided horseback riding is available.
Visitors can swim in a natural rock pool is situated in the hills behind Glen Reenen.
The park offers two self-drive loops that are tarred and well maintained. The Oribi Loop covers a distance of 4.2 kilometers and includes the Vulture Feeding Project and magnificent views of the Drakensberg. The Blesbok Loop covers a distance of 6.7 kilometers and offers breathtaking scenery, including the Generaal's Kop viewing point.
The park offers six unguided, one-hour hiking trails; one guided, four-hour hiking trail; and one 28 kilometer, overnight, unguided hiking trail.
Visitors can take the Cultural Route, which traces the footsteps of the first occupants by visiting the historical sites of Qwa Qwa.
On the Herbal Trail visitors can learn about all the medicinal herbs on the trail from a village traditional healer, as well as view San rock art in the caves.
The Museum Tour displays a depiction of the architecture and life style of the Basotho people from as early as the 16th century to the present day.
The Golden Gate Highlands Hotel offers a tennis court, volleyball and mini soccer ball.
Situated west of the southern African subcontinent in the Kalahari Desert, the second largest desert in Africa, lies the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The park straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana, and borders Namibia to the west. Approximately three-quarters of the park lie in Botswana, called the Gemsbok National Park, and one-quarter lies in South Africa, called the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park.
The Park was proclaimed in 1931 to protect migrating animals from poaching. Kgalagadi means "land of the thirst." The park is characterized by red dunes, camel thorn trees and dry riverbeds. Two predominantly dry rivers run through the park – the Nossob and Auob Rivers, which are said to flow only once per century.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is especially renowned for watching predatory animals. Mammals, like Namibian cheetahs, leopards, brown- and spotted hyenas and the black-maned Kalahari lions, as well as birds of prey, like raptors, vultures, buzzards and secretary birds, are popular attractions. Seasonal migrating animals, such as blue wildebeest, springbok, eland and red hartebeest, can also be found in the park.
The park covers 3.8 million hectares.
The semi-arid region has an average annual rainfall of 150 millimeters in the southwest to 350 millimeters in the northeast, mainly between January and April.
Temperatures vary greatly from -11°C on cold winter nights to 42°C in the shade on summer days.
Botswana quietly sold the rights to frack for shale gas in more than half of its portion of the park in September 2014.
The park has a list of approximately 280 bird species; of which 92 are resident species, 17 are nomadic species, 50 are migratory species and 121 are vagrant species.
There are an estimated 450 lions, 150 leopards, 200 cheetahs, 600 brown hyenas and 375 spotted hyenas in the park.
There are three traditional tourist lodges and six wilderness camps within the park.
The park conducts morning and sunset drives.
The park has six 4x4 trails ranging in length from 85 kilometers to 257 kilometers.
There are five picnic sites throughout the park with barbeque facilities.
Namaqua National Park is situated in the western part of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, just south of the Namibian border. The park is part of the Namaqualand region, which falls within the semi-desert Succulent Karoo biome – a biodiversity hotspot with the largest concentration of succulent plants in the world.
The Namaqua National Park was proclaimed on 29 June 2002 for the purpose of conserving the rich diversity of succulent plants. However, people have long since been visiting the area to admire its renowned “carpets” of colorful wildflowers. The landscape, with its breathtaking beauty and contrasting colors, is also a photographer’s paradise.
After the winter rains, tourism peaks during springtime (August and September) when a burst of spring wildflowers appear. Most of the wildflower species are protected under law and visitors who decide to pick themselves a bouquet will face fines.
The park covers 70,000 hectares.
An estimated 100,000 tourists visit Namaqualand every year; of which 65% are South African.
The area has a low but reliable winter rainfall pattern, with most precipitation occurring between May and August. The eastern part of the park receives more rainfall than the west.
Winter wind is usually from the east, which can turn to a cold north-westerly with the approach of a frontal system, and is predominantly from the south or east in summer.
The bedrock within the Namaqua NP largely comprises Quartzo-feldspathic Gneiss of the Kookfontein subgroup within the Namaqualand Metamorphic Complex.
The park covers an altitudinal range from sea level (western boundary) to 948 meters (at Wolfhoek se Berg) on the eastern boundary.
Fifteen bioregions are represented within the boundaries of the park.
Namaqualand has about 3,000 plant species (1,500 are endemic) made up of 648 genera and 107 families.
Seventeen percent of Namaqualand’s plant species are listed as Red Data species.
It is estimated that the Succulent Karoo bioregion has about 16% of the worlds approximately 10,000 succulent plant species.
The wildflowers during spring time (August and September) are an absolute must see. The Namaqua National Park has not yet been fully developed and the Skilpad area of the park can only be visited by tourists during the flower season. A circular drive with viewpoints is available during this time.
The Caracal Eco Route stretches from the mountains to the coastline to allow visitors to experience a wide range of Namaqua habitats. The distance of the route range from 176 kilometers to 200 kilometers, depending on which tracks are selected.
Even though there are no formal mountain biking trails in the park, there are a wide range of roads and terrains which visitors can cycle.
The park has two hiking trails (5 kilometers and 3 kilometers) from which visitors can view flowers, as well as a longer hiking trail (6 kilometers) along the coastline.
Species to search for include Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Cape Long-billed Lark, Karoo Lark, Black-headed Canary and Cape Bulbul.
Picnic sites are available throughout the park.
Situated in the city of Cape Town in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, Table Mountain National Park is a uniquely urban nature reserve – fragmented by urban development and privately owned land. Beaches, bays, valleys, forests the Cape of Good Hope and the famous Table Mountain are all incorporated into the park.
Table Mountain National Park was proclaimed on 29 May 1998 to protect the natural environment of the Table Mountain Chain. In 2011, Table Mountain was declared as one of the world's new seven wonders of nature. The mountain and acclaimed landmark offers spectacular views of Cape Town as well as unique flora. Table Mountain National Park is part of the Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site.
The other two sections of the park are the Silvermine-Tokai section and the Cape Point section. The Silvermine-Tokai section was formed from the Tokai State Forest and the Silvermine Nature Reserve. The Cape Point section covers the most southern area of the Cape Peninsula and includes Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope.
The park includes 25,000 hectares of the Cape Peninsula Protected Natural Environment, as well as 1,000 km² of the seas and coastline around the peninsula.
Because the park has open access, it is the most visited of all National Parks – with 4.2 million visitors annually.
The park has 8,200 plant species – of which around 80% are fynbos. Many of the plants found in the park are endemic.
The Cape Floral Kingdom is the only kingdom confined to one continent.
Table Mountain National Park is included as part of the UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site.
The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau, which is approximately 3 kilometers from side to side.
The highest point on Table Mountain is towards the eastern end of the plateau and is 1,086 meters above sea level.
Table Mountain National Park and Cape Town have a Mediterranean climate – characterized by typically hot, dry summers and short, wet, yet mild winters.
The top tourist destination is rich in cultural and natural heritage. Wildlife, including eland, red hartebeest, bontebok and zebra, are found in the area. Visitors can visit the two lighthouses situated at the most southwestern point in Africa. Cape of Good Hope also offers hiking, surfing, angling, picnicking, beaching and cycling opportunities. Free guided walks are also available at Cape Point. The Cape of Good Hope Hiking Trail is an overnight hiking trail.
A colony of endangered, land-based African penguins can be viewed at the Boulders section of the park, which is situated in Simons Town. There are also three beaches and three boardwalks in the area.
The mountain offers a variety of hiking trails – ranging from light strolls to rigorous hikes. The summit of the mountain provides spectacular views of the city, while the ascent takes visitors through the ancient, indigenous Afromontane forest. A shortcut to the top of Table Mountain is also available via the Table Mountain Arial Cableway.
Lion's Head is the peak to the right of Table Mountain when facing it head on and offers a short but popular hike with 360 degree views of the Atlantic seaboard, the city and Table Mountain. It has become popular to hike Lion’s Head in groups during full moon.
Signal Hill, the Northern-most tip of the terrestrial area of the park, is a popular viewpoint which offers excellent views of the city and harbor. It is from here that the noon day gun marks 12:00 in Cape Town.
Silvermine offers some of the best hiking trails in the park, which passes by fynbos landscapes, a dam, a river and a waterfall. Bird spotting, picnics, dog walking and mountain biking are also favorite activities in the area.
Table Mountain National Park has a variety of diverse beaches on offer.
The Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area is a popular fishing area for shore and boat-based fisher people as well as extractive divers.
The Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area is a scuba diving haven. What makes the area popular among divers is the numerous wrecks that scatter the coastline as well as the six restricted areas ("no take" zones) that have been established as breeding and nursery areas for marine species. Popular dive sites include the Maori wreck off the Sentinel in Hout Bay, Oudekraal on the Atlantic Seaboard and Miller's Point and Smitswinkel in False Bay.
A plethora of rocky points, reefs, beaches and open ocean Atlantic swell provide numerous breaks that work in different conditions.
Table Mountain, with its rocky ledges and huge boulders, attract climbers from all over the world.
The park has numerous picnic and braai (to grill on open flames) areas.
There are numerous designated launch areas in the park, including Lion's Head and Silvermine.
Popular horse riding areas include Tokai, Noordhoek Beach and Black Hill.
Apart from Table Mountain’s Afromontane Forest, the park also includes Newlands Forest, Orange Kloof in Hout Bay and Echo Valley and Spes Bona on the Muizenberg mountains.
Imagine visiting a national park where over 95% of the close to 750,000 acres were designated as pure wilderness. Now imagine the fact that the vast majority of the four million people each year who visit only spend their time in the seven square miles that make up Yosemite Valley.
Despite being one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States, much of Yosemite still remains an unexplored wilderness.
Yosemite National Park is filled with breathtaking mountain ranges, waterfalls, mountain lakes, glaciers, and towering redwood forests. There is truly something for everyone in this impressively picturesque World Heritage Site, and we´ll take you through seven of the most amazing things to see in Yosemite.
Yosemite Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in the United States dropping close to 2,500 feet from the top fall to the lower fall. For the more adventurous of people, you can take a strenuous several mile hike up to the top of waterfall enjoying gorgeous views along the way.
Spring is by far the best time to visit when the snow melt and extra rains bring the waterfall to a crashing roar. If you do hike to the top, you can even wade in the river only feet from where it eventually crashes over 1,000 feet downwards to the second fall.
Half Dome is another daunting adventure for backpackers and hikers alike. The granite dome that juts up into the sky is rounded on three sides but a sheer granite face on one side, thus giving it its name.
An incredibly strenuous 8.5 mile hike will take you to the top of Half Dome via hundreds of stairs carved into the granite rock. Alternatively, for the truly adventurous, you can choose to mountain climb the sheer granite face on Half Dome´s northwest face.
California used to offer the promise of striking it rich during the hay days of the California Gold Rush. Today you can still find a number of rivers where gold can be found if you bring the right patience and skills.
The Main Fork of the Merced River is one of the best places in the park to search for gold. You will need to bring your own panning equipment, though there are several nearby stores that will sell you what you needed to try and strike it rich.
For adrenaline junkies, what could be better than trying to climb up a 7,500-foot granite monolith that offers more than 3,000 feet of free fall to the valley floor below? El Capitan is a massive rock formation located in the northern part of Yosemite Valley.
Even experienced mountain climbers often need a minimum of five days to complete the climb, so make sure you plan accordingly.
For people who aren’t up for climbing up steep mountain faces, Yosemite still offers access to beautiful, breathtaking panoramic views. The Tioga Pass is a mountain pass through the Sierra Nevada mountains that approaches 10,000 feet.
Route 120 drives right through the pass and is the eastern entrance way into the park. Leave early in the day to get the best views.
The Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias will help you put your size in perspective. During a leisurely walk through the old growth forest you can even walk through a massive tunnel carved out of a dead sequoia.
For a more secluded experience the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias is just up the road.
One of the best places to watch a sunset in Yosemite National Park is at Olmsted Point which is an overlook off of the Tioga Road that offers a wonderful view into the canyon with views of Half Dome and other lakes. Olmsted Point offers some of the best views of the park for those who aren’t willing or able to scale mountain faces.
Yosemite National Park is without a doubt one of the most beautiful national areas of the United States. Whether you are looking for the adrenaline of free climbing El Capitan or want to drive to Tioga Pass to enjoy the views, Yosemite has adventures waiting for everyone.
Check out this next guide about camping places in Yosemite: What are the Best Places to Camp in Yosemite?