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Yosemite Mariposa County is a year-round playground for both casual and hardcore outdoor enthusiasts. After all, it’s home to soaring granite icons such as Half Dome and El Capitan; Yosemite Falls; some of the world's biggest and oldest trees – the giant sequoias; plus a wide range of natural monuments, vineyards, and historic Gold Rush landmarks. However, savvy travellers know that Spring is an especially spectacular time to see this part of the High Sierras – a time for cascading waterfalls, the first blossoms of wildflowers, and host of other seasonal delights. Besides, it’s also a great time to beat the crowds of summer, ensuring that visitors can truly get up close and personal with California’s ultimate recreation playground.
The great outdoors
Credit: Patrick Pike Photography
The three Ws – waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife viewing – are all staples of springtime in Yosemite. Indeed, the park’s waterfalls – some of them among the tallest in the world – are at their peak in Spring when most of the snowmelt occurs. Three-tiered Yosemite Falls, a must-see, is usually at its best in May and June and there are numerous viewing spots in Yosemite Valley, especially around Yosemite Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge, as well as along the 1.6-km trail to the base of the falls. Other popular falls include Sentinel, Ribbon and Vernal, all at their best from March to June.
With average temperatures ranging from 15 degrees C in March to 26 in June, Spring is the perfect time to get active in Yosemite. And with more than 1,200 kilometres of trails to hike and 19 kilometres of biking paths, there’s no shortage of opportunity to get fit and have fun at the same time. Of course, there’s also half- and full-day rafting excursions on the “wild and scenic” Merced River that are guaranteed to get visitors’ motors running, as well as kayaking, fishing, ziplining, horseback riding, rock climbing, motorcycle tours, and much more. It should be noted that the spring run-off enhances the thrill of white water rafting in rivers like the Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne. Driving tours – we’ll count that as active – are also a great way to see a lot in a little time.
Historic small towns
Credit: Patrick Pike Photography
In contrast to its serene lakes and majestic peaks, quaint small-town Americana is on display in Mariposa (gateway town to Yosemite), where visitors can eat, dine and shop in the historic old town, and sample excellent local vintages and craft beers at easily found tasting rooms. Historic attractions and experiences are also aplenty, with many museums devoted to keeping the memory of the gold rush and the area’s pioneer history alive in towns like Mariposa and Coulterville. Don’t miss the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, Mariposa Museum and History Center, and the Yosemite Pioneer History Center, which includes an authentic Native American village.
A visit to Yosemite would not be complete without checking out the park’s sensational giant sequoia trees, and this June the experience gets even better as the renowned Mariposa Grove site unveils a makeover that will see a new, elevated boardwalk through the Lower Grove, handicap accessibility to the Grizzly Giant, removal of all commercial operations, and improved hydrology – all in the name of preserving the majesty of several hundred of the rare, mature giant trees.
Conveniently accessible from international airports (about a 3.5-hour drive from San Francisco/Oakland), Yosemite-Mariposa is an ideal component in a Northern California road trip itinerary that includes exploring the San Francisco Bay area, Sonoma/Napa wine country, the scenic central coast, and historic gold rush territory.
Where to stay
Visitors will find a variety of lodging to fit every budget, from bed & breakfast inns to cabin rentals, unique rustic lodges, traditional hotels/motels and five-star resorts. Go to www.yosemite.com
This article was brought to you by our friends at Yosemite Mariposa County, California’s ultimate recreation playground
Start planning your visit: www.californiahighsierra.com.