50 Facts About Yosemite National Park

165 miles away from San Francisco, lies one of America’s prized gems⁠ — Yosemite National Park. Ever since it became a national park on October 1, 1890, Yosemite has continued to wow visitors from far and wide with its scenic landscape! From towering waterfalls, stunning granite monoliths, deep valleys, to the ancient giant sequoias, this place has it all. So, if you’re planning your trip to Yosemite, you need to check out our list of 50 facts about Yosemite National Park before you go!!  

Fact 1: President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant on June 30, 1864, protecting the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley. This Land Protection grant was signed 26 years before it became a national park. 

  • It was the first time the government had signed a grant to protect land. They did so because of the area’s outstanding natural beauty, and so that people could enjoy the beautiful surroundings. 

Fact 2: Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall, or ‘Firefall,’ is a waterfall that is famous for looking like it’s on fire! The phenomena, which has captured the hearts of many, is actually down to the sunset reflecting red and orange colours. 

  • Sunlight plays amazing tricks at Yosemite National Park. It illuminates the park’s various granite rock formations like the El Capitan, and Half Dome in brilliant reds and oranges at sunset. 

Fact 3: The park’s diverse landscape is home to more than 400 animal species. This includes a wide variety of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

  • When you’re hiking around you might come across a Black bear or a Bighorn Sheep. 

Fact 4: Yosemite is home to the Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the world at 2,425 feet. 

  • Yosemite falls is actually made up of 3 separate falls, which can be seen from numerous places around Yosemite Valley.

Fact 5: Yosemite sees almost 4 million visitors a year.

  • Although the park is open all year, nearly 75% of these visitors come to the park May through October, and most of them never leave the 7-square miles that is Yosemite Valley. 

Fact 6: Yosemite National Park was the only national park to bid to host the 1932 Winter Olympics.

  • Even though they built various buildings including toboggan runs, a large ice-skating rink and a small ski jump, it was Lake Placid who won the bid for the 1932 winter Olympics. 

Fact 7: Since the 1880’s, climbers have been drawn to the Yosemite Valley and its soaring rock formations.

  • That’s because it offers climbers an endless variety of challenges like the Cathedral Peak and the Dawn Wall. 

Fact 8: Yosemite is one of the few places in the U.S. where you can see lunar rainbows or moonbows.

  • In the spring and early summer if the sky is clear and the moon is full, it can produce enough light to create a rainbow from a waterfall’s mist. 

Fact 9: During certain times of the year, some of Yosemite’s creeks appear as rushing slushies called “Frazil Ice”.

  • This dramatic natural event occurs mostly in the spring when there is a high water flow over the falls, and when temperatures are below freezing.  

Fact 10: Yosemite National Park was home to America’s first ‘park guardian’. Outdoorsman and conservationist Galen Clark was the first person to be named the ‘Guardian of Yosemite National Park’. He held his role for nearly 24 years. 

  • A ‘park guardian’s’ role is to educate park visitors and conserve the wilderness.  

Fact 11: The ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ were African-American Army soldiers who were assigned to patrol Yosemite and other protected areas in the West, in 1899. 

  • The successful military regiment became the country’s first group of rangers tasked with protecting areas like Yosemite from poachers and fighting forest fires.

Fact 12: Yosemite National Park’s most famous hotel, the Ahwahnee Hotel, was once used as a wartime hospital during World War II.

  • The hotel was leased by the U.S. Navy to serve as a naval hospital during World War II. The facility was originally meant for psychiatric rehab but transitioned to offering more holistic treatments for patients.

Fact 13: Finding a clean and comfortable place to stay at Yosemite National Park is not as easy as it sounds. Although there are ‘exclusive’ campsites around the park, vacancies are scarce so competition for a spot is fierce. 

  • Yosemite offers a select number of ‘High Sierra campsites’ for those who want to backpack through the high country during the day without worrying about where to camp at night. At each site meals, clean water, access to bathrooms and canvas tents are all provided. 

Fact 14: The Soda Springs Cabin is a small historic structure, built in the late 19th century by John Baptiste Lembert, who was the first white man to settle in Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows. 

  • The roofless cabin protects the Soda Springs, which are named for their gaseous, bubbling nature.

Fact 15: One of Yosemite’s most famous giant sequoias was the Wawona Tunnel Tree which was carved in 1881. 

  • Located in Galen Clark’s beloved Mariposa Grove, the Wawona tunnel was a favorite photo opportunity for tourists, until a snowstorm knocked the tree down in 1969. 

Fact 16: In 1872, James McCauley, owner of the Glacier Point Hotel, first pushed a torrent of campfire embers from the top of Glacier Point, starting the Yosemite Firefall tradition. 

  • Though the tradition was stopped and has restarted several times over the course of nearly a century, the unique bonfire remained a popular tourist attraction until 1968, when the National Park Service officially shut it down.

Fact 17: Described as a Renaissance pageant, the ‘BracebridgeDinner’ has been a holiday tradition at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel since 1927. 

  • Famed photographer Ansel Adams directed the elaborate dinner production from 1929 to 1973 and often appeared as the Major Domo.

Fact 18: The park was first inhabited by Ahwahnechee (meaning “dwellers in Ahwahnee) people around 3000 years ago. 

  • These people were from the Paiute and Mono tribes. 

Fact 19: The name Yosemite means ‘killer’ in Miwok language.

  •  Miwok is a native American tribe which settled in the region many years ago!

Fact 20: James Mason Hutchings and Thomas Ayres were the first tourists in the region in 1855. 

  • James Mason Hutchings is considered the “Father of Yosemite.”

Fact 21: Yosemite National Park is almost surrounded by wilderness and national forests on every side. 

  • At the southeast of the park is the Sierra National Forest, while Stanislaus National Forest is situated on the northwest direction. Ansel Adams Wilderness is at southeast and Hoover Wilderness to the northeast.

Fact 22: Yosemite is well-known for its amazing flora and fauna. Some famous flowers are the Yellow Star Thistle, Bull Thistle, and the Klamath weed.

  • Yosemite also offers a wide variety of fauna like the American black and brown bears, ducks and deer. 

Fact 23: ‘Glacier point’ is a famous point to catch a panoramic view of the Yosemite valley.

  • The Glacier point is open from May through to November. You can see Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Yosemite’s high country from here.  

Fact 24: Mountain biking is not permitted in the park. 

  • However, cycles can be used on paved ways but not for more than 12 miles. Mountain biking is allowed in the National Forests region surrounding the park.

Fact 25: The ‘Mirror Lake’ is one of the most beautiful water bodies in Yosemite National Park. The lake comes with its own 5 mile walking trail around it, so you can see the lake from all angles.

  • Sitting beside the lake in the spring months, you should be able to see the reflections of the Half Dome and Mount Watkins on the water. 

Fact 26: Yosemite National Park, in all its glory, has served many times as the main setting for famous films. These films include Mohicans (1920), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), and Maverick (1994).

  • The most famous film to have been filmed in the park is ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ 1984. This is the 2nd film in the original trilogy. The park comes into view as Indiana is rafting down the Tuolumne River Rapids! 

Fact 27: The park was devastated by the ‘Rim Fire’ in 2013. The fire started in the nearby region of Stanislaus National Forest and reached Yosemite. 

  • The fire destroyed and caused damage up to the value of $2 billion.

Fact 28: The park, was the 3rd most visited park in the US in 2016, after The Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. 

  • The Smoky Mountains are located along the Tennessee-North Carolina border and the Grand Canyon is in Arizona.

Fact 29: John Muir’s popular articles in newspapers and magazines raised the awareness of the region’s beauty and contributed to the eventual establishment of Yosemite National Park in 1890.

  • Muir first set eyes on the Yosemite Valley in 1868, and lamented the destruction of the forests and vast meadows that surrounded the state-controlled Yosemite Valley. 

Fact 30: In 1870, as many as 15,000 sheep pastured in the Tuolumne Meadows alone, making sheep herding a threat to the park’s natural landscape.

  • A particular threat to Yosemite’s natural beauty came from sheepherders who frequently set meadows ablaze to promote the growth of edible grasses for their grazing sheep. 

Fact 31: A presidential camping trip in 1903 led to Yosemite National Park’s expansion.

  • President Theodore Roosevelt traveled to California and requested that Muir take him camping for several days in Yosemite.

Fact 32: A riot broke out between hippies and the park rangers on July 4, 1970. 

  • In the 1960s, the national park became an increasingly popular hangout for California’s hippie subculture who foraged off the tourists, eating any food that was left unprotected, and begging for handouts. The riot left 7 people hurt and 138 people under arrest.

Fact 33: Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Yosemite National Park spans 748,436 acres of land (or 1169.43008 sq miles).

  • Yosemite officially became the United States’ 3rd national park in 1890.

Fact 34: Of California’s 7,000 plant species’, 20% of those can be found within Yosemite National Park.

  •  That’s 1,400 of California’s flora all in one place!

Fact 35: At a minimum, there are 300 black bears inside the park. 

  • Although this number could be as high as 500.

Fact 36: The longest hike in Yosemite is to the infamous Half Dome.

  •  The dome is 14 miles long with a 4,800 foot elevation.

Fact 37: In 1984, Yosemite was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • UNESCO seeks to protect and preserve heritage around the world.

Fact 38: Male deer (bucks) in Yosemite Park shed their antlers every fall after the mating season. 

  • The buck’s antlers grow back in the spring. 

Fact 39: The rare, Sierra Nevada red fox, was spotted for the first time in nearly 100 years inside the Yosemite National Park.

  • The fox was caught on a wildlife cam roaming the high elevations of California’s Sierra Nevada.

Fact 40: Conservationist Galen Clark wasn’t the first person to find Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove, but he is thought to be the first person to count and record the giant sequoias.

  • He is buried in the Valley Cemetery surrounded by the sequoias he planted. 

Fact 41: In 2018, the Ferguson Fire badly affected the three entrance roads and a huge amount of vegetation in the park. 

  • The fire was reported on July 13, 2018, burning 96,901 acres before it was contained on August 19, 2018.

Fact 42: The ‘California Gold Rush’ in the mid-19th century dramatically increased the travelling rate of European-Americans in the Yosemite area.

  • This caused friction and fierce competition for resources between the regional Paiute, Miwok, the miners and hangers-on.

Fact 43:  Dr Lafayette Bunnell, a physician, wrote about his awestruck impressions of the Yosemite valley in “The Discovery of the Yosemite”.

  • Bunnell is credited with naming Yosemite Valley, based on his interviews with Chief Tenaya.

Fact 44: The great sequoia Wawona Tree that fell in 1969, because of heavy snow, was estimated to have been 2,300 years old.

  • Interestingly, birds are considered to be the guardians of sequoia trees.  

Fact 45: Yosemite National Park’s first concession was established in 1884, by John Degnan and his wife, who set up a bakery and a store.

  • In 1916, the National Park Service granted a 20-year concession to the Desmond Park Service Company who built hotels, stores, camps, a dairy, a garage, and other park services.

Fact 46: The Yosemite Museum was founded in 1926 through the efforts of Ansel Franklin Hall.

  • In the 1920’s, the museum featured Native Americans practising traditional crafts, and many of the Sierra Miwok continued to live in Yosemite Valley until they were evicted from Yosemite in the 1960’s.

Fact 47: About 5% of the park’s landforms (mostly in its eastern margin near Mount Dana) are made up of metamorphosed volcanic and sedimentary rocks.

  • These rocks are called roof pendants because they were once the roof of the underlying granitic rock.

Fact 48: Yosemite National Park contains approximately 3,200 lakes.

  • In addition, the park also has 2 reservoirs, and 1,700 miles of streams, all of which help form the 2 large watersheds.

Fact 49:  Climate change has reduced the number and size of Yosemite glaciers.

  • Many Yosemite glaciers, including Merced Glacier, have disappeared because the temperature is increasing. Up to 75% of the other glaciers’ surfaces have gone too for the same reason.

Fact 50: The park has 3 groves of ancient giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees: the Mariposa Grove (200 trees), the Tuolumne Grove (25 trees), and the Merced Grove (20 trees).

  • This sequoia species grows larger in volume than any other and is 1 of the tallest and longest-lived.


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