Put simply, Yosemite Valley, nestled in YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, and created by glaciers gouging through the canyon of the Merced River, is one of the world’s most dramatic geological spectacles. Just seven miles long and less than one mile across, it’s walled by 3000ft near-vertical cliffs, streaked by tumbling waterfalls and topped by domes and pinnacles that form a jagged silhouette against the sky. At ground level, grassy meadows are framed by oak, cedar and fir trees; deer, coyotes and black bears abound. You can visit any time of year – even in winter when the waterfalls ice over and most trails are blocked by snow.
In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the landmark Yosemite Grant, which set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove for public use and preservation. In 1890, Yosemite became the third national park in the USA, thanks in great part to the campaigning work of naturalist John Muir, a Scottish immigrant who spearheaded the conservation movement that led to the founding of the Sierra Club.