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.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Why California should be your next family holiday

Why California should be your next family holiday

When it comes to kids, the Golden State certainly lives up to its name – California is one paradise of a playground. Go now and you’ll find the sights quie…

19 Feb 2018 • Keith Drew insert_drive_file Article
Los Angeles or San Francisco: which should you visit first?

Los Angeles or San Francisco: which should you visit first?

They’re two of the biggest cities in the United States. They’re two of the most famous cities in the world. Los Angeles and San Francisco have been written…

29 Jan 2018 • Keith Drew insert_drive_file Article
The best national parks in California

The best national parks in California

California has more national parks than anywhere else in the United States; together they protect an area the size of West Virginia. And with such a wealth of …

25 Jan 2018 • Keith Drew insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right