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An Expanse of Wild Splendor, for $20 or Less.

- Justine

Yosemite

There’s a certain valley in California where, last year, over 4 million people went to experience nature. It has 81 miles of river, 800 miles of hiking trails, 36,000 acres of meadows, and over 1,500 camping sites. The stunning wilderness is inhabited by nearly 300 animal species like falcons and bighorn sheep, as well as 1,500 kinds of flowering plants. It’s open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Now that I’ve thrown all these numbers at you, can you guess where it is?

That’s right, clever readers, it’s Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite is perhaps most famous for its waterfalls. Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest in the world, and its peak flow is in May, when all the snow is melting. The park is home to countless others, which you can admire from the car or on the trail.

Yosemite Valley itself is the center of activity, with tours, stargazing, hiking, birdwatching, and ranger programs offered all year long. During the spring, visitors can go biking and fishing. Swimming and rafting are popular diversions come summertime. Over 3,000 feet above the valley is Glacier Point, which provides hikers and drivers alike an extraordinary view of the entire park.

My family drove through Yosemite via Tioga Road on our cross-country trip a few years ago, and the drive alone was a breathtaking glimpse of nature’s beauty. Living in a noisy and dense metropolitan area, I sometimes forget that my own country has so much wildlife and untouched wilderness. Don’t get me wrong–I love being near a city. But sometimes a sojourn in a peaceful place like Yosemite with your family is just what you need after a school year of stress. If your parents are starting to think about spring or summer vacation, consider taking a trip to what the National Park Service calls “a shrine to human foresight, strength of granite, power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra.”

Click here for more information on visiting Yosemite National Park.

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