Glorious photos of the most beautiful national parks in the US


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If you’re a fan of the wilderness, you need look no further than Yosemite National Park. Nearly 95% of it is designated as “wilderness,” thanks to the Wilderness Act of 1964, which was enacted by the 88th Congress of the United States.

According to the Act, wilderness is an area “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Yosemite National Park fits this description to a tee, and if you decide to venture into it, it’s entirely possible to forget that it’s the year 2021.

Due to its unspoiled state, it’s a favorite attraction for hikers, backpackers, and people who just like being outside. Since we’ve all been cooped up inside for over a year, Yosemite could be the perfect place to go for a pandemic detox. We’ve certainly earned it.

Here are some photos of Yosemite National Park in all its glory, with a few factoids sprinkled in for your personal edification. We think that after you’ve scrolled through them, you’ll want to put the park on your “must visit” list and why we think it’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest, national park.

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1. It’s the home of El Capitan …

El Capitan, known to some as “El Cap,” is a vertical rock formation located on the north side of Yosemite. The granite megalith is approximately 3,000 feet tall, and rock climbers come from all over the country to conquer it.

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2. … and Half Dome

El Capitan isn’t the only impressive granite monolith at Yosemite. There’s also the Half Dome which, at approximately 4,800 feet, is an even more daunting climb than El Cap. Only the most experienced climbers should even consider trying to tame this beast.

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3. It’s also home to Cathedral Peak

There are countless great views to be had all over Yosemite, but some views stand out more than others. This view of Cathedral Peak from the Toulumne meadows area, for example, is pretty hard to beat.

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4. The sunrises are worth waking up early for

Even if you’re not a morning person, and even if no one should talk to you before you’ve had your coffee, sunrise at Yosemite National Park is worth setting your alarm to see. Views like this one should melt even the most curmudgeonly of hearts. 

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5. You can thrill and terrify your friends with photos like this one

If you’re a thrill-seeker, there’s no shortage of opportunities to challenge yourself at Yosemite. Just make sure you have a friend on another rock far away to take a photo of you, so your friends will believe you really climbed that rock.

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6. Those trees!

Even people who don’t really pay much attention to the trees around them in their day-to-day lives would have a hard time ignoring some of those found at Yosemite, such as these giant Sequoias. 

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7. … they’re mesmerizing …

This is the dead tunnel tree in Tuolumne Grove – also known simply as the “Dead Tree.” It’s one of the more popular attractions at Yosemite.

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8. … & don’t forget to look up!

While we all know it’s bad when you can’t see the forest for the trees, sometimes the trees themselves are worth dwelling on. These tall Sequoia trees stretch up into the sky, to dizzying effect.

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9. It’s a wintertime beauty, too

Yosemite National Park is open all year, so people who want to see it can go whenever they want, even during the winter. It’s beautiful that time of year, and you can even bring back photos to prove to your geography-challenged friends that it snows in California too.

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10. It’s not too shabby in the fall either

Autumn may not be the first season people think of when they think “vacation,” but those who do and choose Yosemite as their destination will see some incredible sights. This is the Half Dome reflected in the Merced River on a fall afternoon.

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11. It gives new meaning to the word ‘dusk’

The dusk sky at Yosemite provides some views that look like nothing else. This photo of the Yosemite Valley is a great example of what you find there that you won’t see in many other places in the world.

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12. By all means, go chasing waterfalls …

Vernal Fall is another Yosemite attraction that’s open for business all year. It’s accessible from various points in the park, which change from season to season. As far as safety, the National Park Service has plenty to say – swimming isn’t allowed, and sprains and other types of injuries are common in that spot, so be careful.

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13. … all the water falls

You can hike right up beneath Bridal Veil Falls.

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34. Come for the falls, stay for the sunset

People who visit Yosemite in late February are in for a rare treat that doesn’t exist the rest of the year. Horsetail Fall, a waterfall that flows over the edge of El Capitan, can glow orange, but only during the last two weeks in February, and only when it’s backlit by sunset. The slightest bit of haze or even just a few clouds can ruin the effect, but it’s worth taking a chance to see it when it happens.

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15. You’ll see incredible views from Taft Point

Taft Point is another elevated area of Yosemite that offers incredible views to anyone who visits it. El Capitan, Merced River, and Yosemite Valley can all be seen on the right.

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16. Slippery when wet

A close view of the Mist Trail at Yosemite shows why it can be a precarious hike. The stone stairway is wet with mist from the waterfall, and there’s no guardrail, so a minor slip-and-fall could be more than minor. 

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17. Opportunities for selfies aplenty

The selfie is now an acknowledged art form, and Yosemite offers plenty of opportunities to take one. Or two. Or six. However many you want to take, you will have no shortage of expansive vistas to grin in front of and point at.

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18. Some accomplishments are more scenic than others

You met a sales goal at work? Great! You got that client to sign a contract? Awesome! But the chances are that both of those accomplishments took place in some dank room with no spectacular scenery. Next time, try climbing Yosemite’s Sentinel Dome instead. There’s no revenue in it for you, but you’ll have a great photo for your Instagram account.

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19. You’re bound to spot some wildlife

If you’re hiking in an area designated as 95% wilderness, you’re going to see some wildlife. Some of the animals are harmless and others should be treated with caution and given a wide berth, such as this black bear. 

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20. Underneath the blood moon

It’s not every day that you visit someplace as extraordinary as Yosemite, and it’s not every day that you see a blood moon. This photograph of the night sky in Yosemite during a blood moon shows the advantages of being in the right place at the right time.

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21. There’s something for the most outdoorsy-types …

You don’t have to be an experienced hiker, backpacker or climber to enjoy what Yosemite has to offer, but if you are, you’ll be rewarded with some views you’ll never forget.

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22. … and those who like to take it easy

While there are plenty of places in Yosemite for athletic people to challenge themselves, it’s also a great place to go for a lazy summer afternoon with the family. If you’re craving a little father and son time, this is a great place to go.

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23. It’s beautiful in almost any kind of weather …

This photo shows the ‘Tunnel View’ of Yosemite Valley made famous by Ansel Adams’ black-and-white photography. Here it’s seen in color, but covered in a shroud of fog. What’s dark and foreboding in urban environments becomes magical in this one.

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24. … and almost any time of day

At night, one of its biggest treats of being in Yosemite can be enjoyed by just looking up. This starry, cloudless sky over Half Dome is a naturally-occurring work of art.

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25. Also don’t forget to send a postcard while you’re there

Yosemite National Park is 95% wilderness, but the remaining five percent has its purpose too. Built in 1925, the Yosemite Museum was the first ever built in the national park system, but due to Covid-19 restrictions there are no exhibits currently on display. It’s a good bet that will change as more people get vaccinated and life returns to normal.

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26. It’s not the only historic building you’ll find

People who don’t want to hike have options when it comes to visiting Yosemite. That also goes for people who don’t want to camp. The park is equipped with lodging at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, also known as the Ahwahnee, and it’s had such people stay under its roof as Greta Garbo and Winston Churchill.

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27. What’s it called again?

The tunnel view is so striking we want you to have one more view.

Want more beautiful views?

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Image Credit: Constance Brinkley-Badgett.