The picturesque, glacial Yosemite Valley is located within the famous Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The main attraction of this busy park, the valley is around 13 km (~8 mi) long and up to 1.6 km (1 mi) deep. As streams merge into the valley, surrounded by the granite Half Dome and El Capitan peaks, they flow out again as the Merced River.
Setting eyes on the valley for the first time, the main image presented is the Tunnel View. This captivating sight has served as a muse to so many painters that the viewpoint name given by the National Park Service is Artist Point. A further iconic viewpoint is from the Sentinel Bridge with its views of the Merced River overlooked by the Half Dome granite peak. Consisting of a series of waterfalls nicknamed the Giant Staircase and one of the highest falls in the world at 740 m (~2,428 ft), the valley is listed as a National Historic District and a California Historical Landmark.
Vegetation and wildlife on Yosemite Valley’s floor is staggeringly diverse. Mainly Yellow pine forest, it includes more than 400 species of grasses and wildflowers. Mammals include the California Ground Squirrel, Mule Deer and American Black Bear and there is a wide variety of birds, reptiles and amphibians for keen spotters.
Some of the glacial granite within Yosemite Valley is 114 million years old. The challenging vertical walls are over 914 m (~3,000 ft) tall and the valley is a world-renowned rock climbing attraction. Further activities include horseback riding and bicycle-riding along the many cycle paths within the valley. Hiking trails are also in abundance and include trail loops within the valley or tracks such as the John Muir trail and the Pacific Crest trail which lead outside the park boundaries.