30 Interesting Facts About Yosemite National Park

Last updated on January 12th, 2021

On October 1, 1890, Yosemite became a national park, thus becoming the third national park in the United States, after Yellowstone (1872) and Sequoia (1890). It is still entertaining visitors after more than 130 years. Here is a list of some facts about Yosemite National Park that talk about its history, geography, wildlife, natural phenomenons, hills, visitors and much more. 

1. The park is home to over 400 species, including a variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and even the rare Sierra Nevada red fox. Spotting a fox might take a while though.

2. When visiting Yosemite, you will have the opportunity of seeing the falls, which stand at 2,425 feet high, and happens to be one of the tallest in the world. It is interesting to note here that the falls is made up of three separate falls. 

3. President Lincoln signed a Yosemite Land Grant in 1864 in order to protect the land, and it was the first time that the government did so. The idea of National Parks came following this event.

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park. facts about Yosemite National Park
Just a spot of blue at the base of gigantic domes of granite is Tenaya Lake in the high country of Yosemite National Park. It is said that the park has a larger amount of this stone than anywhere else in the world. Image credit – Don Graham

4. Even though millions of people from around the world visit the park, most of them (approximately 75%) come between May and October. If crowds of people are not your thing, you should visit in the winter months to explore the vast wilderness.

5. When sunset arrives, the granite rock formations and sun collaborate to play tricks on your mind. You will be amazed when you see El Captain and Half Dome appear to light up as the sun slowly disappears.

Yosemite National Park on the map

6. Climbers have been flocking to Yosemite since the 1880s to explore the breathtaking rock formations.

7. This majestic national park is located in California, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and takes up 748,436 acres of space. The mountains are still increasing in height at a rate of 1 foot per 1,000 years.

Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park
Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park. Interesting Facts About Yosemite National Park. Image credit – Mike McBey

8. The natural event, known as frazil ice occurs here at certain times of the year when temperatures cause the flowing water to turn into slushy running water.

9. The Ahwahnee Hotel, which happens to be the most famous in Yosemite, was once a naval hospital in WWII. It is hard to believe that our wounded hero’s were once attended to in a hotel in this National Park. Yosemite’s luxurious Ahwahnee was the brainchild of the National Park Service’s first director, Stephen Mather.

10. In the Native Miwok language, the name “Yosemite” actually means “killer”. The name was thought to be the tribe who was driven out of the area by the Mariposa Battalion (“big mouth”).

Sequoias in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, California. Yosemite National Park facts.
Sequoias in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, California. Image credit – Pedro Szekely

11. The Giant Sequoias calls Yosemite it’s home. These are the biggest living creatures on our planet and there are about 500 of these magnificent giant sequoias scattered through the park. These fantastically interesting creatures can live up to 3000 years of age.

12. The High Sierra campsites can only be accessed by entering a special lottery. The campsites provide visitors with canvas tents, clean water, meals, and access to bathroom facilities. You cannot book at these sites due to the large demand of visitors and limited space.

13. The area which is now known as Yosemite, was once called ‘Ahwahnee” by the Indians who lived there. “Ahwahnee” means “big mouth” when translated.

14. There are over 7000 plant species in California, of which about 20% can be found in this National Park. It is a wonderland for anyone with an interest in flora and fauna.

Yosemite Valley National Park - California, United States - Landscape photography. facts about Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite Valley National Park – California, United States. Interesting Facts About Yosemite National Park. Image credit – Giuseppe Milo

15. It was in the year 1884 that the park welcomed the first concession stand, which was a small bakery and general store.

16. There are not too many people that are aware of the lunar moonbows or rainbows that occur in Yosemite. This is one of the very few places in the U.S where you can see rainbows appear in the waterfalls of the park. During the spring and early summers, a combination of full moon and clear sky create a rainbow from a waterfall’s mist.

Read: 50 facts about Grand Canyon

17. The majestic valley of Yosemite National Park has been inhabited for nearly 3,000 years, which means that there is a lot of history in the area to discover.

18. The area is truly a spectacular place for hikers to explore. There are more than 800 miles of trails that are just waiting to be explored. While exploring the miles of trails, visitors will come across at least a few of the many lizards, turtles and snakes who inhabit the area.

Bear Warning [Yosemite National Park]
Bear Warning. Interesting Facts About Yosemite National Park. Image credit – Leonardo Pallotta
19. It is estimated that there are somewhere between 300 and 500 black bears in the park. There is a pretty good chance that a visitor could see one, even if it is from a distance.

20. Yosemite is such a truly amazing place to visit, and the more than 4 million people that visit here each year can each testify to this.

21. Hikers who visit the Yosemite National Park will love the fact that the Half Dome offers them 14 miles of nature to explore. The Half Dome is one of the main attractions that the park has to offer, especially to hikers.

Yosemite National Park - Upper falls.
Yosemite National Park – Upper falls. Image credit – Jim & Robin Kunze

22. Yosemite became a UNESCO Heritage Site in the year 1984.

23. It depends on the accessibility, but Yosemite is generally open 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

24. The Californian Gold Rush in the mid-19th century caused many more than usual European-American people to travel to the area, to seek their piece of the wealth pie.

25. The elevation levels in the park range from 2,000 feet to over 13,000 feet. Rolling hills and valleys can be seen from any point in the National Park.

The famous Wawona Tunnel goes through Pulpit Rock!
The famous Wawona Tunnel goes through Pulpit Rock!. Interesting Facts About Yosemite National Park. Image credit – . David Prasad

26. Yosemite is the first and only National Park to have bid for the Olympics. They bid to hold the Olympics in 1932, but it never became a reality. It would have been a beautiful setting to watch the best of the best to take part in this sporting event.

27. The Yosemite Museum was designed by Herbert Maier and completed in 1925. This was the first building to be built as a museum in the national park system. The fact that it served as an educational site is what made other parks do the same type of thing. Because of this initiative, all parks nationwide have museums.

28. One of the snakes that can be found here is the Sierra Mountain King snake, which is red, cream and black in color. Many people get confused between this snake and the extremely venomous Coral snake, but when you are at Yosemite, you will not come across one, as they are not found in the area.

Taneya Lake, Yosemite National Park
Taneya Lake, Yosemite National Park. Image credit – Su–May

29. James Hutchings and his wife Elvira opened the Hutchings Hotel in 1864 and offered the earliest of travelers a warm bed to lay heads down. The hotel was in operation for more than 10 years. The hotel was what cemented their connection to the park.

30. Fires have always been occurring in the Yosemite Valley and research has shown that about 16,000 acres of Yosemite’s land ended up being burned each year before fire suspension was put in place. The earliest fires recorded have been dated back to the 1930s.

Yosemite National Park – Quick facts

LocationTuolumne, Mariposa, Mono, & Madera counties, California, United States
Area748,436 acres (3,028.81 km2)
EstablishedOctober 1, 1890
Governing bodyNational Park Service
Websitehttps://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm
Total Visitors3,591,254 (2020)
4,488,268 (2019)