Good Things’ Guide To Yosemite National Park

With America celebrating its 100th year of National Parks, there’s never been a better time to get your wilderness fix. California’s Yosemite continues to amaze and delight, but you don’t have to go camping to feel at home in the mountains. Barton Mathews finds out how to explore the park in spectacular style.

Stunning scenery

Hiking under El Capitan © Barton Mathews

Hiking the Valley Trail towards El Capitan © Barton Mathews

With iconic mountains soaring from swathes of thick forest, Yosemite National park is neck-achingly beautiful. Nestled amongst the Sierra Nevada mountains in Northern California, Yosemite is not just a great valley but a testament to human foresight.

First protected by President Lincoln in 1864, its cascading waterfalls, meadow vistas and ancient giant sequoias encompass over 3000 km2 of wilderness. This World Heritage Site was once the sole preserve of hardy hikers and courageous climbers, but nowadays you can truly explore all the park has to offer and still stay in the lap of luxury.

Where to stay

The Majestic Hotel © Ken Mack

The Majestic Hotel © Ken Mack

Open year-round, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel really lives up to its name. Located in the heart of the park amongst an amphitheatre of granite, it’s a terrific four-star hotel with a location that has to be experienced to be fully understood. Built in the 1920’s, you can really feel the history of the place as you wander through its many grandiose drawing rooms. Leather lined chairs surround stoked fireplaces, with the ornate mementos providing a reminder of the hotels heritage.

Where to dine

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The Majestic’s fabulous foyer © Travel Yosemite

After working up quite the appetite, there is no better place to dine than in The Majestic’s sumptuous dining hall. With a distinctly Gatsby feel and chandeliers twinkling down from its high-beamed ceilings, this is the pine-clad culinary centrepiece of Yosemite.

The imaginative menu is fittingly based on traditional American cuisine and we found both the food and ambience to be superb. The wine selection is excellent but those lucky enough to be visiting in November and December are in for a real treat. The Majestic plays host to the annual Grand Grape Celebration – where California’s best vintners are brought together where you can discuss, and of course, sample, their finest vintages.

What to do

Panorama from Inspiration Point © Barton Mathews

Elegance, though, is just the start. From hiking, cycling, skiing and fishing to rafting, painting and golfing, the range of activities are incredible.

Ranger-led tours can be a great way to get to know the park, and if you’re lucky, spot some of its furrier inhabitants. But if you prefer to explore the surroundings yourself, all staff in the park are helpful in pointing you in the right direction – whether that be up a mountain or to the nearest spa.

Personal highlights include the stunning vista from Inspiration & Glacier Points, the Valley Loop Trail for a peacefully serene escape from the crowds and the spectacular guided night-time stargazing stroll under the ink-dark skies.

Hungry for more? Find even more beautiful travel destinations in the latest issue of Good Things.

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