Every year millions of tourists head for Yosemite National Park in California to experience the many natural wonders of one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Whilst there is plenty to keep you occupied within the park limits, there are some spectacular destinations just beyond the entrances which are well worth exploring too. If you can spare a day or two beyond the park here are the places to head for.
Around one hour west of the park you will find Jamestown in the heart of Gold Country. This small community looks much as it would have during the gold rush of 1849 and is a fascinating place to take a step back in time. There are still many gold claims in the area and it is possible to go gold prospecting for yourself with instruction and equipment provided. It is a wonderful way to spend a day and you have a good chance of discovering some of the sparkly stuff but it is very hard work and involves spending hours yielding a shovel. For a less taxing taster try gold panning instead!
Just outside the East entrance of the park and at the end of the Tioga Road, Mono Lake is a real marvel. The limestone peaks of Yosemite seem far away as the mountains of the park are replaced by rich dessert landscapes and the stunning vista of the lake. Hoodoos rise up from the water and wildlife is plentiful around this large expanse of water. It is well worth taking one of the many paths and boardwalks that wend their way to the water’s edge as there is mystical quality to the saline lake and the striking blue colour of the water surrounded by the red dessert terrain is a truly spectacular sight.
The town of Mammoth Lakes is to the south of Mono Lake and sits on the edge of a huge caldera formed in a massive volcanic eruption some 760,000 years ago. The region is still active although the caldera itself is extinct. Numerous hot springs bring hot water to the surface and the Devil’s Postpile National Monument is just a few miles from town. The monument is a striking formation of basalt columns. There are several beautiful lakes to see and Mammoth Lakes is a popular ski resort in the winter months. The region becomes a paradise for cyclists in the summer. The surrounding peaks have numerous biking trails to enjoy and mountain bikes can be rented in town. This was great as we often biked back home with the help of our local bike shop.
The Tioga Road
If you are staying in Yosemite Valley then venturing east towards Mono Lake and Mammoth Lakes is a great idea if only to experience a drive along the stunning Tioga Road. The route is open June to October and is a truly spectacular drive with numerous attractions to enjoy along the way including Tenaya Lake, the Tuolumne Meadows and Olmsted Point from where there are amazing views across the park to the famous Half Done peak at the head of the valley.
Article by Sally Stacey