One of America’s greatest natural treasures, Yosemite National Park spans nearly 1,200 square miles of dramatic granite domes, emerald lakes, waterfall-laced cliffs, and forests. Venture to the place that inspired John Muir and Ansel Adams, a geological wonderland endowed with a rich history and staggering beauty. Explore magnificent sequoia groves and hike through glacially carved valleys and alpine meadows, searching for wildlife along the way. From the towering monolith of El Capitan to the soaring silhouette of Half Dome, discover a host of natural wonders and soak up the park’s sheer grandeur.
Arrive in Fresno and transfer to your hotel for an evening at leisure.
After breakfast, depart Fresno and drive into the Sierra Nevada foothills. Our destination is Yosemite National Park, which boasts some of the most magnificent scenery in North America. Towering cliffs, waterfalls, and pristine wildlife habitats all attest to the legacy of naturalist John Muir—one of the park’s earliest champions. On the way to your lodge, stop and enjoy some moderate hikes with your private guide, getting introduced to the park’s glacially formed landscapes and ecology. Then settle into your Victorian-style lodge, which sits cradled between the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley.
Spend the day exploring Mariposa Grove—home to Sequoiadendron giganteum, the giant sequoia, possibly the largest living organism by volume. This stand of some 500 colossal trees is the largest of Yosemite’s three sequoia groves. Choose from a variety of trails, hiking in the shadow of these majestic trees, which can grow to more than 200 feet in height. Enjoy dinner on your own back at the lodge.
Head north to Yosemite Valley today, taking in the polished granite domes of El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Dome, and more. Embark on some spectacular hikes with your private guide, selecting trails that suit your pace. As you explore the valley, learn about the legacy of naturalist John Muir and visit some of his favorite locations. Later this afternoon, check in to your lodge and enjoy dinner on your own this evening.
Choose between two options today, depending on the season and weather conditions. Explore Yosemite’s high country, traversing the spectacular Tioga Pass Road, which offers sweeping mountain vistas. Highlights of this area include the high-alpine Tuolumne Meadows; the evocative Mono Lake, with its unusual limestone formations; and Olmsted Point, where you can view the north side of Half Dome. Alternatively, explore the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley, submerged by the construction of the O’Shaughnessy Dam in the 1920s and 1930s and now the site of a proposed environmental restoration project. Here, you’ll hike to Wapama Falls along a scenic trail leading to the two-tiered, 1,400-foot cascade.
Spend our last full day hiking and exploring the valley. Depending on the weather, hiking choices may include the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls, the John Muir Trail, or Cook’s Meadow Loop. Along the way, keep an eye out for Yosemite’s resident wildlife, such as bighorn sheep, coyotes, and mule deer. Visit the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center to learn how this distinctive landscape was formed and how the park has evolved over its 125-plus-year existence. Then stop in at the Ansel Adams Gallery, where classic Ansel Adams prints are on display alongside the work of contemporary photographers. Later this afternoon, enjoy a private tour of the historic Ahwahnee Hotel, now called the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, which has counted presidents, queens, and movie stars among its guests. Enjoy a final dinner in the hotel’s elegant dining room.
After breakfast, bid farewell to Yosemite and transfer to the airport for your flight home.