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Yosemite Wilderness

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A massive rock pinnacle resembling a shark fin, looms over the forest below. Black shadows creeping up the base, drape the forest in darkness.
Library image #331: Mt. Broderick and Nevada Falls


The United States Congress designated the Yosemite Wilderness (map) in 1984 and it now has a total of 704,624 acres. All of this wilderness is located in California and is managed by the National Park Service. The Yosemite Wilderness is bordered by the Emigrant Wilderness to the north, the Hoover Wilderness to the east, and the Ansel Adams Wilderness to the south.


Established in 1890, Yosemite National Park ranks among the first in the National Park System. Surrounded entirely by national forest in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, fabulous granite faces, domes, and peaks stand above expansive meadows that sprout a lustrous green in summer and are buried in soft, white snow during winter. Beautiful, glacier-filled lakes spill their water down turbulent, sparkling streams and over spectacular waterfalls, while nearby groves of giant sequoias tower to eye-stretching heights.

Park elevations range from about 2,000 feet to more than 13,000 feet, and the area supports an outstanding variety of plant and animal life. Fifty-four miles of the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River flow through the park, one of the most exquisite mountain rivers. Seventy-eight miles of the Merced Wild and Scenic River also run in the park, dropping over some of the most fabulous waterfalls in America, and 22 miles of the Merced's Wild and Scenic South Fork flow through extravagant canyons with precipitous rapids. Although there is no navigable whitewater within the Wilderness itself, just outside, these rivers rush and become exceptional whitewater runs. Yosemite's landmarks have become synonymous with outdoor splendor: El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, Tuolumne Meadows. The rock-climbing routes on bold and extraordinarily high faces rank among the most challenging in the entire world.

94 percent of Yosemite has been designated Wilderness, most of the land falling in the higher country outside Yosemite Valley. More than 700 miles of trails give access to the Wilderness. Many of the trailheads are in Yosemite Valley.

Planning to Visit the Yosemite Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Yosemite Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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