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California National Park Spotlight: Yosemite

California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains lay claim to one of the United States’ most breathtaking gems: Yosemite National Park.

Here are five of the many reasons this mesmerizing natural beauty inspires admiration and is worth a visit. 

1. Impressive waterfalls—Yosemite is home to numerous waterfalls. Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest in North America and fifth highest in the world. See informative description and specific location information of several Yosemite waterfalls by the National Park service here.

2. Abundant wildlife—Yosemite supports more than 400 species of vertebrates including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Be sure to bring binoculars and a camera to watch for animals of all shapes and sizes. Keep eyes peeled for chances to spot woodpeckers, owls, lizards, mule deer, fox, bighorn sheep, bear, marmots, squirrels, rabbits, dozens of species of butterflies, and more.

3. Fascinating history—Did you know? Yosemite might be our nation's 3rd national park, but it actually sparked the idea of national parks. Yosemite became the first wildland in the nation protected for all-time when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act, protecting the Valley and Mariposa grove. Later, in 1890, it became a national park.

4. Big skies and starry nights—Yosemite's vast acreage and remote location protect some of the darkest night skies in the country to get "starry-eyed." Take a cosmic voyage with this stargazing video by the National Park Service and the Yosemite Conservancy. 

5. Scenic views—Towering granite monoliths, deep valleys, ancient giant sequoias and more please the eye and stir the soul at Yosemite. One could easily spend weeks exploring here. The park holds appeal all year round and there's something gorgeous around every corner.

Need any more convincing to see Yosemite? Hear from naturalist, writer, and advocate of U.S. forest conservation John Muir: 

Yosemite Park is a place of rest, a refuge from the roar and dust and weary, nervous, wasting work of the lowlands, in which one gains the advantages of both solitude and society. Nowhere will you find more company of a soothing peace-be-still kind. Your animal fellow beings, so seldom regarded in civilization, and every rock-brow and mountain, stream, and lake, and every plant soon come to be regarded as brothers; even one learns to like the storms and clouds and tireless winds. This one noble park is big enough and rich enough for a whole life of study and aesthetic enjoyment. It is good for everybody, no matter how benumbed with care, encrusted with a mail of business habits like a tree with bark. None can escape its charms. Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree. 

—John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938) page 350