Yosemite Valley is a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park in the western Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. The valley is about 8 miles (13 km) long and up to a mile deep, surrounded by high granite summits such as Half Dome and El Capitan, and densely forested with pines. The valley is drained by the Merced River and a multitude of streams and waterfalls including Tenaya, Illilouette, Yosemite and Bridalveil Creeks. Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America, and is a big attraction especially in the Spring when the water flow is at its peak. The valley is renowned for its natural beauty, and is widely regarded as the centerpiece of Yosemite National Park, attracting visitors from around the world.
President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill on June 30, 1864 granting Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to the State of California “for public use, resort and recreation,” the two tracts “shall be inalienable for all time”. This was the first time in history that a federal government had set aside scenic lands simply to protect them and to allow for their enjoyment by all people.
The Valley is the main attraction in the park for the majority of visitors, and a bustling hub of activity during “tourist season” in the summer months. On July 2, 2011 there was a record 20,851 visitors to the valley.
Most visitors enter the valley from roads to the west and pass through the famous Tunnel View entrance. Visitor facilities are located in the center of the valley. There are both hiking trail loops that stay within the valley and trailheads that lead to higher elevations, all of which afford glimpses of the park’s many scenic wonders.