Free Entry to Yosemite Offers Chance to Explore Fossils to Falls

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With free admission in to Yosemite being offered June 21, the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau is showing travelers that it's the perfect chance for a full vacation that features fossils, wine, art and of course, the famous waterfalls of Yosemite.

Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park

Bridalveil Fall, from world famous Tunnel View, is flowing at high capacity thanks to a wet winter season. You can see Bridalveil Fall for free June 21, as well as mamy other attractions throughout M

The Fossils to Falls trip takes someone through the region, highlighting various stops. The idea is it’s not just the destination, but the entire journey, that makes your vacation memorable.

Thundering waterfalls flowing at peak capacity are one reason to go see Yosemite this year according to the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau. Another excuse to get out and explore is the fact that entry in to popular national park, and all others, is free on June 21.

“The wetter than normal winter, combined with precipitation falling later in the year than average, has created an amazing spectacle in the park, with waterfalls flowing at unbelievable levels. It’s truly amazing,” said Jarrod Lyman with the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau. “Add in the fact that entry is free, and the vacation almost plans itself.”

The National Park Service is offering free entry in to all national parks on June 21, the summer solstice or longest day of the year. While the conditions and the free entry make it a great reason to head to Yosemite, Lyman said it’s an even greater opportunity to explore the whole region.

The Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau often promotes a full itinerary they call Fossils to Falls, which they say showcases the very best of what Yosemite, and California’s Gateway to Yosemite: Madera County, has to offer.

“The Fossils to Falls trip takes someone through the region, highlighting various stops. The idea is it’s not just the destination, but the entire journey, that makes your vacation memorable,” Lyman said.

The journey starts in Chowchilla at the recently opened Fossil Discovery Center. The museum showcases the fossilized remains of mammoths, sabre-toothed cats and other Pleistocene era mammals, all unearthed right there on site. “It’s an amazing museum. Fun for adults and kids alike, it’s fascinating to see what used to live right here in the area 700,000 years ago,” Lyman said.

The trip also helps visitors to experience firsthand the bounty the valley region of Madera County produces. Stops like Valley Pistachio Country Store outside of Chowchilla which features numerous locally grown products, and Homegrown Cellars which offers tours of a working pomegranate farm and sells various pomegranate products.

“These attractions let people sample the fruits, and nuts, vegetables and more, of our local farmers’ labor,” Lyman said.

Another popular product of the region is the wine. Madera County has a rich wine-making history, going back to the 1800’s. The result is numerous award-winning wineries offering everything from bright whites to robust reds and delicious desert wines. The wineries and tasting rooms along the Madera Wine Trail are all part of the Fossils to Falls itinerary.

Madera and Chowchilla are also excellent overnight stops for guests looking to take advantage of more than one National Park on the trip according to Lyman.

“Their central location put them right between Yosemite and Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon. Perfect places to stay and play.”

The trip continues through Madera on Highway 145 connecting to Highway 41. As visitors head north towards Yosemite, they’ll come to the foothill communities with numerous offerings as well.

“There’s a lot to do in these small towns,” said Lyman. “From central California’s largest tribal casino which is located in Coarsegold, to the museums in Coarsegold, North Fork and Oakhurst as well as numerous art galleries these communities offer a lot, in addition to their proximity to Yosemite,” he said.

Bass Lake is another mountain area community offering a wealth of recreation. This alpine lake offers sapphire waters framed by a thriving forest and a host of activities. Boating, fishing, wakeboarding and more are all available on the water, with hiking, shopping and dining on the shore.

“Bass Lake, next to Yosemite, is probably the biggest attraction in the region,” said Lyman. “When people get here, they quickly see why. It’s beautiful, and there is so much to do. You never have to leave the lake, as everything you need is right here. Lodging, dining, shopping, it’s all moments from the water’s edge.”

Another popular stop just before Yosemite is the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, affectionately known as The Logger. The railroad takes guests on a four-mile journey through the Sierra National Forest aboard authentic steam locomotives that are nearly a century old.

After riding The Logger, the itinerary has you in Yosemite, experiencing all the park has to offer. From the towering Sequoia in Mariposa Grove, to taking in the stunning vista at Tunnel View, the trip is capped by sheer perfection, as Mother Nature takes control and guides you through the magnificent park.

“So many people just go to Yosemite without stopping to see what else is around. They find out later, and wish they had more time to see it all. This itinerary helps guests plan the perfect vacation,” Lyman said. “Of course it’s only a guide, we encourage people to find their own stops along the way.”

To see everything along the itinerary, visit

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Jarrod Lyman
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