Oct. 1, 1890: Yosemite becomes a national park

Kelly O'Mara

The Yosemite Valley was already a tourist destination when Congress officially created Yosemite National Park in 1890. Today, nearly 4 million people visit the park, which covers 1,200 square miles in the Sierra Nevada mountains of eastern central California.

While Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant in 1864 to preserve Yosemite Valley as a park, it wasn’t until 1890 that Yosemite National Park was created to preserve a much larger section of wilderness under the new National Park Service. The effort to protect the area was led by noted conservationist John Muir, who was concerned about the preservation job the state of California was doing at the time.

Early settlers also tried to charge hefty fees to tourists to visit Yosemite Valley before the preservation effort took hold.

Yosemite remains one of the most popular destinations in the national park system with well-traveled hikes to see the Bridalveil waterfall and Half Dome, which now requires a permit obtained via lottery. There are more than 800 miles of trails throughout the park, along with camping and lodges in the valley. Many areas are open to day hikes. Overnight trips into the backcountry require a wilderness permit.