Yosemite National Park – The “Thank God Ledge”

the thank god ledge yosemite national park
The Thank God Ledge - Yosemite National Park

Half Dome Yosemite, California – The Thank God Ledge

What is The Thank God Ledge

The ledge is a small flat surface or a 12-meter-long piece of granite located 2000 feet up on one of Yosemite Parks Cliffs. It was named this because hikers would say, “Oh, thank God, there is a ledge!”

The Thank God Ledge is a popular rock climbing destination in Yosemite National Park, located on the east face of El Capitan, one of the most iconic rock formations in the world.

It gets its name from being the first safe spot for climbers to rest after ascending the treacherous east face of El Capitan. The ledge is a significant landmark for climbers and is one of the many features that make Yosemite National Park a popular destination for rock climbers and hikers.

A popular spot for hikers and climbers

It is a popular spot for hikers and climbers in Yosemite alike. The ledge also gets its name because it is the only spot on the trail where you can see the valley below.

Where is Thank God Ledge?

This 12-meter-long sliver of granite is positioned at Half Dome in Yosemite, California. Named the “Thank God Ledge,” it is the only means to get beyond the Visor. This huge roof looms overhead the Regular Northwest Face route of Yosemite National Park.

How high is the Thank God Ledge?

Around 2000 feet.

Yosemite’s Half Dome

Yosemites half dome
Half dome in yosemite

Yosemite’s Half Dome is a famous granite dome and a world-renowned icon of Yosemite National Park. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Yosemite, rising 8,800 feet (2,682 meters) above sea level and 4,800 feet (1,463 meters) above the Yosemite Valley floor.

The Half Dome was formed about 65 million years ago when the molten, igneous rock solidified into granite deep within the Earth and was pushed up under pressure to the surface. The uplifted, curved layers of rock cleaved off, shaping the granite into domes.

The Half Dome is a popular hiking destination in Yosemite National Park, and there are several ways to get to the top. The most popular route is the Half Dome hike, which is a challenging 14- to 16-mile (22-26 km) round trip hike that requires a permit to complete. The hike includes an ascent of 4,800 feet (1,463 meters) and a climb up the famous Half Dome Cables, a steep 400-foot (122 meters) ascent to the summit.

Few things are as breathtaking as standing on the edge of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. The views are incredible for those who are lucky enough to make it to the summit.

But getting to the top is no easy feat. The hike is strenuous, and the final ascent requires climbers to pull themselves up using cables.

But the effort is well worth it. Standing on Half Dome is an experience that will stay with you forever.

And if you’re worried about your fitness level, don’t be! There are plenty of weight management apps out there that can help you get in shape for the hike. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip to Half Dome today!

Half dome yosemite

Is Half Dome Safe?

Hiking Half Dome can be dangerous, particularly during the ascent up the Half Dome Cables. While most people who attempt the cables route will safely reach the summit, there have been fatalities on the cables over the years, so the risks should not be ignored.

The last 400 feet of the ascent up Half Dome is a nearly vertical climb on slick, polished granite, which can be particularly treacherous if it is wet. The rock on Half Dome has become so smooth that it has become slick, making it difficult to get a good grip when climbing.

To stay safe while hiking Half Dome, it is recommended that hikers check weather forecasts and avoid attempting the hike during thunderstorms or when lightning flashes are in the sky. Recent rainfall can make the trail and cables too slick to navigate safely.

Hikers should also start the Half Dome hike as early in the day as possible to avoid crowds on the cables later. There is a quota of 225 people per day to hike Half Dome, which helps prevent cable overcrowding.

Half dome descent
Half dome descent

Scale Half Dome

Scaling Half Dome involves hiking a strenuous 17-mile (27 km) round-trip distance with a total ascent of 5,457 feet (1,663 meters) and requires about 10-14 hours to complete. Hikers must have a permit to climb the sub-dome and the Half Dome cables. The cables are typically up (conditions permitting) from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.

While scaling Half Dome is an amazing experience, it can also be dangerous. Hikers need to be physically fit, prepared, and aware of the risks. In August 2022, a student from New Zealand fell 80 feet while scaling Half Dome and suffered serious injuries.

Half Dome Trail


The Half Dome Trail is a challenging and rewarding hike that offers breathtaking views of Yosemite National Park. It is a hike that requires careful planning, physical fitness, and attention to safety. Hikers are encouraged to check weather conditions and avoid attempting the hike during thunderstorms or when the trail is wet and slippery.

Read About The Best Hikes In LA

Hiking to half dome
Hiking to half dome

California’s Yosemite National Park

Yosemite national park california

Yosemite National Park is a popular American national park in the western part of Sierra Nevada of Central California, surrounded on the southeast by Sierra National Forest & on the northwest by Stanislaus National Forest.

The national park is managed by the National Park Service & covers a region of 748,436 acres or (1,169 sq mi; 3,029 km2) & is located in four counties: centered in Tuolumne & Mariposa, extending north & east to Mono & south to Madera County.

Appointed a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its granite cliffs, clear streams, waterfalls, giant sequoia groves, meadows, mountains, lakes, glaciers, & biological diversity. Approximately 95% of the park is assigned wilderness.

On average, around four million people visit Yosemite each year, & most use most of their time in the seven square miles or 18 km² of Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite national park

The national park set a visiting record in 2016, surpassing five million visitors for the first time in its past. Yosemite was central to the evolution of the national park idea.

Galen Clark & others lobbied to preserve Yosemite Valley from development, ultimately leading to President Abraham Lincoln’s ordaining the Yosemite Grant in 1864.

John Muir led a movement to have Congress establish a larger national park by 1890, including the Valley & its surrounding mountains & forests, paving the way for the National Park System.

Yosemite is one of the most gigantic & least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, & the park encourages a diversity of plants & animals. The park has an altitude range from 2,127 to 13,114 feet (648 to 3,997 m) & includes five major vegetation zones: chaparral & oak woodland, lower upper montane forest, montane forest, subalpine zone, & alpine.

Of California’s 7,000 plant varieties, around 50% occur in the Sierra Nevada, & more than 20% are in Yosemite. The park comprises suitable habitat for higher than 160 rare plants, with rare local geologic structures & unique soils characterizing the restricted ranges several of these plants occupy.

Granitic rocks & remnants of earlier rock define the geology of the Yosemite area. Around 10 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was uplifted and then shifted to form its relatively gentle western slopes & the more exciting eastern slopes.

The uplift increased the steepness of stream & river beds, resulting in the creation of deep, narrow canyons.

Yosemite national park california

About one million years ago, snow & ice collected, forming glaciers at the higher alpine grasslands that moved down the river valleys.

Ice density in Yosemite Valley may have reached 4,000 feet (1,200 m) through the early glacial event. The downslope advance of the ice masses cut & sculpted the U-shaped Valley that draws so many visitors to its scenic vistas today.

How Yosemite Was Named

The name “Yosemite” (meaning “killer” in Miwok) formerly referred to the name of a tribe that was forced out of the area (& possibly annihilated) by the Mariposa Battalion. Earlier, the site had been called “Ahwahnee” (“big mouth”) by indigenous people.

The term Yosemite itself is from the Native American word “uzumate,” which means grizzly bear.

The indigenous tribe that existed in the Valley was named Yosemites by Caucasians & by other tribes because they dwelled in a place where grizzly bears were prevalent. They were reportedly experienced in killing the bears.

Yosemite National Park History

Ahwahneechee & the Mariposa Wars

Yosemite Valley has been occupied for nearly 3,000 years. However, humans may have first visited the region as long as 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. The indigenous natives declared themselves the Ahwahnechee, meaning “dwellers in Ahwahnee.”

They are linked to the Northern Paiute & Mono tribes. Many tribes visited the region to trade, including nearby Central Sierra Miwoks.

They lived in the drainage area of the Tuolumne & Stanislaus Rivers. A notable trading route went over Mono Pass & through Bloody Canyon to Mono Lake, merely to the east of the Yosemite area. Vegetation & game in the region were comparable to that present today; acorns were a staple to their nutrition, as well as other seeds & plants, deer & salmon.

Ahwahneechee the mariposa wars
The ahwahneechee tribe

The California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century expanded European-American travel in the region, causing competition for resources among the regional Paiute & Miwok, the miners & hangers-on.

In the year 1851, as part of the Mariposa Wars was meant to dull down Native American resistance, United States Army Major Jim Savage commanded the Mariposa Battalion into the west end of Yosemite Valley. He was tracking forces of around 200 Ahwahneechee headed by Chief Tenaya.

Reports from this battalion were the first well-documented statements of ethnic Europeans entering Yosemite Valley. Connected to Savage’s unit was Dr. Lafayette Bunnell, the company physician, who later wrote of his astonished reactions to the Valley in The Discovery of the Yosemite.

Bunnell is recognized for naming Yosemite Valley based on his meetings with Chief Tenaya. Bunnell wrote that Chief Tenaya was the founder of the Ah-wah-nee community.

The Miwok, a neighboring tribe, & most white settlers viewed the Ahwahneechee to be incredibly violent because of their numerous territorial disputes. The Miwok word for the Pai-Ute band was yohhe’meti, indicating “they are killers.”

Yosemite national park

Communication & articles composed by members of the battalion helped to popularise the natural wonders of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding area. Chief Tenaya & his Ahwahneechee were finally captured, & their village was fired; they were transferred to a reservation near Fresno, California.

The chief & some others were later permitted to return to Yosemite Valley. In the spring of 1852, they ambushed a group of eight gold miners & then moved east to flee law enforcement. Near Mono Lake, they took shelter with the nearby Mono tribe of Paiute. They seized horses from their hosts & moved away.

Still, the Mono Paiutes hunted down & killed many of the Ahwahneechee, including Chief Tenaya. The Mono Paiute took the survivors as prisoners back to Mono Lake & absorbed them into the Mono Lake Paiute tribe.

After those wars, numerous Native Americans lived within the boundaries of Yosemite. Several Indians established the growing tourism industry by working as laborers or maids.

At a later stage, Indians became part of the tourism industry itself by trading baskets or performing for tourists. A reconstructed version of the “Indian Village of Ahwahnee” has been constructed behind the Yosemite Museum, placed next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

Yosemite national park california

Early tourists

In 1855, entrepreneur James Mason Hutchings, artist Thomas Ayres & two others were the first to travel to the area. Hutchings & Ayres were accountable for much of the earliest publicity about Yosemite, writing articles & exclusive magazine issues of the Valley.

Ayres’ style in art was highly developed with exaggerated angularity. His works & recorded accounts were distributed nationally, & an art exhibition of his sketches was held in New York City. Hutchings’ publicity attempts between 1855 and 1860 led to an expansion in tourism to Yosemite.

Wawona was an Indian camp in what is now the southwestern part of the park. Settler Galen Clark found the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia in Wawona in 1857. He had simple residences built, & roads to the area.

In 1879, the Wawona Hotel was created to serve tourists attending Mariposa Grove. As tourism evolved, so did the number of trails & hotels developed by people planning to build on the trade.

The Wawona Tree, AKA the Tunnel Tree, was a legendary giant sequoia that occupied Mariposa Grove. It was 227 feet (69 m) tall & was 90 ft (27 m) in circumference. When a carriage-wide tunnel was cut into the tree in 1881, it became even more famous as a tourist photo attraction.

Everything from automobiles in the first part of the 20th century to horse-drawn carriages in the late 19th century traveled the road which passed through that tree.

The tunnel forever weakened the tree, & the Wawona Tree fell in 1969 under a heavy snowstorm. It was estimated to have been around 2,300 years old. It is unclear how much longer it may have lived if it had not been damaged.

The wawona tree aka the tunnel tree
The wawona tree, aka the tunnel tree

Yosemite’s first franchise was established in 1884 when John Degnan & his wife established a bakery & store. In the year 1916, the National Park Service granted a 20-year right to the Desmond Park Service Company.

It bought out or built hotels, a dairy, camps, stores, a garage, & other park services. Desmond switched its name to the Yosemite National Park Company in December 1917 & was reorganized in 1920.

The Curry Company was begun in 1899 by David & Jennie Curry to provide grants in the park. They also established Camp Curry, historically known as Half Dome Village, now restored back to Curry Village. The Currys pressured reluctant park supervisors to allow the enlargement of concession operations & development in the area.

Managers in the National Park Service felt that restricting the number of concessionaires in each national park would be more financially reliable. The Curry Company & its rival, the Yosemite National Park Company, were forced to join in the year 1925 to form the Yosemite Park & Curry Company (YP&CC). The business built the Ahwahnee Hotel in 1927.

Yosemite national park

Yosemite National Park Geography

Yosemite National Park is situated in the central Sierra Nevada of the state of California. Three forest areas are adjacent to Yosemite: the Hoover Wilderness to the northeast, the Ansel Adams Wilderness to the southeast, & the Emigrant Wilderness to the north.

The 1,189 sq mi or 3,080 km2 park is approximately the size of the U.S. state of Rhode Island & contains thousands of lakes & ponds, 800 miles (1,300 km) of hiking trails, 1,600 miles (2,600 km) of streams, & 350 miles (560 km) of roads.

Two federally appointed Wild & Scenic Rivers, the Merced & the Tuolumne, start in Yosemite’s borders & flow westward through the Sierra foothills into the Central Valley of California.

On average, approximately 4 million people visit the park each year, with most visitor use focused in the seven-square-mile or 18 km2 area of Yosemite Valley.

Just about all of the landforms in the Yosemite area are derived from the granitic rock of the Sierra Nevada Batholith (a batholith is a large chunk of intrusive igneous rock created deep below the surface of the earth).

About five percent of the park’s landforms (mostly on its eastern border close to Mount Dana) are metamorphosed volcanic & sedimentary rocks. These rocks are named roof pendants because they were formerly the roof of the underlying granitic rock.

Yosemite national park california
The view from glacier point view terrace with half dome, nevada fall, and vernal falls in yosemite national park across the valley.

Erosion acting against different types of uplift-created joint & fracture systems is responsible for forming the valleys, domes, canyons & other features we see today. These joints & fracture systems do not move & are consequently not faults.

The area between joints is controlled by the amount of silica in the granite & granodiorite rocks; more silica tends to form a more resistant rock, resulting in bigger spaces between joints & fractures.

Pillars & columns, such as the Washington Column & Lost Arrow, are produced by cross joints. Erosion acting on master joints is accountable for creating valleys & later canyons.

Over the last few million years, the most corrosive force has been massive alpine glaciers that have turned the previously V-shaped river-cut valleys into U-shaped glacial-cut canyons (such as Yosemite Valley & Hetch Hetchy Valley).

Exfoliation (caused by the trend of crystals in plutonic rocks to grow at the surface) acting on the granitic rock with broadly spaced joints is responsible for producing domes such as Half Dome & North Dome & inset arches such as Royal Arches.

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Yosemite National Park’s popular features

Yosemite Valley embodies only 1% of the park area, but this is where most visitors come & stay. The Tunnel View is the first view of the Valley for a lot of tourists and visitors and is widely photographed.

El Capitan, a well-known granite cliff that looms over Yosemite Valley, is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world as it has a large range of climbing routes in addition to its year-round accessibility. Granite domes such as Sentinel Dome & Half Dome rise 3,000 & 4,800 feet (910 and 1,460 m) over the valley floor. In the park are numerous domes.

Yosemite’s high country includes beautiful areas such as Tuolumne Meadows, Dana Meadows, the Cathedral Range, the Clark Range, & the Kuna Crest. The Sierra crest & the Pacific Crest Trail run into Yosemite, including peaks of red metamorphic rock, such as Mount Dana & Mount Gibbs, & granite peaks, such as Mount Conness.

Mount Lyell is the highest section of the park, standing at 13,120 feet (4,000 m). The Lyell Glacier is the biggest glacier in Yosemite National Park. It is one of the few remaining in the Sierra Nevada today.

The park has three forests of ancient giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees; the Tuolumne Grove (25 trees), the Mariposa Grove (200 trees), & the Merced Grove (20 trees). This variety grows larger in size than any other & is one of the tallest & longest-lived.

Yosemite national park california

Yosemite National Park Activities

Yosemite Valley is open all year round, & several activities are available via the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, & Aramark at Yosemite, including nature, photography, walks & art classes, stargazing programs, bike rentals, tours, rafting, rock climbing classes & mule & horseback rides.

Many individuals love short walks & longer hikes to the waterfalls in Yosemite Valley or walking among giant sequoias in the Tuolumne, Mariposa, or Merced Groves. Others like to drive or take tour buses to Glacier Point (summer-Autumn/fall) to see views of Yosemite Valley & the high country or drive along the scenic Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows (May–October) & go for a walk or hike.

Most park visitors stay just for the day & visit only those locations in Yosemite Valley that are easily enterable by automobile. There is a US$25–30 per automobile user fee to access the park, depending on the season or time of year. Traffic congestion in the Valley is a major problem during summer’s peak tourist and adventurer season.

A free shuttle bus timetable operates year-round in Yosemite Valley, & park rangers encourage individuals to use this system since parking in the Valley during the summer is often almost impossible to find. Transit opportunities are available from Fresno and Merced.

In addition to traveling the park’s natural features, visitors can also learn about the natural & cultural history of Yosemite Valley at various facilities in the Valley: the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, the adjoining Yosemite Museum, & the Nature Center located at Happy Isles.

There are also two National Historic Landmarks: the Ahwahnee Hotel & the Sierra Club’s LeConte Memorial Lodge (Yosemite’s first public visitor center), &. Camp 4 was attached to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

In the winter, it is snowed under, but the region of Tuolumne Meadows has a great deal of hiking, rock climbing, & mountain climbing.

Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in California. Every year, millions of people visit Yosemite to experience its stunning natural beauty. There are many different things to do around Yosemite, from hiking and camping to sightseeing and stargazing.

Yosemite national park

Here are just a few of the best things to do around Yosemite National Park. One of the most popular national parks in the United States is Yosemite. Located in California, this park is known for its dramatic landscape, including waterfalls, cliffs, and giant sequoia trees. There are many things to do inside and outside Yosemite National Park.

Some of the most popular activities include hiking, rock climbing, camping, fishing, and horseback riding. Plenty of ranger-led programs are available for those who want to learn more about the area.

Other things to do and places to visit around Yosemite National Park

  • Yosemite Falls
  • Half Dome
  • El Capitan
  • Tunnel View
  • Glacier Point
  • Bridalveil Fall
  • Hiking
  • Climbing
  • Tioga Road
  • Camping
  • Yosemite Museum and Indian Village
  • Biking
  • Ansel Adams Gallery

See also the highest mountains of Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite national park california

Yosemite National Park Hiking

Over 800 miles or 1,300 km of trails are open to hikers – everything from a leisurely stroll to a challenging mountain hike or an overnight backpack journey. One of the most popular trails heads to the summit of Half Dome & requires an advance permit from Memorial Day weekend in late May to Columbus Day in early October.

A maximum of 300 hikers, chosen by lottery, are permitted to advance past the base of the sub dome each day, including 225-day hikers & 75 backpackers.

The park can be split into five sections for the day user—Yosemite Valley, Mariposa Grove/Wawona/Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy & Crane Flat/White Wolf. Numerous books describe park trails, & free information is obtainable from the National Park Service in Yosemite. Park rangers assist visitors in experiencing parts of the park in addition to Yosemite Valley.

Between late spring & early fall, much of the park can be entered for multiple-day backpacking trips. All overnight trips into the backcountry need a wilderness permit, & most require allowed bear-resistant food storage.

Yosemite National Park Driving destinations

While some locations in Yosemite entail hiking, other locations can be entered via automobile transportation. Driving locations also allow guests to observe the night sky in locations other than their campsite or lodge. All of the roads in Yosemite are scenic. Still, the most popular is the Tioga Road, typically open from late May or the early part of June and throughout November.

As an alternative to driving, bicycles are permitted on the roads. However, bikes are permitted off-road on only 12 miles (19 km) of paved trails in Yosemite Valley itself; mountain biking is not allowed.

Yosemite national park california

Yosemite National Park Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a necessary part of Yosemite. In particular, Yosemite Valley is circled by famous summits like Half Dome & El Capitan. Camp 4, a walk-in campground in the Valley, was instrumental in the evolution of rock climbing as a sport & is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Climbers can usually be spotted in the snow-free months on anything from ten-foot-high (3 m) boulders to the 3,300-foot (1.0 km) face of El Capitan. Numerous groups give classes on rock climbing.

Where to Stay near Yosemite National Park

There are many places to stay near Yosemite National Park, depending on your budget and the type of accommodations you are looking for. There are numerous camping options within the park for those who want to rough it. For those who want a little more comfort, there are hotels and lodges inside and outside the park.

If you’re looking to stay inside Yosemite National Park, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee) is a great option, also offering beautiful views of the valley.

This historic hotel has been welcoming guests since 1927 and offers stunning views of Yosemite Valley. If you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, Curry Village is a good option, with several different types of lodging available, including cabins and tent camping.

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