For decades before Yosemite became a national park in 1890, tourists were making the long journey overland to see its natural wonders, from the valley’s famous waterfalls to the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias and the views from Glacier Point.
Some of the first visitors arrived in 1855, escorted by James Hutchings, who later became an enthusiastic promoter of Yosemite tourism. In the early days, it was a rough overland journey on horseback and foot to reach the Yosemite Valley. Hutchings described it in his journal:
“Descending towards the Yo-Semite Valley, we came upon a high point clear of trees from whence we had our first view of the singular and romantic valley; and as the scene opened in full view before us, we were almost speechless with wondering admiration at its wild and sublime grandeur.”
Of course, tourists weren’t the only ones flooding into the Yosemite Valley. California’s Gold Rush kicked into high gear in 1849, and the Mariposa Battalion***Note: Please add hyperlink to new Arts & Culture / History detail page about the Mariposa Battalion.*** evicted Yosemite’s Native American residents two years later. After that, ranchers, homesteaders, and miners began to leave their mark in the Yosemite region. So did enterprising business owners that came to guide early tourists, selling them food and lodgings, and generally turning a profit from Yosemite’s increasing popularity.
Soon a toll road was built for the stagecoach journey up through the Sierra Nevada foothills to Wawona, near the popular Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, and onward to Yosemite Valley. Interestingly, one very narrow section of the road required stagecoaches to be taken apart and then reassembled in order to squeeze through!