After the scenic turnouts through Yosemite National Park, your first stop in Yosemite Valley should be the visitors center (Yosemite Village off Northside Dr., 209/372-0200, www.nps.gov/yose, daily 9 a.m.–7 p.m., hours vary by season). Here you’ll find the ranger station, as well as an intricate interpretive museum describing the geological and human history of Yosemite.
Separate from the interpretive museum stands the Yosemite History Museum. Also a part of the big building complex are the theater, the Ansel Adams Gallery, and the all-important public restrooms.
A short flat walk from the visitors center takes you down to the re-created Miwok Native American village. The village includes all different types of structures, including those of the later Miwoks who incorporated European architecture into their building techniques. You can walk right into the homes and public buildings of this nearly lost culture.
One of the most fascinating parts of this reconstruction is the evolution of construction techniques—as white settlers infiltrated the area, building cabins and larger structures, the Miwok took note. They examined these buildings and incorporated pieces that they saw as improvements.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition