Yosemite West (pronounced “Yo-SEM-it-tee”) is an unincorporated community of resort homes located just outside the southern area of Yosemite National Park, just off Wawona Road, a continuation of State Route 41 from Fresno. It is situated one mile (1.6 km) south of the Chinquapin intersection of Wawona Road with Glacier Point Road at an altitude of 5,100–6,300 ft (1,550–1,900 m). The elevation reported by the USGS is 5,866 feet (1,788 m). The GPS coordinates are N 37° 38.938’ W 119° 43.310’. Although it appears to be very near El Portal, this community is part of Henness Ridge, towering nearly 3,000 feet (900 m) above the southern banks of the Merced River and State Route 140 from Mariposa. Therefore, there is no direct access to Yosemite West from Highway 140. To get to Yosemite West from this direction, drivers need to enter the park through the Arch Rock entrance along Highway 140 from Merced and travel south along Wawona Road.
View of El Portal, 3,000 feet (900 m) below Yosemite West.
As part of Mariposa County, Yosemite West is a subdivision of 294 lots on approximately 120 acres (49 ha), complete with underground utilities and paved roads. To date, there are 173 developed lots with houses, including two condominium buildings with a total of 48 units. It is surrounded on three sides by Yosemite National Park and Sierra National Forest.
Some homes are owned by permanent residents of the area while others are resort homes, some of which are rented on a daily and weekly basis by visitors to Yosemite National Park. These vacation rentals provide much needed funds for infrastructure repairs.
Occupation of the Yosemite West area did not begin, however, with the subdivision that opened in 1967. It began many centuries earlier with the North American Indian Tribes of the Sierra. Before the advent of the white man, Indians used Yosemite West as their camp ground and hunting area. Even today, a search for the obsidian chips used as arrowheads can provide an interesting day outing in Yosemite West.
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