Project goal: Update educational exhibits at the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center to be more relevant, useful and informative for today’s backcountry travelers.

Why this work matters: The Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center serves as a hub for people heading into the park’s backcountry. Thousands of visitors enter the building each year, to pick up permits, rent bear-proof food canisters, purchase maps, find information about conditions, or sometimes, simply get oriented and learn a little about the Yosemite Wilderness.

Despite an increase in wilderness use and the Wilderness Center’s evolving role in educating a variety of visitors, not just backpackers, the building’s current signs and displays have changed little since they were installed in 1998. This project aims to overhaul the exhibits to make them more relevant and engaging for today’s visitors.

The new exhibits will help people better prepare for journeys throughout the park, and they will ensure they minimize their impact on wildlife, habitat and fellow travelers. Signs and displays will highlight different kinds of backcountry experiences, feature images and messages that better reflect the diversity of 21st-century wilderness users, incorporate more information about exploring the “vertical wilderness” through rock-climbing, and broaden safety and stewardship information to reach a range of audiences, from long-distance backpackers to day hikers.

2020 Update: In 2020, with your support, the park’s wilderness team worked with interpreters, creative media staff, Preventive Search and Rescue experts, tribal representatives and a designer to plan the new exhibits, which include guidance on wilderness stewardship, a photo mosaic of wilderness experiences, updated trip-planning tips, and information about the many kinds of journeys people can take in the wilderness. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of this project, as the wilderness team focused on creating and implementing new online permit procedures, and the exhibits will be finalized and installed in 2021. Once complete, these exhibits will help thousands of people each year get the information they need to be good environmental stewards and safe travelers not just in Yosemite Wilderness, but in any outdoor space.

Project partner: Yosemite National Park.

Elissa Kretsch

Wilderness Education Coordinator, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

"Thousands of visitors enter the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center each year—to pick up Wilderness permits, inquire about future trips, get oriented, buy maps, or find their way back to the parking lot. And more arrive each year—not just a testament to growing interest in public lands, but also hiking and backpacking specifically. ... Let's meet the increased need of resource stewardship and education with relevant and engaging information."