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A Steamy Trip Through Yosemite

Treat yourself to a tour in the Locomobile

Locomobile Half Dome in the Background
The iconic granite Half Dome seen in the distance offers visitors an incredible sight and challenging hike. We'll never know how a steam-powered automobile might have handled the ascent.

Enjoy the Ride

Summer is officially here, and whether you’re gearing up for an actual road trip or hunkering down and dreaming of hitting the road, you’re welcome to hop on board the Locomobile for a tour of Yosemite Valley. Thanks to the collection from the Seaver Center for Western History Research, there’s a front-row seat for everyone on this inaugural visit. These photographs capture the first time an automobile would ever enter Yosemite in 1900, 16 years before the formation of the National Parks Service. 

Photographer Oliver Lippincott drove his Locomobile, so named for its steam-powered engine (think locomotive not loco), and along with his ‘mechanician’ Edward E. Russel, embarking on what the Los Angeles Herald would describe in 1901 as “his best achievement” writing that “he entered the Yosemite, ran ninety-two miles and climbed 9,400 feet in the actual running time of eight hours and fourteen minutes.” 

While Lippincott would be feted for his journey, park officials banned automobiles immediately afterwards citing the possibility of accidents and incompatibility with horse conveyance. This vehicular prohibition would last until 1907. As the park reopens to automobiles (and human visitors generally), it’s a great time to take a breather and take in the view before the crowds come back. 

Enjoy the tour below.

 

Wawona Tunnel locomobile
We'll start our tour at the Wawona Tunnel Tree, known these days as the Fallen Tunnel Tree. A particularly harsh winter felled the tree in February, 1969.
Locomobile Mirror Lake
When the water is calm, Mirror Lake reflects the unmatched beauty of Yosemite's cliffs. It also offers water you might need for any steam-powered vehicle.

 

 

Locomobile Glacier Point
Overhanging Rock near Glacier Point offers a spectacular view of Yosemite Valley, but has been closed to automobile parking for quite some time.

 

Locomobile atop a fallen sequoia
Like this mighty sequoia the Locomobile was powerful in its time but would not stand forever; the company fell in 1922.