14 September 2015

USA Road Trip | Yosemite National Park

Glacier Point
If there was one faux pas I made when planning our trip (not suggesting it was perfect, but let's not get pedantic) it was not appreciating the scale of Yosemite.

All the other parks we went to - Zion, Bryce and Death Valley (and I suppose, Cedar Breaks too) - I would say you can get the gist of the park in one full day. That's not to say I recommend only one day at each; I certainly recommend allowing more time, but you can start to get a feel for what it has to offer.
Resting at the lake
For example, with one long day we saw a huge variety of sights in Zion National Park and we also really appreciated Bryce with the time we had. With two nights in Yosemite we didn't even scratch the surface! You really should think of Yosemite as a puzzle made up of four smaller parks:

Tuolmne Meadows

The terrain here was similar to the drive on the way to Cedar Breaks and the area I most want to go back to. We passed the idyllic Tenya Lake with its crystal clear waters, fence of green pine and bathing visitors. We also passed many campsites, trailheads and hikers admiring wide green meadows, but there was a lot of breathing room in this area of the park.
A lake in the Tuolmne Meadows area
On the way to Wawona

Yosemite Valley

This area is where many famous hikes are located (including Cook Meadows, Yosemite Falls and The Mist Trail) and where a majority of tourists congregate. We spent our full day here and could have easily spent two full days just in this area. There's a reason why this area is popular and there is definitely a hike for all levels here. Don't expect much solitude, but do expect to be wowed nonetheless!
Views on the way to Yosemite Valley

Glacier Point

Glacier point looks over Yosemite Valley and is undoubtedly the most picturesque spot of our whole trip. We drove up intending to do a 3 hour hike out to Taft point and Sentinel Point in a loop, but we ran out of time and instead drove to Washburn Point and then along to Glacier Point.
Looking down from Glacier Point
One of my most popular posts talks about the lows whilst travelling. Sometime you don't know why you're upset and it can hit you at the weirdest moments. Up at Glacier Point I walked off on my own and cried. Mostly due to exhaustion, but also a little bit to do with where I was - it was the sort of view that really does move you to tears. I just needed a cry yet I digress...
Being dorky

Wawona & Mariposa Groves

And so finally, at the South of the park is Wawona where we started during our trip. We had sentimental reasons for staying here as its where my parents stayed some 20-something years ago. The area has a campsite and a hotel that looks like something straight out of Dirty Dancing.
The look of an early morning
We loved the tank (swimming pool), cocktails accompanied by Tom the legendary pianist, the rocking chairs on the balconies and the large portions in the restaurant. With regards to the restaurant, the variety on the menu wasn't there and though I loved my stew, Josh's fish was disappointing so we ate in Yosemite Valley for dinner on our second night where the options are plentiful and include some cheaper, quicker options.

Useful Info

How to get there

You can go to Yosemite as a day trip from San Francisco (organised or otherwise), but bear in mind that you will get a tiny snapshot in such a short space of time. Most people either come from California coastal towns or from Las Vegas (overnight recommended).

The Toiga Pass is only open at certain times of the year and lets you drive through from Mammoth Lakes direction, through the Tulomne Meadows area all the way south. It cuts your journey time by a lot and is stunning. Just may sure you check the updates - you'd be surprised how late and early to the year the snow affects this road.

Where to Stay

Although there is accommodation outside of the park with so many options I highly recommend staying in the park. Yosemite Valley has a large variety of options and all the amenities, but as you can imagine it is much more crowed. We adored Wawona Lodge which was a little escape and so full of character. You will spend time a lot of time travelling from one end of Yosemite to the other, so maybe even consider booking two different types of accommodation to avoid wasting time in the car getting from A to B.
Wawona Lodge

Where to Eat

Without a doubt Yosemite Valley has the widest range of options including some grab and go type food places and an overpriced supermarket and gift store - hey, you can hardly blame them for upping their prices!

Wawona's portions were generous and of good quality. Some of the dishes were a little hit and miss (unlike Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge) in terms of flavour and personal taste, but the cocktails were lovely to enjoy with the pianist tinkling in the background.

Is Yosemite on your bucket list?

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