The first time we were driving in to Yosemite, I had tears in my eyes.
I had never seen something so beautiful. There truly are not enough words to describe how amazing it is, you need to see it for yourself. Living just three and a half hours away has allowed us to visit quite a few times. In this post, I’m going to lay out some of my favorite things that I have done in Yosemite. Later on I plan to post more in depth about specific hikes that we have done; so stay tuned for that. 🙂
Where to Stay
First off I’d like to talk about where to stay in Yosemite. For us, the only way to do it is to camp. I once thought that the only way to get a campsite in Yosemite is to book it well in advance when they first release the sites on Reserve America. While this is a sure-fire way to get a campsite, it’s quite hard for me to plan 6 months in advance. So this option makes things a little difficult and discouraged me from booking a site. Luckily, Joseph and I discovered the secret to getting spots the day of. The trick is to get to the reservations hut before 8 A.M. and wait to put your name on the list for a site that has a last minute cancellation. Getting a site is not guaranteed but you can always get a site outside of Yosemite; we will talk about that later. It’s best to get there as early as possible to heighten your chances of getting a spot. Usually, once we get our name on the list we unfold our tent and take a little nap in the parking lot and then do some exploring. You need to return to the reservation hut around 2 or 3. When you return it is quite nerve racking, theres a group of people all circled around a park ranger waiting for their name to be called off the list. It truly is a great feeling when you hear your named called and you know you’ve got your spot for the night.
If you aren’t lucky enough to get a spot, don’t panic just yet! There are plenty of campgrounds about 30 minutes outside of Yosemite that are less popular and you can almost always get a spot at one of these. One of the times that we visited during summer we had to camp outside of Yosemite, but it was actually a very fun experience. We were able to book a site at Indian Flat RV Park. This place was our saving grace! The campground is located across from a river so all night you can hear the water running, it is quite beautiful. This specific camp ground is RV friendly and they have all the necessary hook ups. The people running the front desk were very nice and they have an adorable cat that hangs out in the check in office. At just about a 30 minute drive outside of the actual park I would absolutely stay here again and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a place to camp.
Inside Yosemite Valley, we have camped at the Upper Pines campground many times.
This campground is in a great central location to get to anything in Yosemite. From this campground you can easily access a popular trail head that could take you all the way to Half Dome. From the trail head you can also access the mist trail which takes you to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. Or if you are looking for a non strenuous hike you can also get to the Mirror Lake trails as well.
The last time we were in Yosemite we camped at the North Pines Campground, this site definitely exceeded our expectations.
Our site was walking distance to Tenaya Creek; where we spent a few hours exploring around and taking photos.
Besides the sites I have stayed at, there are plenty of other campgrounds within the park. There are even some geared towards backpackers and are tent sites only, meaning your car will not fit on the site.
Now that we’ve covered the bases as to where to stay, lets talk about what to do.
What to do
Yosemite is incredibly beautiful and you do not even have to go on any hikes to experience surreal views. All throughout the park you are surrounded by immense granite mountains, it is hard to believe that they are even real. Listed below are some of my favorite things I have done in Yosemite in order based off of how strenuous the are.
1. The Meadows
There are a few beautiful meadows in the valley. This spot is right across from the campground reservation hut and in the springtime you are surrounded by waterfalls.
2. Mirror Lake
The trail to get here is paved most of the way on one side of the river making it a very accessible hike for anyone. If you are looking for a hike that is easier to do, then this is the one! Mirror Lake is absolutely beautiful and gives you really unique views of Yosemite’s granite mountains.
Joseph and I decided to take the path less traveled and hike on the other side of the river. Over here we had lots of fun hiking in the dirt and using logs to get across the river, it was great!
3. Bridavail Falls
This is a great waterfall that you can easily access from the road. If you are more daring you can hike a little closer, but be careful the rocks are VERY slippery.
4. Vernal Falls
This is a great hike located near the end of the park. This hike only takes a few hours to complete and it is absolutely stunning. Once you get closer to the waterfall, you are climbing up stairs to get to the top. As you’re going up you get sprayed by the waterfall which feels nice on a hot day. This hike is not for the faint of heart. The rock stairs near the top are quite narrow and can get pretty slippery. But the view from the top is gorgeous! If you keep going along the mist trail you can also reach Nevada Falls. Which is so beautiful! We saw this waterfall on our way up to Half Dome.
5. Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls
Yosemite falls is a beautiful waterfall that can be seen from the valley. It is absolutely a sight to go see. A fun fact about this hike is that the peak is taller than 2 empire state buildings!
This hike is definitely strenuous, the first part of the hike is all switchbacks because of how steep the terrain is. Once you get to the top of the switchbacks you approach lower Yosemite falls.You could stop here and turn around or keep going to the top of the upper falls. At the top is a beautiful river and an outstanding view of Yosemite Valley.
We did this hike in early spring and there was still snow at the top of the mountain. It was a complete surprise to us but we were so excited to see snow! This hike took us about 5 hours which is pretty fast. This one should be done on a day where you have lots of time.
6. Half Dome
Ahhhhh half dome in all of its glory.
In order to take on this hike you have to do a bit of planning before hand. This is because the last 200 ft of the hike is climbing up wire cables and in order to do this you must obtain a permit. Like reserving a campsite this can be done well in advance or if you are lucky like us you can get permits through a lottery system 48 hours before hand. We did this hike on my birthday and I’d say a little birthday luck helped us get the permits ;). Anyways this hike is extremely strenuous, it is five straight hours of trekking up hill on the way up and then another five hours to get down. It is an all day hike. The view from the top is out of this world!!
Thanks for making it to the end of this long post. I hope this post will inspire you to go explore the amazing sights Yosemite has to offer!