In the days before starting our road trip I was researching everything about Yosemite National Park, how to make the most of those 3 full days in the park. As I was doing that, I realized that you can spend easily a lifetime exploring this amazing National Park. Yosemite is a huge park, and has 6 main areas: Yosemite Valley, Hetch-Hetchy, South Rim, North Rim, Tuolumne Meadows and the park’s expansive backcountry. For this short stay we chose to stay in more accessible areas, like Yosemite Valley, South Rim and Tuolumne Meadows.
The drive from Napa Valley to Yosemite National Park took around 4h. And our AirBnb host from Santa Rosa scared us about the fires, so we were listening at the radio for any updates that may ruin our trip. On the way we even got that emergency alert on our phones that scared us like shit, but we were still good to go forward! Our first stop, since we were arriving at sunset, wast the Tunnel View. In this scenic viewpoint, you’re able to see Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Falls. Tunnel View is where everyone stops to snap “the shot”, a magnificent photograph that looks like a postcard.
We visited during summer, which is the busiest time. And this is my biggest advice: book your accommodation wayyyy in advance. We started looking with one and a half month in advance and there was nothing available. I was searching everyday for any updates and any AirBnb cancellations. Finally, I found an AirBnb which was 1h drive from Yosemite Valley, but this was the best I could find. Being the peak season, I tried to plan everything around the crowds, to avoid them as much as I could. The cherry on top was that we were arriving thursday evening and leaving sunday evening, so we catched the weekend, another reason to have a packed park.
Day 1 in Yosemite National Park, and we are starting with Yosemite Valley. We arrived early morning, since parking can be hard to find (the park is open 24h a day, 365 days of the year – the entrance is 30$ per car valid for 7 days) . Leave the car there for the day and use the Yosemite Valley shuttle that will transport you to the best trails around the park. To find more about Yosemite Valley Shuttle System click here. Once there we stopped for coffee and found this delicious sandwich that became my breakfast for the next 3 days (a biscuit with a sausage patty and scrambled eggs 😋 )
First stop was Lower Yosemite Falls, a short hike, easily accessible for people of all ages and abilities. Lower Yosemite Falls is part of North America’s tallest waterfall, an extraordinary 320 foot drop! During summer you may find this waterfall dry, but this was not our case. After the falls, we just wandered around Cook’s Meadow Loop before going for Taft Point and Glacier Point.
Glacier Point road is open only during summer. On our way to Glacier Point we stopped to do the Taft Point hike. The hike to Taft Point is quite easy and pleasant, through the forest. At the top you get to enjoy great views and you can peer over the edge of the rock fissures down to the valley. Here, my heights fear came out and couldn’t get near the edge. More, I started nagging Valentin for him not to get too close as well 😂 talk about a crazy wife!
Leaving the crazy fear of heights behind, our next stop was Glacier Point. It offers one of the most spectacular viewpoint anywhere! This incredible point gets you very close to Half Dome and it is amazing for sunset views. We reached there around 18:00 and we were dead tired and couldn’t wait for it, but we still enjoyed the beautiful view, and the sight of the Mist Trail that we will do the next morning.
Second day started with our “big” hike, The Mist Trail. We thought it will be quite busy being saturday and summer, but it was ok and got to park just at the trail. The trail is quite long, and I was dead by the end of it. Up until Vernal Falls is a steep hike, partly on stairs carved out of the rock. While you are close to the waterfall, protect your camera as it gets wet if the waterfall has a good flow.
We left Vernal Falls behind and up we went to Nevada Falls. Close to the end, I found the trail difficult. It was sunny and steep and quite difficult. This was one of the reasons why we chose to hike back down via Muir Trail rather than retrace our steps. The trail was much easier and there are some fantastic views of Nevada Falls from afar. Near the bottom we rejoined the trail to Vernal Falls and around 14:00 it was quite busy with tourists. Is definetely recommended an early start. After this long and exhausting hike we treated ourselves with some pizza for lunch.
Our second stop for the day was Mirror Lake. The trail is paved, wheelchair accessible and quite easy. There were signs along the trail about recent sightings of mountain lions, however, we did not see one (Thank God! 😌 ) The funny thing is that there is a sign saying that if you are attacked, fight back! Really ? What can I do except go hey kitty kitty and pray not to get eaten alive. 😂
For our last day in the Yosemite National Park we chose to spend it in Tuolumne Meadows. We didn’t venture on any big hike, just walked along a winding crystal clear river with a backdrop of granite mountains and forest in the distance. After a couple of hours went to Tenaya Lake and enjoyed a day of summer ( had a bath, went paddle boarding ).
Yosemite National Park exceeded all of our expectations. With some careful planning, the summer weather and crowds didn’t prevent us enjoying this spectacular place which has some of the best views and hikes we’ve ever experienced. We saw a lot in three days but still only a fraction of what the park has to offer.
I would love to hear about your experiences in Yosemite National Park so I can better plan my next visit! Leave your comments below.
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