I honestly can’t believe I’m here writing this post. A part of me is a little depressed that I’m writing a travel recap because I’m realizing that this trip that we had dreamed up is already over. At the same time, having these images and video allows me to see how truly fortunate we are to have had this experience.
For those of you who have never heard of Yosemite, it is a U.S. National Park east of San Francisco, California in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It is most famous for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, redwood trees and meadows, and together they create one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.
In my research for this trip I found a lot of information about Yosemite from park websites, but not nearly enough travel guides from bloggers. I personally like reading blogger accounts of their trips because it can give you a better sense of what is actually feasible and also includes helpful tips and feedback. I’m hoping this post will do that for others who are planning trips to Yosemite.
WHERE TO STAY
The original plan had been to camp (yes like real camping) but we were a little late to the permit game and while we could have rolled the dice and tried a day-off camping permit, we opted not to.
The next best solution to camping was “glamping” at Curry Village in the Yosemite Valley. To-be-honest I wouldn’t say this was total glamping but it certainly wasn’t sleeping out in the woods in a tent. Curry Village is made up of wood and canvas tents with raised single and double beds that include bedding and towels. There’s a communal shower house and bathrooms. All of us stayed in one tent and it was absolutely perfect. We asked to stay on the other side of camp from the office so it would be a lot quieter (i.e. we wouldn’t get yelled at if we were up late laughing) so I’d recommend that.
The only downside to Curry was that you cannot cook within the camp. You can bring pre-made food and store it in the bear box outside your cabin, but there are no fire pits to cook things yourself. There are several restaurants/cafeteria to eat at so you aren’t short on food but if you’re looking to cook stuff yourself then Curry probably isn’t the place for you.
We stayed there for the first two nights and we were all comfortable but still felt like we were getting the Yosemite wilderness experience.
The last night we stayed at Housekeeping Camp, which was just down the road from Curry and also in the valley. We weren’t able to get 3 nights at Curry but it ended up being awesome because we got a totally different sleeping experience at Housekeeping.
I would say that Housekeeping was a bit more rustic (or budget…) compared to Curry but all of the amenities were there. The main difference was having less of a cabin-type feel (more like a walled structure with a tarp on top), bunk-beds and a fire pit so you can cook outside your tent. We also asked for a cabin on the river which wasn’t quite accurate (more like close to the river) but it was better than being in one of the center cabins or next to the bathrooms.
If you want to bring food and cook it over the fire, then housekeeping is a good bet. Don’t expect too much other than a bed frame, fire pit (comes with a cooking grate), bed sheets (no towels) and a bear box.
WHAT TO DO
Most of what we did in Yosemite was hike and eat. It’s also known for its rock climbing but we aren’t THAT crazy or experienced so we didn’t attempt any climbing. We are still a bit crazy though and tackled some serious hiking. In terms of experience, I wouldn’t recommend any of these trails to beginners but if you’re in pretty good shape and up for a challenge, I’d suggest trying every hike we did!
4 mile trail to glacier point
Don’t let the name fool you, this trail is actually 4.8 miles…not entirely certain why they didn’t round-up to the 5 mile trail. This trail also is not for the faint of heart. It is entirely uphill with tons of switchbacks. It usually takes 3-4 hours but we powered up it in 2.5 with a few short snack/water stops. If you’re not up up for the intensity, you can also take the free shuttle up to glacier point; however the view from this hike of glacier point, half dome and the entire valley is unparalleled.
From Glacier Point you can catch the Panorama Trail which is an 8.2 mile trail that takes you all along the ridge of the valley, across two waterfalls (Nevada and Vernal) and then back into the valley. This trail is also quite challenging but more for the steep downhill with short bursts of uphill at one point.
I have no words for the beauty of this trail. For the classic and majestic views of the granite peaks, this is your trail. But if you’re not too strong on downhill or stairs make sure you bring a walking stick. This trail will also take you along the famous John Muir trail along the waterfalls.
If you do 4 miles trail and panorama trail together prepare yourself to be hiking over 15 miles (including the time it takes to get to and from the trails) in one day. We were completely shot at the end of the day but it was worth it.
Day 2 we headed up to Tuolumne Meadows and weren’t too sure what to expect. Along the way we based Tenaya Lake which was so gorgeous and sparkling blue that we had to stop there for lunch. On our way out of the Meadows and back to the valley, we also stopped there for a drink and some apps on the beach.
Gaylor Lakes Trail and Peak
Originally our plan was to hike Lemberts Dome but we missed the turn-off for it and ended up at the Gaylor Lakes trailhead just before the Tioga Pass. We were all so happy we did because this hike felt absolutely surreal. It’s definitely challenging getting up to the ridge but once you reach it, you have a gorgeous view over the meadows and Gaylor Lakes. You can also walk down to the lakes and walk between and around them. The water is freezing but if you’re crazy like my friends, try jumping in!
We also went somewhat off the beaten path and hiked up to the top of Gaylor Peak. I’m not sure if it was a legit trail or not (there definitely wasn’t a path) but if you’re a bit of a risk taker, have A LOT of stamina and want an unreal view, turn right at the ridge and attempt to climb the peak. Please don’t sue me if something happens though.
WHERE TO EAT
We showed up at the park with quite a bit of food and I’m glad we came prepared. I brought energy balls, trail mix nut butters and oatmeal packs, which helped with easy (and cheap!) breakfasts and hiking snacks and Steph basically brought a grocery store from San Francisco. We also stopped at a grocery store in Groveland (the last town before entering the park) to pick up booze, some cured meats, bread and a few other random goodies since food gets substantially more expensive in the park. The only downside is having to store it all in a bear box but that’s better than getting eaten by a bear.
We did purchase a few meals and ingredients in the park too. After hiking 15 miles we went to the Curry cafeteria and got a surprisingly healthy meal. It’s a bit pricey $15 for an entree with 2 sides but the turkey, rice and veggie medley I got were delicious. C and Ben got pizzas which looked good and apparently tasted good for $20. Curry has the cafeteria, which also serves breakfast ($10) and Peets Coffee (so key!), the pizza place as well as a burger joint. Curry as well as Housekeeping camp both have mini grocery stores (you can get essentials) and there’s also another store and restaurant in the Yosemite Valley Village. It isn’t an issue if you show up without food, but expect to pay a pretty penny.
WHAT TO PACK
I figured I’d include a list of things to pack that may not be so obvious. One thing you learn out in the woods is that you can pretty much improvise anything, but certain things would have been helpful or were complete life-savers for us.
1. Sleeping Bag – both camps had bedding but it definitely got cool at night and a sleeping bag was key.
2. Flashlight/Headlamp – if you go camping without either of these…good luck.
3. Reusable plates, silverware and cups- we were good on cups but used some interesting things for plates.
4. A good knife and small cutting board – came in serious handy
5. Tongs – if you’re cooking on a fire you’re going to want tongs to flip and turn food. We used chopsticks (don’t ask why we had chopsticks and not tongs…) but it would have been a lot easier with tongs.
6. Wipes or disinfectant – accidents happen in the woods…
7. Waterbottle – There are places to fill your waterbottle in the camps and at a trailheads so make sure you bring a reusable waterbottle.
8. Lip chap – Because of the elevation it is very dry. Try to get one with SPF in it so you don’t burn your lips like I did.
9. Down vest or jacket – it gets very cool at night and as you hike towards peaks so you’ll want one or both to keep warm (same goes for a hat)
10. Large beach blanket – We bunked up at couple of places to sit and enjoy the view and our large beach blanket was so key.
11. Beach chairs or portable chairs – If you’re staying at Housekeeping Camp, you’re going to want chairs so you can sit around the fire. We pulled a bench-table over but chairs would have been nice.
Despite all of the info and the video above, I still couldn’t narrow down all of my pictures so like my Banff post, I’m including a photo dump with some of my favourites. I hope these inspire you to go see the beauty that is Yosemite with your own eyes!
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