“Wow, wow, wow”. That pretty much summed up our time in Yosemite National Park.
From the moment we entered the park we spent a whole lot of time with our jaws on the floor. Everywhere we looked was awesome. Every scene was inspiring. Trying to put the experience into words is hard, as so much of the delight of Yosemite is being there; feeling the suns rays on your skin, breathing the fresh mountain air while your muscles burn after an uphill climb…you get the idea. Even trying to capture it through the lens is hard.
Why visit Yosemite?
“No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite,” wrote John Muir. He was a pretty big deal back in the day, and it was because of his passion and campaigning that America has its national parks. Yosemite is the oldest of the national parks in the USA and has been blowing peoples minds for over 125 years.
We first heard about Yosemite from David Attenborough, who is a big fan of the Parks servies. If he rated it, we knew we would probably like it too, we just had to go and experience it for ourselves. It wasn’t until we arrived that we realized it is a scarily huge and diverse place, which means there is lots to see and do. For first-timers like us, it felt almost a little overwhelming, but we managed just fine.
What to see and do
We had a whole week, which is the longest you can go without leaving the park and coming back unless you’re employed in one of the many accommodation and food service areas. Even after seven days, there is still a long list of things we want to do if we ever make it back to Yosemite. Add the snowy winter stuff to do as well and there is enough to keep us busy for a whole year if not more! There is plenty of space for bike riding, lots of short and medium length walks suitable for varying levels of fitness, a few swimming spots along the river, some shops, a couple museums and lots of great views to check out.
Here are our highlights from this trip:
- Heading up the Mist Trail to see Vernal falls up close, and Nevada falls at a bit of a distance. This was a fun one, with slippery, wet and exposed stairs right on the side of a waterfall. Andrew hated it but I loved it.
- Heading back from Nevada falls via the John Muir Trail. A longer walk than the Mist trail but with different views and long winding switchbacks under big shady trees.
- Cruising the long way around the Mirror Lake and meeting a deer. The water here was low so the mirror effect was average but the walk was nice and the deer within arms reach was incredible.
- Resting our legs with a flat(ish) walk to the Lower Yosemite Falls. You get the joy of standing under a raging waterfall, as long as the water hasn’t dried up!
- Taking a long and lazy drive to Glacier point. The views here are almost indescribable. There’s a panorama including Half Dome, the waterfalls of the Mist Trail, Yosemite falls and much of Yosemite Valley.
- Clambering 3/4 of the way up to Yosemite Falls before realizing we had gone further than planned.
- Snooping around the base of El Capitan looking for rock climbers above.
- Watching the sun set over Half Dome and hearing the stories from the crazy campers who climbed it each day (not me!!).
Google what you can do in Yosemite and you’ll see this is a drop in the ocean of options! Every day we had to make the call about what we could do and what we would have to miss out. I only have one regret (and a wishlist for next time!), that we couldn’t see the Giant Sequoias as the meadow was closed. Wah!
Where to stay
There are a host of options ranging from rooms at the lodge, to tents on the side of the road and just about everything in between, but make sure you book early to get a spot. We had to book 360 days in advance to get our reservation for a tent in Half Dome Village during July.
Our stay in the village was pretty comfortable. We had double bed and two singles in a canvas tent, next to our very own bear safe. The bear safe is used to keep your stuff safe from bears!! We didn’t see a single bear, but that also meant we got out alive and with all out limbs.
Andrew and I planned the food bit of our trip badly. There are no cooking facilities in the village and only limited facilities in the rest of the Valley. So we ended up making use of the many food joints in the village to keep us going. It was pretty expensive and by the end of the week, we were so over pizza and burgers for dinner!! Lucky for us there were affordable sandwiches for sale which saw us through lunchtime and lots of good breakfast options to see us right on our long walks.
How to get around
Get your walk on! The Valley, where all the lodging and amenities can be found is flat and walkable. If you’re not keen for a walk there is also a free bus service that runs a circuit half-hourly. Hop on and hop off as many times as you like, or just ride around in circles.
That’s all, folks!
Have you visted Yosemite? What did you think? What should we see the next time we visit?