As a newish Cali resident, I figured it’d be appropriate to start exploring my own backyard a bit more. A visitor can experience the tallest living things (Redwoods), the largest living things (Giant Sequoias) AND the oldest living things (Bristlecone Pines) in just one state. Dear California, what a resume you have…
After about 255 miles from LA, a friend and I reached Mariposa where we rented out an airbnb for 3 nights. A lot of visitors also opt for Groveland (check out Pine Mountain Lake), and with a 25 minute drive to the Yosemite gate (when CA-120 is open) and about an hour fifteen total to Yosemite Valley, it’s just a little shorter of a drive into the park than Mariposa. The hotel sitch can be tough with only a few inside the park (Majestic Yosemite Hotel)…and with any National Park visit comes high prices.
Update: During my second trip to the park, my boyfriend and I stayed at Tenaya Lodge near the south gate. With a massive Spa Room, 2 restaurants and a beautiful spa, I can’t recommend this highly enough. Even though the hotel is located about 5 minutes from the south gate of Yosemite, it still takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the main valley floor near Yosemite Falls (although much closer to Glacier Point!).
Upper Yosemite Falls – I won’t sugar coat it, UYF was a bitch of a climb but well worth the view. It’s 7 miles round trip to Yosemite Falls and 9.9 miles (3,700 ft elevation gain) to Yosemite Point. It took us 7 1/2 hours to complete with the extension to Yosemite Point. The terrain changed from sand to rock to stone steps to mud after the rain. You get super close to North America’s tallest waterfall which has TONS of water in spring and early summer. The way down was pretty rough since my legs were shaking and I wanted to be horizontal and motionless. It’s a one-and-done for me 🙂
Taft Point – A mile hike to the most unreal sunset view point! Keep in mind if you stay until sunset, you’ll have to hike a mile back to your car in the dark forest. The last 10 minutes inside said forest were pretty terrifying. Bring a flashlight, y’all. And maybe even bear spray…
Half Dome – What.A.Beast. The famous half dome is a 14-16 mile round trip with an elevation gain of almost 5,000 ft. The last 400 ft to the summit is done with cables. Many people call it quits before then, but I can’t wait to go back for this challenge. A permit is needed only for the cable portion at the very end, and a “Daily Lottery” drawing happens 48 hours in advance here.
Sentinel Dome – This is still on my wish list, but apparently it has great views of Half Dome and El Capitan + the entire valley of waterfalls 🙂
Update: On my 2nd trip to Yosemite, Alex and I hiked Mist Trail which takes you to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls making it a whopping 6.4 mile trip (when you take the John Muir trail back to the bottom…which you should). I LOVED this hike because it didn’t remind me of the Upper Yosemite switchbacks (kill me), plus it was a short hike with less elevation gain (read: EASIER lol). What made Mist Trail super memorable was the fact that the falls were FLOWING AF due to the snow melt…and we got completely drenched multiple times as the trail went right up next to them (hence the name). I brought the perfect oversized rain jacket with waterproof hiking boots, so I was good to go 🙂 If you have a car, park at Half Dome Village and take a shuttle or walk ~1 mile to the trailhead from the village parking lot.
What to know before you go
If you want to explore Tioga Pass, wait until late May/early June to do so. The National Park Service keeps an eye on the weather and road conditions. Of course I visited less than a week before the Pass opened 🙂 Ugh, I’m never early in life unless it comes to CA-120. Missed it by 6 days! We did, however, luck out and get to explore Glacier Point as it opened April 28th.
Update: My 2nd trip to Yosemite was during the tail end of April which was about 3 weeks sooner than the 1st trip taken last year in mid-May. Even though that’s roughly during the same timeframe, Glacier Point and Tioga Pass (among other roads) won’t be open for at least another 2 months (word on the street). 2019 saw massive snow fall which means it takes longer to plow and melt. Spring is still an amazing time of year to visit because the crowds are still sparse (so long as you don’t go during Spring Break!) and the weather is beautiful.
Hike early because crowds will come. We started the drive from Mariposa to the valley around 7:30am both mornings.
Bring food and water. There are a few options inside the valley, but parking is a pain and you’ll probably want a homemade PB&J when you’re atop Upper Yosemite Falls. That’s all I’m sayin.
Get gas before arriving to the gate. It was almost $5 a gallon right outside the park (saw me coming). The park is big, so if you’re an explorer and want to see a big portion of it, make sure you have at least half a tank!
Bring bug spray.
Entry fee for 1 vehicle is $35.
Know that this will be a pricey trip if staying in a hotel/airbnb. Prices go up around National Parks!