Best Time To Visit Yosemite
(12/28/12) Gas prices are $3.45 per gallon in Fresno and the San
Joaquin Valley. In Oakhurst, Mariposa, Groveland it'll be avg
BUT... In Lee Vining, Wawona, Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadow it's
$4.45 a gallon! Gas in El Portal is (gulp) $5.05 per gallon!!
Diesel is even more! Gas prices in El Portal are always the highest by a wide margin. There
is NO gas in Yosemite Valley, but gas and propane are available at Wawona
and Tuolumne Meadows (summer only) and Crane Flat. The stations have normal hours, but gas can
be purchased 24 hours using auto-pay with credit cards or debit cards
Up-to-the-minute gas price quotes are available
||Valid for 7 days
||In a bus, on foot,
bicycle, motorcycle or horse. Valid for 7 days.
||Valid for unlimited
access for one year.
||Valid for unlimited
access in all national parks for one year
||For U.S. citizens or
permanent residents over the age of 62.
||For Blind or permanently
disabled U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Print this, get a map and
Most people, be they foreign tourist or
American, come to Yosemite as part of a larger tour of the USA. My wife used to tend
bar at the Tenaya Lodge, and folks would spend maybe one or two days in the
park and move on to San Francisco or the coast. When they got back from Yosemite,
they would tell about going to the valley and spending some money in the gift shop and
seeing a few easily accessible waterfalls and that's it! So, I'm going to tell you
how to get the most out of a two day visit to the park.
Whether you fly in from Australia, or drive
up from L.A., ultimately you will come into the park on four wheels. The best way is
to rent a car if you're a flying tourist, or bring your own if you're "local".
DON'T come on the bus. Yosemite is too big and there is too much variety to
leave the schedule up to some bus schedule.
There are four roads that bring people into
the park. As you now look at your map (GO GET A MAP!!!) you will see two western
routes (through Mariposa and Groveland), a southern route (through Fresno and Oakhurst),
and an eastern route (through Lee Vining). You might think that it would be
convenient to see the Grand Canyon, drive through Death Valley and come to Yosemite from
the east road. Not good. Especially in winter, because it's closed. During summer, Road 120, or the Tioga
Pass road, is a steep highway. There are NO services for 15 miles if you
break down. The road is VERY steep and auto overheating is a real possibility.
I would not want to be a pedestrian on this road for all the rice in China.
Just make sure you have good waterlevels in your radiator; watch your temp
|Road 120, or Tioga
Road, a mountain goat trail between Lee Vining and the eastern gate.
Would YOU like to be a pedestrian on this road if your
car overheats? It is this way the entire trip from Lee Vining.
I received these e-mails from some folks about the Tioga Road:
description of the Tioga Pass road should be called, "Much ado about
nothing!" We just returned from a trip to Yosemite. After reading about
the Tioga Pass road on your website, we were concerned about driving this
road. We decided to drive around the park on the north, spend the night
in Lee Vining, then drive the road through the park from there. We have
done a lot of traveling and were looking forward to a scary and
spectacular drive after reading your description. As we were driving
along the road, we kept waiting for the scary and spectacular parts and
assumed they were still to come. There were all kinds of vehicles,
including full-size motor homes and trailers, none of which were having
any problems whatsoever. When we got to the western end of the road, we
were terribly disappointed because it was nothing like you described. We
found the road along the top of Rocky Mountain National Park to be
dangerous and scary, not the Tioga Pass road. We also thought Hwy. 108,
which goes over the mountains to the north of the park was much more
interesting and picturesque, as well. I feel you are doing people and
Yosemite a disservice by making this road sound so scary and treacherous.
It was nothing of the sort. Sorry, Phil, but we can only assume you are a
Editor's note: A "wuss"? LOL
"I drive a 75,000lb.
gasoline tanker. I deliver Crane Flat Chevron, Wawona Chevron and
Tuolumne Meadows Chevron. I go down steep hills into Yosemite Valley and
up the east side of Yosemite. I'm usually in the park around 11pm to 3am.
Doesn't scare me, I just
get bored with all the twists and turns then go cross-eyed watching the
"Just to let you know I found your Yosemite
website useful before a recent holiday there. However, your descriptions of
the approach roads cannot pass without comment! Sure, the 120 is quite steep
for a while but it's fairly easy to drive. The road over the Tioga Pass down
to Lee Vining may have large drops but they aren't often cliff-like and the
drop is set well away from the edge of the road where there are no barriers.
By comparison many mountain roads in Europe are steeper, with tighter bends
and much more intimidating drops - you Americans are obviously too used to
driving on freeways and wide, straight suburban roads. Even in the UK we
have plenty of roads with gradients of 25-33% (1 in 3 to 1 in 4), tight
bends and wide enough for only one car in many places. You have it easy.
"Just returned from a great 2 day trip through
Yosemite. We took Rt. 120 all the way to Lee Vining and found it just
fine. It is no worse than Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National
Park. The asphalt was in good shape as was the road in general. The
scenery was great too!"
"I have just returned from
a week in Yosemite. We came down Hwy. 395 from Lake Tahoe, and found Hwy.
120 over Tioga Pass to be no big deal. If towing a trailer you will want to
be sure your vehicle is in proper condition but, aside from the steep grade,
the road isn't particularly treacherous."
"As a regular visitor to Yosemite (and
beyond), I also had to comment on the Highway 120 comments: While going over
the edge would mean assured death, the drive isn't too bad and the scenery
is spectacular. A few things to make the trip a little more tolerable:
drive a very dependable car, or rent one - as you said, being stranded would
be terrible. You would certainly be picked up by a sympathetic passing
motorist, the costs involved in having your car towed would be incredible -
easily hundreds of dollars or more, and your options on where to have it
fixed are very limited. Next, go at a time that you can drive at your own
pace - the times that I've found nerve-racking are when you have someone who
is tailgating you and making you uneasy. On the other end, sometimes you
can get caught behind a motor home going so slowly that you yourself get
frustrated. There aren't a lot of areas to safely pass, so it can greatly
contribute to the stress of the drive."
Doug (from San Francisco)
"I just returned from Yosemite and Tioga Road had
just opened up the day before. I left early in the morning and it was very
cold, so I did not have to worry about my car overheating. But I will agree
with you parts of the road are scary. On the way back down to Lee Vining
there are many parts of the road that are straight drop offs with no
guardrails. However after you get over the pass it is a beautiful drive will
all the little lakes. I thought it was well worth the scare."
Susan S., Sparks, NV
driven the roads of the Yosemite region many times ad have found them all to
be satisfactory. I have seen others in the Sierra Nevada that were scary,
but that's another story. The worst I've seen are in the hinterlands of
Europe. I always found Route 120 and the Priest grade, which I presume you
are referring to as the "road from hell" to be OK. I find it a little
boring when going down the hill behind a flatlander or either direction
behind an RV. I tend to drive the "old Priest grade" whenever I can. Now
that is fun, especially if you have a passenger who has never seen it
"We came in route 120 from the west.
That last six mile stretch of road before Groveland is interesting, but it
did not scare me enough not to use it coming out of the park. I found it
Hank from PA
"I want to put my two cents in
regarding Tioga Pass:
first i'll tell you that we
entered the park from the south out of oakhurst. when we departed, our
destination was mammoth which sent us through tuolumne meadows and over
the pass. wow, what scenery! anyway, perhaps it was your dire warnings
which got me mentally prepared but i didn't think tioga pass was as bad as
you made it out to be. don't get me wrong, i wouldn't want to do it in the
dark or in bad weather but it wasn't scary. maybe it's because we live in
topanga canyon and i'm used to driving along cliffs just inches from
Editor's Note: If
you found Highway 120 to Lee Vining acceptable, more power to you.
Obviously the downhill direction is less concerning than the uphill portion
due to the reduced chance of overheating. BUT; the downhill section
takes you closer to the edge of the cliff and every time I drive this
section I stop breathing and slow to 30 miles an hour. But I guarantee you if you
are going uphill and your car overheats or you get in an accident, you will
be S-T-R-A-N-D-E-D on a busy highway with traffic hurdling down on you while
you sit on a narrow shoulder with NOwhere to go to wait for someone to come
get you assuming you will have cell phone coverage. The thought of
dragging an RV up this hill gives me hives. Try it of you want to, but when there is a choice I would
not risk it. Look at the photo above again and tell me you want to be
on that road if something goes awry. My own personal opinion is NO!
(Update 11/14/04): In the last several years, many improvements
have been made to this road making it less intimidating. The shoulder
of the road has been widened considerably on both the uphill and downhill
sides of the highway. However, I still get a knot in my stomach driving it,
and I slow WAY down when doing so... but obviously many people do not
share my opinion, which is OK with me.
Contrary Opinions are welcome!
After all, my interpretations of the roads is subjective. If you do
not agree, let me know!
The Mariposa Road, or Highway 140
out of Merced, is not much better. It's not as treacherous, but it's still
bad, and there is an area near El Portal that is downright dangerous as a result of the
wet weather from 1997, and the rains from 2006. At present, 140 is
limited to traffic under 28 feet in length due to a rockslide with no
indication of when it's going to be permanently repaired.
The Groveland route, or Highway 120,
is the old original main road into the park dating back to the 1800's. You will embark out of
Manteca (north of Modesto), and pass through some of the world's most
productive agricultural land.
|(Caveat: On Highway
120, you will pass through a town called Oakdale, and it's a shameless
tourist trap. The town fathers decided to route 120 right through
the downtown business district, where you turn north, and pass by every
retail business in Oakdale. It will take you 1/2 hour to drive the
3 mile stretch of this town if you don't stop. "Milk the tourist
and squeeze every possible dollar out of them" seems to have been the
thought process in this urban "planning".)
Fruit stands on this highway
in the valley are many, and if you choose to go this route, make it
worthwhile and DO YOURSELF A FAVOR and stop and get some of this
fresh-picked fruit. And I do mean fresh-picked. Whatever is for
sale has more than likely been picked that morning. This is what the San
Joaquin Valley is known for. Take advantage of it. My Dad comes out
here every so often from North Carolina, and every time I talk to him on the
phone, he asks "What's in season?" Throughout the year, except for
October through December, something is in season.
Between Oakdale and the
hatchery, this stretch of road is actually very scenic, and is a very good
You will come to a junction of
highways 49 and 120 and you will see a trout hatchery. This will be a
good place to stop and stretch the legs; the kids will LOVE the hatchery.
They allow you to walk through the facility and they also sell trout feed
you can throw in the water and watch the fish "boil" the water. Fishermen
will salivate at the 5 to 10 pound trout they have in pens.
BUT (and here comes the bad
part...) once you pass the hatchery
(intersection of Highway 49 and 120) you will hit a 6 mile section of the "Road From
Hell" called Priest Grade. It turns into a very steep, 2-lane, narrow, sheer-face,
hairpin-turn road that faces west, which, in the summer, will be easily the worst possible
exposure to the sun's heat. There is NO shade anywhere on this stretch, and
temperatures will easily reach 100 or more. If you are driving an RV, it is the
worst possible road one could imagine. Unless you ascend this sherpa's trail in the
lowest gear, and trudge up at 10 to 15 miles an hour, (thereby irritating traffic behind
you and necessitating constant turn-outs) you will fry your engine. If you're in a
car, your kids will be carsick, cranky, and everyone will have a headache.
remember ever being on a worse road that was designated for summer tourism traffic.
I would drive to any other route I could find to avoid this stretch of highway.
The road surface itself is in great shape, but this is a true test of a
vehicle's engine and transmission.
Priest Grade. Keep in mind this shot
was taken in mid-March of 2006 and reflects a green landscape. By
mid-June this will change into a brown, dusty, dry area that will easily
see temperatures in the 100+ range. In spring, it is admittedly a
nice drive, so long as you are in no hurry and your tow vehicle can
tolerate the steep grade.
Once you get to the top of this stupid road, you will enter the town of Big Oak Flat.
Big Oak Flat was an important way-station in the horse-and-buggy days
of 100 years ago, and was the overnight stopping point for people traveling
from the Bay area. There was a hotel, restaurant, livery and at the
4,000 foot elevation, a cool place to rest. Today, Big Oak Flat is an small
town with very old buildings. There is nothing new here at all, and if
you are in desperate need of water for your radiator when you get here,
there will be a competent mechanic at the one-and-only gas station. There is nothing
attractive about this burg at all, unless you are an aficionado of old
architecture, most of which has been amazingly preserved.
Beyond, you will enter
Groveland, a far better place to be, but still lacking any appreciative
accommodations. Groveland is an old, historic town, much like
Placerville, or Mariposa.
Most businesses in
Groveland are housed in refurbished old buildings.
There is very little here in
the way of transient motels or hotels, but it's far nicer than Big Oak Flat.
The road between Groveland and the park entrance is very good, with good
shade. But I would avoid highway 120 altogether just to avoid the 6
mile section described above.
(7/9/03) Regarding Highway 120 from a woman from Florida whom I assume is
used to straight flat roads...
were traveling from San Fran - Rt 120 was the most logical route. After
reading your comments on 120, I was terrified to take it... however, we took
it anyway (at night, in June, in a car), and the ride was fine. The pavement
was in good condition, there was little traffic and the 6 mile stretch of
twisty highway was not nearly as bad as described - no offense.
We stayed in *charming* little Groveland in a bed & breakfast named
Groveland Hotel. It was clean, extremely comfortable and convenient to
everything we needed. - I'd highly recommend staying there to anyone. We're
definitely going back... and we'll do just as we did this time. -Take 120
and stay in Groveland." Editor's note: Be
sure and understand that my opinion of this road as described, in an
RV or with a carload of kids, in mid-afternoon, in summertime 100+ temperatures
At night with only two adults in a car, indeed the perspective does change.
I maintain that under the conditions I describe above, I would choose any
editorial comments about Priest Grade..are exaggerative. I know people who
drive this road daily. If you are that spoiled - try highway 49 south from
Coulterville to Mariposa and then post your whining comments. Larry -
Greeley Hill Local
No - They don't throw their garbage out the window in Big Oak Flat."
I beg to differ; the day I was in Big Oak Flat there was a
single-wide mobile-home on the left as you drive east, and it had
garbage right under a window for all to see. Quite lovely. And my
comments about Priest Grade are not "exaggerative" And yes, you are
correct about the stretch between Coulterville to Mariposa. Stay OFF
this road at all costs.
"We came in route 120 from the west.
That last six mile stretch of road before Groveland is interesting, but it
did not scare me enough not to use it coming out of the park. I found it
Hank from PA
(7/19/05) "I do want to
make a comment about CA route 120 as I believe you're giving people the
wrong impression. We traveled with another family and had 2 rentals with
kids under 12 in each car. Traveling east after Lake Don Pedro, there is a
fish hatchery on your right just before ascending Priest Grade. If you have
kids, this is a fun spot to stretch your legs. We chatted with a man there
and he recommended "Old Priest" rd which is a right turn after the fish
hatchery. This little gem of a "short cut" is just a tad over 2 miles (6+
miles the other route) to the top of the grade, however it's straight up the
hill and not recommended for RV's. We ascended this hill at 3:30 in the
afternoon in late June and was ok. It really doesn't last long enough to
overheat a car. We did have the windows down and shut off the AC. I 100%
agree with you about Big Oak Flat; however, we found Groveland to be
excellent. We stayed at the Groveland hotel and had dinner at an excellent
little restaurant across the street. We then went to "The Iron Door Saloon"
for a wonderful old-time drinking experience. I really felt I needed a
cowboy hat and spurs. After talking with a few bar-maids, we were informed
that there is a resort-like community called "Pine Mountain lake" in
Groveland. Just like that we were back in civilization. We met another
couple at the saloon who invited us to play golf at the resort the next
morning. Great golf course. I highly recommend a stop in Groveland, CA for
the joy of an old-western style experience and a wonderful round of golf."
Editor's note: Everything these folks say is true. I'm not
throwing rocks at the Groveland area, just letting you know it's not the
land of McDonalds and 7-11. If you take the 2-mile super-steep short cut, then
obviously my comments are not valid. But if you go the 6 mile route, I
still maintain it's brutal.
THE BEST ROUTE INTO
THE PARK IS ON HIGHWAY 41 FROM THE SOUTH THROUGH FRESNO!!
Why? Because the road is the best. You will travel through dense,
cool, green forest. There are places to stop and let the kids rest. The views of the
park as you make your way to the valley are the BEST along this road.
Plus, they recently resurfaced the entire highway from just above Oakhurst
to Yosemite Valley, so the road is smooth with new asphalt, and well
The Day Before Your Arrival:
Arrange your itinerary so
that you spend the night before entering the park in either Oakhurst or Fish Camp.
Stock up on all your gas, film, food, toys, and other necessities in Oakhurst or Fresno,
and head to your hotel. (Be forewarned: Photo film costs 50% more in the
park than in Oakhurst or Fresno! Plus, they only carry Kodak film; NO Fuji
film at all except at (you guessed it) the Ansel Adams Gallery!
Digital storage cards for your camera are for sale at the Ansel Adams
Gallery, but they only have 1gig sizes, and although not expensive, you can
find them much cheaper elsewhere.) Even if you arrive in Oakhurst or
Fish Camp in early evening, resist the temptation to just keep on going. By
no means should you arrive at the park during the night. You
can't see anything!! You will be depriving yourself of half the reason
you came here in the first place! Go to the Visitor Information
Center in Oakhurst, beside the Mexican Restaurant north of Oakhurst and
get your maps and study them the night before. Read some of the
rules about what to do and NOT do so you can focus on seeing stuff the
next day. Above all is: do not feed the animals!!
DO...NOT...FEED...THE...ANIMALS.... It's a $250 fine! The Coyotes will trot up and down
the road waiting for food to be thrown out the windows of passing cars.
People just cannot resist the temptation to feed them. DON'T DO IT!!
Don't feed deer, and for God's sake, take SERIOUSLY what they tell you about
bears; and read my bear section.
Have Your Camera
At-The-Ready At All Times!
This is important. Your day will be filled, and you should plan on being on
the road by 7am. I'm assuming you will be planning your visit in summer, and if you arrive
during a hot spell, where the temperature in Fresno can reach 108 degrees, starting early
will be obviously much cooler. From Oakhurst, (or Fish Camp) head north, and take
your time. This is one reason you got up early, so you wouldn't be rushed.
One of the first things you will notice as you
drive along Highway 41 (always with the windows down!) is the wonderful aroma of
Bearclover, which is a very fragrant bush common in the foothills.
It has a sweet smell, resembling cedar, and some people don't like it, but I think it smells
wonderful. This aroma is not to be
found on any other route into the park. Take your time on this road! Early morning
in the forest during summer is beautiful!
7:45am or so
Take a driving break at the Tenaya Lodge in Fish Camp. It's a beautiful
hotel, and has a giant lobby and a nice deli, bar and formal dining room. You might
have another cup of coffee in the deli, or soft drinks for the kids, or sit and relax on
the patio off the bar. The park gates are just 3 miles from here. You might
think "What's the point in stopping if the park is so close?"
Trust me. First, the Tenaya is worth seeing, and second, most everybody will
want a pit-stop by this time anyway. The point is, Don't Rush!
Take It Easy!
Proceed north, and soon you will pull up to the park entrance.
On specific holidays (Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day) usually between 10am and
3pm, there may be
a long line of cars waiting to get in. But at 8:30am, you should not have a
line. If so, (Welcome to Yosemite) just take a deep
breath and get over it. Pay your $20, listen to the ranger tell you not to feed the
animals, get your map and handbook, and go through. Do not start asking the
ranger a bunch of questions at the park gates; pay your money and get out of the way of people
waiting to come in. If you have questions for the ranger, go to Wawona,
and right beside the hotel is the ranger station filled with people who can
answer any question, and are in a position to take their time and give
you the attention you deserve. The guy or gal in the toll booth is there to
Upon proceeding through the gate, immediately you will go either
left or right. Straight ahead will take you into a ditch. GO RIGHT!! The
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is just 1.5 miles down the road.
Drive through, stop, take pictures of everybody standing in front of the enormous trees,
and go "Wow!" You might want to take a walk down one of the trails that
will take you maybe 1/4 mile or so around the area. Nice way to stretch the legs
with the morning sun streaming through the quiet forest. You could very easily see
deer on one of these short hikes.
Back in the car, proceed down 41, past the entrance, and about 20 minutes later
you will pull into Wawona. Take a short walk around the grounds of
the Wawona Hotel. See the lobby of the hotel. Check out the golf course, talk
to the guys in the "pro shop" (using the term loosely.) This is not a bad
time to play 9 holes if that is your priority. Alternatively, there is the Pioneer
Yosemite History Center museum here that is interesting, and the horse-drawn
stagecoach-ride the kids would love! It goes around the forest for about 10 minutes
Wednesday through Sunday. Or, pull out the fishing poles and see what you can catch in the
large stream going through Wawona. It's full of fish!! (Not fishable
in spring or early summer; torrential snow-melt runoff)
See? It's only 10am and you've already seen two major attractions!
Wawona and Mariposa Grove! The next part will be a long portion of your drive into
the park. About 45 minutes from Wawona you will arrive at the Glacier Point
road. TURN RIGHT! You are going to Glacier Point, and this will be one of the
high points of your trip. (No pun intended) About 30 minutes from the turn-off and you
will arrive at Glacier Point. You will spend about an hour here! It WILL
take your breath away! You will be able to see the entire Yosemite Valley from a
bird's eye view!! It is awe inspiring, and you will take MANY pictures and videos.
By now it will be lunch time, and you can get something in the store at Glacier
Point or eat from your cooler at the picnic table.
|TIP: There are
some short hikes in this area that will blow you away. If you'd like
to emphasize the outdoors aspects of your trip and eschew the
city-life of Yosemite Village, then you MUST try the hike
to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome. It takes about 4 hours to
do both and hang out to enjoy the views.
Leave Glacier Point and go back the way you came. When you get to Highway
41 again, turn right and now you're heading to the valley!! It will be about 30
minutes from here, and you'll enter the tunnel. PLAN ON STOPPING THE SECOND YOU GET
TO THE OTHER END OF THE TUNNEL! SLOW DOWN AS YOU APPROACH THE EXIT!!
Just after you exit the tunnel, pull into the parking lot on your left and take in
this view! This is the classic view of Yosemite that you have seen everywhere. The
famous Tunnel View. This is the view on just about every trinket in the gift
shop. During summer you will encounter
large crowds at this vista. There will be busses, cars, trams,
mini-vans, you-name-it. There will be people from all over the world
pointing, exclaiming, and taking pictures with broad smiles. You'll be asked
to snap someone's picture with their camera with the valley in the
background. Don't be afraid to ask someone to do the same for
you. Speak to the person standing next to you! You'll hear
languages from every corner of the globe. You'll take a bazillion
forget, you MUST take a picture of your group or family or each family
member individually, with the valley in the background.
This is mandatory Yosemite protocol!! :-)
Leave Tunnel View and head down into the valley. First stop:
Falls. It is a short walk to the base of the falls. This will be the
hottest part of the day, and the spray from the falls will feel wonderful. It's neat
to see the water coming down on top of you! Don't worry about getting
wet if it's a very hot day. You will dry quickly in the dry, warm
Next part of the trip you will be making
your way through the valley floor. GO SLOW! I'm talking 10 to 15 miles an hour or less.
You WILL miss something if you zoom down this road. It's a
two-lane, one-way road, so if anyone wants to go around you, they will have
plenty of opportunity. This road was built specifically for
rubber-necking, so don't feel guilty about inching along. Get out at the Swinging
Bridge and walk across it. There are nice views of Half Dome,
Yosemite Falls and El
from here. Kids can play in the water, or chase squirrels, or
just hang out with the other kids that will be there. There is a
rest-room here. (It will be here that the mosquitoes start to get bad
starting in late June through late Sept.)
As you proceed down the road, you will see
Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, the Chapel, and so many unbelievable vistas, one after
another. Stop and get out and take pictures! These will be the touristy areas,
so just expect the crowds and traffic. It's still awesome to see this stuff and take the
pictures. These vistas will make the worst photographer a pro. You can
stroll on the boardwalks built for that purpose; just don't walk in the
meadow. If you take
your time and don't rush, it will take you about an hour to drive from Bridalveil to
Yosemite Village (grocery/gift shop, etc.)
By now you should be at Yosemite Village/Curry Village where you
can start your hard-core spending. Gift shops, restaurants, art galleries, and the
like all await you and your wallet. You can get good pizza-and-beer and burgers at
Curry Village. The gift shop at Yosemite Village is huge. Don't forget
the Ansel Adams Gallery! The post office, ranger headquarters, jail, magistrate,
dentist, etc. are all at Yosemite Village. The tram ride is very interesting; it
takes you all over the valley and a ranger narrates. (starting at $20
a person for two hours). You can hike to Mirror
Lake from here, or ride a bike, or rent a raft and go down the
smooth, lazy Merced River. I
would strongly encourage a walk to Vernal Falls!
It's a short 1-1/2 miles, and on a short portion of it you'll get wet
and cold, but it's a really good short-walk
adventure! Crowded, but worth putting up with the tourists.
your heart desires. At some point, you should include a visit to The
Ahwahnee Hotel which is very near Yosemite Village. DO NOT FAIL TO SEE THIS
WORLD FAMOUS LANDMARK!!
For those on a budget it's pizza at Degnan's (much better than Curry Village
pizza,) or try the Yosemite Lodge cafeteria where your food budget is controllable.
For those who want a VERY
special dinner I cannot recommend the Mountain Room at the Yosemite Lodge
enough. I have eaten at this restaurant about 20 times, and always had a
spectacular meal with the world's best service and gorgeous, formal
surroundings. I have never had a bad meal here...
The Ahwahnee is that
place-to-go-once-so-I-can-say-I-did-it. Spectacular is the only
adjective that works. The food AND the prices AND the dining room
itself. Count on $80 to $100 per person depending on how much of and
how good the wine. They have a great Sunday brunch; $55 per person and
NO waffle bar! :-(
Curry Village would be
a choice for several reasons. It's all-you-can-eat buffet ($15 for
adults, $12 for children, $13 for seniors) with a wide
variety of choices, very casual, large groups no problem. The food in the
past has been very bland, but recently they hired a new chef and the food
has improved considerably. At Curry Village, make friends; there's a
gazillion kids zooming around and a real family atmosphere here. Your
teenager will absolutely love the Curry Village area. It's home to the
pizza and taco places, the mini-mart (sodas and chips), and many, many
other teenagers. Trust me, they will find each other and make fast
friends. The pizza place in Curry Village is surprisingly very
good! And not a rip-off like so many other things are in Yosemite.
|When dining out, please keep
in mind that your vacation in Yosemite is NOT the time to be a timid, shy
wallflower. Smile at people! Say "Hello!" and engage them in
conversation! You'll try to speak German as they try to speak English, and
it'll be a blast!! Make friends! Be friendly! I promise you, half of
your joy of being in Yosemite will be the people you meet and the
friendships you can establish. An example: My parents were on a visit
from North Carolina. At Glacier Point, my mom met a lady who worked in
the same small hospital she did, from way back in Hendersonville, North
Carolina. Neither had ever met the other except in Yosemite!
All this would have not been discovered had my mom been afraid to talk
to a stranger. They've been friends back home ever since!
The park guidebooklet that the ranger gave you
at the main gate will tell you where all the places to eat are; these are just my
It's dusk now, time for a romantic stroll
around the grounds of the Ahwahnee Hotel, a bike ride, or just sit by the river, relax,
relax, relax. Find a nice spot in the middle of one of the many
meadows, throw down a blanket and just soak it in. Watch dusk descend on the Valley. (Keep mosquito
repellent handy). Just before dark, head to El Capitan Meadow and see the mountain climbers
going up. Use your binoculars and watch these brave souls climb straight up this
3,000 foot sheer face.
If you feel like it, and IF there has been thunderstorm activity in the
mountains (you'll see the thunderheads) go back up to Glacier Point for
the sunset. I have seen sunsets that almost brought tears to my
eyes... To wit:
It's been a full day, and you're on your way back to your hotel in the park, or
in Oakhurst or Fish Camp. Oakhurst is about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and
Fish Camp is about 45 minutes. Dead-head back. Carry the kids in from the car and
put them to bed. Collapse. Day two is coming...
Yosemite night life is
If there's no moon, you will
swear you are in a planetarium. Brilliant stars... During the
middle of August, the Persied Meteor Shower will be unbelievable...
Plus, you can spread out a blanket in El Cap Meadow and watch the stars
and/or the climbers lights as they sleep on the mountain face.
Hike to the top of Sentinel
Dome and watch a 360 degree totally unobstructed view of the sky from an
altitude of 8,800 ft. Nothing but the breeze can be heard.
Go to Glacier Point and see
the valley below in lights and the heaven above in stars. Total quiet.
Tuolumne Meadows at night?
Need I say more... from here you can see satellites, space craft...
all from the naked eye.
You again get an early start. This time you're going to Tuolumne
the high country! There is not quite as much structure to your day, as Tuolumne is
largely a high-country, summer-only wilderness area with minimal civilization. Again, take
your time going up 41. You're going to do a lot more driving today, as Tuolumne is a
little over an hour from the valley floor and about 2 hours from Oakhurst. You'll
take the same route as the previous day, but with fewer stops and no side trip to Glacier
Point (unless you can't help yourself.)
you leave the valley floor and head up hill on Highway 120 East (or the
Tioga Road), you will pass through three small tunnels. There's
nowhere to stop aside from small turnouts. Your first stop will
be at the Crane Flat gas station on the Tuolumne Meadows turnoff,
Highway 120. A pit stop here is a good idea to stretch the legs
and visit the facility. I say that, because there is very little
in the way of "facilities" between here and Tuolumne Meadows. As you
proceed eastbound on Highway 120, you will ascend higher and higher to
about the 8,500 ft. elevation. Ears will be popping. You
might want to stop at White Wolf Lodge for a while. They are not
real big on transient traffic, but the grounds are nice and you can
rest a bit. Keep going to your next stop, which is Olmstead
Point. This is a photo vista with no facilities at all, but the
view is very nice. You can see Half Dome from here, and
obviously, it's from the opposite side that you see when you're in the
valley. But, from this vantage point, you can see what the hikers
have to ascend when they climb to the top. Quite Imposing!!
Just beyond Olmstead Point, you will see a large
turn-out on the right that will give you your first excellent view of Tenaya Lake.
Directly above (to your left as you face the lake), there is a gently sloping granite face
that will take you WAY up above the roadway for a view that is magnificent. There
are absolutely NO trees, and you will have an unobstructed 360 degree view of
everything. This is an easy little "climb" even the 4 or 5 years olds can
do with no problem.
mean it; there is NO shade. In the middle of summer the sun
can be intense. Use sunblock, good sunglasses, large floppy
hats and bring LOTS of water. But it's worth the climb
(about a 25 to 30 degree slope for 200 yards.)
Next, about 10 minutes later is Tenaya
Lake. There are picnic tables and shady places to hang out. Fishing is pretty
good here, too! No motor boats, though.
Between Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows,
you will pass some good climbing areas, and inevitably there will be people on the face.
Traffic in this area gets STUPID as people rubber-neck looking at the climbers, and taking
in the views.