A Week in California, part 2: Yosemite National Park

Hopefully you read my Part One post that kicked off this blog series about spending a week in California, but if you’re new here, Part Two is all about my adventures in Yosemite National Park . . .

Glacier Point

Yosemite is one of those places that you have to see with your own eyes in order to truly appreciate it. My mom has always been a huge Ansel Adams fan, so I grew up seeing photo after photo of Yosemite and other National Parks, but nothing prepared me for the in-person experience. Every vantage point is breathtaking, and the sheer magnitude of each mountain, tree, and waterfall makes you realize just how big and beautiful the world is, and how tiny you are. As someone who lives in a suburban area and spends most of my time in cities, it’s all too easy to forget just how powerful nature is. Yosemite reminds you of Mother Nature’s sometimes brutal beauty.

I’m not a camper, rock-climber, or even a hiker really, so if you’re looking to spend some significant time at Yosemite, or enjoy some of their specialized activities, you’re going to want to do your own research. Still, in just the few short days we were there, we were able to check out many of the major rock formations and waterfalls: Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, Three Brothers, Cathedral Rocks, Sentinel Rock, and several hiking trails. We were also extremely lucky because on our second day, Glacier Point happened to open for the season, and we were some of the very first people to take in the unobstructed views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite’s high country.

My favorite spot, however, was Tunnel View. Perhaps the most famous of all views in Yosemite, you can spot El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome throughout Yosemite Valley.

A few tips:

  • Determine what time of year you want to visit, and book well in advance. Depending on which season you visit Yosemite, your experience is going to vary. We were fortunate that with our springtime visit, many of the waterfalls were in full-force, and Glacier Point was open. You’re also going to have a vastly different experience depending upon where you stay. Camping will take a lot of planning and packing; staying at one of the few on-site hotels may be more convenient but expensive.
  • Wake up with the sun! If you want to enjoy the skyline (especially Tunnel View) without fighting a million other people doing the same thing, wake up before the rest of them. You’ll also enjoy some stunning sunrises this way.
  • They’re not joking about bears. Before you visit – especially if you are camping or staying in a cabin – be sure to read their tips on food storage. We saw plenty of bears and we were in highly populated areas the entire time.
  • Pack layers & pack snacks. The weather here is weird – you may start out freezing in the morning, wind up sweaty on an afternoon hike, and find yourself cold again while stargazing. It also depends on how high you climb . . . the top of Glacier Point is much chillier than the base of Yosemite Valley. As far as food, once you’re there, you’re kind of stuck. There are a few outdoor food courts and cafés, a couple nicer restaurants in the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, and a store where you can buy all kinds of food, camping, and hiking gear, but you’re going to pay through the nose.
  • Grab a map. Your GPS is going to be useless, because there’s practically no cell service or internet in Yosemite. Print out directions ahead of time, so that on the drive into the park, you know where you’re going. Once you’re there, get a park map and a hiking trail map from the Visitor Center or campground/hotel you’re staying in, because they are immensely helpful.

I hope that helps, and stay tuned for Part Three of my California recap!




Main image via Pexels, all other photos are my own

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