I have to say I am a big nature lover and have been camping and exploring a lot of California, Mexico and South America and I truly thought that Yosemite was more of the hype than anything but those sequoias trees surely made me bite my tongue. I can’t explain how beautiful this place is, really it felt unreal at some points and some views are just so impressive like nothing you’ve seen before. You don’t have to be the experienced camper or hiker to come up here, there is activities for all ages, all personalities, even if you just want to head out to get some pics. This place is also so peaceful, everyone respects the fact that we are out in nature and enjoying every second of it (like old times when phones did not exist, remember?), or maybe it’s just the fact that there is no cell reception and everyone is forced to explore and interact but I sure do hope is the later.
If you can head out over a weekend, it won’t be enough time to even explore half of the park but it will be amazing I am sure.
Where to stay >>>
There are many options of where to stay but if you’re out in Yosemite I would recommend getting first hand experience with nature and camp it out! There are more than 100 different parks to stay at, of course some are closer to the park than others, but here are my top recommended parks. If sleeping in the floor is just not for you I am attaching links of lodging-cabins/hotels for you to check out.
-Crane Flat :This is where I stayed and everything was perfect, it was very centrally located which made it easy to plan activities that where at the park and some away from them. $20 USD a day per group site
–Upper Pines: This is the highest ranked and closest to the actual park and of course the one you need to make sure you reserve more than 6 months in advance (not even kidding) $20 USD a day per group site
– Lower pines: Second ranked, you get a view of glacier point from the bottom but make sure you reserve ahead of time as well. $20 USD a day per group site
–Tuolumne Meadows; located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range at an elevation of 8,600 feet you pass by Tioga road and get a glimpse of everything pretty much but it is on the other end of the park so there are many activities just plan to drive about 30 minutes to the park. You head out here if you want to check out John Muir Trail.
What to do >>>
To decipher what to do you first need to figure out during which season you are heading out; activities will change a lot if you come in the winter rather than the summer. It will also depend on where you are staying because the park is so big that truly one camp site could potentially be 40 minutes away from the other. I have only been during the summer, so here are activities I would recommend.
-Hiking; depending on where you stay there will be several trails to pick from depending as well on how strenuous or long you want the hike to be. Please follow link for trails but I will mention the musts! For the easier hikes check out “Mirror Lake trail” (2 miles round trip) one of the most famous trails due to the landscape reflection created on the lake itself and for a workout head out to Glacier Point (10 mile round trip) to get the best view from the one of the highest points in Yosemite Valley. For more trails follow link.
-Rock climbing; to get the full Yosemite experience, make sure you reserve a spot to climb Half Dome, there is a limited number of people allowed per day so you must get a permit ahead of time, it is a long hike but it is an intermediate climb. If you are the highly experienced climber make sure to visit “El Capitan“. Follow link for climbing sites as well, depending on where you are staying.
–Rafting the Merced River; depending on the season of course, the rafting experience could be beginners to highly experienced rafters so it might be closed for several months during the year due to it being too dangerous. Follow link to see when rafting is open, you can rent your raft at Curry Village $31 USD per person and they are first come first serve so get there early!
–Mariposa grove a 2 mile hike and a view of more than 500 mature sequoias, some over 3,000 years old.
-California Tunnel Tree located in the Mariposa grove, literally a tunnel carved out of a tree, you can’t miss it!
Where to eat >>
Again, I highly recommend the full experience, set the fire and get cooking! If noooot..
I have not eaten at any restaurants at the park so please follow link for more info.
-Plan to arrive to your campsite in the day time, I drove all the way from San Diego and got there very late, very tired, and the final 1-2 hours of your trip are the most exhausting of all, all curves, all uphill.
-Do not go there thinking there might be an available spot, I had a reservation but I checked and there weren’t open campsites or spots. I would get a plan B just in case, you can check Airbnb.com for listings, those are always available because it’s someone’s back yard.
-Bring a grill because the grill on the campsite is not very effective, use the fire pit but bring your own grill or pots and pans.
-Get some gas before starting heading up into the park because there is one gas station, which is always packed and of course price is quite higher.
-Check out our “What to take on a camping trip” post for more tips on the camping experience!