Yosemite National Park was the one and only thing on my California bucket list. I came to California with no goals in mind other than to see Yosemite.
I spent 2 days at Yosemite with a dear friend of mine who was visiting the area.
Saturday morning, we left bright and early (by our standards). 6:30 am rolled around and we were on the road. Our goal was to make it to the park before noon. On our way there, we stopped in Los Banos for some breakfast. It was your typical diner fare - eggs, potatoes, and coffee.
Our first real stop at Yosemite was Bridalveil Falls. It's located at the entrance of Yosemite Valley. We parked our car on the side of the road, hopped out and walked over the the falls. It's located just a 5 min walk from the parking lot and accessible to everyone. But because of its accessibility, it's very crowded.
Seeing Bridalveil Falls is a good starting point. You only need half an hour here, or less. We grabbed our photos and we were back on the road.
From Bridalveil Falls, we continued a short drive up the road to the famous Tunnel View. This is a scenic lookout point where you can see El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome all at once. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot see the sunset from Tunnel View.
Appreciating Tunnel View takes absolutely no effort. There's a parking lot directly in front of the lookout. In fact, we even saw cars roll by without people getting out to enjoy the scenery. If you ever visit, you should 100% get out of your car and take it all in. This is one of those travel destinations that lives up to the hype. Again, because it is so accessible and offers an extrodinary view, it can get quite crowded.
I'd like to take a second to talk about parking at Yosemite. It's terrible. An atrocity. After Tunnel View, we probably spent an hour or more trying to find a parking spot. It was getting later into the day and by this point, people had their parking spots and were not about to leave. We eventually found a spot on the side of the road, somewhat close to the ice skating rink and Sierra Circle. If you get into Yosemite Valley later in the day, don't even bother trying to park at Half Dome Village or the Visitor Center.
Post parking nightmare, we definitely needed some nourishment. Long story short, two people finished a large pizza from the Half Dome Village Pizza Deck. If I'm being honest, I have no idea if it was a good pizza or not. I was just so hungry that it was all inhaled without second thought.
Pizza in stomachs, we were ready to do some walking. We decided on a short 3 mile hike on the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. This hike is pretty easy and paved almost the entire way. It's accessible to most families. Though the hike was pretty short and manageable, it's a great view of Vernal Falls. And if you have more time and energy, there are additional hikes that veer off the Mist Trail. We stuck to our plan and just did the hike to Vernal Falls. Bear in mind that it is a waterfall and you will get a bit wet. Worth it.
By the time we finished gawking at nature and made it back to the car, the sun was setting and it was time to go our hostel. We stayed at the Yosemite Bug Resort located in Midpines. It's just outside of Yosemite and it's a great, affordable option. We stayed in one of their tents (think cabin with canvas walls). Silly me forgot to take photos, but I'll link their site here. A four person tent cost us $70 for one night. I recommend, but parking is a bit of a pain, so if you find a spot, don't bother moving your car for the rest of the night.
This was our last day at Yosemite. We packed up our stuff, ate at the hostel and we were off for more adventures. We only had one thing on our agenda today: a long hike to Upper Yosemite Falls. Let me tell you, this hike is NO JOKE. I've done some pretty intense day hikes and I'm in good athletic shape, but this hike was hard. The trail is about 7.5 miles round trip. For those who are not interested in going to the top, there's a stop off at Columbia Rock and that hike is only 2 miles. Oh, and pack lunch and snacks. We didn't. Huge mistake. And, bring more water than you think you'll need. Yeah, Upper Yosemite Falls hike is hard.
Okay, so we got a tiny bit distracted on our drive to the falls and stopped in El Capitan Meadow for some quick photos. It's so beautiful, how could you not stop? Many cars just pull off to the side of the road to grab some pics. Again, I think you should get out of your car and strut around.
After our brief detour, we parked our car at the Yosemite Valley Lodge and it was off we went. The first part of the hike, we were in high spirits. We were determined. 3.5 miles to the top seemed like nothing. Piece of cake. We actually made pretty good time, and got some photos on the way!
Not too far into the hike is Columbia Rock. You know when you hit it because there's a remarkable view of Yosemite Falls. If you want to turn back, this would be the spot to do it. This point of the hike is probably your best view of the waterfall. It's astonishing to see how massive it is in real life. Photos don't do it justice.
Alrighty folks, this is where the hike really gets rough. It's switchbacks all the way to the top. Yep, miles of just back and forth climbing upwards. It's really tough, not only because of the physical activity, but the elevation gets to you as well. It felt like the hike would never end. The peak seemed out of reach. Just going up and up and up and up and up...
But eventually the terrain changes. The trees give way and the ground becomes rockier. Then you see some snow. And if you look back, the view just keeps getting more and more magnificent.
And after what seems like an eternity, the summit! I truly felt like I earned it - getting up to the top of Yosemite Falls is a struggle and a half. But hey, it's the tallest waterfall in North America. That's pretty grand, if you ask me. We definitely relished in the views from the top. I really can't reiterate this more, it was worth all the pain. No doubt.
Blood, sweat, tears, swears, complains, and groans were all expended. But, it was all worth the experience. Getting down the hike was also difficult. The terrain is rocky but slippery. Wear grippy shoes. We didn't, and it was a huge mistake. I've never been one for hiking poles, but they would definitely have come in handy on the way down.
And just like that, our weekend in Yosemite Valley was over! By the time we got down, we had to head home. It's a long drive back to Silicon Valley, so we booked it out of there and got home pretty late. That's it. That was our weekend.
Mia's Tips for Visiting for Yosemite
Pack snacks and lunch for your hike(s)
Bring lots of water
- Always get out of the car for pictures. If you came all the way out to Yosemite, the least you can do it momentarily hop out of your car to appreciate nature.
- Bring a camera - the sites are beautiful. And take lots of photos. One of them is bound to turn out well.
- Wear appropriate hiking shoes. Sneakers are fine, but hiking boots are preferable for the harder hikes.
- Parking is the worst. If you see a spot, grab it. There's a free shuttle you can take around Yosemite Valley, so don't worry too much about distance.
- Have so so much fun :)