From Vegas to Yosemite – A breath of fresh air!

road to yosemite

Firstly, I’ll be posting my Yosemite ‘Must do’ list shortly, so if you’re pressed for time and can’t fathom reading the full post, stalk the photos and maybe that will be inspiration enough.

Secondly, to clear something up… Yosemite National park isn’t where Yogi Bear lives. That would be Yellowstone National Park (If indeed a fictional character lives anywhere at all). You would be surprised at how many Yogi bear jokes were made when I said I was heading to Yosemite, so I thought I’d nip that clarification in the butt right away. Haha.

Now if you’re still with me, allow me to share my Yosemite national park experience with you….

the road into the valley

As you may have seen from my last Blog post, I was in the US recently and I manged to squeeze in a short visit to Yosemite National Park. Ever since my final year of high school when I discovered the world renowned photographer Ansel Adams, and his black and white landscape images of Yosemite National Park in California, I’ve always wanted to go…. so i was pretty stoked to be able to include it on my itinerary during this visit.

We’d just spent 5 days in Las Vegas (a sensory overload to put it mildly), so pulling up in the valley and feeling that crisp, fresh mountain embrace, was a breath of fresh air….. Literally!

Don’t get me wrong I love Vegas for exactly what it is. Big, bright, loud & crazy, but the older I get the more I find myself wanting to be immersed in nature. The joy I’ve found in exploring some of our greatest natural wonders, has taken me to some pretty cool destinations – Like the mountains of the Himalaya, and the blue lagoon’s of the Cook Islands – but it has also left me craving even more new discoveries of the natural kind…… Which lead me to Yosemite.

Thanks to Adams and other photographers alike, Yosemite is internationally recognised for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity, and while you could spend days, weeks or months in the park, exploring the various trails, communities and activities… we only had a weekend, so it was go go go to make sure we made the most of our time and get in some of the most impressive of sights.

So… Here is a glimpse at my stay and hopefully it’ll give you a guide for how to see and do some of the highlights in just one weekend.

Day 1 – Tioga Pass to the Valley

It was about a 7hr drive from Vegas, and our arrival into Yosemite took us into the park via Tioga Pass which is extremely scenic, so take your time and take in the views en-route to the Valley.

The drive takes you via Tenaya Lake,(make sure you stop… get your feet wet and breathe in the fresh air, Olmsted point (where you get your 1st glimpse of Half Dome) and Tuolumne Grove,  where you can take a short hike to see the Giant Sequoias.

Driving into the valley itself was surreal and absolutely stunning. The granite rock faces that stood tall, towering over the valley were awe inspiring, and as the sun set and the shadows cast over us, I was excited for what might lay ahead of us, with a full day of hiking planned for the next day.

Where to stay? …..

There are a few accommodation options around Yosemite, either in the valley itself or in some of the surrounding areas, but If you’ve only got a short amount of time, choose something in the Valley Itself. The park is hugeeeeeee and if you’re out in the surrounding areas, it could take you 40mins or more just to get into the park.

We stayed at Curry Village which is in the Valley itself. It’s a campsite made up of permanent tents, with hard floors, beds and heating/air con. It was perfectly comfortable, and if you want to immerse yourself in the valley, then it’s the perfect choice. It reminded me of being on School camp.

curry village

Other accommodation options in the valley include Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and The Ahwahnee, which is a 5* property that has been specifically designed to highlight the natural surroundings.

Day 2 – Get your hike on!

The Valley itself  ….

Yosemite valley is the perfect place to base yourself for a short stay in the National Park. It’s easy to get around by hiring bikes or walking, and they have a free shuttle that loops the area giving you easy access to the various properties, hiking trails, restaurants and the market store, and there is a fair amount of parking too.

There are beaches and river banks where you can take a dip (in summer) and picnic, whilst taking in the views. There is a cinema that shows documentaries on a nightly basis to keep the whole family entertained, and all the properties offer communal areas where you can get wifi or mingle with friends, family and other guests.

As for the hiking?

Well…. there are many different hiking options for Yosemite. From flat valley trails to steep full day hikes that end in scaling rock faces. Fortunately for my sake we weren’t organised enough to pre arrange permits to hike & climb Half Dome, but when it came to choosing our hike it went kind of like this …

‘Ask the friendly tour office assistant which is the easiest trail? Skip that. Then skip the moderate trail and also skip the hard trail and bingo… Let’s pick the longest, steepest trail that doesn’t require a permit! That was what we went for. (If you’ve read my previous blog entries this should be no surprise to you, as you will have read that my boyfriend is highly energetic and always up for a challenge, and maybe I secretly love it too. shhhh)

So… Despite it being summer and about 35-40degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit), we hit up the four mile hike from the valley floor to Glacier Point, one of the highlights of the park that offers sweeping views of the valley and of Half Dome. (It was an 8 mile round trip with a 3200ft gain)

We hit the trail early (730am) and despite it being the Labour Day long weekend, getting up and out early meant we avoided many of the hiking crowds, so it was really only by the time we were heading back down that we passed lots of other hikers.

{P.s How friendly are hikers!! It’s nice to be greeted as you pass people on the trail, and almost everyone says hello. There aren’t many places that strangers smile and greet each other just ‘because’ anymore}

The hike itself was unbelievable! The greenery and granite mountains that envelope the valley are picture perfect, and as we climbed higher, the views across the park really left you in awe of Mother Nature.

It was one of those moments where you felt tiny and insignificant compared to the universe and that nothing but that moment mattered, and it truly made you feel alive (or maybe is was the lactic acid pulsing through my thigh muscles, but whatever it was, it was exhilarating!).

While the hike was tough in sections and a pretty steep climb, the views made it worth it and of course there is no rush, so you truly can take it at your own pace.

All I’ll say is definitely hit the trail early to avoid the crowds and the heat. Pack lots of water and snacks, so once you reach glacier point you can kick back and take in the views across the valley.

Or better yet, BYO hammock, like this guy did… genius!

#notjealousatall #okaymaybealittlebit

Hammock guy

After returning from the hike and freshening up a little, we grabbed a bunch of Picnic snacks from the grocery store, and headed to the Cathedral beach. Here we swam in the river (which was freezing cold but refreshing as the water was coming straight off the mountains), and laid under the trees to recover from the day’s activities and watch as the sunset behind the mountains. Bliss!

Day 3 – Bon Voyage Yosemite!

For us it was time to say goodbye to Yosemite, as we were headed to San Francisco, and while we originally planned to stay an extra half day, we wanted to beat the traffic AND to be honest our bodies were pretty tired after our day long hike the previous day, but had time allowed there is plenty more to see and do. (Which I’ll elaborate on in my next ‘Yosemite must do’ post).

So, there you go…. We didn’t see a bear or waterfalls or any of the other things Yosemite is famous for, but even with the short period of time that we were able to spend in Yosemite, it certainly lived up to all my expectations and then some.

bridge

If you are in the states, and looking for road trip ideas, then the route from Vegas to Yosemite and on to San Fran is an epic one, and if you’ve got a weekend or a week, Yosemite National Park is well worth the visit.

Have you been to Yosemite National Park? What did you get up to? Did you climb Half Dome? (Next time it’s at the top of my list!). Have you got any other tips to share? Let us know!

Thanks as always for reading… I hope that this post (along with others) inspires your LUST for travel!

Kate xxx

 

 

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