Yosemite National Park
With just a few weeks left in California before we start our road trip back east, we decided to squeeze in a quick trip to America’s most popular national park – Yosemite! We realize only a few days is not enough to explore Yosemite to its full potential. But, you can fill your days with enough to make you feel satisfied, tired, thrilled and awed by this grand valley!
We left Tahoe at 4am and took a slow and scenic route through Mariposa and entered the park via Arch Rock entrance. You are very soon in Yosemite valley and surrounded by granite cliffs, gorgeous meadows and waterfalls. We couldn’t help but stop right away to gawk at El Capitan – a massive granite cliff face that people have actually scaled – one guy with no ropes in 2015!!
Since we were staying in Housekeeping Camp in the valley, we went straight there to park the car and utilize the free shuttle. We took the shuttle to stop #7 (or E2 if you’re on the El Capitan shuttle that only runs in the summer months) and walked across the Swinging Bridge (to avoid taking the bus all the way around the valley to E7) to the start of the Four Mile Trail – our chosen hiking trail for the day.
Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point
Despite this trails name, the one way distance to Glacier Point is in fact, 4.9miles (7,8km). Many people choose to take the shuttle up to the point and walk the trail back down. But, at 25$ per person for the bus this was not an option for us. We began the hike around 11am, not the most ideal time for a 17km hike. The trail begins with some steep switchbacks, straightens out and continues with quite a few more switchbacks. Most of the beginning of the trail is under tree cover which provide some welcome shade. The views become even more spectacular as you ascend. With the inviting Merced River, powerful Yosemite Falls and eventually Half Dome, you get to experience so much of the Yosemite valleys beauty in one hike. We took it slow, stopping for pictures, water breaks and snacks along the route. We arrived at the top of Glacier Point in just over 3 hours.
Our celebratory cool drink atop the peak was soon interrupted by a thunder storm rolling in so we started our descent pretty quickly just to get off the top of the mountain. By the time we got down to the valley again our knees and lower backs could feel each of those 17km! Thankfully, we could catch the El Capitan shuttle back to E1 and then just walked the rest of the way back to Housekeeping Camp.
After staying outside the park when we visited Yellowstone, and having to travel over 60kms each day into and out of the park we really wanted to stay inside the park this time. But – we had read and heard that bookings for campsites were rarely available. Bookings open up five months in advance and are fully booked during summer months often within the first few minutes of reservations opening up!! We really thought we had no chance seeing that our trip was such a last minute decision. Two days before our trip I was frantically searching for accommodation nearby, cheap enough and nice enough when I found myself on Yosemite’s website. I had just about given up hope and was checking every lodge and campsite within the park for our dates and was so surprised when housekeeping camp came up as available. I hadn’t even heard of Housekeeping Camp before!!
Turns out, housekeeping camp is a “campsite” that consists of three walled structures with a canvas roof and one canvas side. Each unit has a double bed, one set of bunk beds, a shelf and a mirror inside. Outside each unit is a little verandah area with a picnic table and a fire ring just outside out it. Exactly what we needed for just one night in the park (although I could have happily stayed there much longer). There are showers available at Housekeeping Camp. You get vouchers for these when you check in. (Keep them safe for the duration of your stay -they’re also valid for the hotel swimming pool!). Showing your shower pass gets you a free towel and the showers are supplied with shampoo and body wash!
After feeling clean and refreshed we were starving for dinner. We bought some charcoal for 10$ at the general store at the campsite and a lighter for 1$. We set a picnic blanket next to our fire pit and started a fire – of course we were going to braai for dinner! On went our pork steak and down went a couple of beers! Some roasted marshmallows were enjoyed and off to bed we went. After our 3:30am start, we were both so ready for sleep!
Quiet time is from 10pm and though the campsite was lively and full of families it was a super pleasant environment. We slept well, the beds were comfy and the bathrooms nearby. If we came back to Yosemite we would totally stay here again.
We set our alarms for 8am and got some coffee from the general store. We were able to have breakfast and pack up at a leisurely pace before 9:30am to start our second day. Our second day included three smaller hikes around the valley. We planned to use the shuttle again on the second day and leave our car parked at Housekeeping Camp. From stop #12 the shuttle can often be pretty busy as it picks up all the visitors from the day parking area just before it. A few buses passed us by before we were finally able to catch one and head to our first hike of the day – Mirror Lake.
A popular little hike only 3 miles (4,6km) round trip up to a lake. You can walk along a trail or along a paved road. The lake changes seasonally as it is all snow melt run off but is still a popular place to swim and hang out. We took off our shoes and waded through the water before going back. We hopped back on the bus only an hour or so after we started and headed to our next little “hike” for the day.
Lower Yosemite Falls
At stop #6 you’ll find an entrance to this hike which makes an easy little loop trail. Only a mile long and all paved makes it a very accessible and highly popular trail. Stand on the bridge. Starie up at the lower part of the falls. Feel the spray of it in the breeze. AMAZING!! This is the 4th largest waterfall in the world and often stops running by mid summer to fall. This year however they expect it to run all year through as the snow melt has been so huge!
At this, we took the shuttle back to pick up our car. We headed off to our third and final trail of the day. This one was outside of the valley area toward an exit. It made sense to do it on our route out of the park.
This one is another 3 miler – a quick drop down to a sequoia grove and a slower climb up. The information board suggests it takes 3 to 4 hours but I think that’s a large over estimation. We went down, gawked at the size of them and took a few pictures. We were back up at the car in an hour and 10 minutes. At the bottom there is a 1 mile loop to Twin Bridges if you want to extend your hike.
The trail starts on Big Oak Flat road at the B7 marker. There is a parking lot and a turn out space for a few more cars. There is a restroom at the start of the trail too! This was helpful as we were heading out the park from here and back to Tahoe.
Yosemite entrance fees: $30 per non commercial vehicle
Interagency annual pass: $80 (this gets you into all national parks in the US for 12 months)
Housekeeping Camp: $98 per night (for up to four people)
Yosemite brings our total National Park tally to four in the USA so far.
Have you explored any and which has been your favourite?