Visiting Yosemite Valley is pretty fool-proof…. but… there are a few things that can seriously ruin your time in California’s little slice of heaven. Follow these quick tips to ensure you have the best trip in Yosemite National Park!
1. Don’t leave food in your car
Basically anywhere you stay you will have to sign a waiver stating you won’t leave anything in your car. The bears are serious around here. Usually you wont find any bears in the valley, but they do make an occasional appearance. Bears have an amazing sense of smell, but they also use their vision when searching for snacks in a car. The rangers will warn you to clean out your car before coming. That includes wrappers, empty water bottles, and even vacuuming for crumbs!
Unfortunately, the bears who learn that cars have food will continue to look for humans and cars for their dietary needs. When this happens, they are classified as a nuisance bear. And the only way to ‘protect the public’ is to kill them. It’s very sad, so vacuum your car, and save a bears life! Of course, you can bring your own food into the park. Bear proof containers available at all lodging facilities in the valley.
2. Book a room inside Yosemite Valley
The drive from the entrance to valley takes one hour on a slow winding road- you don’t want to have to do that every morning. Make sure you book at one of the 4 places to stay inside
the valley. The Ahwahnee Hotel
*now called The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (*facepalm*) is a very fancy, very expensive lodge. It’s nice to visit for breakfast or dinner, but I don’t recommend staying here. Even if you are not an outdoorsy type.
My favorite place to stay is Curry Village
* now called Half Dome Village. It is the definition of glamping
. (glamorous-camping) You’ll have your own personal canvas tent- up off of the ground- complete with 2-4 beds. You can upgrade to a wooden walled cabin or a cabin with private bathroom- these are also not recommended. The only add-on I’d recommend is a heater- winter months only
. For the not so nature-y people, you are going to feel like an experienced explorer when you wake in your cabin: a true outdoors-man, ready for any adventure Yosemite brings!
3. Visit at the right time of year
If it’s your first visit to Yosemite, I would recommend going the first week that the winter roads open (usually late May). Check here
for road closures. This is the best time because the waterfalls will be flowing at their max, the lakes wont be dried up, and you’ll be able to visit the best
part of the valley- Glacier Point.
Below is a comparison of Mirror Lake in March and August. The later in the summer you go, the less water will be present. Yosemite Falls, this past August, was sadly just a trickle. You’ll want to go as early as you can to see the waterfalls at their best, but also to avoid the crowds. If at all possible, plan your trip on a Monday. Not only will there be fewer people, but airplane tickets and hotel rooms will also be less.
If you’ve been before, try visiting in the winter time to see it covered in snow! Or in early spring when the waterfalls are flowing at maximum capacity!
4. Visit more than the valley
Yosemite National Park is HUGE. Yes, the best treasures are all in the valley, but there are numerous activities and sites to be seen throughout the entire park. Mariposa Groves, Tuolumne Meadows, Sequoia Forest, Hetch Hetchy, Wawona, and more.
If you’re not a big hiker, you can see the entire valley in two days comfortably. Take time to spend another day or two in other areas of the park!
5. Make sure you can take pictures
I take tons of pictures and one of the worst things is to end up at your destination to discover you’ve forgotten the camera’s battery. Or the SD Card. Or, maybe the worst of the three, your cell phone’s memory is full! Yikes! All three have happened to me at some point or another. So double-check your bags, and upload your pictures to your computer before leaving
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