Yosemite National Park is definitely one of the better known parks. It is located in central California and is home of the famous Half Dome and El Capitan mountains. We had only one day to spend there, so we planned to cram is as much as we could. We faced a few obstacles along the way though, and our trip to Yosemite ended up being a little bit of a bummer. But it’s okay. It is a beautiful park and I will get back there someday to try again.
We arrived at Yosemite on September 7 at about 6pm, so our time with sunlight was limited. We entered through the Southern entrance at Mariposa Grove and asked the man at the entrance station if there were any campsites available. He said the ones in Yosemite Valley are by reservation, but there are other ones in the less popular parts of the park that are first come first serve. He suggested we try Bridalveil Creek Campground near Glacier Point.
With our map in hand we headed of too see if we could find a home for the night. We drove through Mariposa Grove, which is lined with beautiful giant sequoia trees. I wanted to stop so badly to walk around but we had about a half hour drive to our campground and we were running out of daylight.
The drive on Wawona road is beautiful. We passed trees, mountains, creeks and other natural beauty. Glacier point road is up a pretty big mountain and has quite a few winding turns in it. Bridalveil Campground is about halfway up the road and to our relief there were still sights available! And the sites are really nice. You take an envelope, pick your site, drop your money in the box, and you’re good to go.
We made dinner then just chilled out for the night. This was a rough night though. We assumed that in the beginning of September California would still be having summer weather and it would be warm. That was not true. At least not at night. We froze our butts off that night. Honestly I think I slept a total of three hours. We were both up really early the next morning because we couldn’t sleep, so on the bright side we got an early start to our sightseeing. On the down side, we were both in a bit of a grumpy mood.
We hopped in the car and headed to Yosemite Valley because that is where most of the action is. It was really early in the morning so there weren’t very many cars out driving. We saw a few tour busses that were out bright and early, but that was it.
The first stop when you get to the entrance of Yosemite Valley is the Tunnel View. You drive through a tunnel and then there is a parking area that provides a nice view of the valley. You can see the early morning sun creeping up over El Capitan and the surrounding mountains.
Next we stopped at Bridalveil Falls. There is a really short easy walk out to an overlook for this waterfall, but to our dismay, the waterfall was all dried up. We basically were looking at a slightly damp mountain. That was a bummer.
We continued deeper into the valley and stopped to check out the swinging bridge, because that sounded fun. The views from here are beautiful. The bridge, however, does not swing. It is a completely stationary bridge, so I don’t really understand the name. The water is great though, and the reflection of the mountains is breathtaking.
After the swinging bridge things started to get a little crazier. The traffic picked up quite a bit and half of the roads in Yosemite Valley were closed due to construction. It made getting around really tricky. We drove around aimlessly for quite a while just looking for some place to park the car. We finally got a spot and looked around to see which trails were near by.
We saw a sign for the Mirror Lake trail. That sounded nice and it was only 2 miles so we decided to give it a try. The hike was fairly easy. Most of it was through the woods along a creek, which was nice because it was a hot day so the shade was helpful. After two miles we reached the lake. We looked around. We looked at each other. We looked at all the other confused people. There was no lake! We were standing where there should have been a lake, but like the waterfall, it too was dried up. Another bummer. Here’s a picture of the dried up ground where a lake sometimes exists.
We made the two mile hike back to the car, slightly disappointed, but trying to remain optimistic. Instead of trying to drive around Yosemite Valley again, we decided to take the shuttle to out next destination.
Yosemite Falls is one of the most popular sites in the park. The hike out to the lower falls is rated as easy, while the hike to the upper falls is rated as difficult. We opted for the lower falls because we were quite grumpy at this point and didn’t feel like doing anything super strenuous. We arrived at the lower falls and guess what we saw… nothing, It too was dried up.
Next we went to Yosemite Village to check out the visitor center and museum and spend a little time in the air conditioning. The museum is really neat. Outside of the main entrance is a giant slice of a sequoia tree which really helps to show just how big they really are.
The inside of the museum is nice. It has a lot of displays about the Indians who inhabited the area many years ago. Outside of the museum is a replica Indian Village with lots of different types of housing replicas to look at. It’s pretty neat and only takes a couple minutes to check it out.
Then we stopped at the visitor center and boy do I wish it had been our first stop. They have trail guides in there, and right on the top of the guide it tells you that a lot of the trails in the park are best hiked in the spring and early summer because in the fall all of the water has evaporated after the hot summer. Well darn. I wish I had known that before, because every trail we had tried to do involved water. Lesson learned… go to Yosemite in the spring or be sad that all the water is dried up. Noted for next time.
The day was coming to an end, so we decided to head back to the car and drive out to Glacier Point to see the famous view of Half Dome. The road is very curvy, with some that are really sharp. There are a couple spots toward the top where you really could just drive right off if you aren’t careful. So be careful.
There is a large parking area at the top and a couple different viewpoints to look out at the valley from. I definitely recommend you make the drive up the mountain for this view. It’s beautiful and you can see really far into the distance.
We made our way back to camp and bundled up for another chilly night. Yosemite is great, but we picked a bad time of year to go. In the fall is when the peak season is over so that is when they start construction to repair busted roads and trails, meaning that quite a few might be closed. Also, in the fall all of the water has evaporated so it makes a lot of the sights less impressive. And lastly, in the fall it gets super cold at night. If you have an RV you’ll be fine. You might even be fine in a tent if you have really good sleeping bags. But we didn’t and we froze our butts off.
Have you been to Yosemite? What were some of your favorite sites?