I'm just starting to plan a trip to Yosemite with friends and I'm looking for suggestions on where to stay. As of now I'm open to hotels, cabins, home rentals, and camping grounds (as long as it's memorable). I'm also looking for suggestions on things to do. Any tour providers, trails, or general tips from people who have been before would be great!
A couple of questions:
1. How long will you be staying?
2. What's the hiking experience of you and your friends?
There are two different types of trips I'd suggest:
1. The Full Immersion Backpacking Trip
Time: 3-4 Days.
This is the best way to experience Yosemite. The park while utterly enormous is swamped with tourists. If you really want to experience the beauty that the park has to offer then there's nothing like 3 days in the backcountry with great people.
I would recommend the Hetch Hetchy Loop. It's 27miles total and usually takes 3 days. You'll start off at the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and hike alongside the reservoir for the first day camping right by the Rancheria falls at night. The second day you'll hike through the beautiful Tilltill Valley ascend one of the Mountains surrounding it and after hours of a grueling incline you'll finally get views on the breath-taking Vernon lake. A quick hike down to the lake and you'll find campsites that are just several feet away from the river.
The Vernon Lake campsite is easily one of the most beautiful places I've been to. There were no other people in sight, just the beautiful Yosemite scenery, a raging river and one of the most incredible night skies you'll ever see. When we woke up for breakfast a family of deer walked right up to us and joined us for breakfast in the bushes around our campsite, it was magical. On our hike out of the valley we saw a mother bear and two of her cubs across the valley.
Once you finish the hike I'd recommend you hop in the car, drive down the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias take the short hike down to forest for some sights on breath-taking Sequoia's. Hop back in the car and drive down to Yosemite Valley for views of the famous Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.
This trip is definitely exhausting and strenous but at the same time it was one of the most incredible trips I've ever taken. Here are some of the pictures I took if you're interested.
2. The Two Day Camping Trip
If you're not as flexible on time here is a weekend trip you can do.
Time: Friday Night to Sunday Night
Here is how I structured my weekend:
Book two nights at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground in Yosemite.
Friday Night: Drive up and set up camp at night.
Saturday: This is the "hiking" day. After breakfast head over to the Wilderness Office 10 minutes away from the campground and ask them for hiking recommendations. I highly recommend you do the Hike to Dog Lake, it's absolutely beautiful over there. Also on the hike back from Dog Lake there is a fork you can take that will bring you to the top of one of the domes in the Tuolumne Meadows valley. This was one of the best views we got all weekend.
Sunday: This is the the "Must-See" day where you go around the park seeing all of the famous sights that Yosemite has to offer. Pack up camp in the morning and drive down to the Yosemite Valley. Once you're done with the valley hop back in the car and head over to Glacier Point where you'll see my favorite view of Half-dome and the tallest mountains in the whole park. After Glacier Point drive down to Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to witness the world's larget Sequoia Grove containing some of the oldest trees in the world.
If you have any follow-up questions feel free to ask!
Mentioned in this answer:
As far as lodging goes, I stayed at the High Sierra Camps once and it was fun! No need to bring your own tent or cooking gear; just hiking gear, clothes, and food ingredients. There are several camps and I don't remember the exact one that I stayed at, but I do remember we stayed in bare bones wooden cabins and there was another cabin that was a kitchen. Perfect outdoorsy experience. You can get more info here: http://www.yosemitepark.com/high-sierra-camps.aspx
If you or any of your friends want to go to Yosemite, but don't want to camp, check out The Ahwahnee Hotel, one of the most popular hotels in Yosemite because of its views, the actual building itself, and its history.
Just a note: you pretty much have to make reservations in advance for everything, even if you're pitching your own tent. Sometimes during peak times, there's a lottery.
Have fun! Thinking of making it out there this summer myself :)
I’ll tell you what I learned in Yosemite and my highlights of October:
Visit my Travel Blog for more travel tips!
We enjoy staying in El Portalby the Merced river. Properties in Yosemite National Park are older and not really a good value. We have also stayed at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite which is a more upscale property with a pool and spa.
If you stay in El Portal you can ride YARTS, Yosemite Area Rapid Transit. Yosemite is the only national park with its own public transit system. Then you can take park shuttle buses around the valley. It is supercool to not be driving there. The vistas are magnificent, you can horseback ride and float on an inner tube down the Merced River. Food options are quite limited, unfortunately food in the national parks is usually bad. However breakfast at the Ahwahnee Hotelis very enjoyable due to the magnificent setting.
Yosemite valley is crowded. Once you leave the valley it is peaceful and I highly recommend making the effort to take in some back country.
I like to visit the Ansel Adams Gallery, but it is very crowded and touristy.
Mentioned in this answer:
If you are going in summer, I would stay at the lodge (tent cabins) at either Tuolumne Meadows or White Wolf Campgroundif you don't want to camp. In the fall or winter, any of the three lodges in the valley are fine, you don't go there to stay inside! Once there, you will not have any trouble finding things to do. Walk any direction! Do go see the giant sequoias. If the road is not closed for winter be sure to drive the Tioga pass road, stopping at Olmsted Point and Tenaya Lake and tuolumne meadows. Great hikes are any and everywhere. Prepare to be amazed.
Mentioned in this answer: