People have described Yosemite National Park in many words – magnificent, out of this world, sublime, ultimate place to hike, adventurer’s dream come true etc. The words that have had the most gaping effect on me are the words used to describe this valley on national park service’s website. Yosemite is not just a great valley but a shrine to human foresight. Indeed! People who came before us, the likes of John Muir and others realized the potential of this valley and made efforts towards not only the conservation but its preservation too.
We visited Yosemite towards the end of September 2020 and were blessed with great weather conditions. It wasn’t cold at all and wasn’t hot either. It was pleasant – just perfect! After almost nine months of no travelling, the getaway to Yosemite in perfect weather felt like a blessing from above.
While Covid19 cases were still very much at their peak, we took all the precautionary measures(masks, sanitizers, social distancing) and fortunately remained healthy after our trip ended. What made us realize after coming back from Yosemite was how much we missed travelling and so we got creative and found ways to go for a number of local day trips in Georgia while keeping in mind all the safety measures. People want to go back to normal days but in order for the normalcy to find its footing again, one has to take additional precautionary measures while doing things that keep you or your life going – my takeaway.
Our first leg of the journey was driving from LA to Mammoth Lakes. All the details of this drive and where we stayed has been shared on my youtube channel right here –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJbaJ_m3a68
Our second leg of the journey, that was from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite national park was anything but surreal. Since we were lodging at Mountain Shadows condominiums, Mammoth lakes, the closest entrance to Yosemite was Tioga Pass Entrance via highway 120. It has certainly been one of the most picturesque road trips for me. It is the only entrance on the east side of the park and usually stays open through May till October. During winters make sure to check before heading on this route if it is not closed due to snowy conditions or other reasons.
There are 4 other park entrances that one can use depending on where you are coming from:
- Big Oak Flat Entrance – via highway 120 if you are driving from Bay area.
- Arch Rock Entrance – if you are coming from San Francisco you can take either target this entrance or big oak flat entrance.
- South Entrance – if you are driving from San Diego or LA, you can get to this entrance via highway 41.
- Hetchy Hetchy Entrance – via highway 120 and Evergreen Road, one can access this entrance that is on the west side of the park.
If you are visiting Yosemite using any of these entrances, be sure to verify if the route for that entrance is still open or closed due to changing seasons/weather conditions.
While we decided to stay at Mammoth lakes and drive to Yosemite from there, one has multiple lodging options and a variety of lodging options inside Yosemite national park. Right from camping at different campgrounds to glamping to staying at hotels and cabins. Also as far as the hiking trails go you will find a variety of options that you can pick and choose depending on various factors – time you have on your plate, physical fitness(yes, it is quite important) amongst many others. We were a group of 3 adults and one 7-year old super energetic child and had one day to not only hike but also drive back to Mammoth lakes. So we decided to take the John Muir trail leading upto Vernon fall and Nevada fall. Unfortunately around that time the Mist trail(leads to Vernon) was closed so we could see Vernon fall from a distance but we did make it to the top of the Nevada fall. Hiking upto the top of the Nevada fall starting from Mirror lake, which is a 5 mile loop was not the most strenuous hike but taking little breaks in between to catch your breath is highly recommended. I was worried about my son getting tired but thanks to his light bodyweight he was in high spirits throughout while the 3 of us definitely needed to give our old legs some much needed rest here and there.
In my opinion, ours was a medium difficulty level hike as the trail was exactly how I expected it to be – steep at lots of places(do not be fooled by the flat trail at the beginning), rocky and also slippery at places. We started our hike early morning so the soil beneath our feet was pretty stable but on our way down to the curry village(where we parked our car), the soil has been walked over by so many people by that time that it definitely became slippery and we all fell a couple of times so keep a good pace and stay alert. Few tips from our experience of hiking at Yosemite valley would be:
- Make sure to collect your physical map at the park entrance. You can also download the map on your phone. Not that you would need to access your map frequently, but it is always a good idea to keep it handy in case you are wondering where you have reached and how far there is to go. There are plenty of signboard on the way that make sure to point you in the right direction of your destination.
- Hit the restrooms at the base of trailhead before the mirror lake if you are going for the Vernon and Nevada fall hike via John Muir trail. There are no restrooms on the way. Make sure to check this when you are planning for other hike trails as well.
- Carry healthy snacks like fruits(banana is my go to fruit every single time) or some finger foods that are not very messy and easy to handle. Make sure to have enough water to keep you hydrated. If you have plans to sit and enjoy your time at your destination like we did at the top of Nevada fall, make sure to pack a little extra food(nothing heavy, light eatables only).
- Unless you have plans to do camping at your destination(approved campsites), hike light. It will not only give you a good pace but your shoulders will thank you too.
- Appreciate the wildlife and foliage. As humans we do get excited when we see animals in their habitat but as humans we should also use our sense and let them be and not try to get their attention for an instagram picture. Similarly respect the surroundings and do not pluck flowers. If you are a dry leaf collector, you can pick the ones from the ground. Respect the nature and it will bless you with its fruits.
- And the most important tip, leave only your footprints and NO TRASH ANYWHERE. If you are worried about the wrappers or banana peels, make sure to pack a couple of ziplock bags or paper bags to put your trash in and you can dump it in a recycle bin or a trash bin whenever you can find one.
We got very lucky and got to see some amazing wildlife at different points of our drive and hike inside Yosemite national park – right from a red fox to a Mumma bear with her baby bear to a lizard, mule deer and lots of squirrels. I am sharing few pictures from our trip for you all to enjoy and get inspired to visit Yosemite whenever you can. It is a slice of heaven and an experience to remember for years to come.