Relax & Hike in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a World Heritage Site internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoia groves and biological diversity. Always a favorite place of mine to visit for many good reasons.

  • Going back into nature has some sort of ancient coded connection to the seat of our soul. It feels good to be in Yosemite. Something about the spirit of Yosemite that pulls you back like a magnet.
  • Always something to do and see. From beautiful trail walks to stunning views of the mountains, waterfalls et al and sightings of wild animals like deer, coyote and bears.
  • Bears don’t attack humans like in Yellowstone. Unless you are fighting for a snickers bar with one. Never feed the bears. They are a large graceful smart creature to admire from a distance.

So this time round we had another great reason to go to Yosemite. My mum was in town (from Sydney, Australia) and we wanted to show her the spirit of Yosemite. The beauty of Yosemite which every year pulls us to visit and experience something new.

About Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a United States National Park spanning eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in east central California, United States. Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity. Almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness.

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More on Yosemite on Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yosemite_National_Park and at U.S. National Park Service here: http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm. There is also a nice 30 min video of Yosemite here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTj2BF5HmXo which also tells the story of John Muir‘s fight to protect this amazing piece of land.

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” –John Muir in a letter to his wife Louie in July 1888

The trip to Yosemite National Park

If you live in Silicon Valley than expect to travel around 4 hours to get to Yosemite National Park. It a pleasant drive and plan at least one break along the way… at the Bass Pro Shop to recharge batteries and explore the shop.

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Bass Pro Shops (Outdoor World)

Bass Pro shop is located in Manteca. Manteca is halfway on your journey to Yosemite – see map above. Bass Pro is a retailer of hunting, fishing, camping and related outdoor recreation merchandise stuffed animals and all sort of hunting gear. It is an experience in itself. When you 1st walk in you will notice the sign that asks you to “check and have your weapons secured at the door”. Inside is a hunting shop mixed with a stuffed zoo!

Where to stay – Yosemite View Lodge

Yosemite View Lodge is situated on the edge of the majestic Merced River, with most rooms providing gorgeous views of the river from the comfort of your own balcony or outdoor spa.

View from our room at Yosemite View Lodge
View from our room at Yosemite View Lodge

Yosemite View Lodge is located at the base of the entry gate to Yosemite National Park. It is a 15 min drive from the gate through the part into the valley. It is an amazing drive. Which is why we love staying at Yosemite View Lodge. It gives us an opportunity each morning and evening to experience the wonders of Yosemite. The entry to the park is $20 per vehicle unlimited for 1 week – more of the park’s fees here.

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So one night coming back to Yosemite View Lodge, we came across a buck with full-grown antlers. As we stopped, he walked past our car at a hand reach away. Other times we got to see coyotes and on Christmas eve a dozen deers galloping on the side of the road while it snowed. Simply stunning. Stuff you never get to see in such context if you stay inside Yosemite Village. You get to appreciate the drive back and look forward to it each day.

Great points about Yosemite View Lodge:

  • You sleep to the sound of waterfalls. Close the door to your balcony and it’s quieter. Open it and the sound of rushing water will relax your mind.
  • There is a gas fireplace inside that is made to look like a wood fireplace. Always a pleasure to come back to the room after being in the cold and start the fireplace. During winters this is a winner.
  • Cheap! Around $200-250 /room /night.
  • There is a spa in the bathroom.
  • Most nights you get a visit from room inspectors – 2 cute Raccoons.

Annoying bits

  • No Internet inside any of the rooms. Only in the main foyer and you have to pay $9 for 24 hrs for Internet connection rivaling that of dialup. No free hot spots anywhere in the valley either.
  • You will only find AT&T cell reception in the car park of Ahwahnee Hotel or on top of Glacier Point.
  • If you are picky about quality food than bring your own. Seriously.

What to do in Yosemite National Park

Experience what nature has to offer by hiking its trails.

The Yosemite Village is pleasantly placed in a valley surrounded by large mountains, waterfalls and plenty of greenery. Only 1 million years ago glaciers used to roam this valley. From the picture below you can imagine how glaciers user to roam this valley. Today waterfalls are left of their presence.

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Yosemite Valley Visitor Center

First thing you should always do is drop by the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Open 9-5 daily. Go there to find out what trails are open and any warnings in the area – stay safe! Due to weather conditions (even in spring) some trails like The Four-Mile Trail can be half closed. So find out what is open and plan your hiking expedition from there. While at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center watch the a 23 minute film titled “Spirit of Yosemite” presented in the theater behind the visitor center lobby.

Trails we Hiked in Yosemite

Me scanning the horizon
Me scanning the horizon on the Mirror Lake trail

Plenty of trails you can take. However this time round we only hiked the following.

The Four-Mile Trail

If you want to get amazing views of the valley this is the hike to do. Don’t be fooled by what sounds like a short trail. It is all up the mountain hiking. A very good work out for the glutes! Expect about 3-4 hours up the mountain and when you reach the top you will be at Glacier Point. More reading here: http://www.yosemitehikes.com/yosemite-valley/four-mile-trail/four-mile-trail.htm When close you can only go 2.6 or so miles. Still a great hike.

Distance: 4.7 miles (7.5 km) one way.
Time: 3 hours and 2 coming back.

The Four-Mile Trail early in the hike
The Four-Mile Trail early in the hike
The Four-Mile Trail starts off like this
The Four-Mile Trail starts off like this
Breathtaking views half way up the trial
Breathtaking views half way up the trail
Only keeps getting better
Only keeps getting better

Mirror Lake & Tenaya Canyon

This one is pretty flat and easy to do. It will take you deep into Yosemite forest and provide a range of lovely scenery along the river. If you really want to experience the mirror lakes glass like effects get there around 8am when the water is still, no wind and perfect lighting. More reading here: http://www.yosemitehikes.com/yosemite-valley/mirror-lake/mirror-lake.htm

Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km) to loop around.
Time: 3 hours with small brakes for photos.

Mirror lake few mins from where the bus drops you off, the start
Mirror lake few mins from where the bus drops you off to start your hike
Half way through the hike
Half way through the hike

Sentinel Meadow & Cook’s Meadow Loop

This is a casual walk anyone can take and you are bound to run into some deers, local bird life and maybe a bear 😉 More reading here: http://www.yosemitehikes.com/yosemite-valley/sentinel-cook-meadow/sentinel-cook-meadow.htm

Distance: 2.25 miles (3.6 km) round trip.
Time: 1-2 hours.

Casual walking and exploring hike. Maybe a bear is lurking by ;-)
Casual walk and exploration hike. Maybe a bear is lurking by 😉
Local wild life is not afraid of humans
Local wild life is not afraid of humans

Ahwahnee Hotel

Once you have finished your hikes for the day, the Ahwahnee Hotel is a great place to drop by and kick back with a hot chocolate or coffee in front of a large communal fire place in this swanky hall (pictured below).

Ahwahnee Hotel was constructed from stone, concrete, wood and glass and opened in 1927. It is a premiere example of National Park Service rustic architecture, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It is also a very expensive hotel to stay in but open to the public to drop in and use their open area for relaxing, reading a book near the many fire places and dine in their swanky restaurants.

Swanky hall where you can kick back and relax - tea is served at 4pm
Swanky hall where you can kick back and relax – tea is served at 4pm
Main dining restaurant open for lunch & dinner
Main dining restaurant open for lunch & dinner

And that pretty much wraps up a great trip to Yosemite!

Few final tips:

  • Do not speed through Yosemite National Park. Especially during summer. Many bears each year are killed by speeding drivers. Drive slow and take in the wonders of the beautiful Yosemite National Park.
  • Do not feed any animal. As cute and innocent as they look, it is not good for anyone. They are wild animals and teaching them to be dependant on human hand outs will teach them to be violent in the future to others when not fed. Especially bears; which must be put down in such cases.
  • Do not litter and do not take anything out of the National Park. Leave only with amazing memories and great photos.
  • Have fun!

Photography // for the photography nerd insiden you… all the pictures here were shot on a Canon 5D full-frame sensor through f2.8 L 24-70 mm lens & the tighter shallow depth of field pics through f1.4 50 mm fixed.

~ Ernest