Travel date: Mid August 2016
*recommended that you go in the early to mid spring if you want to see all the waterfalls at full force
- light jacket (its only about 50/60 degrees in the mornings)
- draw string bag (easy to carry and do light climbing)
- lots of snacks and water (there are places to eat in the park but they are very spread out and not always convenient)
- small, compact car with good gas mileage (some roads are tight and parking is limited)
- GAS! There is a very little chance that you will find the one or two gas stations they have in the park so make sure you fill up before you go! You will be doing lots of driving, remember the park is 1,169 square miles, to get to your desired destinations
Start: We stayed at Chukchansi gold resort & casino. We left at 6 AM to get there early which I highly recommend. The later you wait the more people there will be, and trust me during around 12-4 there was too many people to enjoy the views. The drive to reach the outskirts of the park was about 2 hours. The entrance fee is $30 for a car load or$15 per person. They give you 1 map and 1 newspaper that has a list of centers and places to visit. There is no cell service in the park so print out a list of things you want to do. It took about another 2 hours to get all the way to Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Our first stop before getting to the valley was at Tunnel View. I highly recommend stopping there because the view is great (especially early in the morning) and there is adequate parking that doesn’t get too busy.
The gifts shops were disappointing since we went for the 100 year anniversary of national parks and my family was hoping for at least a T-shirt that said that. But the Visitor Center in the valley is a nice place to stock up on water and go to the bathroom before you set off on your journey! We decided to start in the valley and work our way out, figuring the valley would get too crowed. There is LIMITED parking everywhere in the park and already by 10:30 there was a small-medium amount of people in and around the valley. We passed by nice views of Yosemite Falls and Falls (which were running very low since we went mid summer and all of the snow was almost melted at the top of the mountain) From there we took pictures in the valley then made our way out to Sentinel Falls.
Path: Easy, strollers and wheelchairs accessibility.
The Sentinel Falls was the first falls we got to get up close and personal with. There is a nice easy path that leads you right to a great view of the falls. We probably got there at 11am and there were lots of people taking pictures at the bottom and on the bridge. It is possible to get a closer view but I don’t recommend it unless you have some experience climbing and good shoes. I was in Nikes and the rocks are slippery since they are smooth and covered with a very thin layer of dirt since water runs over them in the spring. But me being me, I wanted to get closer so I climbed around the side where the woods are and went around through the woods so the amount of rocks I had to climb were few and not as slippery/dirty as the rocks down the front. DO NOT: climb over the bridge and straight up the rocks. It is longer, harder, and hotter (since its in direct sunlight). I witnessed multiple people try that way and fall in water then struggle to get back to the landing. I had an enjoyable short climb but I still struggled on some of the larger rocks. I was 19 and in decent physical shape and I still got a little light headed since it was hot in the sun. My 52 year old dad also climbed part way with me and is not in as good of shape, so it is bearable. The view was much better than down below and I got a nice workout in so I recommend it.
Path: easy/medium, dirt paths but still parts are suitable for strollers and wheelchairs
We arrived at Glacier Point at 12:30 pm after driving from the Valley back up the mountain. It was very crowded by this time of day and we didn’t even make it past the ski slopes. They were directing traffic and we had to park in the ski lodge parking lot and a shuttle bus would take us the rest of the way. There was a pretty long line to wait for the bus but the park did a good job of providing shading and a hasty move along. 2 buses came every 20 minutes. We thought it would be a 45 minute wait but it only took 20 minutes until we hoped on the bus. If you were going to Glacier Point you have to be seated. The Park has a law that no one can stand over 11 miles, so you can only stand if you are getting off at Sherman (1st stop). The second stop is Washburn and the last stop is Glacier Point. You have an excellent view of the upper and lower falls and the half dome. There is a visitors station if you want to grab a snack and gifts but it was VERY crowded and its a small building. There is a place to the right of the viewpoint where you can sit and eat but when we went over there was a lot of bees so beware if you are allergic or scared of being stung. To the left side there are steep steps you can walk up to a small stone viewpoint where you get a (somewhat) higher view, but still just as crowded. Overall I would recommend going here first or last. The view of the sun setting would probably be amazing and also the later in the day the less people there are.
End: We left the park after this because my parents were tired and it was going on 4 and we knew we would be hungry soon. There are barely any places to stop at outside of the park if you are looking for restaurants so like I said bring snacks or pack a meal.
- get there early to avoid the crowds
- use the bathrooms when you can
- wear comfortable and good grip shoes
- take minimal pictures and just enjoy the scenery (there are only so many pictures you can take of a tree or rock)
- pack at least 1 meal and cooler
- check out Yosemite’s web site to plan ahead! Places to Go! and Map