Yosemite – so beautiful that Apple decided to name it after one of it’s OS updates and dazzle users with the iconic image of El Capitan as its screensaver. Located about 3-4hrs east of San Francisco, Yosemite is a huge natural reserve boasting stunning waterfalls and mountains. I’ve been wanting to visit ever since I saw photos from my relative’s camping trip years ago and finally I worked up the courage to fly over and lose my camping virginity to Yosemite. There is a ton to see and do here, but within 3 days we managed to visit the most popular sights. Plan to depart early as there may be lots of traffic getting into the park especially during high season from May – August. This site does a great job describing he pros and cons of going in each month of the year. Generally speaking, high season is popular because that is when the waterfalls are most beautiful. However, that also means fighting through crowds of tourists and extreme difficulty in booking accommodations (people book a year in advance!). We went early September and found the crowds to be quite manageable but the waterfalls were pretty much dried up. That’s ok because we still saw many amazing views of the mountains.
I suggest entering Yosemite through it’s East entrance. There, you will ascend about 5,000feet into the mountains with spectacular views as you round each curve of the climb. There is a small entrance fee to get in and the rangers will provide you with a map and newsletter. The first thing we saw on our way to the camp grounds was the great El Capitan. This mountain spans about 3,000feet tall and believe it or not, some people have actually attempted to climb this mammoth.
Doing silly poses with El Cap
It didn’t take us long to spot some wildlife. Here we saw a beautiful deer posing very nicely for a bunch of photographers.
Everywhere you turn, there are spectacular views of nature. These few shots were taken around El Capital. There are plenty of spots for you to park your car to side so don’t worry about having to track down where everything is. Chances are, you will see them on the few routes around Yosemite.
There are a ton of hiking trails in Yosemite, some more challenging than others, but most offering plenty of scenic spots. You can find an index of all hiking trails in the park and their difficulty level here
. The first one we did was Mirror Lake
. A short hike up to a lake that was pretty much dried up due to the drought that has been sucking the life out of California for the past few years.
Tunnel View is another popular spot for photos as it offers an expansive view of Yosemite Valley.
One of the most iconic spots is definitely Glacier Point
which is the best place to see Half Dome, Nevada Falls, and Vernal Falls
. The Half Dome is really an impression granite formation to admire. For those brave enough to do it, you can actually CLIMB the Half Dome
! It will take 10-14hrs of hiking, a permit, and enough arm strength to hoist yourself up the curve of the dome and will power to go all the way back down. Crazy enough to do it? Learn more about it here
K and I both got sick on our trip so doing such an intense hike was no where near our bucket list. However, we did do a 2mile hike down to Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point and then all the way back up.
You almost get a 360 degree view of the Half Dome and at the bottom, you are greeted with a beautiful lake. Dip your feet in the icy cold water to freshen up before climbing another 2miles back to the top.
The valley greeted us with icy cold water to dip our tired feet in. It felt heavenly and so relaxing after a hike in desert temperatures.
Speaking of desert like weather, we saw a billowing cloud of smoke emerging from a forest fire in the distance. This is a real issue in California especially because they have been in a drought for a few years now.
We hiked back up 2miles to the top and saw this angle from Glacier Point. Pretty scary!
On our last day we drove towards Tuolomne Meadows which is a totally different area of Yosemite. We stopped by Olmsted Point for a few photos.
You can see Tenaya Lake tucked between the mountains.
The Lake was definitely one of my favorite places, the water was so clear and so picture perfect with the trees and mountains as the backdrop.
A little further away was Tuolomne Meadows. It’s supposed to be a lush field of grass but due to the drought. Even still, very beautiful view.
As my first camping experience, Yosemite has been very good to me. There were a few inconveniences of lodging in a campsite, battling an onset cold, and sensitivity to the altitude but it was all worth it. 3 days will only give you a taste of what Yosemite has to offer, I would definitely come again to check out other hiking trails and maybe one day I may be crazy enough to try climbing Half Dome.