How to Get the Best out of Your Yosemite Trip
Booking a national park trip can be daunting the first time, especially an adventure to Yosemite as it draws about four million people a year. Yosemite is a once in a lifetime adventure and it is important to know a few things to get the best out of your trip!
- Plan as much as possible in advance. Spontaneous trips are fun but very challenging at Yosemite. We went in late August 2019 and the planning began in January. Depending on what type of accommodations you are wanting (camping or lodging), snagging a spot can feel like a blood sport. Reservations are required March through November for the Valley's car campgrounds, which include the Upper Pines, Lower Pins, Hodgdon Meadows, Crane Flat, Wawona, and half of Tuolumne Meadows. Camp Four is first come first serve and is typically full. Reservations are available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 a.m. PST, and they often fill up minutes after. Be sure to have dates and accommodations researched and ready to go ahead of time so you can switch gears if your first choice isn't available. There are several campsites outside of Yosemite that are great options and have a variety of reservations or first come first serve. It Is not wise to gamble on a first come first serve site without a back-up plan!
- If you must drive in the park, fill up long before. The closer you get to the park, the higher gas prices get. In dire emergencies, we would fill up at a small gas station on Tioga Pass, which is located outside the east entrance. Be mindful that the roads within the Valley are one way and there is a lot of traffic in the busy months. In addition, when driving into Yosemite and out of the Valley, it is mostly up-hill so the car burns more gas then normal.
- Speaking of the busy season, consider visiting Yosemite in the fall or winter. The summer brings flocks of tourist and scotching temperatures in the Valley. If going during the summer is must due to school schedules for the kids, consider camping outside of the Valley in order to limit interactions with the crowds so you can actually enjoy nature.
- Consider getting off the beaten path! For me when I camp, I want to hear as little artificial human noise as possible. During our 6-day trip, we spent only one day in the Valley and the traffic, hoards of people and hot temperatures were dismal. While we had a reservation on the west side of the park as a back-up plan, we sat our eyes east and ended up camping four miles outside of the east entrance at Tioga Lake. Our camping experience was much more relaxed. For hikes, we stuck to less popular trails including North Dome, Lembert Dome, and Cloud's Rest.
- Don't rely on your cellphone! Yosemite has some great modern day convivences but cell service is not one of them! Cell signal is spotty at best but mostly nonexistent throughout the park. It is important that you bring a map and a hiking guide book to two.
- Know the weather! This can't be stressed enough and we fell victim to it. When planning our trip, I did not properly prepare for the cold night temperatures in the High Sierras. We had to drive in Mammoth Lakes to get sweet pants and extra blankets. Even during the day, the differences between temperatures between the High Sierras and the Valley is sometimes 20-30 degrees. Once you decide where you are camping, make sure to thoroughly research the weather in order to pack accordingly.
- Beware of bears! It is not too much to fret over but black bears do call Yosemite their home before we do. All of the established campsites have bear boxes which you are required to store your food and all scented things in when you are not using them. If you see a bear while hiking, stop immediately, identify yourself by speaking in a calm, appeasing tone. Back away slowly, preferably in the direction you came. Walk, don't run, and keep your eye on the bear so you can see how it reacts. In most cases, the bear with flee.