“The coniferous forests of the Yosemite Park, and of the Sierra in general, surpass all others of their kind in America, or indeed the world, not only in the size and beauty of the trees, but in the number of species assembled together, and the grandeur of the mountains they are growing on.” -John Muir
I had been to Yosemite once before but, when I decided to leave California to travel, I knew this was one place I had to see again. I have been to eighteen countries and seen so many glorious sights, but nothing has compared to the grandeur of Yosemite Valley.
My boyfriend, Josh, and I asked my little sister, Addie, to fly out from Indiana and accompany us on our trip. She is such an adventurer who has always dreamed of seeing Yosemite in all its glory. I also decided to take my cat, Copernicus, with us. Why not take my favorite animal to my favorite place, right?!
Our entire trip was amazing! We spent most of the time hiking, talking, and standing in awe of what our eyes were beholding. We loved being outdoors all day and then having a cozy RV to retreat to with cute, little Copernicus waiting for us. The feeling of wandering around, exploring all that nature has to offer, is like none other. See for yourself…
We rented a 19 foot RV from “Cruise America” and it was the perfect size for three people and a cat. They have other sizes available if you have more or less people. From Los Angeles the drive is almost six hours; and with an RV, make it about seven. Once in the National Park, we used the RV to get around. There are parking spaces all over the Valley Floor to leave your vehicle. They also have a bus that runs throughout the park that you can hop on and off at different trailheads or sights.
Stops Along The Way
We stopped at Sequoia National Park which is a must see, since you are so close. We were there for a day, which was plenty of time. Moro Rock Trail is a must. It weaves through the sequoias and you feel so small walking amongst such large trees. The trail ends at the ginormous Moro Rock. It is the size of a mountain, but it is a literal bolder. CLIMB IT! There are stairs carved into the rock with hand rails. If you have a *severe* fear of heights, you can pass this up; but when you see your friends’ photos, you may regret it.
The view from the top of the rock is breathtaking. You have a 360 degree backdrop of mountain formations with snow covered caps, and giant sequoias that look like ants from up there. You can see for miles in every direction which is such a surreal experience. The Great Western Divide of the High Sierra is what will capture most of your attention. I could not take my eyes off of it.
The last thing worth seeing is the worlds largest tree, General Sherman. It is honestly shocking how massive it is.
Another stop would be Kings Canyon. It is absolutely gorgeous. We did not go down into the park, but we saw an aerial view from a vista point during the drive that we stopped at. This view is also incredible and let’s you see Kings Canyon all at once.
Places To Stay
Since we were in an RV, we stayed at RV parks. We were unable to stay inside Yosemite Valley because it fills up very quickly and almost a year in advance. Try to plan your trip early so you can stay inside the park, as it would be a really cool experience. If you can’t get a reservation, there are plenty of campgrounds outside the park. There is a lodge and cabins in the valley as well.
Must Do and See
Enter the park through the south entrance so you can experience Tunnel View. You will be on Wawona Road for about an hour before entering the tunnel. As you see the light at the end of the tunnel, nothing can prepare you for the view that awaits. As you exit the tunnel, you will have an expansive view of Yosemite in all its glory. I honestly have no words for how unimaginable this first view is.
Hike to Lower Yosemite Falls and Upper Yosemite Falls. All the hikes in the valley are great, but these two give views of the bottom, middle, and the top of the tallest waterfall in North America.
Drive to Glacier Point. It is an aerial view of the entire valley. So, its basically a must see.
Hike Half Dome. Looking at Half Dome is my favorite, hiking it is a challenge but such a cool accomplishment and view from the top.
Hike Mist Trail to see Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. The hike itself is really cool; views of the rocky cliff faces, red wood trees around you, mist hitting you as you hike, crossing a big bridge over the rushing water, rainbows in front of the falls, and natural watering holes to swim in.
Get soaking wet at Bridalveil Falls. You get so close to the base of the falls and when the water hits the rocks, it rains down on you. It is so fun and refreshing. Kiss your lover here and it is said you will soon be betrothed.
Hike anything and everything. If you are there long enough, there are plenty of other hikes to do and views to experience.
Food and Drink
Yosemite isn’t really known for any specific food or drink, but it is a place to be one with the outdoors. Build a fire and cook hot dogs and smores over it. Pack sandwiches and chips and have a mid-hike picnic. There are a few restaurants in Yosemite Valley, but they are not really a must do.
Yosemite is priceless. In Yosemite there are really no expenses besides the entrance fee for $30, which is worth it for supporting the National Parks Service. However, the total cost of your trip will vary depending on if you camp or stay in the lodge, rent an RV or drive your own car, and pack food or eat out. Also, go with friends so you can all split the cost. That was very nice for us.
Pricing for our 4 day trip:
RV Rental – $800 USD
Gas – $200 USD
Camp Grounds – $160 USD
Groceries/Food – $150 USD
Entrance Fee – $30 USD (Yosem) $20 USD (Sequoia)
Total Cost – $1,360 USD plus miscellaneous expenses
Some roads are closed during off season in the winter, so check before you go.
If you go in the winter you will miss Glacier Point because the road will be closed. If you go in late summer or autumn, the water falls will be dry. The best time to visit Yosemite is end of May and June. You will get to experience everything then. However, it will be packed.
Take tire chains in you are driving an RV during Winter or Spring. If you don’t, you’ll have to enter through the West entrance, which will make you back track two hours, and also miss Tunnel View.
There is no gas in Yosemite so fill up before you get close to the park.
There is no cell service on the way into the valley and even in some spots of the valley. Therefore, GPS will also not work. I suggest downloading that part of the map on Google Maps so it will work offline (yes, you can do that because technology is awesome)!
Yosemite is a gem. Currently, this is my favorite spot on the planet. That may change as I begin my journey across the world; but for now, nothing takes my breath away like being surrounded by granite cliff faces, plundering waterfalls, and sky reaching sequoias.