Home » 2015 Yosemite Thanksgiving and San Diego

Yosemite National Park, CA

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 2:00pm by Lolo
245 miles and 5 hours from our last stop - 6 night stay


Veiled Half DomeVeiled Half DomeThanksgiving in Yosemite was definitely becoming somewhat of a family tradition. It began in 2013 when the boys moved West, and we wanted to save them the trouble and expense of flying home for Thanksgiving.

We had had so much fun in 2013 that that we returned in 2014, upping our game to Thanksgiving dinner in the elegant and quite-expensive Ahwahnee Dining Room.

Now that Herb and I were living on the West Coast, we decided to drive our home on wheels back to Yosemite for our third annual Gaidus Thanksgiving. You can never have too much Yosemite, so the boys were more than happy with the plan.

Last Day in YosemiteLast Day in YosemiteBeing a veteran of the stress of reserving a Yosemite campsite, I made sure I nabbed an Upper Pines site as soon as the November booking window became available. Upper Pines is the only campground open all year round, so although there are less people visiting the park in November, there are also less campsites. I booked it for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving through Sunday night, which would give me and Herb a little extra time on either end of the boys stay with us.

I also made Thanksgiving dinner reservations well in advance. We decided to return to the Yosemite Lodge Mountain Room, where we had eaten in 2013. The Ahwahnee was so awesome, but quite extravagant, so we decided that we would alternate years between the two venues.

Herb and I drove out on Tuesday and tucked ourselves into our campsite just in time before the snow began to fall. Hopefully, it would stop before the boys joined us tomorrow evening.

Valley Loop Photography, Boys Arrival, and Ice Skating

El Cap in ProfileEl Cap in ProfileThe next morning we looked out the window and saw that about 3 inches of snow had fallen. Already there were kids – some still in their pajamas – running around the campground, throwing snowballs, building snowman, and just plain old having fun. It was a winter wonderland – our first time seeing Yosemite under a blanket of snow!!

We decided to spend the day driving the Valley Loop, stopping to take photos along the way. Fortunately, we had an all-wheel drive Subaru Forester, because the roads were snow-covered and quite slippery. Although we have driven around this valley dozens of times, with the snow, it was like seeing it for the very first time.

Our first stop was the beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel, which never ceases to awe me. We walked through the lobby and out the back door into the yard where there were dozens of boisterous families, dressed in colorful hats and scarves, making snow angels and building snowmen. It was like we had stumbled into a Currier and Ives Christmas card. Usually I take my time easing into the holiday spirit, but this festive scene thrust me there in one fell swoop.

Ahwahnee Fun in the SnowAhwahnee Fun in the SnowHerb had to drag me away to continue our tour. Since the roads around the Valley are one way, we started off along Northside Drive, stopping first to walk to and photograph Lower Yosemite Falls. This walk is always crowded, in that it requires very little effort for an awesome view from the base of the 2,425-feet Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America. It is actually three waterfalls in one, with an upper, middle and lower section.

Continuing west, we passed Yosemite Lodge where we would be having Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow and then Camp 4, which the most renowned climbers in the world have used as their base camp for the last 50 years. Not many were camping there now, probably because of the snow.

By El Capitan Bridge, you can either turn left, to circle back east through the Valley, or continue on out towards the Park Exit. We continued on, stopping first at El Capitan Meadow, where there is a terrific view of this amazing 3,000-foot high granite monolith, the largest single piece of exposed granite in the world. . During certain times of the year you can see tiny little climbers clinging to its granite face – however, none today, as far as we could see.

Rock and IceRock and IceWe continued on to one of our favorite viewpoints at Valley View, where El Capitan, on the left, and Cathedral Rocks, on the right, frame a magnificent valley view.

From there, rather than exiting the park, we turned left, parked in the Bridalveil Falls parking lot, and took the short hike up to see the 620-foot falls, which flows down from a hanging valley. It was still snowing, and the trail was very slippery, so we pretty much had the trail to ourselves, which was quite nice.

Continuing east on the Southside Drive, we stopped at Sentinel Beach for Herb to take his classic shot of El Capitan reflected in the river – except this time with a snow-covered foreground.

Our last stop before heading back to await the boys’ arrival was Swinging Bridge, another picnic area and beach. As we walked across the bridge into a lovely meadow, I looked down instead of up for a change and noticed a lone snowman in the meadow, his only companion being a small gray fox stalking its prey in the snow. There is beauty to be found at every scale in this incredible Valley.

Lonely Snowman in the MeadowLonely Snowman in the MeadowCompleting our loop, we returned to the motorhome and began preparing dinner so that it would be ready when the boys arrived. That way we could get to Curry Village in time to ice skate that evening.

I love the fact that these Yosemite Thanksgivings have brought ice skating back into my life after a 10 year hiatus. Plus, I admit that I love surprising the boys with some level of physical competency. I was actually pretty good in my day, and can still skate backwards while doing crossovers and even spin around a little. They were shocked the first time they saw me do this.

So, now it has become expected that I will be the crazy lady spinning around out in the middle of the ice. We weren’t there 10 minutes before I went into one of my spins, which Andrew said was quite impressive, or at least, that is, until I flew on my back and hit my head on the ice. Fortunately, I didn’t hit it too hard, but hard enough to make me think twice about doing that again.

Why the heck don’t people wear helmets while ice skating? It’s a really hard surface to hit. Or maybe the more relevant question is why do ladies pushing 60, who think they are Peggy Fleming, not wear helmets while skating?

Moonlit Half DomeMoonlit Half DomeNot quite ready to get back on the horse again so soon, I contented myself with gliding counterclockwise around the rink with everyone else, making sure I kept both skates firmly on the ground.

I give Herb credit for being a good sport about the skating, as he definitely wanted to be photographing the full moon rising over Half Dome instead. He did leave the session a little earlier than the rest of us to set up his tripod in the parking lot, but the moon had already risen too high in the sky to capture it in the same frame as Half Dome. Still, the moon's indirect presence was very much felt.

When we finished skating, Herb volunteered to drive us back to the motorhome and then come back out by himself to photograph, but we told him that “we were in this together” -- our family mantra for good times and bad.

Curry Village by Moon LightCurry Village by Moon LightWe moved our operation out to the road, and set up the two tripods we had. It was truly magical. The moon and the stars were illuminating the Valley, and it was so eerily quiet and still, in the way that only happens after a snowfall.

The boys, who were taking turns with one of the tripods, noticed that Herb was aiming his camera not at Half Dome, but back towards the lights of Curry Village. When we got back to the motorhome and looked at the photos we had taken, we saw that they each had taken the identical awesome photo of Glacier Point Apron with the lights of the Curry Village skating rink in the foreground. What a coincidence! Herb cried “copyright infringement” when Andrew posted his version on Facebook first, almost immediately getting 100 Likes for his incredible photo. In the world of Social Media, he who posts first wins.

What a great first day in the Valley it had been, and to think we had four more!

Valley Loop Photo Tour again, Cross Country Skiing in El Cap Meadow, Thanksgiving Dinner in Mountain Room, and the Ahwahnee Great Lounge

Over the River and thru the Woods...Over the River and thru the Woods...Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t until 4:00, so we had plenty of time to explore before then. This was the first time the boys had seen the Valley covered in snow as well, so we pretty much did a repeat of yesterday’s photo tour, adding a few extras in as well.

Our hope was to find a place to cross country ski along the way, so we had to take two cars to fit the four of us plus all the ski equipment.

We parked at Yosemite Lodge, and walked to the Swan Slab climbing wall, where we had climbed so many times before and probably would again later this weekend. From there, we took the slippery, snow-covered trail to Lower Yosemite Falls and got our first and only family shot of the trip.

Family with Yosemite FallsFamily with Yosemite FallsBack in the car, we continued west along Northside Drive, stopping next at El Cap Meadow where there were a few snow-covered walking trails crisscrossing the meadow. Looked like as good a place as any to try out our XC skis – at least the boys and I thought so. Herb was a bit more skeptical. Besides he was like a kid in a candy shop with all the photo opportunities of a snow-covered Valley to tempt him. That’s when we decided to split up for now and meet up further along the Valley Loop.

The conditions were not ideal, and we did have to scramble over the occasional log or two, but the views of El Cap were awesome and playing with the boys in the snow is always a blast. After about 2 miles of looping around the meadow, we packed the skis back in the car and headed off in search of Herb.

He mentioned wanting to go to the Wawona Tunnel Viewpoint, where there is an incredible view of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Valley in between, so we went there, but no Herb. There was, however, the usual bus tour crowd of about 100 people jockeying for position to take a selfie with this iconic backdrop.

We continued back into the Valley along the Southside Drive where we eventually caught up with Herb at Sentinel Beach, once again taking his favorite reflection shot of El Cap in the Merced River.

It had been a pretty full day already, and we hadn’t even gotten to the main event – Thanksgiving Dinner in the Mountain Room at Yosemite Lodge. Although not as elegant as the Ahwahnee, the dining room is very cozy and warm and has wonderful views out its floor-to-ceiling windows.

Thanksgiving DinnerThanksgiving DinnerThey seated us at our table at 4:00 on the dot, and within 5 minutes there was bread and water on the table and the waiter took our order. Before another 5 minutes passed, our soup and salad had arrived. Now, normally I like quick service, but this was Thanksgiving and I was beginning to feel like I was on an assembly line with courses passing in front of me before I could finish the last. It wasn’t like this when we dined here two Thanksgivings ago. They must be trying to make the seatings shorter so they could push more people through.

What a difference from the calm elegance of the Ahwahnee dining experience. We would seriously have to consider switching back next year. It was definitely worth the extra dollars to be able to linger over what is supposed to be the most celebrated meal of the year. By 4:45 we were out of there and the next group was being seated.

To regain our serenity, after dinner we went for a walk by the Ahwahnee Meadow and then settled into the Ahwahnee Great Lounge with our kindles and a deck of cards. Although the Great Lounge is huge, there are so many nooks and crannies and side rooms that we were able to find our own private cozy spot on the second floor looking down over the lounge. What could be better than sharing this magical place with the people I love most? Then Tommy pulled out a small Bluetooth speaker from his backpack and began softly playing Christmas music while we played hearts. I was so content I never wanted this moment to end.

On the drive back to the campground, Tommy cranked up the volume and we sang Christmas carols the whole way.

Yosemite Falls Hike and Ahwahnee Great Lounge

Yosemite Falls TrailYosemite Falls TrailUsually during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend we rock climb, but this time it was much colder and the rock was still wet from the snow storm. Hopefully, it would dry out enough for tomorrow.

The snow was already beginning to melt in the Valley, drying out the trails, so we decided that a robust hike to the top of Yosemite Falls would be a great way to spend the day. Herb and I had already done this hike twice – once when we were about 29 years old and then again in 2012. I remember it being one of the most exhausting hikes I have ever done, but also one of the most rewarding.

Approaching the FallsApproaching the FallsJust looking up at the top of the falls, and thinking about getting there on foot from the Valley Floor, is pretty daunting. It’s 3.6 miles each way, and over that distance it climbs over 2,700 feet – that’s over a half a mile of vertical gain.

But, the boys had never done this hike, so I was not about to be the pooper holding us all back. So, I put on a cheery face and a skip in my step, and we set off on the trail, which begins next to Sunnyside Campground (Camp 4), the rock climbers’ campground behind Yosemite Lodge.

This hike doesn’t fool around. In the first half mile, it climbs steeply along a series of over three dozen switchbacks. At least the snow had melted, so the trail wasn’t slippery. By the time we reached one mile, we had already gained 1,000 feet in elevation.

A thousand or two feet really makes a difference in temperature. Soon we were hiking across a few patches of snow and had to stop to put our jackets and gloves on. At about the halfway point, the trail became almost completely covered with snow and a lot slipperier. We stopped to have lunch and to discuss whether we should turn back or press on. I knew the boys really wanted to get to the top, but they were worried about me falling. I suggested that I could turn back while they went on, but they repeated our family vacation refrain, used in both good times and bad, “Oh no, we’re in this together.”

The Trail Gets SlipperyThe Trail Gets SlipperyThat’s when Tommy realized he had a pair of Yaktrax in his backpack that would probably fit over my hiking shoes. The little cleats on the bottom keep you from slipping and sliding on the snow and ice. Soon, to the annoyance of the rest of them, I was practically dancing up the trail. These things were great!

The last quarter mile before reaching the top is a series of torturous, seemingly endless switchbacks, even under the best of conditions. Without the Yaktrax I would be lying face down in the snow by now.

Finally, we reached the top, but it wasn’t time to celebrate yet. The Overlook was actually below us, down a short, but intimidating, series of steps cut into the rockface. Thankfully, there was a guard rail to hang onto for dear life. I tried not to look out over the steep drop below. From the overlook we looked down from above at the falls cascading over the edge.

By the time we got back up the steep, slippery steps, it was snowing very hard. It was a winter wonderland. For a brief moment, I was so lost in the sublimity of the scene that I forgot to worry about how I was going to make it back down to the Valley.

I guess it was just going to have to be one slippery step at a time. At least I had the Yaktrax to give me some traction. I don’t know how they did it without them. I made a mental note to get Yaktrax for the entire family for Christmas.

Precarious Descent to the OverlookPrecarious Descent to the OverlookI was so grateful when we reached dry trail again, and even more so when we got back to Camp 4. For some reason that I will never understand, I was less exhausted this time than when I did this hike in better conditions when I was three years younger. I think the boys’ confidence that I can do challenging things, and the distraction from all the laughter when we are together, make life in general a little easier, and a whole lot more fun.

I did have enough sense, however, to reject their suggestion of ice skating at Curry Village that evening, and persuaded them instead to return to the warmth of the Ahwahnee Great Lounge for more reading and cards, and, of course, the caroling on the way home. I have never been in such high Christmas spirits this early in the season. I hoped I wasn’t going to peak too soon.

Rock Climbing at Swan Slab and Sunnyside Bench and the Ahwahnee Great Lounge

Tommy on Swan SlabTommy on Swan SlabToday was Saturday, our last full day together, and the snow had melted enough to make climbing somewhat viable, if not exactly ideal.

Over the last few years, we had gotten much more familiar with climbing areas in the Valley. One of our favorites is Swan Slab, a very popular climbing area on the north (sunny) side of the Valley, between Camp 4 and Yosemite Falls. I personally like it, mainly because it has some climbs at an easy enough grade for me to try, but also because it is a great spectating spot – the approach is short, the base is sunny, and there is even a bench to sit on.

They selected a 5.11b “aid” climb, appropriately named Aid Route, which eventually led to a nice 5.8 crack. An aid climb kind of looks like cheating, but it’s not. Rather, it’s a method of getting past the “unclimbable” (at least for most climbers) parts of a route. It was the method used for the first ascents of El Cap, and is still used in ascending many “big wall” routes today.

Lolo getting a Little BoostLolo getting a Little BoostTommy volunteered to lead it. Unlike the elegant moves I usually see him do, this wasn’t pretty. It involved him placing a piece of gear as high as he could, clipping a quickdraw to it, and then hauling himself up on the draw to reach better holds. When that didn’t work, he clipped a full-length sling to the piece, put his foot in the loop of the sling, and then stood up on it. This act was repeated over and over until he reached the point where he could “free” climb. At the top, he set up a top rope, so that Andrew and Herb could climb it without having to place protective gear.

“Okay, you’re up next Mom,” he said after being lowered back down. At first I thought he was kidding, but then I realized that he was dead serious. I didn’t know whether to make a run for it, or be proud that he actually through I could make some upward progress on this wall. I went with pride and began putting on my harness, helmet, and shoes.

Andrew on Sunnyside Bench WallAndrew on Sunnyside Bench WallIt was ridiculous and so tiring. To even get started, Tommy had to make a cup with his hands for me to step up into and reach the first supposed hold. From there, I did a combination of hauling myself up on the rope, whimpering, pulling on quickdraws, begging for mercy to be let down, stepping into slings that tried to swing away from me, sobbing, etc., until I finally reached the 5.8 crack.

By this time, my heart was pounding so hard and my arms were so pumped that I didn’t know how I could go on. Then I looked down at their smiling, proud faces and the small crowd of people that had gathered to watch this spectacle, and decided that I had no choice but to surge on. Working on pure adrenaline, to my utter amazement, I actually completed the rest of the climb.

Herb and Andrew took turns on it as well, and agreed that it was probably my biggest outdoor climbing accomplishment to date. I was ready to retire on the top of my game..

I thought we were done climbing for the day, but I was wrong. We moved our operation to another climbing area called Sunnyside Bench, just a little ways to the right of Lower Yosemite Falls. Our “solo” climbing friend Charlie, who we met last Thanksgiving by Swan Slab, had shown us this area, and in particular, a classic 5.9 climb called Jamcrack.

Tommy's First Crack Climb Wearing MittensTommy's First Crack Climb Wearing MittensUnlike Charlie, Andrew used ropes and led the first pitch of the climb, a noteworthy event in that it was his first lead in Yosemite Valley. He set up a top rope so that Herb and Tommy could do this climb, as well as Lazy Bum, the 5.10d next to it.

There was one other first I would like to mention regarding Andrew’s climb. We believe it was the first ascent of Jamcrack accompanied by “Der Bingle” singing Christmas carols. That’s right. Tommy had brought along his Blue Tooth speaker for this very reason. Need I say that Christmas spirits were incredibly high.

Actually, I think there might have been another first. It was getting so cold that Tommy didn’t bother to take off his puffy down parka and mittens to climb. I don’t think anyone has ever documented completing a crack climb while wearing mittens. He looked more like an astronaut about to walk on the moon, than a climber about to ascend a crack.

It was dark by the time we finished and hiked back to the car in the Yosemite Lodge parking lot.

Ahwahnee Brunch and more Valley Photography

Ahwahnee BrunchAhwahnee BrunchIt has become something of a Gaidus Family tradition to wrap up every visit to the Valley with Sunday Brunch in the Ahwahnee Dining Room.

As usual, we requested the “Queen’s Table” in the alcove at the back of the dining room, where Queen Elizabeth sat during one of her visits here. We have made this request probably a half a dozen times over the years, but someone has always beaten us to it. Well, this year we finally nabbed it. Although the Gaidus men always treat me like a queen, this was really special.

The Ahwahnee Dining Room, with its 34-foot-high beamed ceilings, granite pillars, chandeliers, and floor-to-ceiling windows, is the perfect venue for a memorable dining experience and the perfect way to end a wonderful holiday weekend.

The Young AnselThe Young AnselIt was time for the boys to head back to real life in San Francisco. After they left, Herb and I spent the day wandering around the valley, taking more photos, and discussing where to go next.

After years of winter backpacking and ice climbing, somehow Herb has developed a distaste for the cold. So, after his supposed “suffering” in beautiful, snow-covered Yosemite for the past few days, he decided that he should reward himself with a trip down to sunny San Diego.

Sounded good to me!


Snowy MeadowSnowy MeadowYosemite National Park lies near the eastern border of California in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Its spectacular waterfalls, soaring granite cliffs, and lush meadows are just a few of the reasons it is considered by many to be nature’s ultimate masterpiece. In the words of John Muir, “it is surely the brightest and the best of all the Lord has built.”

This description will focus on Yosemite Valley, which is the section of the park we visited. Although the Yosemite Valley is just a small portion of Yosemite’s 761,268 acres, it is part receives 95% of its visitors. In fact, an estimated 4.1 million people visit the Valley each year, making it extremely crowded.

Two one-way roads traverse Yosemite Valley: the east-bound Southside Drive and the west-bound Northside Drive, which wind through woodlands and meadows along the base of the 3,000-foot-high granite cliffs. As of today, cars are still allowed to enter and drive through the valley, but visitors are highly encouraged to park their vehicles and use the park’s free shuttle bus, which stops at the major attractions in the valley.

Virtual Tour of Yosemite Valley Highlights

  • As you enter the valley, the first sight you’ll see is the 620-foot Bridalveil Falls flowing down from a hanging valley to the valley floor. From the parking area, a short paved path leads to the base of the falls. This is one of the few falls in Yosemite that does not completely dry up in the summer.
  • Just past the Bridalveil Fall parking area, the Southside Drive begins to trace the Merced River. Soon El Capitan comes fully into view. This 3,000 foot high granite cliff is the largest single piece of exposed granite in the world and one of the most famous landmarks in Yosemite. If you look closely, you might see small dots that are actually rock climbers along its face.
  • Continuing east on the Southside Drive are two riverside picnic areas and beaches: Cathedral Beach and Sentinel Beach.
  • Right after the Sentinel Beach parking area is the trailhead for the 4-Mile trail, which ascends more than 3,200 feet from the valley floor to Glacier Point and one of the most spectacular views of the valley.
  • A short distance further is Swinging Bridge, another picnic and swimming area. This area is also the westernmost point of the 8-mile bicycle loop that goes through the eastern part of the valley. From this point on, the bike path parallels the road.
  • Next stop is the picturesque tiny Yosemite Chapel where many outdoor enthusiasts choose to exchange wedding vows.
  • Now you enter the congested and developed portion of the valley.
  • Right past the chapel, you can either take a left onto Sentinel Bridge towards Yosemite Village and the park exit, or you can continue straight towards Curry Village, the campgrounds, and Happy Isles Nature Center. For now, let’s stop at Sentinel Bridge for what is probably the most spectacular Half Dome viewpoint in the park. It’s a great spot for a photograph of Half Dome with the Merced River in the foreground.
  • Continuing east on the Southside Drive, you pass Housekeeping Camp and Curry Village. Curry Village has lodging, restaurants, bicycle and raft rentals, a grocery store, and other shops. Curry Village is also one of the main parking areas in the valley.
  • From Curry Village you can either take Northside Drive across the Ahwahnee Bridge back to Yosemite Village and the park exit, or continue east to the campgrounds. The Happy Isles Nature Center is also this way, but only shuttle buses are allowed on the road to it.
  • The Happy Isles Nature Center features exhibits on the natural history of the park. It also serves as the trailhead for some of the best hikes in Yosemite. 1.5 mile trail leads to the top of Vernal Falls and then continues another 1.5 miles to the top of Nevada Falls (two waterfalls that flow even in the summer time). From there you can continue even further into the backcountry of Yosemite, including the cable route up the back of Half Dome.
  • From Curry Village, the Northside Drive crosses the Ahwahnee Meadow, a wonderful spot to gaze at Half Dome during sunset, and enters Yosemite Village, the main center of visitor services in the park. Here you’ll find the park’s main Visitor Center, restaurants, lodging, shops, a grocery store, a post office, a medical clinic, the Ansel Adams Gallery, an Indian Cultural Exhibit and more. It’s also a good place to park your car and jump on the shuttle.
  • A short dead end road from Yosemite Village leads to the majestic old Ahwahnee Hotel, which has played host to Queen Elizabeth, President John F. Kennedy, and Clint Eastwood, to name a few. This beautiful six-story rock structure offers tremendous views from every room. Within the hotel is the elegant and quite expensive Ahwahnee Dining Room (jackets required for dinner).
  • Back on the Northside Drive heading west from Yosemite Village, the next stop is the Yosemite Falls parking area. At 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America. It is actually three waterfalls in one, with an upper, middle and lower section. A short walk from the parking lot along a paved walk leads to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. This is the most visited landmark in the valley. Except in summer when the fall temporarily dries up, you’ll be sure to be covered in spray.
  • A little further west on the Northside Drive is Yosemite Lodge, which marks the end of the developed area of the park going west.
  • Right after Yosemite Lodge is Sunnyside Campground/Camp 4, a place where most rock climbers choose to congregate. From this campground begins the popular and strenuous Yosemite Falls hike, which ascends 2,600 feet from the valley floor to the top of the Upper Falls. The views from the top are incredible.
  • Continuing west, there is nothing but woods and meadows from which to enjoy the views. Along the road there are several pullouts where you can stop and walk down to the Merced River for a swim. Just after the El Capitan Bridge, you’ll come to the El Capitan Meadow where you’re sure to find people looking through binoculars at the miniscule rock climbers clinging to the granite face.
  • Just to the west of El Capitan, Ribbon Falls plunges over 1,600 feet down to the valley floor. It is the seventh highest waterfall in the world. However, it too dries up in the summer time.
  • Finally the road nears the end of the Northside Drive at Valley View where El Capitan, on the left, and Cathedral Rocks, on the right, frame a magnificent valley view.

Several guided bus tours are also available. The 2-hour Valley Floor Tour is a great way to get acclimated. Visitors ride through the valley in an open tram while a guide leads a informative discussion of Yosemite’s history and geology. There are many photo stops along the way. In addition, there are bus tours out of the valley to Glacier Point, the Mariposa Grove of sequoia trees, and Tuolumne Meadows.

Although much of Yosemite can be enjoyed from the comforts of your car or a shuttle, the best way to truly experience Yosemite is do get out and experience it more directly..

Things to do in Yosemite

  • Hike one of the many trails around the valley, ranging from an easy walk to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls to the strenuous 16-mile round trip hike up the back of Half Dome via cables
  • Take an overnight backpacking trip
  • Bike along the 12 miles of bicycle paths that loop through the Valley. Rentals are available at Curry Village and Yosemite Lodge.
  • Rock climb in one of the premier climbing places in the world
  • Raft down the calm waters of the Merced River through the valley. Rentals are available at Curry Village.
  • Swim or tube in the Merced River. Besides the designated beaches, there are many pullouts along the road from which you can walk down to the river.
  • Join one of the many ranger walks, which are offered daily
  • Take a free art class at the Yosemite Art and Education Center
  • Photograph the amazing scenery of the valley and surrounding granite cliffs
  • Browse the Ansel Adams Gallery and see some of the photographs that first made Yosemite famous
  • Relax in the meadow while gazing up at Half Dome or El Capitan
  • Dine at the 5-star Ahwahnee Hotel, where presidents and royalty have stayed

More El CapMore El CapAlthough many try to see Yosemite in a day, it is best to devote several days to seeing all the park has to offer. Besides the numerous hotels, lodges, and cabins in the Valley, there are three RV campgrounds: Upper Pines (238 sites), Lower Pines (60 sites), and North Pines (81 sites). That’s less than 400 campsites to accommodate all the people that want to camp here.

Since these campgrounds usually fill-up within the first hour they become available, it is essential to make your reservations as soon as possible. Campground 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 am Pacific time. For example, if your arrival date is July 15 through August 14, the first day you can make reservations is March 15. The National Park Reservation System can be found at www.recreation.gov. Good luck!

Yosemite National Park location map in "high definition"

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