I meet a lot of people who are vacationing in Yosemite for their first time and I’m always amazed by the level of disappointment they feel with their vacation. With that in mind I came up with 6 things that’ll help make your Yosemite vacation better.
1. Visit in the off season. 9 out of 10 people I talk to always complain about the crowds. “There are so many people here!” Believe it or not most of the visitors to the park schedule their vacations in June, July and August. Those are the 3 worst months of the year to visit Yosemite in my opinion. It’s hot, the bugs are insane, the waterfalls are but a trickle and there’s tons of visitors. Coming in the off months you’ll not only avoid the crowds but you’ll get to see the waterfalls and Yosemite wonders as few see them and save some money on your lodging. Off season room rates are cheaper you know.
2. Learn to love the other 3 seasons. Once again another comment why the off season is better. Sure you may love swimming and hiking in the summer but wouldn’t you love to get around without the crowds? Have you ever tried snowshoeing? How about cross country skiing? Yosemite is one of the best places in the world to learn. Think of snowshoeing to Glacier Point to see Half Dome covered in snow the way few ever see it. Sounds awesome to me.
3. Give yourself more than a day. I’m always amazed by the emails that start, “I’m coming into Yosemite but I only have one day.” Why? Why go? I can understand why I do day trips. I mean, I live right here. But if you only have one day you’re missing so much. Figure it this way, if you do the Yosemite Falls hike and go all the way to the top and back down you’ve just spent about 6 hours. By the time you’ve rested for your next hike your trip is over. Give yourself at least 3 days if you plan on staying in the Valley and a week or more if you want to explore the surrounding areas.
4. Don’t resign yourself to only seeing what’s inside the park. When John Muir petitioned to have Yosemite made into a reservation for future generations to come and enjoy the beauty of nature he petitioned for a lot more land than is inside the borders of Yosemite today. Over the years the park has been gnawed at by this and that until finally reaching the size it is today. Don’t be afraid to do some driving and visit the things around the park. Go check out Calaveras Big Trees up Highway 4. They’re a grove of giant Sequoia that just had a major overhaul to their visitor facilities. Perfect for the older travelers that like a nice, wooden plank path that’s easy to navigate. Stop at Columbia on your way. It’s a gold mining community that’s part of California’s State Park system. You’ll want to visit the candy shop because the fudge and pecan bars are awesome. Get some wine in Murphys on the way. Murphys is a burgeoning wine region that produces many fine wines. Go to Mono Lake and check out the Tufa, natural towers made of carbonates that coalesced when the lake was higher and now form eery statues. Check out Bodie, a real ghost town from California’s Silver days.
5. Be flexible. Sometimes mother nature doesn’t want to play along with even the best made plans. When that happens be flexible and play it by ear. If it’s pouring rain spend some time in the Village. Visit the museum and the stores and learn about the history of Yosemite and it’s culturally diverse inhabitants. Either way, be flexible. Go with the flow. Everyone will have a better trip if you’re not trying to force it to fit an itinerary you made at your kitchen table.
6. Look around you. Not too long ago my wife and I were talking outside the store at Glacier Point when some tourists, German by the accent, came up to 2 NPS workers and asked directions. The workers, much to their credit, tried to get the visitors to take interest in a pair of mating hawks dashing about overhead but to no avail. The moral is, look around you. There is more to Yosemite than just big rocks and waterfalls. There are multitudes of diverse plant and animal species. Bats, cougars, bobcats, bears, coyotes, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, skunks, deer, marmots and many more to see.