One of my favorite National Parks so far. Either in Summer or in Winter, Yosemite should be on your bucket list
Where should I land ?
Fresno–Yosemite International (FAT) or Merced Airport (MCE) : Allow about 2.5 hours to Yosemite Valley
Sacramento International (SMF) Allow about 4 hours to Yosemite Valley
San Francisco International (SFO), Oakland International (OAK) or San José International (SJC) : Allow about 5 hours to Yosemite Valley
What kind of car should I rent ?
Whatever you want. You can rent an economic car because you won’t have to drive on difficult roads. You can rent a Van or an RV but make sure you registered to stay in a campsite.
Where to sleep ?
Camping: In a tent, van or RV, it’s up to you. Reservations are the best way to make sure you have a place, especially during summer. Yosemite is one of the busiest National Parks I have seen. From April to June, the very first-come, first-served might find a campsite. Make your reservation on Recreation.gov or check it out often. If it’s sold out you might find a cancellation in a campground that accepts reservations in or near Yosemite. There are 11 different campsites but only 4 in Yosemite Valley. Camp 4 (tent site only, $6 per night) located at the beginning of Yosemite Fall trail and near Yosemite Valley Lodge. Pines Campgrounds: Lower Pines, Upper Pines and North Pines ($26 / night) located near Half Dome Village.
Backpacking: Free wilderness permits are required year-round for any overnight stay in Yosemite. There is a limited number of people for each trailhead. Reservations are available up to 24 weeks in advance ($5 per confirmed reservation + $5 per person) If it’s something you would like to do, learn more about or make a reservation Click here
Hotel: The hotels closest to Yosemite Valley are the more expensive ones. You will have to drive a bit further if you don’t want to spend more than $100 a night. I usually book with Booking.com
Public Transportation :
A large service of public transportations are available to get to Yosemite or to get around. Amtrak, Greyhound, YARTS, free shuttles… Please check out Yosemite National Park’s website for more information. I only used Yosemite Valley Shuttle, so I won’t be able to help you with the others but I wanted to let you know the possibilities. Below is some information about Yosemite Valley shuttle system:
- Yosemite Valley Shuttle provides service around eastern Yosemite Valley and operates year-round from 7am to 10pm. It stops at most of the trailheads located into Yosemite Valley, the Pines Campgrounds, Camp 4, Half Dome Village, Visitor Center…
- El Capitan shuttle stops at El Capitan, Bridaveil Falls, Four Mile trailhead and the Valley Visitor Center. It operates from mid-June through early October from 9am to 5pm.
What to do ?
Yosemite National Park offers various activities
- Guided Tours: Take a tour at Glacier Point. Overlook with view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Yosemite’s high country. Available when the Glacier Point Road is open, typically late May through October. You don’t have to take the tour, you can drive there on your own. Also, Valley Floor Tour and Tuolumne Meadows Tour are offered. To make a reservation Click here.
- Hiking: There are so many hiking possibilities. Easy, moderate or streneous. You can find a list with more details on the National Park’s website. For some ideas, check out below in “My experience”
- Art & Photography: Art class and Photography walks, classes & workshop…
- Backpacking (wilderness permit required)
- Biking: Bicycles are available for rent in Yosemite Valley
- Rock Climbing & Bouldering
- Water activities: Kayak, Canoe, raft
- Winter Sports: Cross-country skiing, Snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, Snow tubing, sledding and ice skating
The Half Dome is a Yosemite Icon and a great challenge to many hikers. A permit is required to hike to Half Dome.
It’s a 14 to 16 mile hike (roundtrip) and you will be gaining elevation for a total of 4,800 ft. This is a very streneous hike and it is not for you if you are out of shape or unprepared. Along the way, you will have a stunning view of Vernal and Nevada falls, Liberty Cap and Half Dome. Most hikers take 10 to 12 hours to make it. The best is to start the earliest possible like before sunrise and have a non-negociable turn-around time if you haven’t reached the top of the Half Dome (3:30 pm the latest).
The most famous and incredible experience of the hike is the ascent up the cables. The 2 metal cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment. Wear good hiking boots and bring gloves for the cables (Some pairs were available before the climb but it’s better to have yours in case they are all taken).
About the permit:
A maximum of 300 hikers are allowed each day (about 225 day hikers and 75 backpackers). Permits are distributed by lottery via Recreation.gov.
The preseason Lottery runs from March 1 through March 31. 225 permits are available each day. Results in mid-April by email.
The Daily Lottery has approximately 50 permits available. You have to apply 2 days prior to the hiking date.
Fees: Two separate fees are collected. The first fee is charged at the time you submit an application, $4.50 online or $6.50 by phone (per application). Non-refundable. The second fee is $8 per person only when you receive a permit.
For 2017, they are planning on the Half Dome cables being up May 26 through October 10, but these dates could change based on conditions.
HOW TO APPLY: Visit Recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777.
I went to Yosemite National Park with my friend Hellen in Mid-June. We spent 3 days there. I planned and booked this trip about a month and half before.
How much did it cost ?
☆ Flight: $150 / pers (From Seattle to Sacramento) Why Sacramento? I considered to land either at San Francisco or Sacramento. The flight was the same price but the rental was cheaper and the drive a bit shorter from Sacramento.
☆ Rental: $160 insurance included with Enterprise (4 days) / 2 pers
☆ Gas: $50 / 2 pers
☆ Hostel: $137 for 3 nights / pers. Yosemite International Hostel at Groveland. We shared the room with 6 other people. Cheap hostel. Was OK for the price. Bed not really comfortable. Kitchen and bathroom shared with about 10 people. Located about 1h drive from Yosemite Valley.
What did we do ?
We arrived at Yosemite National Park around 3:30 pm but we were stuck in traffic in the park for about 1h30. When we could finally park the car at Yosemite Valley and start hiking, it was late and we didn’t have time for a long one. We did Mirror Lake, which is an easy, famous and beautiful hike. The entire loop is a 5 mile hike or you can hike to the lake and back, which is 2 miles.
Then, we stopped and admired Yosemite Fall before we hit the road and checked in at the hostel.
Early morning! I woke up my friend at 5:30am and we drove to Clouds Rest Trailhead, which was 1h30 drive. The trailhead is off Tioga Road. The parking lot is very small and fills up fast. It was already full when we arrived around 7:30 am but we still found a spot. It’s a 14.5 mile hike with 1,775 ft elevation gain (Clouds Rest elevation: 9,926 ft) . Bring enough water because it’s really hot and the hike takes about 8h. This hike is all about the destination but it’s totally worth it. You will have striking views in every direction, including Half Dome. Also, I recommend that you bring a mosquito spray. I got like 50 mosquito bites this day 😂😣
Woooow! I was so lucky. I won the permit to climb the Half Dome. I tried to get it by applying at the Daily Lottery 2 days before and I got the permit for my friend and myself. It’s probably the hardest hike I have done for now but also the one I’m the most proud about. We started the hike around 7:30 am and I was done at 4:30 pm. On our way, there were 2 amazing waterfalls called Vernal and Nevada Falls. You should definitely include them in your To-do list even if you don’t have the Half Dome permit. It is not required to see them. Also, it’s a BUSY trail. I recommend you to go early if you want to avoid the crowd.
Two Park Rangers were checking the permit at the base of the subdome, about 1 mile before the cable. I met people walking back upset because they were turned away, so don’t waste your time if you don’t have the permit. They strongly recommend at least 1 gallon of water (4L). I didn’t bring enough (2 quarts/2L) and it was a huge mistake. I ran out of water on my way back and it was a terrible experience. A really nice woman gave me one of her bottles of water and I can tell you, she saved my life.
Getting the permit for the Half Dome changed my plan since I didn’t expect to win it 😅 There were other hikes I wanted to do and places I wanted to see but I didn’t have time or energy. Here’s a list of what else I wanted to do:
- Bridaveil Fall Trail : 0.5 mile ~ 30min
- Sentinel Dome : 2.2 mile ~ 1h30
- Cathedral Lakes : 8 mile ~ 4h
- Overlooks : Glacier Point, Washburn Point and Tunnel view (I did Tunnel View during my winter trip)
- Swimming and rafting at Merced River. You can rent a raft or bring your own. (June & July depending on conditions)