Yosemite National Park - pearl of the US Southwest
Yosemite national park is the 3rd most visited park in the USA. And it is rightfully called as the pearl of the west. Yosemite are located in the land of Sierra Nevada mountain range in California state. We set out to Yosemity national park within our road trip in the US Southwest, specifically from Sequoia National Park that is only a few hours drive from here and we did not regret going. Entrance fee is 30 USD/7 days/car, with National Park Pass it is chargé free. But needs to be paid and could be a big deal is accommodation in Yosemite.
Accommodation in Yosemite – camping with no reservation is best option
Accommodation in Yosemite is very expensive therefore the best option is camping without reservation. But how to obtain a camping spot in Yosemite? We arrived in the evening so it was totally clear we had no chance to stay any place in the valley. That is why we headed to Tamarack Flat Campground located about 45 minutes from Yosemite Valley by car. The night here costs only 12 USD. It is first come, first serve campgroung. When we got there we found out that all campsites were already occpied. But there is a rule that on each campsite it is possible to pitch up two tents. We asked someone to join them and of course were very welcome.
In the morning we woke up early, at 5 am and drove down the valley to Camp 4 where we wanted to spend a few days and nights. Why so early? Well it is a walking camp, so it works on the same bases – fist come, first serve. We had been waiting in the line for hours before ranger came and gave us a card with number. It was our entrance ticket to the campground guaranteeing we were in. Why we chose this campsite? Camp 4 is very well located campground and also the cheapest possible accommodation in Yosemite Valley. The night in Camp 4 costs only 12 USD and everything necessary is within a reach.
Yosemite Valley is an important part of Yosemite National Park. It is also a place with the highest concentration of visitors. It is a beautiful glacial valley where flows river Merced and it is surrounded by magnificent dense forests and granite rocks and mountains. There are many trails suitable for hiking or cycling in the valley. During these explorations it is possible to visit the highest Californian waterll fall – Yosemite Fall or Bridalveil Fall; or observe climbers with a telescope how they conquer El Capitan wall; alternativel take a bath in Merced river at some of faraway places; explore local fauna and flora and simply enjoy the atmosphere.
Public transportation in Yosemite National Park
In the park everyone can do something positive for the nature. Yosemite National Park offers a possibility of transportation from one place to another buy free shuttle buses. So either you go shopping downtown Yosemite Valley or take a shower you simply do not have to drive your car. Public transportation in Yosemite will make your holiday easier.
Where to take a shower in Yosemite
Yosemite National park does not offer showering in their own campgrounds. But you can take a shower in Yosemite Valley! There are 2 private campgrounds – Curry Village and Housekeeping Camp. We tried both of them and took a shower free of change. All you need to do is to bring your own towel and sometimes wait in the line because there are many shower bidders. And after a demanding hike shower is the best thing to do and take.
John Muir Trail a Pacific Crest Trail – hiking & walking in Yosemite
John Muir Trail (JMT) is probably one of the most famous tourist trailheads in the world. It is named after John Muir, naturalist and conservationist who made a contribution to restoration of Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park. Up to now year after year many backpackers walk in his footsteps. JMT is 210.4 miles long and runs about 162 miles in conjuction with Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Hiking JMT is possible within 20-30 days. By way of contrast PCT more time-consuming and hikers usually need 6-8 months to get from the border of Mexico across the US West up to the border of Canada and its province British Columbia. To hike both of these trails everyone needs to obtain a special permit. To get JMT permit people usually apply even more than 6 months in advance. We wanted to walk at least a part of that and we discovered many other interesting places and trailheads.
Vernal Fall – waterfall on the river Merced
We took shuttle bus and went directly to the stop called Happy Isles. Our plan was to hike Vernal Fall on John Muir Trail and Mist Trail. From Happy Isles we went directly on John Muir Trail and after hiking a few kilometers we followed our journey on Mist Trail up to Vernal Fall. The trail was beautiful but nevertheless very frequent up to the waterfall top. We did not bring our swimsuits but we found out up there that it was possible to swim in natural Emerald Pool. Never mind we at least splashed our legs and refreshed ourselves before our next hike. We did not want to go the same way down so we decided to follow Mist Trail and at the fork we continued on John Muir Trail. It is also possible to go up to Nevada Fall from there. Once we moved from the main trailhead we appeared in a beautiful landscape where we were all alone. For some hundereds of meters we hiked up the hill where we were awarded by a spectacular view. Afterwards we went only down and within an hour we were back at Happy Isles. We got on the bus and drove back to cook a dinner at Camp 4 and take a rest before our upcoming hike.
John Muir Trail from Tuolumne Meadow Visitor Center to Tenaya Lake
Early morning we catched free shuttle bus at Yosemite Lodge that is only 5 minute walk from Camp 4. Journey to our final destination Tuolumne Meadow Visitor Center took nearly 2 hours. From Tuolumne Meadow Visitor Center we walked for a while on the road and after several meters we connected to John Muir Trail. We hiked several long kilometers to steep hills where stones were alternated into dust and forest paths. By the time we reached turning to Cathedral Lakes where we did not go because we were running out of time so we had to keep walking JMT. We went though Cathedral Pass where grandiose views on surrounding mountains came in our way. We mostly liked Fairview Dome, Cathedral Peak, Tressider Peak and Matthes Crest. We followed up on the scenic meadow until we reached Sunrise High Sierra Camp. There we cooked a late lunch, refreshed, gained strength and moved on. It was also a place to say goodbye to JMT because we needed to go back towards Tioga Road. We started walking Sunrise Lake Trailhead but getting to these beautiful lakes required another steep hill climb up. It was worth it! Lakes had a magical atmosphere and there was basically no one. It was the first time when we felt really sorry we had not stand the line to get a permit for wildcamping because this place was so idyllic for overnight stay. We checked the time and realized we need to run. Soon we connected to Clouds Rest Trail that took us to Tenaya Lake. It was a really steep and difficult descent as there were huge stone steps. We left our lungs on the hill and soul in the middle. We literally ran to catch the last shuttle heading down the Yosemite Valley. We made it. One good person advised us not to go on the bus stop, it was ok to go any place on the road and wait in the right direction and thumb a ride. She was right, the bus driver stopped and took us. That day we walked 12 miles and it took us 9 hours with several breaks. We can truly recommend hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Tenaya Lake along John Muir Trail!
Glacier Point – Half Dome within arm’s reach
The other day we were too lazy to go hiking therefore we sat in the car and headed towards Glacier Point. Why going there by car when shuttles are for free? The thing is that Glacier Point is the only place where shuttle takes you but on duty. The return ticket costs 41 USD/person which is in our opinion simply too much for 62 mile drive. That is why we gaved up on Glacier Point Tour and went at our own pace. We were lucky when we arrived at the parking as there were still lots available. We climbed up the lookout point and we enjoyed the view. Yosemite Valley views were beautiful but even more amazing was outlook at famous Half Dome for which everyone comes to this place. We made about 300 photos because we could not get enough. In a distance we saw Vernall Fall and Nevada Fall and when it is high visibility it is possible to sight High Sierra Mountains. We were amazed so we decided to stop on the way back and take a walk. We went for a short hike from Sentinel Dome Trailhead Point along Pohono Trail to Taft Point and The Fissures. It was a good choice because this place offers excellent view at El Capitan from different perspective. Return journey was 2,17 miles long and took us about an hour. On the way back to Yosemite Valley we stopped at the Tunnel View located on Wawona Road. It offers amazing view at Yosemite National Park from another angle.
Tioga Pass Road – scenic road of Yosemite
We decided to leave Yosemite National Park via the most beautiful road in the park that is without a doubt Tioga Pass Road. This scenic road is 58 miles long and has a lot to offer. Among the most significant natural attractions on this route belongs Olmstead Point Overlook providing fascinating views widely. Nearby is situated Tenaya Lake where you can swim in the summer or enjoy wonderful picnic. A short distance away we admired Tuolumne Meadows with views at peaks Polly Dome and Lembert Dome. Afterwards we reached Dana Meadows where landscape significantly changed and when the weather is good there one can see Mt. Dana. During our trip along Tioga Pass Road we drove through picturesque lakes, the most beautiful we found Gaylor Lakes and Ellery Lake situated close the end of his mountain road. For us it was a time to definitely say goodbye to Yosemite and set out to new adventures. There are places like Mono Lake, Ghost town Bodie, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest & Alabama Hills movie road ahead.
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