You’ve seen the pictures but it in no way compares to actually being there. Yosemite National Park is a unique and mesmerizing landmark found in the eastern part of California. Despite my parents-in-law’s countless travels across Europe, Yosemite is one of their favorite destinations. So why, if you only have a limited time to tour the entire state of California on your vacation, should you dedicate 1-3 days to visit this national park? Because you don’t want to miss out on an experience which you and your family will cherish for a lifetime.
Yosemite National Park has something for everyone. Though camping and hiking are two of the main activities here, you do not have to be the outdoorsy-type to enjoy it. There are various other types of lodging, paved roads, a visitor center complete with Native American history, souvenir shops, and more. Plus, with fallen trees, bubbling rivers, sticks galore, and little creatures bustling about, there are million things to tire the kids out and leave you to peacefully relax in front of a cozy fire.
The waterfalls, ah, the glorious waterfalls. The therapeutic effects of listening to the constant sound of water, enjoying a wonderful sunny day, being engulfed in a fine mist, and seeing the rainbows created by perfectly positioned water droplets is incomparable. Bridal Veil Falls is only one of the many falls that can be found in Yosemite but it is famous for good reason. If you get there about an hour before dusk the lighting makes for great pictures. I’ve never hiked up to the peak of Bridalveil but if it’s anything like the one for Yosemite Falls, it’s a bit steep and slippery. The absolute best time to see the falls is in mid-April to early-May when they have just thawed out and the waters are flowing at full force. Typically this time also includes mild weather, fewer crowds (before Memorial Day), and rich contrasts of color between fresh greenery and lingering snow.
What really shines about Yosemite is the natural beauty and serenenity found all over that even ‘city folks’ can appreciate in full. To stand at the base of Half Dome or El Capitan and look up reminds you how menial the day-to-day stresses of life are in contrast to the majesty and awe these gigantic wonders invoke. Okay, okay, I know I’m a bit wordy but it’s so hard to describe the feeling you get on that massive grassy area and take in the majesty of the elements around you. It’s just as amazing at night – I can’t wait to take our new telescope on our next trip here!
At one shuttle stop, we found the stables for horseback riding. Though we did not take a ride this time, we did return the next day with some carrots to feed the horses. My daughter LOVED this part of our trip! Speaking of food, the food in the park is terrible. Period. Except for one pizza place in Curry Village, the rest of the food here is overpriced and pretty much tastes like rubber. If possible, you’ll want to go outside the park to eat or bring your own. Keep in mind that bears are a huge problem in the area so use one of the many specially-marked bins for storing your food.
Admission is very reasonable and allows full in-and-out privileges for a week. However, many of the roads are restricted to public use. Instead you can catch the free shuttle which will take you to all the main tourist spots. From there, most areas are easily accessed with a short, easy hike. The newspaper you receive when entering the park is basically an all-in-one guidebook for your stay. It includes weather warnings, event listings, and hiking details to fully plan each day. There is a lot of wildlife in the area but it may be hard to spot them in the well-trafficked areas. At the end of our trip we were finally able to capture one last memory thanks to a family of Mule Deer on the side of the road:
Continue reading about Yosemite’s Points of Interest.