A First-Timer’s Guide To Yosemite
Yosemite National Park is exceptionally beautiful and an amazing place to visit. Kyle and I spent about two days exploring and hiking in Yosemite Valley during our vacation out west this past October. We stuck to Yosemite Valley because that is where most of the popular sights are and because we wanted to see as much as possible in two days. Overall, the park exceeded my expectations. It was very tourist friendly, easy to get around, and there were lots of food options and restrooms around which definitely helped make our time in the park a great experience.
Visitor Center & Museums
Our first stop was to check out the Visitor Center to plan out our day. We did research ahead of time and already had an idea of which trails we wanted to hike. They had a huge map outside of the Visitor Center that outlines the hiking trails and shuttle map to get there. We browsed around the museum (and the Ansel Adams museum) before heading out to hike.
The hiking trails in Yosemite were beautiful and well maintained. I loved that they had restrooms and water fountains on the trails. We picked a few trails to hike during our time in Yosemite.
The Mist Trail: Vernal and Nevada Falls
We spent the majority of our first day hiking the Mist Trail up to Vernal and Nevada Falls. We were lucky that it rained the day before we arrived at the park so the waterfalls were beautiful. The hike was about 7 miles round trip and we spent about 4-5 hours on the trail. The hike to Vernal wasn’t too bad (except for the ridiculous set of steps up to Vernal Falls), but getting to Nevada Falls was pretty difficult because it was very steep. My favorite view was at the top of Nevada Falls. It was breathtaking and I felt awesome for making it to the top. We took the John Muir trail on the way down so we could avoid going down the steps at Vernal Falls. It was an awesome hike that I would highly recommend!
The next day we did an easy 2 mile hike (more like walk) on the Mirror Lake trail. I was fine with an easy trail since my legs were feeling like jello from hiking the Mist Trail. This was a nice, enjoyable hike that would be great for pretty much everyone. The lake wasn’t much of a lake (and it’s pretty much non-existent when there is no rain) but it was a pretty trail and I got some nice pictures with the mountains being reflected in the water.
Bridalveil Fall was actually our first stop in the park. It was a very short walk up to the fall, only about half a mile round trip. It was pretty but nothing spectacular, at least compared to all the other amazing places we saw in the park. We probably only spent about 20 minutes here.
Other Things To See
There are so many pretty views while driving and walking around the valley. Half Dome and El Capitan are two must sees. (There are multiple viewpoints for both Half Dome and El Capitan) Also, I would highly recommend Tunnel View for an overall view of the valley. We stopped there on our way out of the park and it was so breathtaking.
Where To Stay & Eat
Camping and lodging in the park are both excellent options and I would love to do that the next time I visit Yosemite. We stayed outside of the park at two different hotels. The first night we stayed at Yosemite Westgate Lodge (about 20 minutes away from the park entrance) and ate at Buck Meadows Restaurant because that was the only restaurant around and it was terrible. The hotel was just OK- but there was no working internet (except in the lobby, which wasn’t working while we were there) and the service kind of sucked. The following night we stayed 10 minutes farther away in Groveland at Hotel Charlotte, which was an amazing boutique hotel in a small town. The rooms were beautiful and the service was excellent. That night we checked out the Iron Door Saloon across the street, which is the oldest drinking establishment in California, and it was so much fun. We ate two meals in the park as well, pizza in Half Dome Village and burgers in the Yosemite Valley/Visitor Center area.
Yosemite is fantastic and a place that everyone should experience in their lifetime. I was definitely impressed with how easy it was to get around, to eat, drink, and relax while being in one of the most beautiful places in America. There are plenty of things to do for people of all ages and fitness levels. I’d love to go back here one day to explore more of this wonderful place.