We arrived in one piece….Thank God! So we were not going to drive on this trip as I was the only one that had a valid license at the time and I didn’t want to get stuck with the driving for the entire trip. Coupled with not having my own full driving license for too long before our trip and not having driven outside of Ireland before, I had my worries about doing it in America!
It wasn’t long before we realised that public transport from San Francisco to Yosemite was not the most efficient way of getting there. It was going to take us a lot longer on public transport then we had thought. Travelling to America, we primarily had cities/locations picked and accommodation booked for California. With this we had a schedule to stick to that was not too flexible.
So, the night before leaving San Francisco the realisation that I would have to drive started to set in. Of course, we could have gotten public transport but this involved getting a BART (like subway) to Amtrak (American train service) to YARTS to the Yosemite Shuttle (click here for more info on public transport). This was working out that we would end up losing a nights accommodation which we couldn’t afford so we were faced with an unexpected hiccup already.
Not to worry, I went out practising driving in the car that belonged to the family we were staying with and also the following day and we headed to San Francisco Airport and rented a car for the next few days using the company ‘Alamo‘ which cost use about €500 for abut 5 days which was expensive but we didn’t have a choice. Automatic cars, very harsh breaks, needing a big car to fit all our luggage (4 girls who defo do not travel light) not being able to turn on the car after sitting into it at the rental, we finally got on the road to Yosemite. Thank god it was dark because we were literally driving along cliff edges and 7,000 ft high in the mountains, it was an experience! 4 hours later and we arrived to Cedar Lodge in Yosemite National Park and WOW WOW WOW!!!! I have just forgotten the last few crazy hours…
At night, as we pulled in it was like taking a step back in time and is just like the image of real American countryside. There was a very old style reception with a miniature grocery shop to the side of it with your few essentials, a bar, lounge, indoor & outdoor pool and a restaurant. I guess there were no major facilities in proximity to this accommodation so they had it all. This might be an issue for some people but there is NO WIFI or PHONE SERVICE at Cedar Lodge. Now, I am sure you can maybe pay to for use of computer in reception but this would cost you. We each called home on the really old style phone, like the circular manual dialling ones and let them no that we arrived and we would speak to them once we finished our stay in Yosemite. I remember that this call alone was expensive. The bedroom are very old fashioned but it was perfect for what we needed. It was a buffet style breakfast and it was very nice and dinner in the restaurant was standard too and it was very budget friendly for the 3 days/3 nights we spent here. Perfect for what we needed!
Ok, lets get stuck in!! I am sorry if this goes on a bit but there is so much to talk about and I left a bit of my heart here ❤
First of all, having a car made our experience seamless! (Not necessary though click here for information on transport) Getting from one place to another on your own accord is very helpful. Leaving Cedar Lodge, head on the most beautiful drive through the area to get to Yosemite’s ‘official’ entrance. This will take you about 30-40minutes but the views alone make it feel like a 5 minute drive! Pass by huge rock boulders, granite mountains, Merced River and waterfalls, it is a drive that you would never tire from. *Stop at the small shop on your way to Yosemite entrance to stick up on your supplies at a cheaper price!* On arrival to the entrance you are greeted by a park ranger where he kindly gave us information leaflets and a map of the park. There are different entrance passes/fees that you may need to pay as it states on the website here. It is a good idea to have a clear check list on what hikes, walks, views you want to hit during your days and with this find what is close to one another and park at the most suitable car parks.
Bridalveil Fall; Once of Yosemite’s Waterfalls was first up on our agenda. It was the last week in August we visited and the weather was great, very hot during the day and cool at night! Bridalveil Fall is relatively easy to get to and the park is very well sign posted. Although I would say make sure you have good shoes for walking & hiking as the rock is majorly Granite which smooth and slippery (especially when you have sketcher runners on like I did, not my best idea). With the heat and the recent devasting Ferguson Fires the waterfalls were very light falling. Bridalveil Fall was very wispy and high, which gave an appearance that the water was flowing from the sky. Signs of the Ferguson Fires were evident as we walked by. Anyway after some rock climbing, we grabbed some lunch in the Café, where you had many onlooking squirrels ready to clean up if you left anything behind. Be sure to clean as you go and use the appropriate bins which it vital to keep the ears and other wildlife at bay. There are signs everywhere about this.
Ansel Adams Gallery; Calling all photographers and people into taking photo’s like myself then you must into Ansel Adams Gallery. Ansel Adam specialised in Black & White photography and captured Yosemite widely to promote conservation in the wild. The gallery showcases his work and is a real treat! You can sign up and buy a pass to go on a photography hike from here with professionals if you wish but it is expensive. Something I will do when I return.
Valley Floor Tour; Yosemite is sooo grand that it would have been impossible for us to see it all by ourselves in the time we had. So we purchased an evening Valley Floor Tour which cost us about €35 each. The evening tour was great, we had snacks ready and as the sun began to go down and the park became a quieter we set off on the Valley Tour with a guide. Sit back and listen to all the amazing facts and sites dotted around the park. There are photo opportunity stops, interactive tour, personal stories from the guide and you pass by the amazing El Captain where you might spot a Free Climber (5 times higher than the Empire State Building), Half Dome and spotted baby bears. I would definitely recommend if you are only visiting for a few days. Great way to get a grasp on the park.
Today, we headed back into the heart of Yosemite and began the MIST TRAIL, as it suggests, this trail that showcases many waterfalls. It was a HOT & HARD walk and the waterfall was close to non-existent when we finally reached it but it was still a great hike. After returning back to the base of the hike, relax by the river and take it all in!
Sequoias Trees; There are three locations to see the amazing Sequoia trees; Mariposa Grove, Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove. We drove to Tuolumne Grove, which is less visited than Mariposa. This was a 45 minute drive from Yosemite and it was extremely quiet here! You have to search for the Sequoia Trees, so we set off on another hike. We were wrecked at this point and a little on edge as it was getting later in the evening and we were afraid of bears haha! After a mile hike we began to see the Sequoias trees and they are something else, you won’t believe the size of them until you see them with your own eyes. Headed back to Cedar Lodge and spent the night in the jacuzzi and other swimming pool. Great way to finish the day.
As plans went we were supposed to leave for our next location first thing today, but we all loved it so much we decided to head back into Yosemite for the morning. This was mainly due to the fact that I really wanted to go on one of the free photo tours that Ansel Adams Gallery were hosting… This was such a great thing to do! A small group of travellers all gathered at the gallery, first thing and we set off on a really informative class of photography. I learnt great tips and tricks and it gave a fresh look at photos. You are brough to different locations and practise shooting in different ways. It was really good! I am no way a professional photographer and I found it great! There were people with DSLR’s, Point & Shoot cameras and even phones. It is open to anyone who has an interest in photography, Sign up in Ansel Adams Gallery.
We ventured back to the car which we had already packed and it was goodbye Yosemite and onto the next location!!
We were heading North and came across some great pitstop locations;
- Mono Lake; is a saline soda lake in Mono County, California, formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in an endorheic basin.
- Lee Vining; is a small village with cowboy vibes, truck stop town, authentic shops.
- INYO National Forest; where you are driving 9,000 ft above sea level so it is not for the fainted.
If you want to do add Yosemite to your base location that you are holidaying in then I would suggest looking into overnight tours- For example we came from San Francisco and here is a 2 day trip from San Fran to Yosemite with accommodation in Cedar Lodge!! Very similar to what we did and could save you a lot of hassle. Read reviews and know what your tickets entails before purchasing! https://www.getyourguide.com/san-francisco-l61/from-san-francisco-cedar-lodge-2-day-yosemite-park-tour-t27795/ <— click here for San Fran to Yosemite
Be sure to stock up on supplies on the way to Yosemite as it is cheaper than accommodation and shops in Yosemite prices. Be careful to get supplies that you can hide in your car properly out of site and do not leave anything in view as there is a risk of bears invading your car. Read here for information on food and food storage.
Camping and cabin accommodation in Yosemite is always another option if that is what you prefer. There is a swimming pool that visitors can use, there are so many activities available all year round at Yosemite. In fact, it is only now that I have found out you can skydive in Yosemite… I have found my excuse to go back!! This is a great place to look for activities = https://www.yosemite.com/things-to-do/ & https://www.travelyosemite.com/things-to-do/guided-bus-tours/.
Make sure to bring proper clothing and equipment with you for trails and make sure to look up updates/closures and important information that is posted on the website due to fires, time of year, events etc.
Lastly, enjoy the time offline! No WIFI & SERVICE (there are areas in Yosemite that has both if you look for them) is something so foreign to us all now but it was the making of the few days we spent here! Life goes on and dare I say it.. is better without a phone so enjoy this peace and quiet getaway.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Yosemite and all it has to offer, I feel I only tipped the iceberg when I visited and I will definitely be returning one day for a much longer stay. It was a great change to San Francisco where we had been for a few day before Yosemite.
Any questions please just ask, I only love re-thinking about this trip!!