It is easier to feel than to realize, or in any way explain, Yosemite grandeur.

– John Muir

Day 1

Our Yosemite trip was the middle part of our 9 day California Adventure.  We drove to Yosemite’s South entrance after an overnight stay in Sonoma Valley.   We opted for the South entrance since it was closest to our cabin at The Redwoods In Yosemite.  We made the decision to rent a cabin instead of bringing our tent since our visit was part of a larger trip that we didn’t want to have to bring more luggage on. I definitely plan to go back and camp in Yosemite, but that will be another post for another day. The drive from Sonoma to Yosemite was nothing spectacular, but it was very different than anything we’d seen before.  The roads were lined with large golden hills almost the entire way. We stopped in the town of Oakhurst just before the park to stock up on some groceries for the next three days.   Once we finnaly got to Yosemite, I immediately felt like I was in one of those car commercials where they drive through the winding roads in the forest; it was incredible!  I think it was also the point where I first fell in love with this park!

We arrived at our adorable cabin, named ‘The Mini Cabin’ sometime in the afternoon and got settled in.

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The Mini Cabin

Not sure how to spend the next few hours, we went to the nearby store and asked for some suggestions and ultimately decided to hang in the area near our cabin.  When we came back to our cabin, we realized it was very HOT!  We called the front office and told them the AC  was broken, at which point they laughed at us and told us there was no AC. Eventually we figured out that one of us had accidentally bumped into the oven and turned it on, which was quickly heating our ‘mini cabin’.  Once we turned the oven off, opened the windows, and the sun went down, we cooled off and rested up for our big day ahead.

Day 2

Our first full day in Yosemite was amazing! We woke up and cooked a big breakfast which we ate on our cute little patio, then made the hour long drive into the valley.  Yosemite Valley is definitely one of the highlights of the park.  There is so much to see in this area, and it’s the starting point for a lot of great hikes.  Josh and I chose to hike up the Four Mile Trail (which is actually closer to 5 miles) to Glacier Point, then hike the Panorama Trail (8.5 miles) from Glacier Point back to the Valley.

The Four Mile Trail was pretty difficult with our packs that were probably over-packed, and without being used to the elevation (I believe the trail started at around 4000 ft and ended at over 7000 ft), but it was well worth the views.

  • Four Mile Trail
    • Difficulty: Strenuous
    • Distance: 4.8 miles
    • Elevation Change: approx. 3200 ft
    • Time: 3-5 hours one way

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At the end of Four Mile Trail we arrived at our reward, Glacier Point.  You can see for miles in many directions from Glacier Point, and you have unobstructed views of lots of Yosemite’s famous formations, including Half Dome! It was every bit as beautiful as we’d heard, and since it is accessible via car and bus, there were lots of other visitors there!  We were glad we’d taken the hard route though, because it made it us appreciate the view even more.

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We restocked on (expensive) snacks at Glacier Point and began our hike back to Happy Isles via the Panorama Trail.

  • Panorama Trail
    • Difficulty: Moderate – Strenuous
    • Distance: 8.5 miles
    • Elevation Change: approx. 3200 ft
    • Time: 6-8 hours one way

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The Panorama Trail promised to be a rewarding return route with views of Half Dome, Illilouette Falls, Vernal Falls, and Nevada Falls.  If I had to pick only one of the trails to do again, it would be this one! Although I loved the Four Mile Trail, the Panorama Trail had much more variety and equally as stunning views!

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Toward the end of the Panorama Trail, you get to descend right next to one of the giant waterfalls!  If you hike this trail, be sure to bring a rain jacket and a waterproof cover for your pack because you will get wet!  This was probably Josh’s favorite part of the whole trail, but I was too focused on not falling on the slippery rocks that I didn’t get to enjoy it as much.  Once we finally made it past the falls, it started getting dark and we were thankful to have our headlamps! We ran into a lot of hikers who had climbed Half Dome and were making their way back down the same section we were.  Talking to them sparked a little bit of jealousy, and I keep telling Josh that we have to go back to do Half Dome one day!

We finally made it back to Happy Isles, and eventually back to the car. By this time we were beat! I think in total we ended up walking around 14 miles that day, so needless to say, we went back to our cabin and passed out.

Day 3

Our last full day in Yosemite, sigh….

We wanted to make the most of our last day, but were also pretty sore from Day 2 and wanted to take it easy.  Luckily we accomplished both of these things by choosing to hike to Taft Point and then to Sentinel Dome.

We drove to the trailhead for Taft Point and began the hike in a cool wooded area.  This area felt somewhat different than the other parts of Yosemite we’d seen so far; the air was cool and moist, and there was bright green moss everywhere!  We continued down the trail  and found one of our favorite views of the whole trip on this trail! We quickly made it to Taft Point, and it was stunning! It was a great spot to stop and relax and soak up the view!

  • Taft Point
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Distance: 2.2 miles
    • Elevation Change: approx. 200 ft
    • Time: 1-2 hours round trip

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After Taft Point, we headed toward Sentinel Dome.  The Sentinel Dome Trail is really fun because at the end you get to climb up the dome and then you are rewarded with 360 degree views! The climb to the top of the dome requires a bit of physical exertion, and some of the older visitors decided to stay closer to the bottom, but we thought it was well worth going to the top!

  • Sentinel Dome
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Distance: 2.2 miles
    • Elevation Change: approx. 300 ft
    • Time: 1-2 hours round trip

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The rest of our last day was spent exploring the Valley where we were able to get close up views of El Cap and Yosemite Falls.

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Our time in Yosemite had come to an end and I was officially in love.  I already couldn’t wait to come back, but for now it was time to head back to our cabin and get ready for our morning drive to Santa Barbara to continue our California Adventure.  Just one more stop at Tunnel View on the way out to take it all in for the last time!

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“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.”

– John Muir, 1868.

Yosemite Tips and Recommendations:

  • Summer is the best time to visit Yosemite if you want to hike or sight see, since most of the roads and trails are no longer covered by snow.  Unfortunately, summer is also when the park is the most crowded, especially in the valley.  We thought it was nice to stay outside of the valley away from the crowds and drive into the valley when we wanted to spend time there.
  • Make sure to bring a rain jacket if you plan to hike the Panorama Trail because you will get wet next to the waterfalls.
  • Four Mile trail is wonderful, but can be quite strenuous if you choose to hike up from the valley floor. You can hike this trail down from Glacier Point (you will have to drive or take the bus to Glacier Point first), but in my opinion, it’s nice to reward yourself with the view of Glacier Point at the end of your hike.
  • Lodging for the summertime books up fast! We booked our cabin for June in January, and it was one of the last options available.
  • Make sure to get a bus schedule, and utilize it! The buses around the valley are free.  It’s really nice to be able to finish your hike and hop on a bus back to your car rather than have to add another mile on aching feet.
  • Luckily, there is a lot of information out there on Yosemite trails, and it can be super helpful when planning out your time in the park.  I found this website the most useful for getting a good idea of what the trails were like.

 

Do you have any memorable experiences in Yosemite? Comment below and share your favorite Yosemite memories!