I feel like I regressed years in age during my recent trip to Yosemite National Park -- not only because I was traveling with my parents (23 going on 10) but because of the sheer, unparalleled joy I felt in our short but sweet venture into the park. There's something so pure and exhilarating about the vast wilderness of this national park that you can’t help but feel a childlike sense of glee as you frolic in meadows, gaze up at rushing waterfalls, and take in the magnificent granite mountains that surround the valley.
However, this giddiness was slightly hampered by my typical overwhelming sense of urgency that occurs when I plan overnight trips (two days, one night). Sometimes that obsession with cramming as many activities into this short period of time is unwarranted and can make for a harried experience.
At other times, however, it is 100% called for and my insistence on a 5:30 am wake up call to “be the first ones passing by the ranger station” was not only warranted, but completely necessary. When you go to Yosemite, wake up early, do as much as possible and take it all in — to sleep in would simply not do it justice.
We arrived early Sunday afternoon and immediately checked into Tenaya Lodge, located about 45 minutes south of the park in Fish
Camp, CA. We spent a few hours getting settled, swimming, getting massages, and relaxing before heading off the the park around sunset.
That evening we did a large loop around the park getting a solid overview before returning the following morning to hike, take in a few more sights, and eat lunch at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly Awahnee Hotel). I picked up an illustrated map to check things off as I saw them throughout the park (again, being a child).
The major players (aka do not even think about leaving without taking in these amazing sights):
+Tunnel View: Spectacular vista view of the park with Half Dome and El Capitan looming over the vibrant green wilderness below. Go mid-day or at sunset for the best light. My first inkling at just how much I was going to fall in love with Yosemite.
+Bridalveil Falls: A short, wooded walk brings you to the splash-zone base of Bridalveil Falls.
+Half Dome: The Eiffel Tower of Yosemite — very few places in the park where it can’t be seen. Catch a glimpse of its reflection on the Merced River at dusk.
+Mirror Lake: A fantastic starter hike (for those not immediately trekking off to conquer Half Dome). It took us about 1.5 hours — there are a couple of craggy and steep areas of the path but overall a very doable hike. The reflection of the mountains sits perfectly on the surface of the lake at the end of the trail, making for a quintessential Yosemite moment. A peaceful trail with Bambis roaming right and left.
+The Majestic Yosemite Hotel: The name says it all -- dine in the Majestic Yosemite Hotel Dining Room (formerly Awahnee Dining Room). The hotel is extremely central in the park so we parked here and used the shuttle to get around before heading back for lunch. The whole lodge (especially the dining room) has a vintage, rustic ambiance – very old-school and very Yosemite.
+Glacier Point: There are views on views on views in Yosemite but for a true panoramic view of the entire park head to Glacier Point. It's a bit of a drive to the top (and do not expect solitude up here) but this outlook offers up a spectacular view of the entire Yosemite Valley Floor (which looks actually very small from this angle).
There are some people-related aspects of the park that can be frustrating - traffic jams, crowded shuttles, wait times for restaurants, and congested outlooks can wear on your nerves quickly. But looking past all of the noise presents a clear picture of a raw, rugged land as unrefined as it can be.
John Muir said it best - "Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world."
+The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th year this August -- find your closest National Park and get outside!