Yosemite: in the shadow of the mountains

This is it, here we are! The majestic. The must-see. The grandiose Yosemite National Park. An area of more than 3,000 square kilometres covered with rocks and conifers in the heart of the Sierra Nevada. A haven of peace in the shadow of the mountains, its valley is crossed by the Merced River, which is fed by the numerous streams that cascade along the granite. A splendour out of time.

Watch the second part of our trip on video!

What is so special about it?

Thesecond park to be declared a national park in the 19th century andone of the most visited in the country, Yosemite has many attractions. Waterfalls galore, lush green meadows, dense forests with wildlife and granite rocks delight nature lovers, whether they are climbers, bikers or hikers.

A must-see during your visit to California, it is worth spending several days there to explore the immensity of the park and enjoy its special atmosphere.

How to get there?

From Mammoth Lakes, it will take you about an hour to get to the east entrance of the park (Tuolomne Meadows). It will take you about an hour and a half more to get to the valley. Beware: the mountain roads are winding! Don't hesitate to take your time (a bear could cross the road... And they don't like to be disturbed)!

Before leaving, check the Yosemite website: as the park is at altitude (1,200 m for the valley and up to 4,000 m for the highest peaks), some roads may be closed depending on the season and the snowfall... The bypasses can be long!

Please note: once in the valley, there is only one road and it is one-way. If youcan, we advise you toavoid the high season (mid-June to mid-September) to make the most of the site!

To access the park, you will need to pay an entrance fee ($35 per vehicle in 2018, updated rates are available here), unless you have the annual pass (see our first article on American parks).

What we liked

We haven't found a match for Yosemite Park yet... We'll tell you why, right here:

  • First of all, the diversity of its landscapes: in just a few kilometres, you go from vast green expanses to semi-lunar landscapes of grey stone mountains; a real change of scene!
  • Its calm: it is a real pleasure to recharge your batteries in contact with a luxuriant nature that the altitude and the sometimes difficult weather conditions in winter do not seem to disturb... A real serenity emanates from the place, which can only be contagious!
  • And finally, its mindset: take a bike and ride through Yosemite Valley on the trails under the trees. At the end of the road, leave your bike at the designated point and continue on foot to the narrower trails. Looking for a lock? You won't find one. In the park you will have to trust. Everyone does it and you'll see: you feel all the more free! Take a moment to talk to the rangers about the local fauna and flora: you will feel the spirit of environmental preservation that inhabits the park, often threatened by forest fires and the tourist influx. In short: a humanist and ecological site... We love it!
Not to be missed

We told you, this park is huge! We spent three days there, which seemed very short (it clearly deserves more), and this is what we remember of the things to see:

  • Tuolomne Meadows: at the eastern entrance to the park, the road along these vast meadows gives a breathtaking view of streams and wetlands glistening in the green grass. Take one of the many trails through the meadow to immerse yourself in the calm of the green expanse.
  • The view of Half Dome from Glacier Point: in an amphitheatre at over 2,000m, you will have an exceptional view of the famous granite dome which seems to have been cut off in the middle (hence its name) and the surrounding waterfalls. If you take the path to the promontory, you can also admire the valley below.
  • Tunnel view: At the exit of the Wawona Tunnel, stop at the car park on the left side of the road. Sit on the low stone wall and enjoy the view down the valley, one of the best views in the park along with Glacier Point.
  • Yosemite Valley In the hollow of the valley, walk or cycle along the river to see the wonders it holds.
    • From the village, follow the cycle path and then walk up the stream to Mirror Lake. From the undergrowth, sit by the water to admire the perfect reflection of the mountains in the dark water of the lake: a relaxing moment guaranteed!
    • Take a diversion to the valley floor and its John Muir & Vernal Falls Tralhead Trail at the foot of the waterfalls (beware: very steep slopes) before heading back to the village.
    • Continue along the road: on your right, turn off the road to follow the trail to Yosemite Falls, which offers an unparalleled view from its 800m high peak.
    • Finish your exploration on the North road to admire the unique El Capitan, this 900m high granite boulder, second emblem of the park and eternal passion of climbers...

Are you planning to stay longer? Take a look here to see the extent of your possibilities...

Where to eat, where to sleep?

There are many types of accommodation available in the park, from campsites and caravan parks to the most comfortable hotels.

The hotels are mainly concentrated in the valley. We chose the Yosemite Valley Lodge, for the "trapper" atmosphere of its wooden chalets and its ideal location in the heart of the village. Early in the morning or at dusk, sit in the peace and quiet of your private garden and keep your fingers crossed: you might see a deer pass by...

If you want to make the most of nature, we obviously advise you to buy some food at the park entrance or in the village supermarket for a dream picnic in the forest(remember to collect your rubbish when leaving)...

But you can't picnic at every meal... There are also places to eat in the village. The Yosemite Valley Logde Dining Room is ideal for a hearty and efficient breakfast. More of a cafeteria than a restaurant, but affordable and hearty food to start the day. For dinner, we preferred the Mountain Room Restaurant, which is more expensive but the food is excellent!

Remember to book in advance! Hotel spaces are limited and there are many visitors. If you want to be sure of getting a room in the valley, don't hesitate to book at least three months in advance for the off season, and six months for the rush season!

Some useful information in a wheelchair...

Between hiking, climbing and biking, this article might lead you to think that this park is not really accessible... But it's not!

While it's certain that you won't be able to access everything in a wheelchair, Yosemite places special emphasis on accessibility!

In the valley, the kilometres of cycle track will allow you to move around without any worries to admire the various must-sees described above. Even if the access to the sites is sometimes steep, the paths are always passable and you will always find a good soul to give you a helping hand if necessary. An all-terrain wheel can be useful if you wish to push your adventures a little further, around Mirror Lake or in the valley's undergrowth...

The viewpoints, accommodation, restaurants and visitor centres are all designed to be as accessible as possible. Believe us, you will have a great time!

Find all the accessibility information on our good addresses and visited sites on jaccede.com!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.

Go to main content