Travel Answers about Yosemite: How Many Days in Yosemite? Where to Stay?

Travel Answers about Yosemite: How Many Days in Yosemite? Where to Stay?

How many days in Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite Valley First snow of the season! (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite Valley First snow of the season! (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Answer: It depends on how much of the park you want to explore. If you just want to see Yosemite Valley, you should allow at least three days. You should add more days if you want to really see everything! It also depends on how active a hiker you are because there are great things to do and day trips with varying degrees of difficulty you can experience. Ride the Shuttlebus and walk the valley, tour the valley in an open air tram, hike to Mirror Lake, picnic at Yosemite Beach, hike to the top of the waterfalls or around the rim of the valley, climb to the top of Half Dome or El Capitan. Visit Yosemite Village and the Ansel Adams Gallery and be sure to check out the The Ahwahnee Hotel.

Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Accommodations in the park range from tent and camp sites, RV sites, covered campsites, tent cabins, and hotel rooms. You need to make reservations for any of the concession vendors a long time in advance at nps.gov and there are lots of rules and regulations you need to be aware of before and during your visit.

REMEMBER YOU ARE IN BEAR COUNTRY!

Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

There are other areas to see within the park or just outside: Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona Point (and historic Wawona Hotel), the Mariposa Grove and Tuolomne Meadows Giant Sequoia Redwood Trees:

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Redwood Trees (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Redwoods (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Try skiing at Yosemite’s Badger Pass (in winter), visit Bass Lake, Oakhurst, and many others just outside the park. You should allow 1-3 days or more for each area depending on how active a hiker/camper/skier/snowboarder you are.

Yosemite in Winter (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite in Winter (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

If you want to experience the backcountry as a backpacker/camper you should plan 3-14 day trips. there are great areas in and around the park. I’ve been to the Tiltill Valley above Hetch Hetchy Loop and down the South Fork of the Merced in the Sierra National Forest, both of which were excellent backpacking trips! Be sure to learn the necessary skills and the park rules and regulations before entering the wilderness.

Yosemite Falls - Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite Falls – Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

You are also close to Lee Vining, Mammoth Mountain and Mono Lake State Preserve which are near the east entrance to the park.

View from the Visitor's Center - Lee Vining, California (copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel)

View from the Visitor’s Center – Lee Vining, California (copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel)

See also John Muir Trail and the Yosemite Park website for more info.

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Good places to stay for families in the park?

Answer: In Yosemite Valley, the Ahwahnee Hotel is a luxury resort and the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is more of a family hotel/motel. Curry Village has tent cabins and some hotel/motel type rooms as well.

There are a few campgrounds with covered camp sites, tent sites and rv sites if you want the full experience of “roughing it”.

Wawona Hotel - Yosemite (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Historic Wawona Hotel – Yosemite (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

The historic Wawona Hotel and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge (tent cabins and campsites only) are both inside the park concessionaires on the rim of the valley. Near Wawona there is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Redwood Trees and skiing in winter at Yosemite’s Badger Pass and Toulomne Meadows and Tenaya Lake are worth the trip when the roads are open and there is a grove of Giant Sequoias there as well.

There are a number of hotels, condos for rent, cabins and campgrounds just outside the park too.

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Field Quarter in the Sierras 1984 – Part 1 Big Sur, Big Creek and Cone Peak

I backpacked for college credit Spring Quarter of 1984, when I chose a Field Quarter in the Sierras during my Freshman year in college at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC extension and the Sierra Institute).  It was a great program!

UCSC logo

After a particularly gray winter in Santa Cruz, I needed to get out of town.  So I signed up for a Field Quarter in the Sierras.  “BACKPACKING FOR COLLEGE CREDIT” for three Upper Division Course Credits: Natural History of the Sierras, Natural History Wilderness Studies, and an Environmental Studies advanced course.  The curriculum included backpacking trips of varying length in amazing natural locations: Monterey, Big Sur, Yosemite Valley, Hetch-Hetchy Resevoir, the Tiltill Valley above Yosemite, the Southfork of the Tuolumne River in the Sierra National Forest, El Dorado-Toiyabe National Forest, Desolation Wilderness in Plumas National Forest and Lake Tahoe.

Sierra-Institute-Emblem--225x300

We all met as strangers in Monterey and drove to a local campground for an overnight stay, where we were introduced to our instructors and each other and given the orientation for the next thirteen weeks (ten weeks of course work, a week of travel time plus a timeout for spring break).  There were thirteen students and two instructors on the first night as we made camp together for the first time.

UCSC Field Quarter in the Sierras - Monterey, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

UCSC Field Quarter in the Sierras – Big Sur, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

PLEASE NOTE: These events took place in Spring of 1984, so trying to recall all the details is a little difficult now.

THE FIRST TRIP – BIG SUR, UCSC BIG CREEK RESERVE AND CONE PEAK

Big Creek Bridge and Cove - Big Sur, California

Big Creek Bridge and Cove – Big Sur, California

At dawn the next morning we had breakfast and broke camp, packed up and drove to the UCSC Reserve in Big Sur.  Protected by the Santa Lucia Mountains and rocky cliffs, the Big Sur coast includes the largest and most pristine coastal wildlands in central and southern California. In the center of this area, the University of California Natural Reserve System and the University of California at Santa Cruz operate the Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve.  Big Creek Reserve Homepage: http://bigcreek.ucnrs.org

Big Creek Reserve Trailmap - Big Sur, California

Big Creek Reserve Trailmap – Big Sur, California

We strapped on our backpacks and hiked 9 miles to the base camp near Cone Peak.  Cone Peak in Big Sur is the highest coastal mountain in the contiguous 48 states, ascending nearly a mile (5155 feet) above sea level, only three miles from the ocean.  The hike begins at almost sea level and takes you up through the climate zones, lush forest, oak scrub and into high chaparral.

Copy and paste the following links into a new window for some great images:

VR Panorama of Big Creek: http://bigcreek.ucnrs.org/panoramas/bigcreek.html

Photo Gallery: http://nrs.ucop.edu/reserves/big_creek/gallery/index.html

Our first trek was an uphill killer! When we finally reached the base camp we set up our tents and prepared the evening meal.  (Nevermind the part about Jen trying to set the camp and forest on fire with her propane stove and the rest of us helping to put it out before it spread…)

Boronda Base Camp - Big Sur, California

Boronda Base Camp – Big Sur, California

We camped there for a week.  The program included daily class in the wilderness, field studies, day hikes and “homework” assignments.  There was also time allotted for camping duties, cooking, and personal (free) time.  And every evening we gathered around the fire, talked about the day and got to know each other a little bit more.

Trail snack and lunch recipes for wilderness hiking: Flour tortillas, add cheddar cheese and salsa.  Flour tortillas, add peanut butter and honey.  Bread may be substituted for tortillas (but tortillas travel better in a foodsack).  Easy to prepare, no cooking required.

Cone Peak

Cone Peak (Altitude 5,155 feet) – Big Sur, California

One day we hiked to the top of Cone Peak from our base camp and were buzzed by F-14 jet fighters from Moffett Feld and then we watched from high above as Blue Whales swam by during their Spring migration!

View from Cone Peak

View from Cone Peak – Big Sur, California

View from Cone Peak

View from Cone Peak – Big Sur, California

Going downhill is a lot easier than going uphill with a backpack!  The hike out was pretty easy, again passing through the different climate zones, and returning to our cars for the drive to our next destination.

COMING SOON: Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley, Hetch-Hetchy and Tiltill Valley, Southfork of the Tuolumne River, Sierra National Forest, El-Dorado-Toiyabe National Forest, Desolation Wilderness, Plumas National Forest, and Lake Tahoe.

NOTE: I have to admit that this is by no means a complete blog at this point.  I started this story unprepared and the details are coming back slowly.  Except for the people, these are not my pictures.  I’m inspired to find my journal, workbook and photos from this time and may revise this blog for next week.  Thanks for reading!  Your feedback is welcome.