Travel Answers: San Francisco! Yosemite!

Travel Answers for San Francisco and Yosemite:

Q: What’s a great day trip from SF that’s not wine country?

A: Great Day Trip from San Francisco?

Drive south on beautiful Highway 1 to Santa Cruz. Stop along the way in Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, Davenport and/or at Ano Nuevo State Reserve and see the Elephant Seals.

Pacific Ocean from Highway 1 (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Ocean from Highway 1 (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Visit the beach and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, shop the Pacific Garden Mall, and check out the University of California, Santa Cruz (arboretum, performances, museums & special collections at the McHenry Library). Tour the campus, there are great views of Monterey Bay, art installations and walking paths/roads through the meadows, pastures and redwood forest on the hill (just stop and get a visitor pass at the main gate).

There are plentiful beaches, galleries, shops, restaurants, bars, wineries, clubs and other performance venues in Santa Cruz and in the nearby communities of Capitola, Aptos, Felton & Bonny Doon.

Check out the world famous Mystery Spot and Lighthouse Field State Beach! The Evergreen Cemetery est. ~1885 is one of the oldest in the bay area and state and it’s now a tourist attraction.

Return to San Francisco via Highways 17 (880) to San Jose and the 280 or 101 freeways back to the city sometime after sunset.


 

San Francisco from the Bay Bridge (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

San Francisco from the Bay Bridge (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Q: Best 3-day weekend trip from San Francisco? Looking for something outdoorsy that would be a good use of weekend summer trip. Ideally somewhere warm enough for sun, swimming & shorts. Probably for a small group (either 2 or 4 ppl).

A: 3-Day Trip from San Francisco? People have already recommended Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey and Santa Cruz to the south. Marin, Napa, Vallejo, Mendocino, and Lake Tahoe to the north. So how about going east to Yosemite National Park? Yosemite, Merced, Mariposa are all within driving distance and only a few hours away. Just make sure to make a reservation! http://www.nps.gov

Half Dome - Yosemite, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Half Dome – Yosemite, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)


Q: Best airport to fly into for a week at Yosemite?

I’m planning a fall trip to Yosemite and trying to figure out which airport to fly into: Sacramento, Fresno, San Fran? I’m coming from New York so I have some airline options. I’m most concerned about which airport will have sufficient car rental options and flights at all hours.

A: If you’re flying in from NYC, you’re going to have to land in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland or Los Angeles. Each has it positives and negatives, so base your decision on the cost of airfare and then determine the best mode of transport from your destination city.

Rent a car (get unlimited mileage plus insurance) or take Amtrak (train and bus combo) from Los Angeles or San Francisco/Oakland. The bus will take you right into Yosemite National Park and drop you at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and it’s both less expensive and cleaner than driving! www.amtrak.com/san-joaquin-train

The drive from Los Angeles is about 6 hours, and you’ll travel the 5 freeway to interstate 99 through Bakersfield, Fresno and the Central Valley to interstate 41 into Yosemite.

The drive from the Bay Area is about 4 and 1/2 hours (could be longer with traffic) on highway 580 through San Leandro and Livermore to highway 205 through Manteca to interstate 120 into Yosemite.

NOTE: If you’re driving in the Sierra Mountains in the Fall, be prepared for rain and snow at higher elevations, some roads may require tire chains (sometimes a problem with a rental vehicle).

There are also tour companies that have chartered buses that will take you into the park, or backpack/bus adventure travel companies like Green Tortoise from San Francisco that include more than just transport: www.greentortoise.com/adventures/yosemite-national-park-tour-3d.php

NOTE: If you’re going to take a chartered bus, make sure the company is CA state licensed and check their safety and consumer record before buying a ticket!

Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)


Q: Most impressive staircases you’ve ever seen?

I recently saw some of the craziest staircases in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Where else in the world has cool, winding, or even weird staircases? Want to plan some trips to see them..pictures would be awesome, thanks!

A: In Yosemite Valley there is a stairway to the top of Vernal Nevada Falls that was carved out of the granite rock. You can start at the bottom of Vernal Falls and climb 2000 feet to the top of Nevada Falls and the rim of the valley.

“Climb along nature’s giant staircase, where you are rewarded with close-up views of two waterfalls and numerous geologic features (depending on how far you choose to hike)…Prepare for slippery footing and a tremendous amount of waterfall spray in spring and early summer (hence the name for this trail!).”

Follow the Mist Trail 0.5 miles up a steep granite stairway of over 600 steps! Continue on to the top of Half Dome if you have a permit (and “weather permitting”).


Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Q: Where was your favorite backpacking destination? Out of all the places in the world, where was your favorite backpacking destination and why?

A: My favorite backpacking destination: Tiltill Valley above Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in northern Yosemite National Park. Picture a valley just like Yosemite except there are no other people, no cars, no shuttle buses, no buildings… just an amazing wilderness all to yourself. It’s a long day hike uphill to reach the Tiltill Valley, but it’s worth the trip!

The trailhead begins at the Hetch Hetchy parking area, and it’s a rugged uphill trek past the reservoir and into the backcountry (be sure to get your permits at the ranger station and be aware you are in “BEAR COUNTRY” – problem bears are relocated to this area of the park).

p.s. I don’t recommend backpacking solo, you should always have at least one travel buddy when you are in the backcountry!


Yosemite in Winter (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite in Winter (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Q: How many days would I need to explore most of what Yosemite has to offer? I’m planning on going there some day and I would like to know how much days would I need to explore most of what the National Park has to offer! Thanks.

A: How many days in Yosemite National Park? 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.

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!

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

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

There are other areas to see within the park or just outside: Tuolumne Meadows, Mariposa Grove and the Giant Sequoia Redwood Trees, Wawona Point (and historic hotel), skiing at Yosemite’s Badger Pass in winter), Bass Lake, Oakhurst, and many others. You should allow 1-3 days or more for each area depending on how active a hiker/camper/skier/snowboarder you are.

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 Merced River 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.

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

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


 

Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Q: You have a day to explore Yosemite. What do you HAVE to see?

I love everything about being outdoors, especially around water. I like hiking, but I don’t get too extreme. Viewpoints that are hidden/will make me never want to leave would be loved.

A: What to see in Yosemite Valley? Everything!

Ride the Shuttlebus, walk the valley paths and bridges, raft or inner tube down the river, tour the valley in an open air tram, hike to Mirror Lake, Picnic at Sentinel Beach Picnic Area, hike to the top of any of the waterfalls or around the rim of the valley or to the top of Half Dome, climb El Capitan. Visit Yosemite Villageand see the Visitor Center and the Ansel Adams Gallery, shop at Curry Village and be sure to check out the Ahwahnee Hotel. See my other answers for more.


Wawona Hotel - Yosemite (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Wawona Hotel – Yosemite (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Q: Places to stay in Yosemite? If anyone is familiar with places to stay IN the Yosemite Park… I am trying to decide between a few places… Curry Village, Yosemite at the Falls & Wawona Hotel. From what I gather there aren’t bathrooms in Wawona Hotel (not so thrilled with that idea). Any advice, please on these 3 places?

A: Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is the best place to stay, unless you can afford the Ahwahnee Hotel. It’s centrally located in Yosemite Valley near Yosemite Falls and a couple shuttle stops (almost walking distance) from Yosemite Village. The accommodations are “motel quality” but nice enough considering you won’t want to be inside very much.

Curry Village is near Half Dome, and on the shuttle route. The accommodations are mostly tent cabins with shared facilities and some full cabins with private facilities.

Both Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village have a “cafeteria” style restaurant, a “hamburger stand”, a bar/restaurant and mini-market/gift shops. Yosemite Lodge also has a nice sit-down upscale restaurant.

The Wawona Hotel sits up on the rim of the valley about a 45 minute drive from the valley floor and the village. It’s a very nice historic hotel, but not really convenient if you want to be in the valley. There are cabins with private facilities and they are very nice if you don’t mind walking outdoors to get to the main building (more of a problem in winter). Wawona is great if you want to ski at Badger Pass Ski Area, visit Glacier Point or the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Redwoods.

There are Ranger led nature talks available and other entertainment at all three locations. Yosemite Village has a market, a Visitor’s Center with an Indian Village and interpretive programs, the Ansel Adams Gallery, the post office and more restaurants and gift shops.

http://www.facebook.com/joshwilltravelhttp://www.twitter.com/joshwilltravel

RETURN TO HOMEPAGE:

http://www.joshwilltravel.wordpress.com

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

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





 

 

Advertisements

Travel Answers about Yosemite: Best Camping Sites in Yosemite Valley?

Yosemite National Park: Best camping sites in the Yosemite Valley area?

Sunrise on Yosemite Valley (copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel)

Sunrise on Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel)

Q: Hi, I am looking for a camping site around the valley area. We are going to visit in mid June for 2 nights and are looking for a good spot to camp. Thanks!

A: Do you have a reservation? Most of the campsites in Upper, Lower, and North Pines Campground for summer are “sold out” before May! If you don’t have reservations, you can try to get a campsite in the valley on the day you are there, or there’s “Backpacker’s Camp” (Camp 4) which is “first-come/first-served”.

From the National Park Service website:

“Yosemite National Park has 13 campgrounds, of which up to seven are on a reservation system. From April through September, reservations are essential and even the first-come first-served campgrounds often fill by noon from May through September.

Campground Reservations

Reservations are required from about March 15 through November for Yosemite Valley’s car campgrounds and summer through fall for Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, Wawona, and half of Tuolumne Meadows. Campground reservations are available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 am Pacific time. Be aware that nearly all reservations for the months of May through September and for some other weekends are filled the first day they become available, usually within seconds or minutes after 7 am!”

Here is the link to the nps.gov site:

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/camping.htm

If you can’t get camping in the valley, there are campgrounds in the park on the rim (about an hour from the valley) and just outside the park as well.

Yosemite Valley (copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel)

—————————————————————————————————–

And a Follow Up Question:

Q: Hey Josh! Thanks so much for the super insightful answer. I found out that as you said, most campsites are fully booked. I found availability in the following: 1. Camp Wawona, 2. Silver Lake Campground, 3. Soquel Campground, 4. Crane Flat Campground. Do you know any of these ? Any thoughts? Thanks, Yaniv G. 

A: Check and see if Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite Valley is still available!

Camp Wawona is on the rim near the Wawona Hotel, Yosemite’s Badger Pass, Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and Glacier Point. Wawona is also close to Oakhurst which is a real town with markets, laundromats, restaurants, etc.

Giant Sequoia Redwood Tree - Mariposa Grove, Yosemite, CA (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Giant Sequoia Redwood Tree – Yosemite, CA (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Soquel Campground and Crane Flat Campground are farther away.

See my other Yosemite post for Hotels in the Valley.

 Half Dome - Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley, California – Spring 1985 (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Half Dome from across the valley - Yosemite, California (copyright 2011 Joshua Weisel)

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley, California – Fall 2011 (copyright 2011 Joshua Weisel)

 http://www.facebook.com.joshwilltravelhttp://www.twitter.com/joshwilltravel

RETURN TO HOMEPAGE:

http://www.joshwilltravel.wordpress.com

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

Lee Vining, CA

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

Lee Vining, CA Happy 4th of July Weekend!

Lee Vining, CA – Happy 4th of July Weekend! (copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel)

http://www.facebook.com/joshwilltravel

http://www.twitter.com/joshwilltravel

18-MAY-13: Yosemite Valley, CA

Yosemite, California

Yosemite Falls from the Bridge at Sentinel Beach

Yosemite Valley, CA (copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel)

Yosemite Valley, CA  (copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel)

See more pictures of Yosemite in our previous Blogs!
SEARCH YOSEMITE in the Search Box (Top of Page^^^^^^^^^^^)

Photo copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel

RIGHT CLICK and “OPEN IN NEW WINDOW” TO VIEW LINKS>

http://www.facebook.com/joshwilltravel | http://www.twitter.com/joshwilltravel
http://www.periscope.tv/joshwilltravel

RETURN TO HOMEPAGE: http://www.joshwilltravel.wordpress.com

19-APR-13: Half Dome – Yosemite Valley

 Yosemite, California

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley

 Half Dome - Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Half Dome – Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

See more pictures of Yosemite in our previous Blogs!
SEARCH YOSEMITE in the Search Box (Top of Page^^^^^^^^^^^)

Photo copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel

RIGHT CLICK and “OPEN IN NEW WINDOW” TO VIEW LINKS>

NATIONAL PARK WEEK: National Parks that charge admission are FEE FREE to visitors!
Free Entrance Days in the National Parks: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

http://www.facebook.com/joshwilltravel | http://www.twitter.com/joshwilltravel

http://www.periscope.tv/joshwilltravel

RETURN TO HOMEPAGE: http://www.joshwilltravel.wordpress.com

BLOG ONLY BONUS PIC! Yosemite Falls in Winter

Yosemite Falls in Winter:

Yosemite Falls - Yosemite Valley, California (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

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

Yosemite Falls is the highest measured waterfall in North America with a total 2,425 feet from the top of the upper falls to the base of the lower falls. Located in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, it is a major attraction in the park, especially in late spring when the water flow is at its peak.

NATIONAL PARK WEEK STARTS TOMORROW April 20-27 and the National Parks that charge admission are FEE FREE to visitors for five days: April 22-26!

Free Entrance Days in the National Parks:

http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

05-APR-13: Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Valley, California

Yosemite Falls:

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

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

Yosemite Falls is the highest measured waterfall in North America with a total 2,425 feet from the top of the upper falls to the base of the lower falls. Located in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, it is a major attraction in the park, especially in late spring when the water flow is at its peak.

See more pictures of Yosemite in our previous Blogs!
SEARCH YOSEMITE in the Search Box (Top of Page^^^^^^^^^^^)

All photos copyright 2016 JoshWillTravel

RIGHT CLICK and “OPEN IN NEW WINDOW” TO VIEW LINKS>

NATIONAL PARK WEEK: National Parks that charge admission are FEE FREE to visitors!
Free Entrance Days in the National Parks: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

http://www.facebook.com/joshwilltravel | http://www.twitter.com/joshwilltravel

http://www.periscope.tv/joshwilltravel

RETURN TO HOMEPAGE: http://www.joshwilltravel.wordpress.com

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.