The campground is one of the closest to the Park; however, it is still a good hour from the entrance station. We were excited to be going into the valley area of the National Park. Dave and I visited here 12 years ago when we toured the west coast (3,000 miles in 10 days – do-able without kids, not an experience I’d repeat willingly though!) but I could remember very little.
We began the day parking up and catching the bus to the Visitor Center. We vividly remember there being so much traffic and it was gratifying to realize they have revamped their public transport within the park to eliminate many of the jams. We bought Junior Ranger books (thank goodness most Parks offer free books) and were in perfect time to watch the film: Spirit of Yosemite, much of it centered on the importance of John Muir’s efforts to preserve the area.
Of course, Yosemite’s history dates back a far greater number of years and there is an area dedicated to some of the Park’s first human inhabitants: the Ahwahnee, complete with reconstructed houses and storage areas. It’s so much easier for us all to imagine their lives when we can see and touch items depicting how they would have survived. There is also a museum in Yosemite Village which interprets the cultural history of Yosemite’s Miwok and Paiute people from 1850 to the present. We watched an elderly lady working on a basket using plant fibers, decked out in a wonderful outfit.
From the museum, we got back on the bus and excited by the Lower Yosemite Falls. After lunch, overlooking the falls, a short hike took us closer to these beautiful falls where we got sprayed by the mist. There were some rocks nearby and the kids were far more interested playing in and around them than they were having their photos taken, they found a neat ‘cave’, which was more exciting than the water apparently. It was funny to read: ‘this waterfall may be dry in late summer and early fall’, extremely difficult to imagine, looking at the incredible amounts of water plummeting down.
From here, we rode the bus out to the closest stop to Mist Trail. This took us out to the end of the loop, past the multitude of lodging options. There are a few campgrounds in the valley, which book up months ahead, on the off-chance of availability, I did check for any spaces this week back around Christmastime: absolutely nothing! There are also fixed tents, yurts, and a lodge, among other accommodation options, for rent.
The Mist Trail is listed under ‘Strenuous Hikes’ for good reason, it’s not especially long, a couple of miles, but is extremely steep. The trail is closed in winter due to ice causing it to become very slippery. It was tough enough to negotiate; we were slow-going on the way up. It is paved all the way up to the footbridge which crosses over the Vernal Falls, Dave does not particularly enjoy paved paths, however I think in this case, it was necessary due to possible erosion if it were not. The amount of water coming down from the snow melt, made the view special but I’m not sure it was that worth it! Dave continued the extra half mile to get a better view of the top part of the falls, I stayed with the kids, who had, guess what, found more rocks to climb!
We made our way down carefully, not necessarily that much easier going down but certainly a lot less strenuous. At the bottom, we detoured to the Nature Center at Happy Isles. This has many awesome exhibits, showing the progression of time and its effects on various aspects of nature throughout the park. Interestingly, the Nature Center itself became part of its own exhibit when a rock slide brought down trees which ‘dominoed’ down the mountainside and crashed through the roof a few years ago!
We rode the bus back to the Visitor Center to look at their large 3D map, check out the exhibits and get sworn in as Junior Rangers. After that, we were in need of sustenance once more and bought dinner at the Village Grill; this is such a large park, always busy throughout the year, not many parks have so many (if any!) places to eat. We had treated everyone to a snickers bar earlier in the afternoon, the kids all had to ‘try’ a bite before ordering one, we so rarely buy them chocolate bars! As a treat, I sometimes get a twix or kit-kat that is then shared between them, to have an entire snickers to themselves was a real treat, they savored it – hope I haven’t started something bad!
We got back to the car and took a drive through some of the areas the bus didn’t take us to, getting photos and views of the beautiful valley as the sun began to go slowly down. We also pointed out the various rock formations to the kids, particularly Half Dome and El Capitan.
As a last, short hike, we went out to Bridalveil Fall, where the paved trail took us close to the Fall that flows year round. The brochure stated ‘expect lots of spray in spring and early summer’, no kidding! We got soaked but it was more than worth it, as we walked up, an incredibly beautiful, perfectly arched rainbow appeared; it was amazing, we were all in awe.
We stopped on the way home to take some sunset pictures from the ridge. It was a wonderful, although long, day. This Park is definitely worth a visit as long as you’re willing to share the pathways!
States visited: 49!
visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800
Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)