Ben and I really do love the outdoors when it’s not sweltering hot or freezing cold. April was the perfect time to visit Yosemite National Park. The temperatures were comfortable and the tourist season hadn’t kicked off. Yosemite is known for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, and abundant hiking trails. This world heritage site was the perfect escape, just 315 miles from the bustle of LA and 195 miles from San Francisco.
We stayed at the most amazing lodge located just on the edge of the national park called Evergreen Lodge. Evergreen is a historic property with many lodges nestled in the forest….think glamping! It’s a perfect mix of recreation, relaxation and luxury. Cabins can be reserved to accommodate from 2 people up to a couple of families. This lodge is a one stop shop…since the nearest restaurant is about 30 minutes away in Yosemite Valley, they have their own restaurant options ranging from casual patio dining to white table cloth fine dining with seasonal menus. The food was delicious! Bonus: s’mores by the campfire each evening…not just for kids! Although, this lodge is a kid’s haven. There are mini zip lines on the property, tire swings, rope climbs, game rooms…anything you can think of to entertain the kiddos when you’re wiped out from hiking and they’re still going 100 mph. Evergreen isn’t just for kids though, our cabin felt private, cozy and romantic and we enjoyed the lodge’s bar…which happens to have the only TV on the property (AHmazing!) We thoroughly enjoyed our experience at the Evergreen Lodge and would recommend it.
Sadly, it must be mentioned that you cannot visit Yosemite National Park without witnessing some of the devastation left behind from the Rim fire in 2013 which destroyed 78,895 acres of parkland and nearly overtook the Evergreen Lodge. The disaster cost nearly $127.5 million and nobody has been held accountable for the fire to this day. But alas, the new growth developing in the park is beautiful and fires (albeit natural ones) are a part of the growth cycle to any forest.
Our goal for the couple of days we had in Yosemite was to hike and see as many notable sites as possible…. There are 747,956 acres of land in the park. 95% of which are considered wilderness. To boot, there are 840 miles of trails to hike… and those mountains are no joke! Hikes range from easy to difficult and are labeled as such so there is something for everyone!
Our plan of attack was as follow:
First up: giant SEQUOIAS. Sequoias are the largest living trees in the world. From Evergreen Lodge, Tuolumne Grove is just short drive. Note the Mariposa Grove was closed during our visit but we were told the Mariposa Grove is the “better” of the two. The Tuolumne Grove hike was fairly easy with only a 400 ft elevation change to the grove and was a total of 2.5 miles round trip. Expect the hike to take about 1.5-2.5 hours depending on your appreciation for Sequoias. My favorite picture of the trip was taken at the Tuolumne Grove so it did not disappoint! We were then headed to Yosemite Valley.
As soon as we entered the valley, we pulled over to catch Tunnel View. The vantage point is at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel along the Wawona Road (Highway 41). Tunnel View is the most famous view of the Valley where you can see El Capitan (the largest granite block in the world), Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome. A must see.
A great thing about visiting Yosemite Valley is that the driving road takes you in one big circle that is one-way so there isn’t any wasted time back tracking. However, you MUST pre-plan appropriately or you risk missing out on a great site.
Bridalveil Fall Trail is considered easy and is only a 0.5 mile hike from the Valley. This is great for kids as the short and easy hike leads you right up to under the falls where you’ll be sprayed by mist. As it was spring time, the falls were roaring.
You can reach the lower Vernal Fall Footbridge by a 1.6 mile round trip hike rated as Moderate in difficulty. Prepare yourself because the hike to the base of the waterfall is a steep uphill climb but what goes up, must come down! For those wishing to climb to the top of the Vernal fall, follow the Mist Trail for a 2.4 mile round trip hike that is rated as Strenuous. Still didn’t get enough? You can continue the hike to the top of Nevada Fall for a total round trip of 5.4 miles…but expect this hike to take you about 5-6 hours. We were satisfied with the lower Vernal Fall views.
I would consider Mirror Lake a must see on a beautiful Spring day… it’s a 2 mile round trip hike to the lake or 5 mile hike if you make the loop around the lake. You’ll gain only 100 ft in elevation to the lake and about 200 ft in elevation around the lake so the hike is considered easy to moderate. Once you get to the lake, you’ll likely see other tourists sunning on some giant rocks nestled in shallow water…keep going… the best view is shortly after where you’ll get a great view of Mt. Watkins reflecting perfectly in the lake. If you visit in late summer, the lake often dries up and is called “Mirror Meadow.”
As part of North America’s tallest waterfall, Lower Yosemite Fall is the lower 320 ft drop. The hike is a mere 1 mile and considered Easy in difficulty. The hike also offers views of the Upper Yosemite Fall which you can continue to hike for an additional 1 mile to Columbia Rock or 7.2 miles round trip and 2,700 ft in elevation to get to the peak. I think it goes without saying that the Upper Falls hike is considered strenuous. For those of you with enough energy to make the hike, you’ll be rewarded with direct views of Half Dome and panoramic views of various peaks. Fun fact: the Yosemite Mountains are still growing at rate of 1 ft per 1,000 years.
In Yosemite Valley, El Capitan Meadow provides a view straight up El Capitan. This is a great place to stop on your way out of Yosemite Valley.
For those hiking enthusiasts, there are more strenuous hikes you can opt for…Snow Creek Trail (9.4 mile round trip, 2,700 ft in elevation), Four Mile Trail (4.8 mile, 3,200 ft in elevation), or the famous Half Dome Trail. The Half Dome hike is 14-16 miles round trip and is not for you if you are out of shape, afraid of heights or maybe more importantly, unprepared. The gained elevation is 4,800 ft and is an uphill climb most of the entire hike. The most famous part of the hike is the ascent up cables (which appear to be rope ladders) for approximately 400 ft without rock climbing equipment. According to the www.nps.gov website, “since 1919, relatively few people have fallen and died on the cables.” My question is, what is “relatively few?!” It is recommended to begin your hike at sunrise because if you have not reached the peak by 3:30pm, there is a mandatory turn-around that would be terribly disappointing. Flashlights or headlamps, topographic map and compass are recommended…
Other activities available in Yosemite National Park include horseback riding, picnicking, rock climbing, tours, water activities and sports, fishing, biking, and bird watching.
By the end of our day, we had logged 11+ hiking miles and were BEAT. On to Big Sur…