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First Time Visit

PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:57 am
by Harold
Hello. Thank you for this forum.

Currently, my mother and I are planning a trip to Yosemite. Neither of us have been. We've been to Yellowstone, Glacier, and Arcadia and have loved them all. We like hiking (easy to moderate), driving tours, and simply taking in the views.

What advice can you give?

Getting There:
We're both on the East coast so I assume we'd fly into Fresno and then travel by car to Yosemite.

The lodging in Yosemite looks pricey, although lovely. Are there good moderate priced hotels nearby? An in-room internet connection will, alas, be necessary.

Yosemite Valley

Length of stay:
3 or 4 nights

Nearby Parks:
Are there any other parks or places of interest nearby?

When to go:
How would a trip towards the end of September be? Will the weather cooperate? Crowds smaller? Hotels and things still open?

Thank you.


PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 3:34 pm
by hotrod4x5
Fresno or Oakland are good places to fly into, Oakland might be considerably cheaper, or not. Price it. It is about 4 hours from there, so not as close as Fresno.

I don't think there is any in room internet access in the Valley. I know the Yosemite Lodge has wifi, but not sure if it reaches the rooms, or is just usable in the lobby/lounge area.

For other motels, check in El Portal, it is the closest to the valley and the shortest drive into the park.

When you get there, I highly recommend taking the Valley Floor Tour. If spring-fall, this is given in an open air tram and it is 2 hours of education and sight seeing that is not to be missed for the first time visitor. You can book this in advance and I suggest doing so as it does sell out.

As far as Sept, it will be hot, the waterfalls will be either dry or a trickle and it's my least favorite month, besides August to visit the park. Motels are open year round, so no problems with that.

PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 1:00 pm
by daddyray831
september 3 - 4 days sounds ok however if you can push it up 2 months or back a few months would be better. in september the falls might be trickling as the other poster said but all the roads will be open. you can cruise the high country via tioga pass and drive to tuolumne meadows and tenaya lake... glacier point road will be open so you can drive up to glacier point (a must see).... mariposa grove of giant sequioas is a good visit. and of course the valley floor and happy isles, and surrounding area, tunnel view is a must. since you will be driving... mite as well check out hetch hetch reservoir and you can hike to the lookout ( about 1 mile or so ). as far as the area and stuff around it... if your flying into fresno sequioa national park is just east of it and is amazing.. in the area not in yosemite on the way up hwy 41 table mountain casino (in the area), chuck chansi casino, corlieau falls, red rock falls, bass lake, angel falls, devils waterslide, nelder sequioa grove... seriously.. its endless in this area.

PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 8:26 am
by Harold
Thanks for the replies. September does not seem like a good time to go. Would October be better? We can really go pretty much any time. I just wanted to avoid the crowds of summer if possible.

PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:04 am
by hotrod4x5
October is definitely better than Sept. The later in Oct you go, the more likely the fall colors will be happening.

PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:30 pm
by bill-e-g
O garsh... I gotta say something here.

If it's your FIRST TIME... and you can go anytime...
Please... go about mid-June. And go mid-week and just
deal with whatever "crowds" are present...

In October, unless there has been a recent storm, which is
not guaranteed... the waterfalls will be trickling in
comparison... I would think you would be disappointed when
you see what it looks like compared to with lots of water flowing...

mid-June GP road will be open...

Have fun

PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:32 pm
by hotrod4x5
I agree with Bill, if you can go ANYTIME, then spring is best.

PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 7:19 am
by Harold
June may be too soon to plan, but I'll see what I can do. Any thoughts on where to stay? The Ahwahnee looks good, but expensive. Staying near the Arch Rock entrance looks like the most central place to stay. Is this correct? Or would it be better to stay at one of the other park lodges?

Also, since this is a first trip, how long should we plan on staying? I would think three days of hiking and exploring in Yosemite itself is fine for us. Are there any other parks nearby that we could also see?


PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:02 am
by hotrod4x5
El Portal has a few motels and it is closest to the Arch Rock entrance. The Ahwahnee is a 4 star hotel with the price to match. If you can afford it, then by all means, go for it. Otherwise, try for Yosemite Lodge or Curry Village. I prefer to stay in the valley rather than outside like El Portal. Nothing beats waking up at sunrise and going for a walk under El Capitan or Half Dome.

Ahwahnee Hotel

PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 10:42 am
by dan
The Ahwahnee is a 4 star hotel with the price to match.

Ahwahnee is actually a 3 star (Mobil) / 4 diamond (AAA) hotel with a 4 star price :-). It's missing some 4 star qualities, such as vermin (expected in a National Park!), excessive dust and dirt (also expected), fire sprinklers (about to be fixed), and general showing of age in an 80+ year old property.

That said, the Ahwahnee is a wonderful, historic hotel to stay in if you have the chance and can afford it. Off season is cheaper. I stayed there when my parents gave a stay as a wedding present and really enjoyed it. Even if you don't stay there, have a meal in the dining room. If you get there when it opens at 7am you'll get a table at the very back. Those are the best tables as they have a view of Yosemite Falls. It's great when it's raining. The Ahwahnee bar serves excellent food--a meal and not just beer nuts.

I would do anything to stay in the Valley and not outside. Yosemite Lodge is nice and next to Yosemite Falls. Camp Curry is to be endured with it's dirt and excessive noise from kids and teens, but at least you wake up in a beautiful valley.

PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:02 am
by Harold
If I cannot get lodging in the park and opt to stay in El Portal, can anyone comment on the various hotel accommodations there?

PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:17 am
by Dave Miller
Harold wrote:If I cannot get lodging in the park and opt to stay in El Portal, can anyone comment on the various hotel accommodations there?

The two hotels I'm familiar with are Yosemite View Lodge (better option) and Cedar Lodge. They are both operated by the same company. Yosemite View is nicer than Cedar. Many of the rooms at Yosemite View have kitchenettes, I'm not sure about Cedar though. The hotels are dated, but appear to be well maintained. I prefer the "River View" rooms at Yosemite View. Each room has a nice balcony/patio on the river side providing a great view of the Merced. The hotels have a small grocery store/gift shop and a very over priced restaurant.

My favorite feature of Yosemite View is its close proximity to the valley. You can't get any closer without actually being in the park. The hwy 140 entrance is about a 15 minute drive. Cedar Lodge is about another 5-10 minutes out.

I'm not a picky guy and I've been happy staying there. I've booked accommodations through various sources to get the best prices. Last year I managed to get Yosemite View for $59 a night, which was a real bargain in my estimation.

There are other options further away, but I don't have any experience with them.

PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 1:23 pm
by Harold
Thank you.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:45 am
by Harold
How long would a drive from San Francisco to Yosemite be? What about Palm Springs? Thanks.

Re: First Time Visit

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 2:44 pm
by Ljrack

It's about a 4hr drive from San Francisco to Yosemite Valley, depending on which way you go. I guess depending on air fares, My first choice would be Oakland, then San Jose, then SF. Of course if you can get a good rate to Fresno, that's much closer.

Getting to Yosemite from any of the Bay Area airports you basically have 3 choices once you get to the foothills. The shortest miles is HW120. The most direct and just a few miles longer is HW140 through Mariposa. A great drive and a beautiful one following the Merced River all the way in to the valley. This is also the route that El Portal and the closest motels are outside the park. The third route is HW41 out of Fresno and thru Oakhurst. Depending on the time of year, this brings you right by the Mariposa grove and Glacier point as well. A longer and more mountainous route, but a worthy sightseeing drive. There is lodging at the Wawona hotel (almost as pricey as Ahwahnee) but also in Oakhurst and near the park border, but you're a good 45min from the Valley at that point.

You did make a point, "An in-room internet connection will, alas, be necessary. " That basically rules out Yosemite Valley lodging in terms of in-room wifi. As mentioned, I believe there is wifi in the lounges or lobbies, but I'm not 100% sure.

If that is absolutely necessary say to keep an eye on work/business, then I would recommend the Yosemite View Lodge or Cedar Lodge in El Portal that has already been mentioned. YO View Lodge is just 2.5 miles from the Arch Rock entrance and just 15-20 from the Valley Floor. I think it's a great hotel/motel with a decent restaraunt, small store for groceries, etc. A good pizza/bar place, but it closes up for the winter, not sure when. Can't recommend a "River View" room enough. Standing on the patio with the Merced roaring below you is just awesome. There will be water flowing in Sept/Oct, just not the volume of spring and early summer.

Cedar Lodge is 5 miles further west and quite reasonable lodging in terms of quality, price and access to the park.

Check lodging for these here: yosemite-motels dot com (I can't post hot links yet, to new!)

El Portal isn't really a town with any restaurants to speak of, it's more just a small community that you can't even see from the Highway. No expectations of any activities there. A gas station is about it.
Lodging in the Valley here: yosemitepark dot com slash Accommodations dot aspx

As far as timing goes, I guess it all depends. Depends on how patient you are with crowds vs. what you want to see and do. Personally, the crowds are atrocious between Memorial and Labor Day weekends; kids out of school, summer vacations, tours for all over the world, etc.

Don't let the picture discourage you though. It is very easy actually to get away from the big crowds, especially since you mentioned you liked hiking. And if you start out early enough, you can do the guided open-car bus tour of the valley since you mentioned that. Just don't get stuck around Yosemite Village during mid day.

A drive up and over Tioga Pass to the high country would also be highly recommended. And if still open, keep going, spend the night in Lee Vining and visit Mono Lake. That would be a great overnighter.

Do some internet searching for hikes along Tioga Pass, you can get away. Within the valley, you can do the Mist trail up to Vernal and Nevada falls. You can also take a shuttle bus to Glacier point and hike DOWN to valley floor with great vistas of the Valley.

Timing wise, after Labor day the crowds will start to thin especially once School starts. I come at it from a photography point of view and so September is just a dry, hot and unphotogenic month. However, not a bad time for hikes in the high country. Fall color doesn't actually kick in til late in October and actually the beginning of November.

But the later in the year you get, the more unsettling the weather gets and it begins to get cooler. Tioga Pass has closed early in October on many occasions, but just as likely to be open well in to November, you just never know. There's a crispness in the air later in October...

The only drawback is the lack of roaring waterfalls. But to me, the immense geology and granduer of the place is magical even without the waterfalls. Personally I would avoid the valley in June. If you want to catch the falls, go BEFORE Memorial weekend.

Hope this helps and have a great trip.