California // A Guide to Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

California’s Yosemite National Park is ~1,200 square miles of valleys, waterfalls, sequoias, meadows, lakes and more.  We had three nights to spend here and explored Nevada Falls (1), Majestic Yosemite Hotel (2), Glacier Point (3), Sentinel Dome (4) and Taft Point (5).

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You can stay in Yosemite Valley (camping, cabins or hotels), but we opted to stay outside of the park in Oakhurst (30 mins drive from the west entry point to the national park) to “glamp” in a beautiful a-frame cabin.

We flew into San Francisco Airport, rented a car and drove to our Oakhurst cabin from there (via my first ever In-N-Out experience).


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This blog post is not sponsored by Jeep, but I wish it was!

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The best part about being in a cabin was the ability to cook our own meals (when I say we, I mean Mike, who actually likes to cook, to cook for me).

Nevada Falls

Nevada Falls is a ~600ft waterfall, the top of which can be reached by a 7 mile round trip trail, which is relatively easy until you get about half way were it starts to gets steep and very misty/wet from the waterfall (thus its name, the Mist trail).  We drove and parked at Happy Isles, and walked from there.

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Once you get to the top, there is a gorgeous lake where you can chill, dip your feet in the water and eat that lunch you brought with you.

Majestic Yosemite Hotel

After our hike, we drove over to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel for a cocktail at the bar, followed by dinner in the dining room.  This was probably the only time in our trip where we got dressed up (they have a strict dress code).  I also saw my first ever deer (somewhat of a novelty for an Aussie).  This hotel was beautiful, but out of our price range to stay for a few nights!

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Glacier Point

Glacier Point is a look-out accessible by car, with a sweeping view of Yosemite Valley.  If you get here before 10AM, you will easily score a parking spot and be able to get going on the Pohono Trail.

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Sentinel Dome

From Glacier Point, start on the Pohono Trail toward Sentinel Dome (and ultimately Taft Point).  This is a more strenuous hike than Nevada Falls and is through the Yosemite “Wilderness” along the rim of the Valley.  The trail to Sentinel Dome is ~2 miles and mostly uphill (to hit a final elevation of 8,000 ft).  Once you get to the base, you scramble the rock about 1/4 mile to the top.

Sentinel Dome had the best views of our trip.  360 views from the top, including El Capitan.  It is particularly awesome because, you’ve also earned it.  (You can walk 1 mile from the Sentinel Dome parking lot, but that is full of tourists and really you should be seeing the true Yosemite!).  In search of some shade to eat a well earned lunch, we sat underneath the only tree up there, which we did not realize was the famous Jeffrey Pine.

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Taft Point

Exhausted (hiking in 100+ F heat), but determined to continue on, we walked the next 2 miles to Taft Point which gave us more of those amazing views.  The main attractions here are the giant fissures, which are huge drops and cracks in the mountain, and the 10-foot guard rail over the protruding Profile Cliff that lets you look down its vertical drop of 1,600 ft below you.  I felt a bit nauseous after looking over the edge and forgot to take photos, but we hiked the ~4 miles back to Glacier point after that (did I mention I was exhausted?).  By the time we got back I was so dirty from the hike (unlike the falls the day before where we were only misted) so I took a few photos to try and show how dusty we got (it doesn’t quite do it justice).

The hiking is totally do-able but strenuous at times.  Bring heaps of water.  It was 38 C / 100 F every day which made it really tough, and water isn’t available very often along the hikes.  We each had one of those camelbak bladders full of water in our backpack which came in handy.

Overall, this was a spectacular trip and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.  3 days weren’t enough, but at the same time we were exhausted.  Maybe a relaxed day in the cabin would have been enough to restore us for some more exploring.  One day I will be back for sure.  From Yosemite, we drove north to Napa Valley for lunch and a wine at Bouchon, and continued our drive up north to our next stop, the Redwood Forests!  You can catch that blog post here.

That’s all until the next adventure xx

PS: Please subscribe to my blog for more travel posts and more NYC adventures.  Our remaining 2016 travel plans: Europe, Japan and an EPIC Surprise Location for Mike’s birthday trip!

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