Yosemite National Park is one of the great American treasures everyone needs to experience! Geographically, Yosemite Valley was made sense to kick-start our road trip and adventuring – and it set the bar very high for the rest of the week!
Knowing that there is so much to do in the (freaking huge) park I wanted to make sure we got the most of our time there. So we drove up the night before and got an AirBNB in Mariposa. It was a little off the grid at a woodsy cabin off a dirt road surrounded by trees (and cows) – but totally set the tone for the week.
Our day started bright and early with temperatures in the 40’s – but taking the dog for his morning walk was lit by a sky full of stars even with the sunrise creeping up on the horizon. After filling our hydration packs and dressing in layers for day ahead, we made our way through Main Street in Mariposa on our way to Yosemite. We stopped for breakfast at Sweetwater Grocery & Deli – if you plan on stopping here make sure to give yourself time as the wait takes a while – but the breakfast sandwich is worth the wait! The store was totally stocked and we ordered sandwiches to pack away for lunch later that day. During our wait for our sandwiches we strolled around the corner to Donut-A-Go-Go which was the best find in Mariposa!
I walked in as they were stocking the shelves with fresh from the oven apple pie donuts – AMAZING! And for a small town coffee shop they whipped up a killer double iced mocha!
After fueling up in Mariposa, we made our way towards the park for a day of adventuring!
We planned the trip at the perfect time for little traffic (late September) – school had already started so there weren’t many families or college kids around. It was pretty much the four of us, our dog, Senior Citizens and Foreign Tour Groups (who were all super friendly and great to chat with around the park)!
The fee to get into the park was $30 which got you a weeks worth of access to the park – when you get this receipt DO NOT LOSE IT (“fun” story for Day 2).
On the way into Yosemite Valley guests are welcomed by El Capitan! This skyscraper of stone causes everyone to quickly grab the closest parking spot on the side of the road so they can take in its impressiveness. We jumped out of our car and immediately started taking pictures like everyone else surrounding us in the small field trimming the small two lane road of the park. We went for a small walk to get closer to El Capitan and were greeting by a small stream whose rushing waters drowned out the sounds of the cars behind us.
After taking in El Capitan we made our way in to the actual valley and were lucky enough to score a parking spot across the meadows of Yosemite Falls – another breathtaking site – especially since the falls were alive and flowing!
Tioga Pass is one of the main roads in Yosemite National Park which closes often due to snow and intense weather conditions. It snowed the night we made our way to Mariposa and the pass was closed which had us worried that our next day of adventuring would be cut short of sights and sounds if we had to reroute through Bakersfield and Fresno to get to our next destination on the trip… BUT the snow that fell the night before was melting and this contributed to the rich falls – which rangers told us we were very lucky to witness as there are times the falls aren’t flowing at all.
As we made our way through the meadows of Yosemite Valley we were less than 100 feet from a ton of deer – who didn’t seem to mind us visiting. One deer got within 10 feet of us and didn’t seem at all bothered by us – we actually felt bad because we felt like it was expecting us to give it a carrot (or a tip) for gracing us with its presence.
The stroll to Yosemite Falls was quick and easy – less than a mile from the Yosemite Falls bus stop if you take the Yosemite Shuttle (we would have loved to decrease our carbon footprint in the park and take the shuttle – but dogs aren’t welcome – so we had to drive).
The falls are beautiful, but if you are like me – the view from the pedestrian bridge doesn’t cut it – so I hiked up to the base of lower Yosemite Falls! It took a few minutes and it wasn’t that easy – but SO worth it! The base of the falls even had a spectacular rainbow stretching from the pool below the falls up into the base of the waterfall! The photo below doesn’t do it justice. And the strong mist from the waterfall will get you pretty wet, but after climbing that far it serves as a refreshing reward for the climb!
We spent a great deal of our day tracing the trails of the valley connecting Yosemite Falls to Mirror Lake and then back to the open meadows. The trails connecting the parks attractions are a site themselves – all showcasing different views of the surrounding mountains. We were lucky to run into entire rock formations uniquely shaped and some decorated in moss.
While we spent a great deal of the day hiking and making our way to Mirror Lake – it was pretty shallow and left little “mirror” to be desired… which makes me optimistic to visit again to hopefully get a better mirrored experience! BUT there were some pretty awesome views at Half Dome out in the distance – a hike I’m adding to my bucket list (anyone down to make the hike?!?!).
The Yosemite Lodge and Visitors Center were great pit stops along the way back to where we parked the car. And since we packed our lunches we were able to throw a blanket down and have a picnic in Cook’s Meadows to refuel after hours of exploring.
And even though the trip was planned and mapped out in great detail, we came across Pohono Falls on our exit – and of course we had to hike to its base!
This unplanned excursion was one of the best parts of the day with caves and great views of the waterfalls runoff filling small ponds and creating miniature waterfalls. About 3/4 the way to the base of the waterfall there was a small cave that had an opening in the back of the cave exposed to the it’s own waterfall – VERY cool find on the hike!
And after visiting El Capitan, Lower Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake, Cooks Meadows and Pohono Falls – we were exhausted and called it a (very successful) day!
Loved spending time outdoors and connecting with friends – and especially in Yosemite Valley! Day 1 of 2 in Yosemite Valley was a hit and it was back to Mariposa for dinner and a long nights sleep before the adventure continued… More to come, stay tuned! =)
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