Tenaya Lake off Hwy 120 in Yosemite.
Bridalveil Falls; the base easily accessible from the valley floor.
Half Dome from the Yosemite Valley Floor
The entrance to Mariposa Grove.
Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park
Deer can be spotted in early evening at Mariposa Grove.
Wildlife is abundant in Yosemite National Park
Check into the Apple Tree Inn in Fish Camp.
Encompassing 1170 square miles, this 'crown jewel' of national parks lies only five hours from Santa Clarita. The autumn color and lack of crowds and bugs combine to make this an exciting time of year to visit Yosemite. Because Fall is considered 'off-season,' you'll save on lodging and camping accommodations. You should be aware that the main falls visible from the valley floor tend to be dry from August through late November.
Enter through the closest entrance off Hwy 41 in Fish Camp or after exploring the eastern side of the Sierras, through Lee Vining. In October begin to watch for Hwy 120 to be closed due to snow.
A few important details: Gasoline is no longer sold on the valley floor. It can be purchased in the park at Wawona and Crane Flat or before entering at Oakhurst or Lee Vining. Within the park, flushing restroom facilities are available at Wawona, on the valley floor, Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows.
You'll find essential information at the park's comprehensive web site on everything mentioned below. It's worth the extra effort to review the site and create a preliminary itinerary before heading out.
INSIDE THE PARK
A great way to get acquainted with Yosemite is to take the 26-mile, two-hour Valley Floor Tour. You'll ride on an open-air tram and learn about the sites, geology, and history of Yosemite. In late October a heated motor coach is used for the tour. To see more of the park, sign up for the all-day Grand Tour. which combines the Glacier Point Tour, the Big Trees Tour and parts of the Valley Floor Tour. The Grand Tour is only offered through October.
There are six tours to choose from, each offering spectacular views and hidden treasures of Yosemite. On full moon nights, May through October, you may want to join the Moonlight Tour on the open-air tram
By day explore Yosemite on foot, bicycle, horse or mule; play a round of golf; explore Pioneer Village; take a swim in one of the many lakes, rivers or indoor pools; sign up for a free art class; tag along with a professional photographer for a couple of hours; link up with a Ranger Walk & Talk; or drop in on Wee Wild Ones, where the little ones (6 & under) enjoy 45-minutes of stories and games.
When night falls, experience an Old-fashioned Campfire with songs, stories and marshmallows; stroll the park by twilight and soak in the silence; observe the stars from an open meadow on a Starry Skies tour; listen in on Story Time to learn the history of Yosemite; relax to vintage piano music; or laugh your way through an evening of fun at the Yosemite Theatre.
The grandeur of the Ahwahnee, the rustic Victorian elegance of the Wawona, and the outdoor picnic areas of Curry Village are only a few of the places you and your family can replenish your energy within the boundaries of the park. Don't want to dress up on this trip but still want to satisfy your taste buds at the Ahwahnee? No problem; just make reservations for lunch.
Camping & Lodging
Sleep in the open air next to a campfire, pitch a tent, rent a tent cabin, or opt for pure luxury. You choose the Yosemite experience that fits your definition of "vacation."
The Ahwahnee is by far the classiest place in the park, located on the valley floor. There's a nice gift shop, gorgeous lobby, casual dining, and elegant dining in their main restaurant. The men's restroom is just beyond the front desk, while the women's restroom is located on the second floor, at the top of the stairs beyond the men's restroom.
The only gas in Yosemite is at Crane Flat and Wawona. (Fish Camp does not have gas; you must drive to Oakhurst.)
If you have less than a day to see Yosemite, perhaps on your way back from Lake Tahoe, enter the park on Tioga Road (Tioga Pass, Highway 120 East between Crane Flat and Highway 395 in Lee Vining). Stop at the Mobil station in Lee Vining for a rest stop, gourmet lunch and to stock up on some tasty treats.
You'll be glad you are traveling southbound, as much of your route will be on the inside of the road until you near the valley floor. Stop at Olmsted Point for your first vista of the park--and a fabulous photo op.
Pull over at Bridalveil Fall for a short walk to the base of the falls. Head over to Ahwahnee for a rest stop and lunch, then stop at River View on your way out of the valley for another great view.
Your next stop will be Tunnel View, a spectacular vista and perfect "see us in Yosemite" photo. Continue past Wawona to Mariposa Grove to see the giant sequoias. Now exit the park, check into either the Apple Tree Inn or Tenaya, and enjoy dinner at Tenaya Lodge.
About the Animals
Visit the park's website before visiting to have a clear understanding of the animals in Yosemite. But here are a couple of pointers:
- The animals are wild. Do not get close to them or try to feed them!
- Do not keep food in your car; the bear can easily access your car--and it won't be pretty!
There has been one fatality by an animal in Yosemite Park, according to Scott Gediman, Chief of Media & External Relations for Yosemite National Park.
"A 5 year old boy was gored to death by a deer in Wawona in November, 1977. The boy, Colin Robert Neu, was visiting the park with his parents and having a picnic near the Wawona school. The boy was feeding potato chips to a deer, one by one. He then brought the bag of chips down to the creek and the deer pushed the bag out of his hands. When the boy bent over to pick it up, he startled the deer (a buck) and the deer 'stabbed' the boy under his armpit. Unfortunately, the antler nicked an artery and the boy died."
Please respect the animals and keep your distance.
Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad
Take the four-mile excursion on this narrow gauge railroad that once carried felled logs. Choose from day trips or moonlight dinner journeys. You may even encounter some bandits along the way! The train runs April through October.
Yosemite Trails Horseback Riding
Feeling adventurous? Overnight backcountry pack trips (basic or luxury) will give you and the family the life of the cowboy. If camping is not your thing, embark on a 5½-hour trail ride which winds through the forest, into the Mariposa Grove and back to Fish Camp. If that's still a little too much horsing around for you, choose from one-hour or two-hour trail rides, or take the little ones around on a lead horse.
Apple Tree Inn
$-$$ / $-$$
Located just two miles from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park, this 50+ room cottage-style resort sits very near Tenaya Lodge. Towering pines, carefully cultivated gardens, an indoor pool, spa and raquetball court make this an ideal destination. Two-room suites are a great solution for families. The rooms are spacious and yet cozy, with much appreciated amenities like a mini-fridge, microwave, and coffee maker. Fluffy blankets entice you to stay snuggled in your bed, yet outdoor patios and decks off your room beckon you to take in the heady scent of pine while sipping your morning coffee. A lovely expanded continental breakfast is included in the main building.
You'll be within walking distance of the Tenaya Lodge, with a variety of activities and restaurants. Try Jackalopes Bar & Grill for a casual, yet delicious, meal. The Monte Cristo sandwich is incredible!
$-$$ / $-$$
Rustic elegance, gourmet dining, spa treatments, indoor/outdoor swimming pools…this is base camp. Sitting on the edge of Yosemite, this world-class resort continually earns the AAA Four-Diamond Award. Every outdoor activity you can imagine is available, from nature hikes to a winter jazz concert in the pines. Wish the two of you could just get away for an adult trail ride or to scale a granite dome? No problem, just schedule the kids to attend Camp Tenaya Kids Camp. When its time to wind down for the evening, arrange for a rejuvenating spa treatment, a flashlight hike, or simply enjoy fine dining in the Sierra Restaurant followed by Impossible Escapes-the Tenaya's own magic act designed to entertain kids and adults. The Tenaya's web site offers a plethora of information on area activities, but if you don't have time to review it before heading out, just check with the Activities Desk when you arrive.
ROOM RATE KEY
Rooms Begin At / Room Described
$ - under $199
$$ - $200 - 299
$$$ - $300 - 399
$$$$ - $400 - 499
$$$$$ - $500 and up