California - Yosemite

The Yosemite National Peark (pronounced "Yoh-sem-it-ee") was one of the highliths of our trip, so it deserved it's own post. It is set within California’s Sierra Nevada mountains and is famed for its giant, ancient sequoias, and for Tunnel View, the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome.

In our previous California Roadtrip post we stopped just outsite the park at night to start early to get into it. The problem with Yosemite is that it's a hugely popular vacation spot for Americans. Probably even more now because of the recent visit of a special guest. So that main issue we had when entereing was finding a camping spot. The couple we met the night before said they would drive in and out of the park each day, but wanted to avoid that.

Day 1

The day started with bad news at the park entrance: We were told that all the spots in the valley are taken. Only a few were left at a small camping ground next to the entrance, which was still a long drive away from the valley. We decided to check out the valley first and worry about where to stay later.

The drive through the park was quite interesting. In the beginning we saw a lot of burned down trees from more recent fires, which is part of the natural cycle, as it help the forest to bring out new life. Then the drive continued higher up where we started to see some snow on the side of the road and then slowly back down again through the mountain-tunnes into the valley. Leaving the tunnels and suddenly having the view of the valley was a mesmerizing experience, it's hard to be prepared for it. We were so unprepared, that we even forgot to take a picture...

We continued driving down further and stopped at the information desk to get information about the park. And just then we noticed at a board behind the desk that there were a few open camping spots left. We quickly went to the campsite reservation and found out that some people cancelled their trip to the vally because of a bad weather forecast. What a relief! With that done we could park our car at our site at a meadow and start exploring the valley, starting with the Upper Yosemite Falls. There are buses driving all day that can get you around the valley for free.

Upper Yosemite Falls
Short trip on the first day to the Upper Yosemite Falls. To our suprise we got some snow

After that we made a quick stop at the The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (previously Ahwahnee Hotel, but they had to rename themselves because of some dispute). This is also the hotel where president Obama stayed during his recent visit. The hotel certainly lives up to it's name with it's historic interior design. It has huge fireplaces, which are perfect to heat up after a long day in the cold. The lounge is open to the public as well, as long as you order something to drink and a hot choclate was just what we needed. After a short rest we checked out the menu and our budget and then booked a brunch for the next morning to treat ourselves a bit.

Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Inside Hotel
Exploring the lounge area
Inside Hotel
There were several smaller side-room where you could sit as
Restaurant of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Restaurant of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel

After that we headed back to our site with a route that took us to the Mirror Lake, which is famous fot its great reflections of the surrounding nature.

Mirror Lake
Picture at the Mirror Lake
Stone in Mirror Lake
This picture should give a good explanation for the name

When we got back to our site we were quite tired, so we had some small BBQ dinner and then headed for our bed..

BBQ dinner
Cooking at our campsite

Day 2

We started the day with a glamorous breakfast feast at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. A nice change after eating on the road for most of the trip.

Brunch Alex
Brunch JJ
Enjoying brunch.
Brunch Food

After brunch we started our longer hike of the day. Initially I planned to do the Panorama Trail, but it was still closed off, so we did the Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall Trail instead. It's a 8.7 km round trip with an elevation gain of 610 m. Here are some pictures from it:

Liberty Cap
View on Liberty Cap
Vernal Fall
Vernal Fall
Nevada Fall
Nevada Fall
Cutting rocks
Getting to work on top of Nevada Fall

After a long day hiking we decided to spend the rest of the day in the lounge of the hotel again, where I was reading and JJ was drawing in her sketchbook.

Day 3

Or time here came to an end, so we started heading out again. Before leaving we made another quick stop at the granite cliffs of El Capitan.

El Capitan
El Capitan
Climbing El Capitan
I can now understand why this is such a popular climbing destination

And then a final stop at a vista spot with a view over the valley

Yosemite Valley
View over Yosemite Valley

If you ever have to chance to explore the vally, do it!