I started a California trip report already for Big Sur and Monterey but it was so long, I figured I better do Yosemite separately.
We left Monterey at 10 a.m. and it took about 4 hours to get to Yosemite. At two places west of Hollister (hwy 101 or 156), there was road construction and we sat still for 15 minutes at each. I was surprised at how brown all of the hills are. We have so much green grass and forests of trees on the highways in the southeast, it was very different here. I knew a lot of produce is grown here so I expected green but my husband reminded me how close we were to deserts. My kids thought part of the scenery looked like Africa with brown grass and occasional tree.
We stopped at the Walmart in Merced to get groceries for Yosemite. Just for info, here are prices in the Yosemite grocery: small bottle laundry detergent $8.00, loaf of bread $5.00, 20 lb bag of ice $10.00. They sell no large sports drinks or 2L soft drinks just 16 oz ones for $1.60 each.
We took the hwy 140 entrance. It was never backed up or crowded on a Tuesday after lunch. We rode along the Merced River the last 20 miles I am guessing. It was a very pretty drive looking at the river and waterfalls.
EL PORTAL OUT OF GAS AT 2 PM
We knew we couldn't get gas in Yosemite, so we planned on filling up in El Portal to have the fullest tank in the park but they were out. yikes, we were too far into the mountains to turn around to Merced so just fill up there to be safe.
We went to Bridalveil Falls first and my crew climbed up the large boulders as far as they could go which was at least to the middle of the falls. This isn't recommended and I was aggravated with my husband but the boys loved it. We spent an hour here at least because of that.
We checked into our wood cabin without a bath. These are rarely discussed for some reason. They only have 18 of them. I think they have about 40 cabins with a bath? not much anyway. The without a bath ones are in the 900s if you look at a map, near the Outreach Program area. We never had any noise problems though so I was glad. The cabin was very small. Two double beds touching the wall with about 2 feet between. It had one dresser, two small wooden chairs and a table fan. It did have 5 windows though. It was really hot while we unpacked so open windows were nice. We were glad to have brought extra pillows but we didn't need the extra blanket. They give you a wool one and a bedspread. No one has cleaned the walls or baseboards in years, yuck! But I expected that. As long as we had clean sheets we were fine. It was actually really quiet after 10 p.m.
We got 4 small worn thin towels and 1 hand towel but no wash cloths so bring your own. The soap dispenser in the showers were empty and old. The bathrooms weren't too bad. The water is hot and great water pressure. The shower and toilet stall are tiny! I couldn't bathe with the water on because you are right under it as it is only about 2 or 3 feet wide at best. There are no hooks for your clothes so bring a bag to hang on the door.
In the 900s area, there are 2 ladies' bathrooms, one with a code lock and one without. They were the same pretty much although the one with the code may get less crowded at peak times. A sign says for campers (you know just a pitch tent kind) to use the bathrooms near the pool so that was good. That one is probably the most crowded.
I went in the bathroom also near the pavilion and check-in and it was the same as ours.
STONEMAN HOUSE Curry Village (18 room HOTEL)
We stayed here the last two nights. I was able to snag a cancellation 9 days before we got there. It was $200 a night though and would have been less if I had been able to get it earlier. You don't read that much about it. It is one building, one story, with 18 rooms around it. There is a covered porch with adirondack chairs all around and strings of lights above. Bonus? You get your very own bathroom, a closet area and a free icemaker! Lastly, it is 10 yards from the shuttle pickup and close to the dining area, store, and wi-fi building.
Our room was really nice. It had been painted recently and it was really clean. The bathroom was small but had clean white tiles. The towels were thicker and larger than the cabins and tent cabins get. We had a ceiling fan and a floor fan to use. (No AC in Curry Village). The shuttle will probably wake you up around 7am -8am if you don't have both fans on. We didn't hear people, just the shuttle beeps. I would gladly stay in it again. One last bonus is the 30 minute parking for check-in is 20 yards away so it is much easier to unload your luggage here than when you go to cabins or tent cabins. That can be a loooong walk.
AHWAHNEE HOTEL RESTAURANT
I made reservations for us for supper the first night. They still had several open tables for 2 or 4 people though. Only about half of the people dressed up. Our boys were so embarassed walking through the campground in dress shirts and khaki pants. But they were relieved to see half of the men in dress shirts. Some people had plaid shirts and jeans or a sweater and capri pants. The restaurant feels worn out and past its prime. The food was good but not much quantity for the price. Our view was of trees and grass, no mountain view like I thought. We really enjoyed the piano music that was played all night. After 8 p.m. would be more romantic for couples once the sun sets. I am not sure if I would do it again with just a 3 night trip there. I wish we had used the first night checking out the village-going to the 2 museums and galleries, learning about the park there etc.
After we ate we went through the hotel gift shop which had some Native American art and other nice things. We found some parking fairly easily although they also have valet parking. We were worried the shuttle would take too long so we just drove. It isn't far from Curry Village.
On Wednesday morning, we had to move all of our luggage from the wood cabin to the Stoneman House. It was a haul to our van in the parking lot by the tent cabins. One bad thing about bringing 3 days of drinks and snacks, you have to unload ALL of it so the bears don't break into your car. Even though we didn't need any of it the first night, we had to carry it all and our cooler to the cabin and then move it all to our hotel room.
MIST TRAIL, VERNAL AND NEVADA FALLS
We headed out at 10 a.m. after we got all of our luggage back in the van. We added about a mile to our hike by walking from Curry Village center to the trailhead. You can take the shuttle to save a little walking time. A big time-waster at Curry is getting coffee in the a.m. Even though I went at 7 a.m. it took more than 30 minutes to walk over and get some coffees and hot chocolates. Why do they only have 3 workers in the coffee shop in the morning?!!
The trail started its incline pretty early on. The beginning is a nice wide paved pathway. You get to the bottom of Vernal Falls before too long. There is a bridge to cross the river and a lot of large boulders to sit on and rest a bit. They have water fountains here you can refill your bottles with. Unfortunately, it is too early in the hike to be helpful. There are restrooms here , kind of yucky with no soap. Again why can't Yosemite buy soap!! We had wipes and sanitizer.
We took a 16 oz water bottle and a 32 oz Gatorade bottle for each person. Plus a spare 2 bottles for 5 of us. We worried about carrying too much weight uphill. We drank it all on the hike up and had none for the hike down. Optimal would be about 80 -100 ounces per person at least. We took snacks like trail mix and crackers and never wanted them. We were too hot and too busy. If I did it over I would dump out all of the food except our lunch sandwiches and packed more drinks. There are no more bathrooms past this point.
The hike continues uphill and gets to be 12-18 inch rock steps as you near the top of the falls. This is pretty strenuous especially if you are short. Make sure you wear shorts that dont' go to your knee otherwise they will pull constantly as you go uphill. My husband and sons were really glad to have sturdy ankle hiking boots. The mist feels wonderful and it reminds me of photos of Ireland with the rocks and moss. We passed a bunch of Aussies on a narrow part of the trail and they all said "Cheers" as they passed. We enjoyed that.
We made it to the top and it is so nice. There is plenty of room to have a picnic. There are shady trees and wading areas protected by boulders. Only step in the 10 inch deep edge because hikers have been killed getting swept over the falls! The pool at the top looks inviting like a swimming pond but we were smart enough not to get in. The whole area is nice and we stayed here over an hour resting and eating our sandwiches. Squirrels will attack you for your food. They crawled on my legs before I knew they were there. They are used to being beggars. It was kind of funny and kind of annoying. They would sneak up on us from four corners.
Whew now for an even steeper climb. The rest starts out ok then you start getting to a rocky "goat trail" as my husband called it. We saw old photos of it and it used to be in much better shape. You really have to watch your footing more than before. Once you get to a spot where you get a good view of the falls, it gets worse after that. I saw some 7yr olds and up but not really anyone over 50 yrs old doing it that day. We explored some areas near the trail that looked neat. At this point we were starting to pass people coming down the Panorama Trail asking us about what they had ahead.
The Mist Trail to Nevada Falls is 7 miles roundtrip from the trailhead. If you pay $20 for the shuttle to Glacier Point and come down the Panorama Trail which turns into the Mist Trail, it is 8 1/2 miles but mostly downhill. I am assuming the steep walk uphill is harder but cheaper
Both falls had a lot of water flowing and still looked nice, much better than Yosemite Falls. Like I said, we were really thirsty on the way down and my husband decided we should take the same trail back instead of the more gentle John Muir trail so we could get some water at the Vernal Falls base. We did that and our thighs and knees were really worn out from "putting on the brakes" constantly on the way down. We finished around 8 p.m., but we had explored some and took a lot of photos.
CURRY VILLAGE FOOD
We ate pizza that night after our hike. I assumed they would be little given Yosemite's food prices but they were actually big for $20.00. For some reason we were less hungry than usual after hiking which surprised me. Two pizzas were enough for the 5 of us and we enjoyed them. It can be tricky to find an open table though.
On the other hand, the buffet at the pavilion was BAD. It was $16 a person I believe but less for under 12 yrs old. The fish and rotisserie chicken legs were o.k. The two vegetables was mushy overcooked zucchini or raw cauliflower burned on a skillet -yuck. They had some simple spicy soups and cafeteria quality desserts. We were glad to get some milk and tea though. We would never eat there again.
The coffee bar has muffins and danishes.
As I said, they were really low -flowing due to smaller snow melt. There are two different ways to walk to the lower falls and both are interesting though the one that starts at the right is much neater. There is a photo op spot right off the main path of the trail that starts from the right side of the falls. There is a shuttle stop you can take to get right to the trailhead. You can also take photos of both without walking all of the way to the base of the lower falls. It isn't hard and is a wide paved pathway.
You can walk to the upper falls but it is a strenuous 5 hour hike. We didn't try it since we did a hard hike already and the falls weren't that good by this time.
We took the shuttle here and walked the 1 mile to the "lake". Walking to it we chose the dirt path to the right. It was rocks and sand and full of mule dung! It was steeper than I thought it would be but probably because we were sore from Nevada Falls.
We walked around the meadows and quickly through the cold water. It is very small due to lack of snow melt. It was very peaceful underneath the mountains all around you. There is a nice swimming hole at the beginnning but the water is freezing! There are rocks for a picnic here. There are a few parking places and bike racks. We walked back to the shuttle on the paved road instead. The river was pretty along the road.
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Yosemite Curry Village wood cabin, Stoneman House and hikes
I started a California trip report already for Big Sur and Monterey but it was so long, I figured I better do Yosemite separately.