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kittys69 Oct 10th, 2011 11:17 AM

Need ideas for a trip including Yosemite National Park
After our last trip from Denver to Vegas and back, we are totally in love with rural America!

We'd like to visit Yosemite NP, plus surrounding areas. We want to cover a much smaller area than our last trip. It'd be for two weeks again, We'll be camping mostly, want to stay a few days in each place, will hire a car to get around, so will definitely include a city worth seeing in the trip itinary.

We are into walking, exploring new things, outdoor activities, and are open to anybody's extra suggestions.

We are totally flexible with ideas, so as many as possible would be fab!


Placename Oct 10th, 2011 12:04 PM

When would you do this?

Where would you be starting from?

Campgrounds in Yosemite are very popular and you must get have reservations.

There are many beautiful parts of the Sierras to see, including Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake, Mt.Whitney, Bodie State Park ghost town, etc.

Take a look at which gives you an idea of some of the sights along the eastern Sierra.

I'd try to visit Yosemite in July/Aug/or September, avoiding July 4th holiday. It's really best when the Tuolumne Meadows are and Tioga Pass are open. This past year was a heavy snow year and this area wasn't really accessible until mid-July.

spirobulldog Oct 10th, 2011 01:00 PM

So are you starting from Denver? If so, have you been to any of the Utah sights?(those would be easy to do on your way to Yosemite)

Maybe Lassen Volcano NP, Maybe Great Basin NP. I love Yosemite. You might want to spend a few days in Seqouia NP too. The trees in Sequoia are better than those in Yosemite, IMOP.

Elyse_Dorm Oct 10th, 2011 01:01 PM

If you will be taking the route between Death Valley and Yosemite (assuming its not a winter trip) then definitely take the time to stop by mono lake. Its a very salty lake with beautiful formations growing out of it. The other place we really liked was Joshua Tree National Park. It's unique landscape, and climbing opportunites made it one of our favorite places in California. Also, photography in the afternoon light in this park makes for phenomenal results. For best city to visit in California I nominate San Francisco-there's a lot to do in and around that area and the city has a great vibe to it.

qwovadis Oct 10th, 2011 01:11 PM

Congrats on your trip have done it several times

Fly into LAX or Vegas or SFO

LAX usually cheapest Fox cheapest usually for cheap hotels

head up the coast to Santa Babara Solvang Hearst Castle SF then

Wawona Lodge better than Curry Cabins Tioga pass

to Dow Villa Hotel(ghost of John Wayne

is reputed to like to visit) Death Valley Vegas LAX

Reverse if you like but you will have a super time. directions distances.

Happy Travels!

tomfuller Oct 10th, 2011 05:33 PM

Where do you intend to get your camping supplies and what will you do with them when you turn in your rental car?
This type of trip works better with your own vehicle and plenty of time.
Have you seen all of the southern Utah National Parks?

kittys69 Oct 11th, 2011 03:46 AM

Hi again Spirobulldog!! Thanks for the advice for our last trip- it was a fantastic experience :o)

We're from the UK, so are thinking at the moment of flying into San Francisco and starting from there, but agin it's flexible. It'll be August/ Sept I think that we go due to having to save up.

Placename- where are the parts of the Sierras, Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake, Mt.Whitney, Bodie State Park ghost town, etc you mention? Would we be able to encorporate it into the trip somehow if we did start from San Francisco?

qwovadis- we went to Vegas during our last trip,and saw a lot of Utah so want to see different cities and states. I take it LAX is Los Angeles airport? How far are San Francisco and L.A from each other?

tomfuller- We've got our own camping stuff , and due to previous camping trips abroad to places such as Africa's mountains we've got very compact equipment, so will bring it in a holdall like last year, using rucsacs during the day.

Shanti Oct 11th, 2011 04:04 AM

I'd recommend going in September instead of August, if possible. Some of the places, like Bodie, are really hot in the summer and there's no shade, so you'll have more comfortable weather in September. Probably less crowds, too, except Yosemite Valley will be extremely crowded both months. The high country, along Tioga Road, however, will be lovely with much fewer people.

Gretchen Oct 11th, 2011 04:30 AM

If you fly into SF you might want to swing north for a little side trip to Muir Woods and up to Eureka. Then head down to Yosemite. You could camp two places in YP--the floor and then up in Tuolomne Meadows.

Shanti Oct 11th, 2011 04:46 AM

It's about a six hour drive from SFO to Eureka and then eight hours to Yosemite. If you have two weeks, and want to spend part of that time vacationing in the city, as much as I like northern California, I'd recommend spending the non-city part of your vacation closer to Yosemite.

spirobulldog Oct 11th, 2011 08:46 AM

If there is anyway you could go the first two weeks of June, The Valley Waterfalls would be going best at that time. The high country(Tuolomne) would be better later. However, the waterfalls could be dried up by then.

If you went later you might want to include a bit of Northern California. Redwoods National Park and Lassen National Park. Maybe even Sequoia National Park(which is south of Yosemite). The trees at Sequoia are better than The Redwoods or Yosemite(they all are great though)IMOP. I like Point Reyes on the coast. Muir Woods is just ok. Not sure that it warrants the time since you are going other places with far better trees.

Another option would be to take 3 or 4 days and do the coast between SF and LA. Montery and the aquarium there, Point Lobos, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, McWay Falls, Channel Islands and other stops between the two cities.

I would spend a few days in SF before I would LA,IMOP.

You will probably want
1 day for Yosemite Valley
1 day for Mariposa Grove
1 day for Tuolomne
and maybe 1 day for Hetch Hetchy
Those would be the minimums depending on how much hiking you want to do. Make you lodging ASAP.

The best time for the waterfalls is the last two weeks of May or the first two weeks of June. You want to avoid the last weekend in May, as that is a US holiday. In July and August, you can expect to be really annoyed with the traffic in Yosemite.

enzian Oct 11th, 2011 02:51 PM

The high country of Yosemite is at its best in August and September, especially after August 15: fewer or no mosquitoes, wildflowers still out, high trails and creeks passable, where earlier they may be blocked by snow or too high to cross. Traffic is not a problem in this part of Yosemite, as it is in the Valley. Yosemite Valley is still beautiful even when the waterfalls are not at their maximum; Vernal and Nevada Falls keep flowing even when the water level is low.

You could do a very nice loop from San Francisco including Lake Tahoe, Bridgeport, Bodie, Mono Lake, perhaps Mammoth, and over Tioga Pass to Tuolumne before ending in Yosemite Valley after Labor Day when things are (a bit) quieter. You could also continue down to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks from Yosemite if you have time.

Reservations for camping in Yosemite must be booked in advance at For dates starting August 15 to Sept. 14, 2012, you would book on April 15, 2012. The "booking window" opens at 7:00 am Pacific Daylight Time, and campsites in the Valley disappear in the first minute. So if you want one of those, you shold register on the website and proactice using it ahead of time. Campsites in Tuolumne last longer, but we have seen them all booked within 10 minutes. But only half the campsites there can be booked in advance, so you still may be able to get one just showing up.

If you have lightweight camping gear and backpacks, you could also consider backcountry camping. There is a whole separate system for permits for that, which I can explain if you are interested.

If you are interested in camping at Lake Tahoe, you should also reserve campsites there. Sugat Pine and Fallen Leaf Lake campgrounds are both nice (and very popular.)

kittys69 Oct 18th, 2011 08:20 AM

enzian: Yes it'd be great if you could explain all about the backcountry camping and system for permit etc

MichelleY Oct 18th, 2011 09:21 AM

I have never been camping and never will, but you may want to include somewhere around Downieville, then head to Lake Tahoe before going down 395 towards Yosemite. Sequoia/Kings Canyon would top off a great trip.

If you want to try something around the Bay area and Central Coast, check this link:

This fodorite has several other trip reports of camping that may be helpful.

charnees Oct 18th, 2011 11:37 AM

You asked about the geography of the places people are mentioning. I'll tell you about one route to take, which is our favorite, and we never tire of it.

From San Francisco, Lake Tahoe is about a 4 hour drive east on US highway 80 (a fast wide expressway after you get out of the Bay Area). Driving from north to south on the lake is a beautiful trip. From there, one option is to drive from the south end of the lake on highway 89 over Luther Pass (a short drive) into Hope Valley, a spectacular sight. Then turn east (left) and follow 88-89 until 89 turns right and goes through Markleeville, (there's a campground there) and then down the Carson river and then it turns east to go over Monitor Pass, which will give you heart-stopping views down the east side of the Sierra Nevadas as you start back down the east side of the pass. this road will take you to Highway 395, which follows the east side of the mountain range and will get you to Lee Vining, where you turn back west on Tioga Pass (Highway 120). Tioga Pass takes you into the high country of Yosemite, and then down into the valley.

But Tioga Pass is not open in winter, so be forewarned.

charnees Oct 18th, 2011 11:46 AM

By the way, here's our most recent photos from Tioga Pass in Yosemite.

enzian Oct 26th, 2011 08:24 PM

Kittys69, I apologize for not answering sooner. We were away without Internet access and then I had eye surgery which complicated responding on Fodors.

Backcountry permits are available 24 weeks in advance of the day you will start, and are specific to each trailhead. Probably the only ones that sell out on opening day are for Little Yosemite Valley from Happy Isles, which includes Half Dome ascent permit. You can find information om applications on the official Yosemite NPS website. The application process is managed by volunteers at the Yosemite Conservancy, and in my experience you will have a response the same day you apply.

A backcountry permit comes with the privilege of camping frontcountry in a regular campground the night before and the night following your permit dates, so it is a good alternative to the crazy campsite reservation system.

Michael Oct 26th, 2011 11:49 PM

<i>Where do you intend to get your camping supplies and what will you do with them when you turn in your rental car?</i>

One can pick up camping equipment (tent, mattresses, sleeping bags, cooking items and lantern) for relatively little money ($250)at a K-Mart, Sports Authority or other similar stores. Given the cost of motels and eating out, a week of camping, even with the cost of the camp site, will even out the cost. At the end of the trip, the equipment can be donated to a Goodwill. This would not be light equipment and therefore could not be used for any form of backpacking.

gorblimey Oct 29th, 2011 12:47 PM

Yosemite is my favorite place on earth. I even had my front door stain-glass made to look like Yosemite Valley.

If you want to stay in Yosemite, I'd make reservations now. We used to do real camping, but now we use Yosemite's tent cabins in the various parts of the park. I would book NOW for both White Wolf Lodge (too hard to get Tuloumne Meadows this late for next August but you could try) and Curry Camp. I'd stay two nights in White Wolf and three nights in Curry. These tent cabins have beds, stoves + wood, all your linens including sheets and pillows, a table and chairs. You cannot cook in these tent cabins, but we usually bring a cooler and make sandwiches, have donuts or cereal for breakfast, etc. You can eat well without a stove. You can book these tent cabins one year + a day from the date that you are going. So for August 1st 2012, you could have booked on July 31st 2011. The tent cabins fill up fast. Make the reservation now, because even if you don't use it if you cancel the reservation a week in advance you do not pay a cancellation fee.

White Wolf Lodge is in the high Sierras about 45 minutes north of Yosemite Valley. It is quieter, cooler (take a jacket) and more rugged up there. White Wolf is about forty minutes from Tuoulomne Meadows, where you can hike one of my favorite day hikes to Glen Aulen and back. You can even book a tent cabin in Glen Aulen for the night if there is a cancellation.

Stay in the HIgh Sierras for a few nights before moving down into the crazy Valley. Yosemite Valley (where you can stay at Curry Camp) is crowded during the summer and so you just have to accept that it's NATURE on crack in the valley. You have to see the Valley, it's too beautiful to miss, but because you'll be there late summer you will miss the waterfalls (they will probably be running low or dry by then.) The Valley is a great place as a base camp to go on some fantastic day hikes.

At night there is a pianist/singer who plays at the Wawona Inn and occasionally in the Valley. HIs first name is Tom...and he plays all variations of music, but knows a lot of old American songs. He's great to see and sing along with.

I can go on and on about YOsemite suggestions. Although Hetch Hetchy is an interesting area, I wouldn't plan a whole night there. California has wonderful National Parks...Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are wonderful too with caves, huge trees and lots of camping spaces easier to get into than Yosemite.


I would day hike to Nevada Falls or take the bus to Glacier Point and hike down the Panorama Trail that takes you over three waterfalls, two which should have enough water to make it worthwhile.

We did some hiking out in the back country this year and the mosquitoes ate us alive...but they may be gone by August/September.

I know that Tioga Pass just got four feet of snow last week. I'd "Like" Yosemite Park on Facebook, they post a lot of up-to-the minute information there.

paulhelmick Oct 30th, 2011 08:25 AM

you can't go wrong with the national parks.yosemite,sequoia/kings canyon,mt. lassen.if you visit lake tahoe then you can access yosemite from the east going over tioga pass which is a great drive and takes you through toulumne meadows which has great hiking and has access to the "high sierras"which are open granite and much different than yosemite valley.another way to see the high sierra was mentioned above. from curry village in yosemite valley take the the bus to glacier point.from there you see a wide expanse of the high sierra and the whole yosemite valley.then hike down into the valley which has fantastic views the whole way.

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