Visiting In Yosemite for a Day

Old Jul 19th, 2012, 10:37 AM
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Visiting In Yosemite for a Day

My wife and 3 teenage sons are visiting San Francisco next month and I am planning my itinerary. I am squeezing a lot in but I like to see as much as I can even if it is not as in depth as I would like. I will be driving from Monterey to the South entrance of Yosemite arriving in the evening and staying at the Shilo Inn right outside the South entrance. The next morning I would like to get up early to stop at Mariposa Grove and then drive the hour to see the valley floor and take the 2pm tram tour. Does anyone know how early I can get into Mariposa Grove? I see the first tram is 9:30 but I would rather walk it if we could get in at 8am...however I don't think it opens that early...does anyone know? I guess I am worried about having time to do both! (This will be on a week day by the way to hopefully avoid the bigger weekend crowds).

Later on after the 2pm Valley Floor tour I will be driving the 4 hours back to San Francisco..I know a lot of driving but I'm up for it!
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Old Jul 19th, 2012, 11:13 AM
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I was there last year in mid-June and my experience was a bit on the negative side due to the traffic.

I can see why you'd want to go to the Grove first as you pass on the way in from the south and not at all on the way out to the west.

If I have to divide Yosemite into 4 area you have the a) Grove, b) Glacier Road, the c) Valley and d) Tuolumne Rd.

Forget d) you just won't have time.

When I was there the waterfalls were full. This year had a lot less snow and it'll be much later. The falls may be a lot drier.

I was a bit disappointed with the Grove. I though the giant trees would be all over. That's not the case. If you look at a map of the Grove the trees have names and that's it. If you walk the first half hour in and out going deeper in just show you more trees.

However, there are other considerations.

The view from Glacier Road (Glacier Point and Washburn Point) are spectacular. The problem is that this parking lot fills up and no place to park.

If it was me, I'd get up early and go to Glacier Road. Then I'd make my own your of the Valley. You can't get lost in the Valley as the road does a loop.

You can do a search of which stops to make and do them yourself.

Or you can park at Tunnel View and take the shuttle. That way you can get of at the places on you list, walk around on you own time and then hop the next shuttle bus.

If the traffic is bad (as it was when I was there - I got caught in a 4 hr traffic jam) it doesn't matter what you do. Your stuck.
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Old Jul 19th, 2012, 11:43 AM
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Thanks for the advice. I already booked and paid for the valley floor tram tour at 2pm that day (although it is cancellable within 24 hours). We did Yellowstone National Park for a week about 4 years ago and Glacier Road seems similar to some of the drives and scenic vistas we saw while we were there so is why with our short time I thought a trip to Mariposa Grove instead and then up to the Valley Floor would be good. I didn't think about traffic though! I am sure it is easy to get stuck and it certainly would be a bummer to miss that tram tour I paid $125 for! Might be worth cancelling and doing Mariposa and then up to the Floor at our own pace rather than rushing.. especially if Mariposa Grove doesn't officially open to 9:30 or 10am. We would also need a quick lunch before doing the Valley Floor. I guess I am ok with getting back to San Fran late at night. I was hoping to leave by 6pm or so to have some daylight on the drive ut...
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Old Jul 19th, 2012, 01:12 PM
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Unless some strange new rule has passed, there isn't an official opening time for Mariposa Grove so you can go as early as you want so long as you don't care about the tram tour that doesn't start until 9:30am. Yosemite is open 24hrs per day - entrance stations may not always be staffed on way in so you would pay on way out. So, you could get up at the crack of dawn and get a spot in the very small Mariposa Grove parking lot, see the big trees, and then head to Glacier point and/or the valley floor.
It really depends on what you want to get out of Mariposa Grove - there is a lower and upper grove and if you take the time to go there you will want to walk far enough on the trail to see the larger trees. It is pretty much uphill so keep that in mind depending on how much your family is hiking inclined and how much time you allocate but you could see quite a lot in 2 hours if you walked a reasonable pace.
I grew up near Yellowstone and then moved to SF so have spent bunches of time in both parks. I would definitely not equate Glacier point to anything in Yellowstone. Yes, the drive up to the point is in a forest so you will see similar forest scenery but if you get to the top of Glacier point or better yet, stop before Glacier point and do the easy 1 mile hike to Sentinal Dome, you will see amazing views into the valley. I have often taken visiting family to Yosemite and if we only had a day, I would always skip Mariposa because I got much higher reviews for Glacier point. So, I would usually take people to Glacier point and do the walk to Sentinal Dome early in the morning (1-2 hours). Then we would head into the valley floor and take a self led tour either by walking or renting some bikes at Curry Village or somewhere. Eat pizza at Curry Camp outdoor pizza patio for early dinner while staring up towards Glacier point and make the drive back to SF at night.
Not to take anything away from Mariposa because the trees are amazing but when time is limited, it usually didn't make my cut... You will have an amazing day regardless of what you choose.
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Old Jul 19th, 2012, 01:49 PM
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I was in Yosemite last year and Yellowstone the year before.

As NorCal_Jo wrote, there's nothing in Yellowstone that compares to the views from Glacier Point.

I hiked Sentinel Dome and there was still snow on the ground. The top of the Dome is amazing and the circular views as well.

I tried to cut across to Taft Point and got lost. I got together with a family from Germany. They had a GPS but were also lost. Eventually we found our way back to the parking lot. Never got to Taft Point as there was too much snow (in mid-June).

You can do a search for the Valley floor and get a map and list of spots to see. You are down at the bottom so everything is up.

Glacier Road is the opposite. Everything is down. And you have view of several of the waterfalls from up there as well as a great angle to Half Dome on the other side.


Do a search for Alex Honnold & CBS. He was featured on 60 Minutes a year ago. He climbed the Valley wall up to Glacier Point using no ropes or anything. Just his fingertips.

On the return to San Francisco be careful which road you take. Many GPS units show the old road. There's a short 5-6 mile stretch . The old road is called Old Priest Grade. While it's pretty straight the grade is way to steep and people burn our their brakes.

The new road is called New Priest Grade. It's winds quite a bit but isn't too steep. Just go slowly on that short stretch.
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Old Jul 19th, 2012, 02:41 PM
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I'd Cancel and just drive the Glacier Point Road yourself. It is on the way to the valley from Maripossa anyway.

That will give you more time in the valley after Maripossa. Who wants to be on a tram half a day.
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Old Jul 19th, 2012, 02:49 PM
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Since you have only the one day I think it would be helpful to have a few tools to refer to:

1. Here is a link to the mileage and distance chart for Yosemite Valley. It has realistic drive times from places outside the valley:

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisi...ages9-2007.pdf

2. Yosemite now has a traffic forecast.
http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/traffic.htm

3. Read the Yosemite Guide for your visit to see what's going on. If the guide for your visit isn't yet available you can look at last year's until it is:

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm
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Old Jul 19th, 2012, 02:50 PM
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BTW we always take Old Priest Grade. Most modern cars have a low gear that can be used for times like these.
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Old Jul 20th, 2012, 05:42 AM
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Thank you for all the replies! Discussed with the wife the comments here and I think we are good with skipping Mariposa Grove and doing Glacier Point Road and hike sentinel dome, then head to the valley and do it all at our own pace rather than doing any of the park tours. Is parking for stops difficult along Glacier Point Road (for sentinel dome) and in the Valley? I need to study the maps & research more. Norcal_Jo and Myer thanks for the advice. Interesting about the difference in Old Priest vs. New Priest Grade on the way out. Suzie, thank you for the links, that is helpful. Why do you take Old Priest Grade by the way? Is it more scenic than New Priest Grade? We'll be in a rented minivan. We live in Florida which is flat but I've driven the North Carolina Mountains and am from the Northeast so it doesn't scare me too much. I use the mapquest app on my IPhone as a GPS by the way, it has the latest updates on it compared to my Garmin which does not!
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Old Jul 20th, 2012, 08:37 AM
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sad you only have a day in Yosemite. This glorious place deserves more time, but at least you are seeing it. I know many Californians that have still not taken the time to visit. Make sure to get the classic picture when you come out of the tunnel on your way into the Valley.
I agree, get to Glacier Point EARLY! You can't beat the view. Research hikes & the anticipated time it takes to complete them, some sound like they may take only a short time but then you find yourself stuck. (not that I ever feel "stuck" in Yosemite)
Get over to the Awahnee Hotel for a cocktail outside. A real treat!
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Old Jul 20th, 2012, 09:38 AM
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There may not be any Park Service greeter at the south entrance early in the morning. If you have a America the Beautiful Pass or similar, just turn right inside the south gate and go out to Mariposa Grove whenever you get there. Leave your pass signature side up on the dash and you will be fine.
Be careful making the left turn into the view at the end of the tunnel. It takes a couple seconds for your eyes to adjust when you come out of the tunnel. Look at the distant scenery after you are safely parked.
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Old Jul 20th, 2012, 10:49 AM
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Glacier Point and The Valley are very spectacular(but with not much water for the falls, it won't be as spectacular). However, I find the trees equally spectacular. The turn off for Glacier Point is about 30 minutes from Maripossa Grove.
The Grizzly Giant tree there is the 5th largest living thing in the world. Not just the 5th largest tree, the 5th largest living thing.
I would at least try to spend an hour or two in Maripossa Grove, IMOP.
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Old Jul 20th, 2012, 11:51 AM
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I thought he was skipping Mariposa Grove.

Old Priest grade is shorter since it isn't a gradual descent. You may be more comfortable taking the new Priest grade since you are used to driving on a flatter terrain but you be the judge.

Go to Google Maps and put the little man on the old priest grade and drive it:

Old Priest Grade, Tuolumne, CA
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Old Jul 20th, 2012, 01:00 PM
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Thanks. Yes, with limited time we are going to skip Mariposa Grove and do Glacier Point Road..maybe hike Sentinel Dome and then drive to the top of Glacier Point Road, drive back down and on to the Valley.
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Old Jul 20th, 2012, 01:05 PM
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Mariposa Grove is only 4 miles east of the south entrance. I would not skip it to save time. You just drive past the guard station if no one is there early in the morning.
Be prepared to show your annual pass to the Park Service authorities if asked.
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Old Jul 20th, 2012, 01:29 PM
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I would go to Glacier Point first, then Washburn Point and then the Sentinel Dome hike.

The reason for that is if you go early you'll get parking at Glacier Point (the end of the road) and Washburn Pt (a little before).

Then on the way back about a mile is a very small parking area (there was no sign on the road when I went) for Sentinel Dome (going to the right) and Taft Point (going to the left). If it's full you can pull over on the side of the road and park as many other will do the same.

If Glacier Point is full you can't pull over anywhere really.

Just to summarie I'm suggesting you go to the end of Glacier Road first to make sure you can park. After looking around for a while drive back to Washburn Point. Then back to park for Snetinel Dome. If you do these you'll remember them for a long time. I picked this order to make sure you get parking where it's most difficult.

The Valley is basically a loop road. There are many web sight listing the vasious stops. As spiro wrote the water may all be dry so the stop may be somewhat different.

No doubt the first will be Tunnel View as soon as you go thru the tunnel.




The hike isn't too long but the views are great.
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Old Jul 20th, 2012, 07:52 PM
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That's what I meant. Don't skip it. You are right there.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 06:53 AM
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I would love to do all 3. We are staying in Oakhurst, so if we leave our hotel at 8am or so it will be 9 or 9:30 before we got to glacier point road. I would say about 3-3 1/2 hours here. Leave there around 12 or 12:30pm to drive to the Valley where we would have to have lunch around 1 or 1:30pm and tour for a total of 3 1/2-4 hours, leaving to head back to SF around 5:30. I know the time is short, but as someone else said better than not going at all..so Mariposa Grove just will not fit in a day. I wish we had more time but we don't! It will still be a wonderful family memory. Myer, wow thanks for the tip..we are going to do it exactly as you suggest..the info about the timing and parking was exactly what I was looking for..thank you!
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 07:33 AM
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Just wanted to mention that I was in Yosemite last week and Nevada and Bridalveil Falls are VERY low. Apparently last winter's snowpack was about 40% of normal. It's sometimes difficult to find a parking spot along the Valley loop road. Hope your weather is better, as it was 95 degrees in the Valley when we were there.
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