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YOSEMITE with a 2-year-old in June...driving from San Diego...HELP!

YOSEMITE with a 2-year-old in June...driving from San Diego...HELP!

Jan 30th, 2011, 12:55 AM
  #1  
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YOSEMITE with a 2-year-old in June...driving from San Diego...HELP!

I am "Nanny", an active Grandmother in San Diego. I'm the trip planner for our family of 7 adults and 1 curious 2-year-old. We are headed for Yosemite in June 2011 to enjoy nature walks and hang out together. Most of us are driving from San Diego. (Two of us are driving from Pasadena.)

My husband and I are paying for the accommodations. I am so confused already! #-o We want to spend up to 6 nights in Yosemite.

Which route is best from San Diego to Yosemite? Will we enter from the south entrance or from the west entrance to Yosemite? This decision will affect our accommodation choices.

I have 2 guidebooks: Fodors guide to National parks, and a frommers guidebook. They list many accommodations, some outside the park. But I'm confused about which entrance is most convenient for us.

We have 7 adults and a 2-year-old...so we will need 3 or more bedrooms and at least 2 bathrooms. We don't want to camp. I am considering moderately-priced rooms or b&bs or condos or cabins...

My beautiful grandbaby will be 2 in June, and this will be her first big trip! She still takes naps. She's very interested in birdies, which she calls "bawbies", so we have a budding bird-watcher in the family!

Is Kings Canyon & Sequoia a convenient overnight stop along the way, or is that out of the way?

We would prefer rooms that are quiet enough at night for sleeping. I was hoping to book accommodations which have convenient access to some lovely nature spots...with the ability for the 2-year-old grandbaby to return to room for a nap when necessary.

Thanks for the benefit of your experience! I'm excited, as this is our first extended family trip since our 2 daughters have gotten married. We hope this will become an annual family tradition!
Melissa5 is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 04:21 AM
  #2  
 
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If you are going to Sequoia/Kings Canyon and have 6 days, I would certainly spend at least 2 of them there. Personally, the trees are much much better there than Yosemite. So, you might consider doing the trees there and skipping the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite. Whatever you do, make lodging ASAP!! In Park is always the best option, IMOP.

Yosemite and/or Sequoia are fantastic. You will enjoy yourself. I don't think you'll have any problem finding lovely nature spots. Waterfalls should be going nicely in Yosemite in June. They are amazing.
spirobulldog is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 09:13 AM
  #3  
 
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For Yosemite, consider Yosemite West, which is an area just outside the park, but accessible through the park. There are lots of condos, cabins, and houses there to rent. With a large group, these are often better than hotels/motels because you've got the kitchen and the common areas.

You can enter the park from either Hwy 41 or 140 - 41 is probably a little bit quicker, but both are good choices.

For lodging IN Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Lodge would be my choice. I am sure they are completely booked for June though. Check out lodging in El Portal, which is probably the next most convinient place.

As for picking convinient lodging for going back to the room for naps, I'd be more inclined just to bring a blanket along and spread it out in some shady spot and let the kiddo nap while others hang out and read, play cards, or whatever. No need to take her back inside to sleep. This way she can nap when she needs to and you aren't restricted on your lodging choices by the need to nap. Distances in Yosemite are long and June is a busy time - you may be an hour or more from your lodging, esspecially if you venture up to the high country.
november_moon is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 12:08 PM
  #4  
 
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I hope I'm preaching to the choir when I say this, but I'm going to say it anyway: if your two-year-old, or even your 102-year-old, relative likes animals, be aware of two things:
1) national parks often have many wild animals.
2) what the word "wild" means.

A two-year-old will see a raccoon begging for food, and try to pet the "kitty" -- which is cute UNTIL the raccoon bits the child and forces you to give the child a series of rabies shots. MUCH WORSE are the relatives who photograph a youngster next to some wild animal -- again, it's great until that animal decides that the youngster is a threat deserving of an attack. And, remember: it's the ANIMAL that makes the decision on who deserves an attack! Since humans are (supposedly) the ones with the brains, it is THEIR responsibility to ensure the animal does not feel threatened.

Two years is not too young to begin to teach "respect" for wild animals. Not fear, mind you, but a respect that puts a proper distance between people and any animal in the wild. It's the best thing for both the child AND the animal.
PaulRabe is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 03:38 PM
  #5  
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We are excited about this trip, as its our first trip which includes our married daughters, sons-in-law, and grandbaby! But getting lodging for June 2011 is difficult.

Geography is challenging for me. My husband says we should take the eastern approach via Tioga pass entrance into the park because its more scenic. The drive is a bit longer from San Diego to the eastern entrance to the park. But here is what I propose to do, and would appreciate your tips and suggestions:

Drive from San Diego to Yosemite's eastern Tioga pass entrance:
9 hrs. 15 min. via US 395 to 120 east past Mono Lake to east entrance at Tioga Pass.

We would have 1 overnight stop to break up that 9 hr. 15 min. drive...somewhere halfway between San Diego and Yosemite...at Bishop maybe? Any suggestions?

2 or 3 nights: sleep near Tioga Pass east entrance.
Where to sleep??

3 or 4 nights: sleep in Yosemite valley or nearby

Drive back to San Diego along shortest route, south along California 41. Drive is 7 hrs. 42 minutes. Break up the drive with an overnight stop halfway home.

How does this sound? Any suggestions on accommodations near east entrance or near Yosemite valley? Of course Yosemite Lodge at the falls is already booked for June 2011.

For me the most challenging part of trip-planning is the geography. For a short trip, it might be too much to go via Sequoia & Kings Canyon...I think this would make the drive longer?

We have some family who will meet us only for a few nights at Yosemite valley.

PaulRabe: You won't get any argument from me. My husband, who is a biologist, helped me raise our 3 children with an appreciation and healthy respect for wildlife. Don't worry about our 2-year-old grandbaby...her daddy is VERY protective and she certainly won't be allowed to pet any wild animals!

november_moon: Thanks I will definitely look into lodging at Yosemite west....my guidebook says its in a forested area about 10 miles from the valley. You suggested El Portal as the next most convenient area if Yosemite valley is booked? Looks like that's near the Arch Rock entrance. I am feeling so confused about the 4 different entrances to the park. Sitting here at home its so difficult to tell which is convenient or not...which is quiet at night for sleeping or not... I appreciate the advice! I'm glad you presented me with the image of my grandbaby napping on a blanket...you could be right about it being impractical to plan our lodging around the convenience of the grandbaby's nap.
Melissa5 is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 05:57 PM
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Well, I don't see how anything could be more beautiful than the Tunnel View for your first glimpse of the valley. It's really an awesome sight.

I wouldn't drive all the way to the eastern entrance, but I would spend an entire day driving the Tioga Road for one of the days you are there.
spirobulldog is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 06:54 PM
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> My husband, who is a biologist, helped me raise our 3 children

So I wasn't preaching to the choir -- I was preaching to the preacher!
PaulRabe is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 09:17 PM
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From San Diego Take I-5 north to the 99 splitoff south of Bakersfield. Through Bakersfield to Fresno. Rt. 41 north to Oakhurst. About 385 miles in 6.5 hours to Oakhurst. 14 miles from Oakhurst to the south gate.
My wife and I spent a night at America's Best Value Inn in the south end of Oakhurst so that we could get to the Mariposa Grove in the morning. Good luck on getting 5 nights in the park.
tomfuller is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 09:54 PM
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I second spirobulldog. The view from the tunnel is on some of our license plates, the best way to first see the valley. The high country would make a good day trip from the valley. You can easily drive from the valley to Tuolumne Meadows and back, with plenty of stops along the way, in a day. There may still be condos available in Yosemite West along Hwy 41 not far from the valley. It is a private community with a few nice places to rent. As for Sequoia and Kings Canyon, they are way out of the way; save them for a separate trip.
Nick4 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 06:09 AM
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We've done both trips with young children and grandparents (same summer but separate trips). Both times we drove to Fresno on the way up (there is also a Zoo- Fresno Chaffee- which we did in the morning before driving to Yosemite). In Yosemite, we stayed at Tenaya lodge (they have cabins now too), south of the park. Most recommend being in the Valley but for us it worked perfect to be south (plus we waited too long to get desirable reservations). The kids loved the hotel pool, the ranger led forest walks from the hotel, the day trips into various parts of Yosemite, breakfast at Wawona followed by meadow hike, the old steam train ride - Sugar Pine Railroad, dinner at Ahwahnee, Mariposa Grove and tram ride. I loved the easy days (most of our activities were nearby except the long day into the valley), the hotel spa (best bathrobes ever) and dinners at the hotel most nights.

For Sequoia, we did as a long weekend with a first night in Fresno (no trip to Zoo this time) and a long straight drive back to LA. We stayed at the NP hotel Wuksatchi which I highly recommend - very basic park rooms but amazing location and terrific dinners at the main lodge. We saw a little bear right outside our room! We took a nature walk from the Sequoia visitor's center (it is a boardwalk walk - we took the baby in a stroller - around a large meadow and we saw a rather large bear sitting under her favorite tree. The ranger suggested that she often sat there). We hesitated before continuing the walk but she was a fair ways off, seemed quite content and as a group we looked pretty large. My DD spent the rest of the walk telling everyone we passed, including the ranger, about the bear.
POlson is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 07:32 AM
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I'd agree that you should enter the Park from the south so you don't miss Tunnel View. It is awesome. You will have to pull off the road into the conveniently place parking lot.

You could leave the Park via Tioga Pass and return to San Diego via CA 395/I-15. If you stay overnight in Bishop, I can highly recommend the Best Western Creekside Inn.
Barbara is online now  
Jan 31st, 2011, 11:33 AM
  #12  
 
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Tunnel View is definitely great (Hwy 41 entrance). It was my first view of Yosemite.

For convinience from the south, Hwy 41 - south entrance - is best, Hwy 140 - Arch Rock - is second best. There isn't any reason to enter through Hwy 120 on the western side since it is farther north - unless you end up with lodging around Groveland. Of course, Tioga Pass - Hwy 120 on the eastern side - is the longer route, but it does take you through the high country.

For lodging - there really aren't very many noisy areas so I would focus on finding lodging in a reasonably convinient place and not worry about noise. Hardly anything is noisy around that area - the exceptions are where the tent cabins are, Curry Village and Housekeeping, and even those have rules about quiet time after 10pm. June is high season, so just find someplace for all of you to sleep.

Planning to let the kiddo nap on a blanket wherever will make life a lot easier. Unless you score lodging in Yosemite Valley and don't venture out of the valley, you'll be a significant distance from your lodging most of the time. Besides, kids like sleeping outside. It's fun.
november_moon is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 12:40 PM
  #13  
 
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A few things to consider:

While I love the drive up 395, and much prefer it over the route through the central valley, it is a risky choice for June as you cannot count on Tioga Pass being open. They TRY to get it open Memorial Day weekend, or shortly thereafter, but it totally depends on what kind of snow season they have. (And so far this is shaping up to be a high snowfall year.)

The first time we drove down from Seattle, heading to Mammoth in early July, the pass was not opened until July 2 or 3. We just squeaked through.

Also, lodging "near" the east entrance to Yossemite is extermely limited. Tioga pass Resort is there, but they don't answer e-mail requests for reservations. Lee Vining, the town at the bottom of the road, is nice for one night but I wouldn't want to spend 3 nights there---the motels are all fairly cheesy and the only good restaurant is inside a gas station (really!) We get takeout from there and picnic.

The next closest is the June Lake loop. This area is lovely and there are lots of family-friendly accommodations---most of them booked a year in advance by the same family, year after year. It would be very hard to find anything for a gourp like yours for just a few hnights; most accommodations of that type rent by the full week. And you are an hour or more outside Yosemite at this point.

So---in short, I advise against coming in through the east route.

I think your whole choice will be driven by lodging possibilities. Yosemite Lodge was fully booked the day they opened up reservations, and finding even one room now will be very difficult, must less 3 rooms. Curry Village probably still has avialability, but do you want to stay in tent cabins? We find them OK, but many people consider the place too noisy, crowded, and rustic.

On the other hand, Yosemite West has a number of rental homes, many of which will accommoddate your group, either all in one 3-bdr. house, or in two units close together. Check the website for all the choices.

This is a very good location even if you are not right in Yosemite Valley. It is a 20-minute drive to the valley floor; 5 minutes from the start of the Glacier Point Road (you'll want to drive to that viewpoint), and about 20 to 25 minutes to the Wawona area. It is around 6,000 feet, cool and shady, and very quiet. We enjoyed our stay there last summer very much.

http://www.yosemitewest.com/

There is a similar community at lower elevation on the north side of Yosemite Valley, called Foresta:

http://www.4yosemite.com/

I know it won't be all that convenient to return to the home for naptime, but realistically, your chances of finding anyting in Yosemite Valley that would work for you is pretty slim. If the child will nap on a blanket in a quiet spot outdoors, as November_moon suggests, that would solve the problem. There are plenty of such spots in the valley just a few steps off the main paths.

And as far as paths go---many, including the path up to Vernal Falls, are paved and will accommodate a stroller. But one with large wheels (baby jogger) would be best, and a backpack carrier would be a nice alternative.
enzian is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 01:16 PM
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I will second just about everything enzian said and agree with those that say to come in from the south. I also live in San Diego County and on the way up we took the southern route. Stopped in Oakhurst at the Raley's to buy groceries. We were adults so didn't stop anywhere overnight.

We also stayed in Yosemite West but just one of the condos as there was just 3 of us. I would have preferred the valley Floor but booked at the last minute and was happy to get in Yosemite West. We thought the location was good and it's an easy drive to the valley floor. We rented through scenicwonders.com. Looks like they might have a couple of houses available but couldn't tell since I didn't when you were coming in June.

Also I would try VRBO. Looks like there are some bigger cabins available during parts of June. The Wawona area seems to have a fair amount of cabins but that's about a 40 minute drive. I think where you end up staying will depend on what you can get at this late date.

Since we came in from the south end of the park, we drove home through Tioaga Pass and 395/15. You could go home that way and if for some reason Tioga Pass isn't open by then, it wouldn't be hard to change your route and go home the way you came.
paula1470 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 01:57 PM
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I will add that it is really, really nice to return to a quiet retreat in Yosemite West at the end of a busy day in Yosemite Valley. You can cook for yourselves rather than having to battle the crowds for a meal (although for a group your size I believe they will take reservations at the Mountain Room, and you might like to try that or the ahwahnee dining room once.)

The house we had was Hummingbird Raven house---it is on VRBO. It is a nice home with 3 bdr. plus den, sleeping 10 in all, and a huge deck with BBQ for evening meals. Kitchen was very well-equipped and the living-dining area is spacious for a large group. The drawback would be lack of bathrooms---it only has one full bath, plus a half-bath (potty and sink) in the maaster suite. Everyone would have to share the one shower (not all at once!)
enzian is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 04:21 PM
  #16  
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I'm thrilled with the "jackpot" of information you all have given me! Wow! This helps SO MUCH!

I'll be back soon with more questions. My first question: WHAT IS VRBO ??
Melissa5 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 04:43 PM
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www.vrbo.com you will discover thousands of rental properties all over the world. I have used it 3 or 4 times and each time was just what we were looking for.
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 1st, 2011, 09:17 AM
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Melissa5-Here is the link to the house enzian mentioned. Looks like it's mostly booked for June but there are some dates.
http://www.vrbo.com/94764
paula1470 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2011, 12:51 PM
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VBRO is great - we have rented places that way a few times and are looking at it again for this year's vacation. The places are individually-owned, so you rent directly from the owners (some use an agency, some don't) rather than through VBRO itself. The web site is basically a listing service to get you in touch with owners and then you sort out the details with the owners themselves.
november_moon is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2011, 02:20 AM
  #20  
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I'm making progress! 8-) I found a rental house that can sleep up to 8 people...through Scenic Wonders at Yosemite West...it's a fairly new property, I think, called "Ahwahnichi". On the map of Scenic Wonders, it's located on the far side of Hennes Circle...beyond the condos and beyond the condos check-in office.

I'm a little nervous, though. We usually stay in b&bs or hotels. The photos of the Ahwahnichi property look really nice, which is reassuring. I think it's fairly new. I hope it's in a quiet enough location. You can't really tell from a map. You can see the photos on the web-site for scenic wonders. (Also available were Sequoia east and Sequoia west, which are duplexes. They are newly refurbished, I was told when I called. But I thought maybe a duplex could have some noise issues. I'm a light sleeper at night. I like quiet. )

The more I look at the photos for Ahwahnichi...I can just see my family sitting there in the house...it's growing on me.

I'm booking the house for 4 or 5 nights. But I need to add 2 or 3 additional nights for a few of us who want a longer vacation. I can either add the extra nights onto the house...or I can find a b&b or a hotel...which might be fun for a change of scenery.

Thanks a MILLION for your help! I'll be back to pester you with more questions.

spirobulldog: Thanks, we did decide to take the south entrance and see the Tunnel View.

enzian: Thanks for the info. Yosemite West sounds good, and the house you stayed in sounds nice. Ahwahnichi has 3 bedrooms plus an extra den with another bed and 2.5 bathrooms. I'm glad you pointed out that the east entrance could still be closed in June! We will definitely come up through Yosemite's south entrance. We might try to do the Tioga Pass as a day-trip...

paula1470: Thanks for all your great ideas including stopping at the Raley's in Oakhurst for groceries!
Melissa5 is offline  

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