The way the sun peeks over the granite cliffs and casts its light over the Yosemite Valley is nothing short of majestic. Time spent in this magnificent national park is soul-lightening!
The breathtaking El Capitan.
I was lucky enough to grow up about 2 hours from Yosemite National Park. Day trips into the park to see it’s natural beauty happened often.
Now I live only about 4 hours away, which is still totally do-able for a long weekend. Since my boys had last Friday off school, we decided it was time to take a trip to one of the most gorgeous places in California.
A couple of months ago, I took a chance and looked to see if we could book accommodations in the valley itself. I was thrilled to be able to reserve one of the tent cabins in Half Dome Village (Curry Village). If you can, it’s totally worth it to stay in the park and not have to drive the hour in from one of the nearest cities. The accommodations in the park itself range from beautiful rooms at the Ahwahnee Hotel to tent camp spaces. You can do Yosemite the way you do the great outdoors!
Yes, I realize it sounds a little crazy to stay in a tent cabin in November… but they have heaters! And it was toasty warm inside (almost a little too toasty!) even when the temperatures dipped into the high 30s outside!
And there are plenty of options for food, too. They are very strict on keeping food in “bear boxes” if you are staying in the park. In fact, it’s a $5,000 fine if you leave food in your car overnight. There are smart bears who call Yosemite their home. And the park is serious about keeping the wild bears (and other animals) in the wild.
Because of this, we kept a small cooler bag for snacks, but ate most of our meals at the restaurants and cafeterias they have around the park. The food is okay. Nothing to write home about. And it’s not cheap. But it did the job.
However, aside from eating and sleeping, which one must do wherever one is, what we loved doing the most in Yosemite were these three things:
Yosemite is made for hiking! Because we had a couple of 5 year old boys with exuberant energy in tow, for this trip, we stayed away from hikes with cliffs. We’ll save those for when the boys are a bit older and more likely to pay attention to where they are walking!
Climbing around the boulders at the base of a very small Bridal Veil Falls.
That said, we had lots of fun walking the two short “hikes” to both Lower Yosemite Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. The only drawback about going to Yosemite in November is the lack of water. The snow pack has long since melted and the winter rains haven’t yet started. So Yosemite Falls was bone dry!
Yosemite Falls is usually rushing with water! Not at this time of the year!
Just means we have to come back in the Spring! Even still, hiking around that stunning landscape was soul-lightening. I saw a sign in one of the shops that read, “My feet are tired, but my soul is full.” Well said.
Yosemite has a marvelous network of biking trails that circle around the valley floor. Nearly always flat, it’s an easy ride with stunning views!
Biking on a carpet of golden leaves!
This time, coming in November was a plus! The deciduous trees had all turned colors and it was like riding through golden waterfalls! I kept stopping our ride to take pictures! Not to mention the views of the granite cliffs rising up on all sides. Gorgeous! If you don’t have bikes of your own to bring, there are bike rentals in the park. It’s well worth it. I can still feel the smile on my face as I rode through the crisp air!
YOSEMITE VALLEY VILLAGE
A cluster of buildings at the heart of the valley houses a Visitor’s Center, the Yosemite Valley Museum, the Ansel Adams Gallery, a store, a post office, and a cafe. We ate lunch there one day and did a bit of shopping (where Grandpa spoiled the boys with binoculars!), but what I enjoyed the most were the museum and visitor’s center. Whenever I visit someplace, I like to know as much about it as I can. I know one of the ways I “play” is through exploration and I find a lot of joy in learning new things. The boys were fascinated by the information in the Museum on the Native Americans who have called Yosemite their home.
Exploring at the Yosemite Museum
It was fun to walk through the interpretive trail they have behind the Museum. And the Visitor’s Center’s exhibits are really well done! We learned about the geological, natural, and cultural history of the area. It was very fun and really fascinating!
It can get very busy in the park. That’s another good reason to come in the off season! But there is a free shuttle that will take you around to the different stops on the valley floor, so if you get there early and grab a parking spot, you can stay there for the day. Or if you’re staying overnight, park near your accommodations, and shuttle or bike everywhere!
One of the great champions of Yosemite, John Muir, puts into words my feelings about being in that grand natural setting:
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”
One of the reasons he fought so hard for Yosemite to become a national park is that he wanted everyone to be able to experience it. I always come away from Yosemite with my soul filled and my heart grateful to the Creator who made such an awesome place.
Have you been to Yosemite?