If visiting Yosemite National Park, California is on your bucket list – and it should be – now through fall is a good time to go.
You can access the park via its eastern entrance, Tioga Road, (SR 120). This extremely scenic high-elevation route, best known as Tioga Pass, reaches an elevation of 9,945 feet, and because of snow is usually closed from November to late May. It is now open and the fastest way for Nevadans to reach the park. This entry route saves hours over the less-interesting drive to the other entrances on the western and southern sides of the park.
Yosemite Valley, the location of Half-Dome, Yosemite Falls, and other scenes which became American icons through the photographs of Ansel Adams, is naturally the most popular location in the park. To reach it from the small town of Lee Vining, which lies along US-395 and is the jumping-off place for those bound westward through Tioga Pass, you will need to allow about two and a half hours.
However, it will take most people much longer than that because there are so many irresistible places to stop along the way – lakes, meadows, granite domes and scenic overlooks. In fact, you could easily spend several days or longer just checking out the trails and sights along Tioga Road.
For first-time visitors to the park, Yosemite Village is a good place to start. Here you will find not only the main visitor center, but restaurants, gift shops, a market, post office and medical clinic. The elevation in this area is approximately 4,000 feet. Expect summer temperatures in this part of the park to be in the high 80s during the day and overnight lows in the 50s.
You can also sign up to take a horseback or mule ride, swim, go birding or perhaps take a guided hike or a ranger program. If you’re more comfortable being your own guide, there are more than 750 miles of hiking trails in the park, something for every age and ability.
A couple of easy trails to hike in Yosemite Valley are Bridal Falls and lower Yosemite Falls, but hit those early in the day to avoid the crowds. Biking is also quite popular in Yosemite Valley and there are more than 12 miles of mostly flat, paved bike paths to ride. Seasonal bike rentals are available at Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village.
A variety of lodging can be found in the park. www.yosemitepark.com. Also the surrounding towns have quite a few choices, including Lee Vining. There are many choices of campgrounds in and the surrounding areas of the park as well. Some are open year-round while others at the higher elevations close in September. Some are available on a reservation basis while others are on a first come, first serve basis.
For complete camping information in and around the park, www.yosemite.com/ For more detailed information on camping, lodging and the park in general, www.nps.gov/yose.
Deborah Wall is the author of “Base Camp Las Vegas, Hiking the Southwestern States,” “Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide,” and co-author of “Access For All, Touring the Southwest with Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.