First and foremost, Yosemite National Park is a magical place. This was the 2nd National Park stop on our road trip through California this past summer, and has been at the top of my list for as long as I can remember. My friend is a rockstar and landed us a campsite in Yosemite Valley at the Upper Pines Campground, which is not an easy task. The National Park Service (NPS) opens up the campgrounds online at 8 am sometime in mid-January, and they fill up within literal minutes. We were so happy to be in the park, and to only deal with the extremely long park entrance line once.
We arrived to Yosemite on a Saturday, which is usually something we try to avoid (because crowds), but this was just how it landed during our trip. The line was ridiculously long, but honestly nothing could ruin my mood.
We entered the park from the north side, and were greeted with beautiful views of El Capitan once in the Valley. By luck, we found a parking spot on the side of the road near Bridalveil Falls, so we hiked towards the waterfall. The waterfall was SO FULL due to how much snow we had gotten this winter; it was unreal. The water was so powerful that we got soaked without even going all the way up to the falls.
After exploring the area, we checked into our campground, set up our tent, and went out for another hike. We hiked Mirror Lake, which was short and sweet (3 miles), but perfect for what we wanted. After hiking Mirror Lake, we headed towards Yosemite Village. We went into the visitor’s center and then last minute decided to walk up to Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. Once we got to the Lower Falls, people were gathering around like they do when an animal is nearby… luck was on our side, and sure enough we were able to see little cub through the trees!! Everyone knows there is never a cub without a mama bear close by, so after the crowds faded, we stayed put because we knew sooner or later, she would show up. We kept our distance, and eventually we saw mama bear, in all her glory. It was really cool being one of the first ones to spot a bear and get to observe before lots of people crowded around. While bears are obviously common in Yosemite, this was one of the last places we expected to see one because of how crowded it is, but it was awesome!!
We trekked back to our campsite, started a fire, cooked dinner, and headed to bed somewhat early because we had a big hike the next morning. We woke up early to beat the heat (and crowds) on our hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls. This is a challenging, but rewarding hike! Again, the waterfalls were SO outrageously full that we got undeniably soaked walking up to Vernal Falls. Some people were smart and brought ponchos or had other clothes to change into after passing the falls, but we weren’t as prepared in that fashion. I have never seen a more powerful waterfall. The hike up to Vernal Falls was definitely steep, with countless stairs, but the hike from Vernal to Nevada Falls was more forgiving. We ran into lots of people that were hiking to Half Dome (bucket list), which is another 4 ish miles past Nevada Falls. One group even offered us one of their permits, but we were not prepared on the food/water front to hike the additional mileage that day. Next time, though!!
We had lunch at the top of Nevada Falls, and then made our descent down the John Muir Trail. After finishing our hike and packing up camp, we drove out the south side exit. Out this exit we had a spectacular view of Yosemite Valley as well as at Washburn point, where we had views of Half Dome and the two waterfalls we had hiked earlier that morning. We had planned to hike Glacier Point, but couldn’t find parking for anything, so just decided to head out. That evening we drove to Visalia, CA and had an interesting stay at a KOA, which is another story for another post 😉