With over 4 million visitors each year and a bounty of 747,956 picturesque acres, Yosemite is one of the most visited National Parks in the country. Stories of John Muir sleeping under the stars (great book about him here.) and images of Ken Burns’ “National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” resonate with every visitor – further whetting their desire to step foot on this landscape. The allure of this place is in your face at all times. It reminds you why the National Park System was created in the first place. But for those of us who prefer to beat the crowds and hit the trail, April is a perfect time to visit, especially after a year of such record warmth.
Heading out of Southern Cali, it’s a relatively quick drive at 4:30am on a Monday. Relatively quick meaning about 6 hours. We took the 405 to the 5 to the 99 and finally the 41, which brings you directly into the park. If you don’t have an annual pass, a vehicle entry is $20. We stayed in a wall tent in Curry Village. Some are heated some are not, but most are outfitted with a double bed and 2-3 twin beds. If you’re there to hike, it’s more than you need. Figuring out what hike to embark on is a whole other story.
Before we left, we checked out this great website, Yosemitehikes.com. It lays out Yosemite hiking trails by difficulty, time, distance, scenic value and also shows pictures of each. When we got there, we spoke to the people at the Mountaineering school to get a current perspective and then took our pick. We went with Vernal and Nevada Falls and we’re glad we did. The switchbacks were approachable with views the entire way. The crowds start to dissipate the further you move along. We took a quick breather at the base of Vernal falls before trekking on through the shaded switchback. As you approach the section where you can take either Vernal or Nevada, you’ll have a clear view of each. Vernal is quicker and has a bittersweet decline to the top of the falls. It’s bittersweet, because you’re going back up it on the way out. Nevada is another good mile and a half from that point if you choose to go there. We left around 2pm and got back just before dark. More experienced hikers could probably cut that in half, but when you’re in awe around every corner, you tend to take your time. Here are some images from the trip…
It’s not cheap. But it is worth it. The Ahwahnee Hotel.