Yosemite National Park Day 1 – Yosemite Valley, Vernal Falls and Tunnel View

Last weekend we ticked off one of the ‘must see’ places in California – Yosemite National Park. Again, I can’t believe it has taken us this long to go there, but now we know we are heading home next April it has given us the push to just book everything we want to do. I currently have every weekend booked up until Christmas! 

Yosemite was everything I thought it would be and more. I took hundreds of photos, which is why it has taken a few days to get this post up. I’m also going to split it into 3 parts as I really do have that many pictures that I would like to share.

I had booked a hotel in a town called Mariposa, which is about an hour west of the park. There really isn’t loads of accommodation much closer unless you stay in the park but 1. the hotels and lodges are crazy expensive and 2. the campsites get booked up so far in advance (and it would have been freezing). We stayed at the Mariposa Lodge, which was no frills but was everything we needed for the 3 nights we were there. It even had a little pool but we didn’t use it as we spent most of our time at the park. We drove up after work on Friday which took about 4.5 hours.

We didn’t bring Charlie on this trip, as you can’t take dogs on to the trails in Yosemite, which is a rule across most of America’s National Parks I believe. It was disappointing as he would have loved it!

After arriving late on Friday night, we got a quick breakfast on Saturday morning before heading to the park. The west entrance to Yosemite is also called the Arch Rock entrance, as you drive through a huge rock!

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We had decided to spend the first day exploring Yosemite Valley and Yosemite Village, which is where you can see ‘the main attractions’ El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls etc.

Driving into the park we kept stopping to take photos as the views and the landscape was like nothing I had ever seen before. The granite soaring out of the ground was very majestic! It was also a Saturday which is their busiest day, so there were a lot of people around. I did take some amazing photos, but got a couple with the cars and the crowds so you can actually see what it is like.

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The leaves were starting to change colour which really made it feel like autumn here, we don’t get that in the desert! It’s a lovely time of year to visit.

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We were quite lucky in finding a parking space, so decided to leave it there and use the free shuttle that goes around Yosemite Valley if we needed to. Traffic on a Saturday in the park is the worst, and we didn’t want to be wasting time sat in the car.

First up we took a trail up to view the Vernal Waterfall. We were pretty lucky with waterfalls as usually in Autumn all of the waterfalls in Yosemite have pretty much dried up, but they had some rain and snow in the days before we got there, and a huge amount of snow last year, so they were still wet. I would have absolutely loved to visit in springtime when the falls are at their finest, but we won’t be here anymore.

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You can take the trail all the way up to the waterfall, but as we were fairly limited on time we didn’t do it as it takes a few hours.

Yosemite Village is the main hub for the park, with a couple of hotels, places for food, the museum, post office etc, so we headed there for a quick lunch before taking the trail to Lower Yosemite Falls. I didn’t realise it at the time, but some of the photos I took on the way into the park were of Upper Yosemite Falls.

It’s one of the easier trails, so it was understandably very busy, but there are some crazy people climbing up on the rocks trying to get a good picture!

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It was getting pretty late by this point, so we picked up the car and drove to Tunnel View, the vista point where you get that famous Yosemite view you may recognise from postcards and Mac computers. We actually stopped by here a few times over the trip at different times of the day so it’s nice to see it in different lights. You have El Capitan in the foreground on the left, Bridalveil fall on the right and Half Dome in the background. And me… because if you aren’t in the photo were you ever really there?!

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We drove out the park as the sun was going down, Golden Hour, which is my favourite kind of light so we stopped to take a few more photos of Bridalveil fall from the road.

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We headed back to Mariposa for dinner. It’s a nice little town which has a real old fashioned feel to it. There are quite a few options for restaurants but we wanted something fairly quick as we were exhausted so opted for pizza and an early night!

So this doesn’t become the longest blog post in history, I’ll write about the next day in a new post. Sneak preview, we drove up to 10,000ft and found snow!

 

 

 

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