The USA is crammed full of amazing national parks, and there’s no doubt that Yosemite is one of its very finest – and, being just a few hours’ drive from San Francisco, it makes a great addition to a Californian honeymoon. I’m delighted to have Esme Wilks back on the site today (you may remember her wonderful real honeymoon), with her guide to Yosemite, based on her recent trip there. The photos alone will leave you hankering to get out into the park.
I think the first thing I can say about Yosemite is that it really is one of those places that you cannot truly appreciate until you see it. Sure, the pictures are nice and it sounds great, but until you’re actually standing on the valley floor, looking up at El Capitan mountain you just won’t get it. I know, that’s pretty annoying, isn’t it? Well, that just means you should go and see it for yourself!
My husband and I travelled to Yosemite in May this year for a friend’s wedding. This friend and her now husband are very enthusiastic climbers and have practically lived in Yosemite for the past few summers, so it seemed fitting that they would get married there. Of course, this gave us an excellent excuse to go somewhere that we knew would be special but that we wouldn’t have travelled to otherwise.
Yosemite is a few hours’ easy drive from San Francisco. We managed to get a lift there and back, but had we needed to hire a car, it would have been very simple and not too expensive. It is worth noting that there are no petrol stations in the park – so make sure you fill-up before arriving! There is also a bus that goes regularly from San Francisco to Yosemite and takes around four hours.
Accommodation & eating
Once you’re in the park, there are a few options for accommodation: at one end of the scale there are excellent facilities for camping, but as we were in Yosemite for a wedding, we decided to stay in one of the hotels.
My husband I stayed in the Yosemite Lodge Hotel, the main hotel in the park. It comprises of several two-storey purpose-built accommodation blocks, a reception, pool, shop and a large canteen. It was not cheap, in fact it was one of the most expensive hotels we have ever stayed in. And I’m sorry to say that it was not the best. The room was huge, with a massive American-style bed, a big TV, bathroom and nice walk-in wardrobe/dressing area. I think we were unlucky with our room’s location as the “outside space” the website had boasted of faced the main road into the park and, therefore, had no view. The room was also pretty dark thanks to the trees and the thick mosquito net shading the sliding doors.
It’s very difficult to say whether I would recommend staying at Yosemite Lodge as I wouldn’t have considered camping when we had to get ready for the wedding, plus most of the other guests were also staying at the Lodge, making it easier to meet people, and it is, undeniably, the most convenient location in the park. I think the problem is that Yosemite have kind of cashed-in on the fact that there are lots of people who want to visit Yosemite but don’t want to park – and have priced the hotel rooms accordingly. So, if you want to be in the park and in a nice bed with access to hot water, you’re going to have to pay over $200 a night. If I were to go again to hike/climb/walk etc., I would definitely put up with camping for a few nights as the facilities looked a lot better than basic.
The food court/canteen, however, was excellent. Yosemite uses organic, local produce as much as possible as they have a commitment to sustainable living, so the food was fresh and tasty. There was always a good variety, which is not often the case when you’re stuck in one place and I always found something I liked. Although we didn’t have the opportunity to try anywhere else in the park, I have it on good authority that the other food outlets (which include a grocery store and a take away pizza place) are also pretty good
I must also mention the other hotel in the park, The Ahwahnee, which offers very posh and luxurious rooms and suites, fine dining and a cocktail bar. You really can experience every part of the holiday spectrum in Yosemite! We were lucky enough to experience The Ahwahnee’s delights without actually have to pay for anything as that’s where the wedding was, but if I were to go back, I would definitely at least have lunch and a drink at The Ahwahnee again.
So enough about the accommodation and food, what about the real reason people flock in their millions to see Yosemite – the mountains? Oh my, they were awesome. Yosemite is incredibly well set-up for climbers and walkers of all types, and it just cannot be faulted at all. From those who want to experience a slight incline, look at the mountains from afar and generally take it all in, to those who want hard-core mountain climbing or real hiking, everyone is catered for. Everything is very well sign-posted, there is a free shuttle around the whole Park and there are several areas where park rangers can offer you advice, suggest routes or rent you equipment. Yosemite is a huge draw for mountain climbers, but as someone with an (understandable) mortal fear of just using a piece of rope to get up a several thousand metre high piece of carbon, I can assure you that anyone can appreciate the mountains in Yosemite. We didn’t get much of an opportunity to see the mountains up close (let’s just say that the wedding ended with tequila shots and champagne in a black limo…), but we did go on a bus tour of the valley floor, which gave us a whistle-stop view of all the sights and just made us want to go back really, really badly.
Whatever your opinion of climbing, I would recommend finding one of the many climbing experts who are sure to be hanging around to point out some of the climbers on the bigger peaks. Our tour guide had arranged for a climber with two powerful telescopes and a few pairs of binoculars to be set-up along the route and it was mind-blowing to be shown the climbers magnified and then search them out on the rock face. Those guys are mental! (Or incredible athletes, whichever way you look at it.)
All-in-all, Yosemite is now firmly on my “must go back to” list and I would highly recommend it to anyone heading California-way. It’s well worth the trip and although you cannot experience the whole place in one trip, those few days will stay in your memories forever.
Need to know
Yosemite National Park, California.
Photographs © Esme Wilks
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