Travel Guide: Yosemite National Park

Frequently, when I’m stressed out from the daily grind or from plain old adulting, I like to venture to the mountains. Just close enough to where I can stare at them from afar before I even set foot on them. Large, unmoving masses that have been there long before me. Their existence reminds me that everything will be okay and that if these masses are able to sustain years and years of beatings from humans, then I’ll be okay.

How does this all apply to Yosemite National Park? Well, that’s what Yosemite is to me. It’s my therapy. The towering granite faces are a sight to behold.

Liberty Cap in the background with teeny tiny me in the foreground!

No combination of descriptive phrases and clever writing can truly encapsulate what El Capitan and the surrounding peaks feel like. Sure, they’re beautiful and unlike anything I’ve seen in person, but they evoke this feeling that no drug can produce. I hate to seem like I’m over-exaggerating, but it’s the only way I can describe Yosemite.

Now, on to the useful parts of this post:

WHERE TO STAY

Lots of people camp at Yosemite. And I’d love to camp. But every time I’ve gone there, I stay in Mariposa, which is about 45 minutes outside Yosemite Valley. Mariposa is a cute little town that has one pizza shop and a handful of other small mom-and-pop shops. Their lodging is fairly inexpensive if you book ahead of time. I’ve stayed at the Comfort Inn Yosemite Valley Gateway twice and both times have been fine. Not the best, but not the worst. They provide free parking, free wifi, and free breakfast. Personally, to save money, I always like to choose places with free breakfast. I start my days super early anyway, and I don’t like dilly dallying at breakfast places that have a 2-hour wait. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Oh, and the Comfort Inn has a pool and hot tub to soak in after your hikes. #winning

Sentinel Dome

Mariposa also has a Stater Bros, plus other smaller shops, to grab any necessities like food or bug bite ointment. I like to grab lunch supplies to eat at the summit of every hike. There’s nothing like nomming on a squished sandwich after a strenuous climb up a big ass mountain. You deserve that squished sandwich.

Pro tip: bring some mustard to slather on that sammy. Just because you enjoy going on a 6.7 mile hike with 1000 ft elevation gain doesn’t mean you don’t also enjoy flavor.

Lunch with a view: Nevada Falls

Other places to stay:

  • The Majestic Yosemite Hotel: We didn’t stay here, but we enjoyed a cocktail here after a 10-mile hike. Highly recommended.
  • Half Dome Village: This is a retreat-like campground inside the Valley. There are camps and cabins. Book early if you want to stay here! The pool is public, so anyone can go wade (for a fee). They also rent out inner tubes to float down the river.
Enjoying a Moscow Mule at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.
TRAILS HIKED (RANKED FROM FAVORITE TO LEAST FAVORITE)
  • Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls: Arrive early! Seriously. This is one of the most popular hikes, and rightfully so. It’s freaking unreal. Also, wear quick-drying clothes. Not only will you get sweaty, but you will get wet from the waterfalls. Waterproof shoes are ideal.
  • John Muir Trail: Longer trip back from Vernal Falls, but much easier than trying to climb down Mist Trail with all those people and slippery steps.
  • Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trail: not too strenous hike to see some epic views of Yosemite.
  • Bridalveil Fall Trail: Super short, flat trail to see a pretty cool trail. It gets crowded here since it’s so easy to get to.
  • Lower Yosemite Fall Trail: Another easy trail.
  • Mirror Lake Loop: I recommend skipping this one, especially during the summer. I swear this is where I got bit 27 times by mosquitoes.
Mist Trail to Vernal Falls (in the background)
Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite
SIGHTS TO SEE
  • Tunnel View: Hold your breath and make a wish!
  • Glacier Point: We just drove to it.
  • Cathedral Peak: My temple.
  • El Capitan: Macbook background IRL.
  • Sentinel Meadow: Cue ‘Sound of Music’ soundtrack.
  • Glacier Point: Expansive view of Yosemite. Roughly 7,000 ft elevation. We just drove here, but you can hike it as well.
Sentinel Meadow
WHAT TO EAT

Honestly, I eat so much pizza while I’m up there. Just anything to carb me up. Here’s what I’ve eaten in Yosemite:

  • Pizza Deck at Half Dome Village: Conveniently located inside the park.
  • Mariposa Pizza Factory: I think I’ve gone here for every dinner since it’s convenient and inexpensive.
  • Village Store: You can grab made-to-order sandwiches, chips, drinks, etc. All the things squirrels and humans in the area love to eat *sigh* KEEP WILDLIFE WILD, FOLKS. Don’t feed the squirrels.
Pizza Deck at Half Dome Village
THE DRIVE

Take your time on the drive to Yosemite Valley. Stop along the way and hear the river roar through the canyons. I’ve seen Yosemite during the winter and summer and both sceneries are magical. Hoping I can catch it during the fall and spring.

Betty, my Mazda, racking up her miles.
Photo Credit: Young Hong

As I stated before, I start my days EARLY. Like before sunrise, early. I like to take on the trails before it gets too congested. Plus, you get to actually find LEGAL parking inside the park. I went over Fourth of July weekend and the traffic was no joke post-hike. Heed my advice and start your hikes as soon as you can.

Yosemite is sincerely one of my favorite places on Earth. I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s the best so far. Do your eyeballs and mind a favor and get to exploring.

Do you have a favorite hike or place to stay in Yosemite? Comment below!

yosemite-national-park
I love you, Yosemite.

P.S. Here’s my gear list, in case you’re curious:

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Esther L says:

    Super helpful tips! Will need to refer to this if/when I travel to Yosemite!

    1. Jen Kim says:

      Yaaas. I sure hope you do. Let me know when you go!

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