Before heading to Yosemite, we moved from the Redwoods to spend a short time in Lake Tahoe, where we had visited, and loved last year as well. While in the Lake Tahoe area, we stayed at the pretty and secluded Snowflower Thousand Trails near Truckee, CA.
We hadn’t been to this northeastern area of the lake last year, so while here, we explored the shops and restaurants in the old, yet hopping small town of Truckee,
the scary abandoned graffitied railroad tunnels at Donner’s Pass,
and the picturesque lakeside town of Tahoe City.
All of these places have great history, and are nice places to explore and learn about! We especially loved the playground area that is right on the beach, and near a dock and restaurants in Tahoe City. We then headed to a church we were working with for the weekend in nearby Minden Nevada, that we had visited last year as well! It was great to see familiar faces there, and the kids got an amazing hot chocolate with a teddy bear on it at DST Coffee, a great coffee shop there in town!
Below are 2 short videos of us driving the most narrow and slow road yet coming from the Truckee area, heading toward South Lake Tahoe along the rim of the lake.
From Lake Tahoe, we headed down some random roads, and up a super twisty mountain to Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails. We enjoyed this campground overall, but there were some pros and cons. Pros: It was a well kept campground, had activities for the kids, was next to a river, nice spots and facilities, it was close enough to Yosemite National Park, wooded sites, nice store and gas station there, 5 minutes down the road from beautiful Rush Creek Lodge with a gift shop/coffee shop a restaurant, and good internet and some cell signal, the kids made friends with neighbor campers and the cutest huskie mix ever. Cons: We had no AT&T signal in the campground, some close sites, the internet in the campground lodge wasn’t adequate and rarely worked, it was a 10 minute drive to the entrance of Yosemite, but the valley floor where most of the best sites are was 45 minutes from the campground and other sites were even further. If we get back again, we would try staying on the valley floor in the campgrounds there as they have great views of Half Dome, are close to trails and sites there, and there is some cell signal and good internet at some of the restaurants (Degnan’s Café).
As we were driving into Yosemite, we were surprised at the long drive into the valley floor and how little there was to see for about 25 minutes after entering the park. As we continued to drive, we finally saw in the distance the amazing, unreal views of Half Dome, El Capitan, and the beautiful granite cliffs and mountains in this area. Little did we know, in the fall, there is not likely to be much, if any, water running down the iconic, tall waterfalls here in Yosemite. We were told spring is the best time to view waterfalls here in Yosemite, so now that we have fallen in love with Yosemite, and seen it in the fall, we hope to get back in the spring to see more of the waterfalls. Lucky for us, the famous Bridal Veil Falls had small amounts of water running along with Vernal Falls, but Yosemite Falls was completely dried up. Here is a great link to a list of waterfalls in Yosemite, and when the best time to view them.
We went into the valley floor of Yosemite multiple days and took many unreal pics where the background looked fake, like those above, saw many elk, deer, and 2 black bears by the road,
did the easy Lower Yosemite Falls Hike with a marine and army soldiers that we met on the trail and their 2 dachshunds (waterfall not present in the pic below),
the longer up hill Mist Trail where we walked up the steps near Vernal Falls with a family from another country,
visited the amazing gift shop/grocery store, ate at Degnan’s Café a couple of times, watched the movie in the Visitor’s center, attended a Ranger Program, got Jr Ranger Badges,
attended church on Sunday morning at the beautiful Yosemite Valley Chapel,
ate outside at the bar restaurant and explored the historic Majestic Hotel (order the giant pretzel),
ate at and got Starbucks drinks at the Yosemite Lodge, and took amazing photos at the popular Tunnel View Viewpoint.
From the valley floor, we also drove up to Glacier Point one day, which was about a 40 minute drive from the valley floor, but was well worth it. The views of Half Dome were awesome, though this is one of those places where there are drop offs, so it was good to hold the kids hands and keep them close!
The boys decided to hike from Glacier Point down the 4 mile trails (which as Tyler will tell you should actually be called the 4.7 mile trail, or just round it up to the 5 mile trails because it is longer than 4 miles each way). They had a great time hiking this trail while El and I drove down the twisty mountain road, and picked them up at the bottom of the trail. It took them a little over 2 hours to hike down this trail, and we were proud of Ty, as he was of himself, for making it down this long trail!
There are 3 Sequoia tree groves in Yosemite. The largest, most popular, and overall easiest to get to is the Mariposa Grove by the south entrance of the park (which we didn’t get to this time). The Tolumne Grove is the second largest, and the Merced Grove is the third largest, near the Big Oak Flat Entrance (by where our campground was) and the least crowded. Since we couldn’t get to the other tree groves, on a day that we weren’t able to venture into the valley, we hiked the Merced Grove Trail. This trail was longer than we expected, but after the pretty easy 1.5 mile walk, we saw about 15 Sequoias along the trail, and there are supposed to be around 20 so there were most likely more around that we didn’t see. We had an uphill climb on the way back a bit and hiked 3 miles total on this trail. This trail was worth the hike only because this was our first views of Sequoias, but overall, it was a long trail of not much to see except fire damage and a normal forest hike until you reached the Sequoias.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Yosemite! We recommend this National Park as a much see, and that you stay on the valley floor if possible when visiting. If not, Rush Creek Lodge near the Big Oak Flat Entrance is a beautiful place to stay as well! We can only hope to be back to visit Yosemite again in the spring some year in the future. Until then…enjoy this crazy family dance!