On the mega road trip of 2017, we decided to fit one crazy day into our itinerary to visit Yosemite. We knew it would be crazy because it was late June. Then we realized we would be visiting on a Saturday. It would be our only chance to visit Yosemite for the foreseeable future. So we went for it.
I found a campsite for one night in a National Forest site just outside of the park. It turned out to be between the main part of Yosemite and the Hetch Hetchy area of the park. The location was not perfectly ideal but it was a night in Yosemite and since we were booking only 2-3 months out from our trip, I felt lucky to find it.
We left Fresno after picking up our car from some repairs and made it to Yosemite by about 2 pm. We were slated to spend the following night near Lassen Volcanic park and so we had to be out of the park and on our way by noon the next day.
Here's a rough timeline of our visit:
2:00 pm: Entered the park at Tunnel View
4:00 pm: Set up camp at Dimond O
5:00 pm: Started the hike out to Wapama Falls in Hetch Hetchy.
8:30 pm: Caught sunset over the dam at Hetch Hetchy and the last few minutes of lights on the road back to our campsite.
4:30 am: Woke up and packed up camp
5:00 am: Sunrise at Tunnel View. It was beautiful without clouds but disappointing for photographing.
6:00 am: Drove around the valley, including short hikes at Bridleveil Falls and the Meadows.
8:00 am: Drove up to Glacier Point. Enjoyed the already busy views and a sweet wedding.
9:00 am: Started a hike to Sentinel Dome.
10:30 am: Started driving Tioga Pass road with frequent stops to enjoy views and explore. I wish we had planned time to hike around Tuolomne meadows.
1:00 pm: Lunch outside the park in Mono City.
What did we learn?
Yosemite is the busiest park we have ever seen. We were rarely alone, even before and just after sunrise.
There are beautiful views everywhere. Just pick a spot to get on the trail and don't worry about whether it's the 'right' spot.
The further you are willing to hike, the more peace you will find.
Yosemite saves many backcountry permits--including for Half Dome--to pass out on site. It sounded like any backcountry camping permit could have Half Dome added onto it. If we had realized that, we may have tried to do a legit backpacking trip there to get away from the crowds and do the epic climb.
We had mixed feelings about Hetch Hetchy. If you don't know, the reservoir there was created after a controversial decision. It provides water for San Francisco. Just looking at the waterfalls abounding in that region and realizing how much more dramatic they should be was quite sobering. At the same time, this quiet region was just our pace and so beautiful. If you are looking for a break from the busy valley during the summer, definitely plan a trip out to this region.