Yosemite National Park
Starting Point - Fresno Yosemite International Airport
*Option to Drive. The Roadtrip isn't too grueling. From LA or OC about 5-6 Hours. Great option to take your own car instead of renting one.
We don't want to sound bias, BUT so far Yosemite National Park is by far one of our favorite National Parks to visit. The best part? It's beautiful and different all seasons of the year. If we had to pick the best time though, it would be the spring. After all the snow has melted from winter the waterfalls are gushing with water!
***Make sure to check the weather before you head to this park as weather conditions vary throughout the year.
There are many options for staying in Yosemite National Park. We've tried camping inside and outside the park. In a car, which you need to get to and from this very large National Park access is easy. If camping isn't your thing, there are many Airbnb, Vrbo and other rentals easily found online. Yosemite West is a great option if you have a group of people going. They offer great deals on home rentals and are very conveniently located. Our only tip is try and coordinate yourself to be as close to the park village entrance as possible, if you're not staying within the National Park grounds which makes it easier to head to the trailheads every morning. Yosemite National Park warrants at least a 3-4 day stay if possible. You can also check the National Park's website for lodging options (link below).
Some of our Favorite Hikes
***Please keep in mind. Yosemite National Park is full of some amazing wildlife. We've been lucky enough to see Bears, Deer, Bobcats, and more. This is their home. Everything you carry into the park or on a hike should come out with you.
1. Vernal Falls + Nevada Falls
Favorite Falls! So powerful and such a unique hike to see it. Great for all levels, you don't need to make it all the way up. You can hike about 1-1.5 miles just to the base of the falls and still feel the power of the water and stare at the awesome view. If you do have it in you, we highly recommend making it to the very top of Vernal Falls. Where you can glance down over the falls and realize how far you've made it. For an even bigger adventure you can continue up past Vernal Falls and hike through the forest until you reach Nevada Falls. Also, worth the view. Another beautiful massive waterfall and not as many people are hiking around so you can just happen upon its wonder.
2. Lower Yosemite Falls + Upper Yosemite Falls
Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls are the two falls you can see while driving into and walking through the center of Yosemite village. We've never made it all the way up to Upper Yosemite Falls just yet, but we hear its worth the trek as well. Upper Yosemite Falls is a more strenuous and day long hike. Lower Yosemite Falls is quite the opposite. Walk along a paved wooden path through the shaded trees to the base of the falls, where you can get up close and personal. Perfect for an easy stroll on a mellow day. Great for families.
3. Mirror Lake
Why is it called mirror lake? At certain times of the day Half Dome, which is this gigantic rock celebrity in Yosemite Valley, reflects into this lake. The Mirror Lake hike is longer than it seems. There really isn't a way to cut through it so you do need to walk the entire perimeter of the lake. Very mellow and mostly shaded this hike is a great day walk with the family or maybe when you need a break from all the other extreme outdoors activities you've been attempting in the park. When it's a clear day you'll experience a beautiful view of Half Dome. Which you can also hike, it requires permits and multiple days of hiking, but is completely possible. Seeing from this angle really puts into perspective what these hikers and climbers have to go through to get to the top. Hopefully you'll catch some deer and other wildlife while taking your walk along the lake.
Other Fun Mentions...
Head to Yosemite Village and explore the heritage, stores, and hotel within the park. Also, when you run out of snacks or need a cup of coffee this is where you'll find it.
We had the opportunity to dine at The Ahwahnee Hotel. Definitely a treat if you happen to be on that style of trip within the park. They do have a dress code. Amazing food, amazing views as you are sitting in the center of Yosemite Valley, and it takes you way back in time as the entire hotel, dining room, and main areas all remain historic. (If you happen to be camping and need a bit of wifi, this is where you'll find it.)
Head to the base of El Capitan. Have you seen the documentary Free Solo? If the answer is no, go watch it now. We are no climbers, but after watching the documentary we headed back to the park to see the place it all happened for ourselves. You can walk right up to the base of El Capitan which gives you a life-sized view of what these climbers are doing, it's unbelievably scary. We sat and watched as teams of climbers were making their way up El Capitan. If you walk straight up to the Wall and take a right when you get there, you'll see a path along the fallen rocks where you can follow El Capitan along its base for a bit. If you keep following the path it leads you slightly higher in elevation and you end up on a small ridge of the actual wall. You can even be at the same height as some of the climbers. Because we are not climbers this was a fun experience to understand what it really feels like to be hanging from the side of a rock face. Try it!
Let us know if you have any other cool options we should add to our lists! Mention us @blackpointcompany if you try any of the above!