Yosemite Valley is one of our all-time favourite places to stay. Discover why...
After seeing the giant redwoods, we continued onto Yosemite Valley.
Getting to Yosemite Valley
Only a week before there had been a devastating forest fire that blocked the entrance to the Valley. While attending one of the many free talks at the Valley, we learnt that forest fires are all part of the eco-system there.
We also got to see more warnings about bears. Even if you stop by the side of the road, put your food into these Bear Boxes, and don't leave any in your car. Even the rubbish bins have to be bear proof.
Despite all the warnigns about bears, you soon see that actually we're more of a threat to them. And although they can cause damage getting to food, the biggest problem is that they learn that where people are, food is also.
Our trip over the Tioga Pass gave us glimpses of the famous Yosemite Valley, but it's not until you drive through a tunnel and enter the valley proper that you get to see just how magnificent it is.
Right after the tunnel is a viewing point where you can pull over and take a photo of the classic view lots of us associate with Yosemite Valley.
Some views just have all the right proportions to the human eye that make them majestic, and Yosemite has a lot of these incredible sights.
As you drive around the valley, huge domes tower above you.
We were staying at Yosemite Lodge and had an upstairs room (which is safely away from bears!) that would have a fantastic view of the famous Yosemite Falls. Unfortunately, since this had been a hot August, the Falls weren't falling! No water at all!
However, that didn't distract from the beauty of the place.
Vernal Falls and the Mist Trail
The next day we hiked up the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls.
It was warm, it was sunny, the air was fresh, the views immense, and the climb quite high. Great fun!
Unfortunately, or fortunately, we saw no bears at all. However, the squirrels were relentless. Despite signs telling people not to feed the squirrels, many tourists were. Many squirrels were overweight, and having grown up relying on junk food from tourists, probably wouldn't survive the winter too well, which can be pretty harsh in Yosemite.
As you get closer to the foot of the Vernal Falls, you can understand why it's called the Mist Trail.
Unfortunately, the falls had reduced to a trickle on our visit, but even so, there was plenty of spray to get you wet!
The last part of the climb up to Vernal Falls is on rock carved steps with an old iron railing, which can be a little unnerving when the path is busy.
The view down the valley from the top is breathtaking.
Unfortunately, we learnt, that there had been many tragedies on these falls, with kids going for a dip in the pool at the top, only to be swept over the edge to their death in a plummet of 97m to the rocks below.
Despite the warning signs and past tragedies, a few people were cooling off in the pool at the top of the falls. Something we didn't do, despite the water looking very inviting.
For those wanting to explore more, the trail did continue up even further to the Nevada Fall, but given the time of day, and our limited time in Yosemite, we headed back down to explore some more of the valley.
Hiking in Yosemite Valley
If the steep climbs aren't your thing, there's plenty explore on the valley floor.
Unfortunately, we just didn't have enough time to see it all.
Coming off our descent of the Mist Trail we did visit the Happy Isles Nature Center. It was fascinating seeing the different creatures that live here compared to home, especially the damage a bear can do to a car door when they are hunting for food.
There was also a video showing a bear breaking into a car at Yosemite Lodge, right near where we were sleeping!
At the centre they run Junior Ranger events, where your kids can get involved in activities.
A Captive Audience
One obvious thing about Yosemite Valley is that once you're in, you're in. That means that food prices tend to be high.
There is a shop, but bringing some food would save you money. Just don't leave any food in your car. You are advised not to leave any food in your cabins if you are on the ground floor, as you might find a bear wanting to get in!
We did eat at the Yosemite Lodge, which despite the fantastic surroundings, was more like a school dining room.
We also tried the pizza restaurant in the centre. Good food, but again, pricey.
Perhaps is because we're a family that loves the outdoors, but Yosemite is a special place to us, and I don't think we're unique in that regards.
Yes, it's busy. Yes, it's pricey. But, yes, it's beautiful.
If we could magically do the trip again, I would spend longer here in the mountains, but for this trip, it was time to head west to San Franscisco...