Yosemite National Park had been a dream of ours for years. I, in particular, had drooled over photographs of the stunning scenery on numerous occasions wishing I could see it up close for myself. So when we started planning our California road trip it was a no brainer that we would head to Yosemite and see if the photographs really do, do it justice. Having now returned I can confirm that they don’t. In fact, nothing could do it justice apart from seeing it with your own eyes. However, if you are planning on visiting there are a few things you need to be prepared for.
Here are the top 5 things that we wish we had been prepared for and we hope they help you when planning your visit to Yosemite National Park.
Queues to get in
We had been warned to get to Yosemite early as the queues get really long to pay and get in. As we were glamping at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort a mere 5 miles from the entrance, we thought we had a good start over most people as we were staying so close. However, even when we arrived at just before 8.00am there were already queues and they were growing by the second.
The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a week; however certain roads are closed due to weather conditions especially during the winter months. Sometimes, especially during the night, the entrance booths are not manned, therefore you must pay your admittance when you exit. We paid $30, which was the fee for the car and not per person. Larger vehicles fees are dependant on vehicle/number of people, check them out prior to your visit to ensure you have the cash ready and aren’t shocked when you get to the entrance booth.
Our pass then would have allowed us to visit for up to seven days, which we would have loved to do if we had, had more time in the area. Therefore, we would recommend getting there at around 6.30am, especially during summer. Or why not a little earlier and enjoy watching the sun rise over the beautiful National Park. Also, if camping is your thing, you could always camp in Yosemite National Park, but remember to check out the opening and closing dates and make a reservation before setting out on your trip.
People wandering in front of your car
Seriously, we lost count of the number of times Mr. ESLT had to jump on the break. When we first arrived at Yosemite we were able to pull over, wander around and snap away, often without seeing another car let alone another person. However, as the day went on and the park became busier there were more and more people milling around and completely forgetting that walking in front of moving cars can be quite detrimental to their health.
This happened particularly near the main sites within in the park. They are obvious to spot, they usually have their own car park and you will see the organised tour coaches waiting. We’d recommend easing off the accelerator around those areas, just in case, also it gives you the chance to admire the breathtaking scenery, especially if you do not have the opportunity to stop at every hot spot, which if you are only spending one day in Yosemite like we did, you won’t.
Also, try not to be that person that walks in front of someone’s car. Yosemite is stunning and it’s easy to get drawn in by it and want to get closer. I’ve been there and was that person wandering in front of a car as I was mesmerised by the scenery (sorry!).
Millions of mosquitos
Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration but A LOT and more than enough to ensure that we were able to play dot to dot on our legs and arms for weeks after our visit. Yep, they ate well that evening. As we sat outside our yurt, tucking into our BBQ’d food and sipping our delicious and refreshing bottle of Pinot Gris we had picked up from the Larson Vineyard in Napa Valley earlier on our road trip, the little critters struck!
We didn’t have any insect repellent spray with us and by the time we had the opportunity to buy some for around $20 the next day from the on site convenience store it was too late, the damage had been done. Therefore, we recommend taking a bottle with you when visiting, especially if you plan on sitting outside into the evening. Not only will it save you money but it will also save you from the pain of the bites and also the lasting marks which Mr. ESLT and I still have 2 months on.
Limited places to get food and drink
Mr. ESLT and I really aren’t breakfast people, especially first thing in the morning, therefore we did not eat anything before our visit to Yosemite. That was our first mistake. By the time mid morning rolled around our stomachs were growling so loudly they could be heard over the engine of the Mustang we had hired. Luckily, I always like to have a couple of car snacks to hand when taking a road trip, however, my stock was running low. We shared a bag of Cheetos and had a couple of cookies each. It was enough to stave off the hunger pangs for a while, but when they came back, they came back with a vengeance.
I genuinely thought we would be able to find places to eat and drink at the turn of every corner. How wrong was I? Yosemite is pretty untouched therefore we really had to hunt for somewhere to grab lunch from and more importantly a drink as it was a hot June day. Eventually, we found a shop selling sandwiches and snacks at Glacier Point, I can still feel the joy I felt when I took a mouthful of ice-cold water – absolute bliss. So a turkey on rye and Magnum ice cream later we were well fuelled and ready for an afternoon of exploration.
So we advise either finding out in advance where the food and drink pit stops are throughout Yosemite if you are adamant that you want to buy something whilst you are there. Or, and this is the more sensible option and what I wish we had done – take a packed lunch and plenty of fluids. If you are on an organised tour – take a ruck sack, if you are in a car – stick it in the boot (trunk) especially if you are like me and get extremely hangry!
The (gross) toilet situation
I’ll be honest I am not an outdoorsy person and maybe that’s why I was so grossed out by the state of the toilets in Yosemite. Firstly, there are not enough as the one we visited and everyone we passed had a queue of people waiting to use it. When I finally did get to the front and see what I was supposed to use, I felt initially confused followed by a massive wave of nausea. Obviously, I was not expecting a golden throne but something a bit more advanced than a stinking long drop. It was possibly the worst toilet I have ever had the misfortune of using and to add insult to injury there wasn’t any loo roll or hand washing facilities in sight.
Now, I’m by no means a princess but even that was too much for me and one trip to the toilet was my limit for the day. I just couldn’t face going twice. Therefore, if you too are not an outdoorsy kind of person, a couple of little and cheap things could make your experience a tiny bit better – a packet of tissues and some hand sanitiser, oh and maybe a peg for your nose. Failing all that then a good old-fashioned empty bottle as a back up should do it!
There is no doubt that Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and if you have been, we are sure you will agree. If you are just planning your trip, we hope that our list of things to be prepared for helps you and we hope you have a fantastic time, we’re positive that you will!