Yosemite National Park is a beautiful place. It was the first National Park (although Yellowstone claims that honor also). Over three million acres of the Sierra Nevada has been designated for protection including 95% of Yosemite National Park in the National Wilderness Preservation system. This is meant to protect foreaver the land’s natural conditions, provide opportunities for recreation, and to protect watersheds and wildlife habitat.
We’ve been to Yosemite three times in the past two years, and I have a feeling that we’ll go again, and soon. Yosemite is the kind of place that you can go to over and over and still feel the urge to visit. And from the San Francisco Bay Area it is so easy to get to.
Where to stay in Yosemite:
There are several lodging options in the park all run by the same concession, DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, Inc. Lodgings available consist of primitive walk-in campsites, comfortable heated tent cabins (our favorite) and absolute luxury at the Ahwahnee hotel. Make your reservations online at: Yosemite National Park.com/accomodations. At certain times of the year if you are staying at Camp Curry they have a special called the “All U can Heat” rate. In a heated tent cabin you pay the same amount as the lowest temperature the night before plus $20. They don’t advertise this rate and I found it by accident. Check out the Yosemite Special Events and Vacation Packages page for this and other specials.
Dining Options in Yosemite:
We usually eat at the coffee shop at Camp Curry for breakfast and then at the Food Court at Yosemite Lodge for our other meals but we also bring food that we can eat while out photographing like protein bars and fruit. There are many other dining options in the valley. For on the go food check the deli at Yosemite Village and if you want a sit-down meal try the Ahwahnee Dining Room or the Moutain Room at Yosemite Lodge. There are a couple of general stores with pretty good inventory of just about anything you need besides, one in Camp Curry and another in Yosemite Village.
Getting Around Yosemite Valley:
You can drive your car into Yosemite Valley. However roads get congested during peak seasons and there is a very good shuttle bus system in the valley. So once you are in Yosemite, park your car in a designated parking area and ride the shuttles around the valley. In fact, there are roads where only the buses are allowed to go including to the Nature Center at Happy Isles, where the trail head for the Mist Trail and Vernal Falls is. If you do drive around the park, please drive safely and slowly. Watch for the “speed kills bears” signs. Wherever you see one is where a car hit and killed a bear. And bring chains for your car if you come in the winter. Road conditions can change overnight!
Hiking in Yosemite and being prepared for weather:
Be sure to get a hiking map and depending on what time of the year you go, bring appropriate footwear and clothing. Remember it can get cold in Yosemite at night even in the summer so bring a light jacket or sweatshirt for cool evenings. In the winter we’ve had experience with really slick ice on the trails, especially when we went on New Year’s weekend in 2010. It had snowed heavily before we came, during the days it was sunny so the snow melted and then at night it got REALLY cold and everything froze again. Paved trails especially were very slick. Many hikers bring, buy or rent crampons for their boots for hiking during the winter. Permits are required for certain hikes and wilderness camping, and some are closed during certain seasons so make sure to check regulations when planning your visit.
Photography in Yosemite:
While Yosemite is very photogenic all the time there are certain events that will bring the photographers out. We have specifically traveled to Yosemite for the full moon, new snow and for the phenomenon that makes Horse Tail Fall look like it is on fire, which was really popular with photographers. This phenomenon only happens when the sun sets at a certain time of the year. And of course there cannot be clouds blocking the setting sun from lighting up the fall and water has to be falling. Which you would assume to always be the case but sometimes Horse Tail Fall is dry or almost dry.
When photographing in Yosemite bring your tripod, wide angle and telephoto lenses, graduated neutral density filters and polarizing filters. Experiment with shooting falls, creeks and the river at slow shutter speeds, try HDR techniques, try and be creative in your use of subjects, angles and positioning of the sun and moon. We can all get that iconic shot from Tunnel View, try for something different. We went up to Glacier Point on our last visit, which had not done before. What a great place for shooting Half Dome lit up by sunset colors! Another favorite spot for photographing Half Dome at sunset is Sentinal Bridge. So bring your camera and get ready to be overwhelmed by all the photographic opportunities!
Below are a few of my favorite images from Yosemite.
Yosemite January 2010
This first gallery is from our trip on New Year’s weekend 2010. We still had the camper and on spur of the moment decided to take off for Yosemite. I had been watching conditions and knew that there was fresh snow from a storm a few days before. We stayed in the camper in the North Campground. It was so cold the heater in the camper was running all night!
Yosemite February 2011
My next visit to Yosemite was with Randy and our good friend Bruce Finocchio. We all wanted to photograph Horse Tail Fall with the sunset lighting up so it looked like it was on fire. We drove up on Friday night just making it to the valley as the snow started to fall. Luckily we were in Bruce’s car which is 4-wheel-drive. The next morning it was still snowing and the valley was magical! Unfortunately, clouds came up just at sunset and we didn’t get the photo we came for. Now we have a good reason to come back (not that we need a reason).
Yosemite October 2011
In October 2011 I made reservations for an “all U can heat” tent cabin during the full moon and off we went again to Yosemite. Camp Curry was sold out Friday and Saturday nights, so we drove to Mariposa on Saturday and checked into the Yosemite Inn. That afternoon we drove all the way to Glacier Point to photograph the sunset and then all the way back to Mariposa after the sun set. It was a long drive and of course we didn’t have anything to eat. Luckily a cafe in Mariposa let us come in and eat even though technically they were closed. The next day we checked into our Camp Curry tent cabin. We went back to Glacier Point for sunset the night before it rained and the next day had some interesting moments trying photograph the valley in the rain. We had a great time even though it rained that one day and got some nice photographs.