Winter Wonderlust at Yosemite National Park

Travel Date: January 2016

Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls

Over the long weekend in January (MLK), a few of us visited Yosemite Nat’l Park. I’ve always wanted to go there but it was always so far when I lived elsewhere, but now that I’m in the Bay Area it’s SO much closer. In fact, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to even think about going. What was I thinking? Photography may have motivated me just a tad. You can’t deny you can get effortlessly gorgeous shots in one go.

From San Francisco, it is about a 3 hour drive, give or take any traffic or delays. Because it was winter, there was a lot of snow in the mountains which meant that it was practically a winter wonderland. We went for the sole purpose of taking photos (my newfound hobby!), hike in a gorgeous backdrop and just to be outside! Fortunately for us, we didn’t have to use the snow chains that we rented. They say it’s mandatory to have it in the car but using it was not enforced at the park.The main roads were paved but it was required to have just in case.

From the city, we took the shortest route to Yosemite (hwy 120E) which connected us directly there. But before that, we stopped in the city of Merced to have breakfast before heading there. Since it was on the same route, we definitely took advantage of that. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and I really like to spend the time sitting down if I can, catching up on things I missed, reading. I cherish those moments, as fleeting as they are.

 

 We decided to go to Cinema Cafe  which was a cute little spot that looked like a renovated old movie theatre. It was very quaint in size but was super busy at 8am.
Cinema Cafe in Merced, CA
Cinema Cafe in Merced, CA

Lodging 

We kept it simple and stayed at Best Western in Mariposa. Mariposa is the city nearest to Yosemite just outside the park. It is about an hour’s drive to get back in the park so do keep that in mind. We figured since we were not really going to be hiking that much, we wanted to stay in a “city” setting, and Mariposa would be the best option. Also, free breakfast. If you are going to be out in nature, there aren’t going to be many restaurants that open up that early in the morning and you need sustenance and a good power breakfast. Best Western served healthy options like eggs and yogurt, cereal, coffee. Lots of pastries. It was nice! And a good feeling not to be worried about packing food from home. We did bring dried foods while we were in the park but breakfast was not something we had to be overly concerned about. Which is a PLUS when going out in nature.

The other city on the opposite end of Yosemite, Oakhurst, also has tons of lodging options and restaurants and is a bigger city than Mariposa but the Oakhurst entrance into the park (south entrance) was closed for the Winter season. Taking that all into consideration, Mariposa made the most sense. The town is really small, with about 200 or so in population, with very little to no mobile phone reception. I actually had no reception the whole time outside of my hotel’s wifi! CRAZY. In fact, the whole Yosemite trip, I didn’t have reception – not in the city, not inside the park. It was equal parts awful and good. I took a mandatory tech break but sometimes I wanted to Instagram my moments!

Yosemite Nat’l Park

One of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen. It was like a little city inside a park.  It was so breathtaking to see these beautiful ginormous mountains and gorgeous tall trees. The sounds of the water rushing by, the many waterfalls in the park and all the roads and little walkways.

Everything was peppered in snow, but the park’s main roads were paved really well so cars can drive through and it was safe for everyone there. Lots of snowman building, trekking up mountains and snowball fights.

Before we got into the park, you can start to see things changing. Cities become a little more remote, trees are taller, air is crisper and the whole zen thing becomes quite clear. Everything is much more silent, and meditative and the beauty is beyond words.

Road to Yosemite
Road to Yosemite

Lots of wild trees untainted by people.

Road to Yosemite
Road to Yosemite

The arch into Yosemite. How perfect!

Road to Yosemite
Road to Yosemite

The first lake that we saw inside. So quiet. So serene.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

We kept seeing this foggy mist everywhere. It was so beautiful. So grateful places like this still exist.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

A beautiful backdrop.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

Another lake that we saw. Do you see that fog right in the trees? Those might’ve been clouds.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

Paved roads and trails.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

We did do a hike to see Vernal Falls. It was pretty long, but it was well worth it!!! Look at the vertical fall.

Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park
Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park

After that one, we decided to do another hike to the famous Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park

To get this view, we had to climb through rocks.

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park

It was these rocks!

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park

After 2 full days of being inside the park, this was still one of the prettiest parks to behold. I don’t think i could ever get used to it. I felt really at peace knowing that there is something like this that exists here. Much like how i felt when I visited those parks in the Southwest.

Yosemite is one of the biggest national parks in America. You can spend days here and not be fully done. There are plenty of hikes and sights to see. Unfortunately Half Dome was closed for the Winter so we didn’t get to go there. That would have been amazing but I hope to go back again sometime in the summer so I can say I’ve experienced two seasons there.

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park

The adventure was cut short due to the lack of days we had here but it was a fun adventure. I didn’t want to come back but you know how it is.

In another post, I will write about the trip back – we stopped in all these old ghost towns, and visited a cavern. It was lots of history but I’m starting to think i have thing for old historical sites. Wildflowers in bloom. Nature and its beauty.

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