We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

Chantilly, Virginia
Level Contributor
470 posts
106 reviews
Save Topic
2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

I'm overwhelmed planning our 10 day CA trip (SF, YNP, Monterey, down coast, LA) especially the YNP part since I’ve never been to a Nat’l park of this size.

Spending 3 nights in Mariposa (could not find closer) arriving Fri afternoon 7/20 and leave Mon 7/23 so we have 2 full days. Been reading these forums and info- still unsure of best plan but here is what I’m thinking for our family of four (2 boys ages 13 & 11.)

Day 1

Rt. 40 to El Portal/Arch Rock entrance to valley floor, park somewhere, explore valley via shuttle. Drive down to Mariposa Grove, see trees, anything else? Pioneer museum? Exit South entrance and take Rt 49 back to Mariposa.

Day 2

Rt. 140 to El Portal entrance – go up to Glacier Point, drive Tioga Pass Rd., Tenaya Lake, Tuoloumne Meadows…maybe as far as Mono Lake? Looks like same route back to Mariposa or is there a different way?

Questions:

1. Is this a good way to divide up and see the park?

2. If so, which should we do first? Glacier Pt/Tioga Rd. or Valley/Mariposa

3. How early should we arrive to have best chance for parking/less crowds? (we’ll be on east coast time.)

4. What should we see in the valley? Is the visitor center worthwhile? Ansel Adams museum? (Have not had time to research valley sites)

5. Which day is the best to see Tunnel View?

6. Will there be any waterfalls to see this late in season?

7. 1 or 2 short not-too-difficult (or dangerous –my kids aren’t the most safety conscious) hikes?

8. Which day will probably take the most time?

9. I know there are places to eat in the Valley, but anywhere along Tioga Rd?

10. On Tioga Rd., should we turn around after Tuolumne Meadows or continue to Mono Lake?

11. I think these days will be pretty exhausting but should we consider staying in the park into the evening? (A little worried about the long drive back in what I have read will be very dark.)

If this is too much to fit in these days, we could potentially have time Fri pm and Mon am, but not sure about the extra drive time into the park with other long drives those days. Also, if we get to our lodging in Mariposa by 3 or 4PM, is there anything to see around there?

Thanks for any advice and suggestions. I normally have everything planned out far in advance so I am panicking a bit.

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
64,482 posts
114 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: 2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

Mariposa has a Mineral & Mining museum, but I haven't been there since they moved (several years ago!)

How early? As early as possible! Places begin to get pretty crowded around 11 am. If you can get in the Park by 7 or 8, you'll see lots more!

I'd suggest combining Mariposa Grove & Glacier Point on Saturday, and Yosemite Valley & Tioga Road on Sunday. The Valley is most crowded on Saturdays. Are you sure you need to see the largest grove of Giant Sequoias? If not, there is a smaller grove near Crane Flat ~ the Tuolumne Grove.

One way to do this ....

Friday ~ drive to the Big Oak Flat Entrance and go directly to Yosemite Valley. Well, take the 4 mile round trip detour up to Tunnel View first, then park at the Day Use parking lot. tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-c2636 Plan for a late afternoon hike or walk. Maybe check out the Visitor Center (valuable if you like that kind of thing), and ride the shuttle to a hike or stroll of your choice. Maybe just find a place in the river where the boys can swim. By mid July the water temp should be okay. Or hike up to just past the bridge of the Mist Trail toward Vernal Fall; both Vernal & Nevada Falls have water year round (this is the Happy Isles shuttle stop.) Then exit the Valley via the Arch Rock Entrance and drive 1 1/4 hrs from the Valley to Mariposa.

Saturday ~ drive toward the Valley, but exit right away on Hwy 41. Stop at Tunnel View for morning views. Continue on toward Glacier Point. Hike to Sentinel Dome for an 'on top of the world' feeling ... highly recommend. tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-d532061

Continue on to Washburn Point for some quick views and then to Glacier Point.

Back in the car & drive to Wawona. Stop with your picnic just after the Wawona Campground or continue to the General Store. Picnic tables past the end of the store. Ride the shuttle to Mariposa Grove, then walk or take the $$$ audio tram tour and shuttle back to Wawona. Exit at the South Entrance on Hwy 41 to Oakhurst (dinner?) and on Hwy 49 to Mariposa.

Sunday ~ some time in the Valley and some time along Tioga Road? Swim in Tenaya Lake or in the Tuolumne River just south of Tuolumne Meadows? The dining options in this area include ... gas station at Crane Flat, Tuolumne Meadows restaurant (dinner ... get reservations), Tuolumne Meadows Grill (closes early!) or outside the Park in Lee Vining ~ Whoa Nellie Deli / Tioga Gas Mart, others in Lee Vining. But I don't know if you'll go this far.

---------------------

An alternate plan for Saturday. When you get to Wawona, turn on Chilnualna Road and follow the signs to Lower Chilnualna Fall. It's a small waterfall, and it might even be swimmable by late July (this is SUCH a low water year!) The hike/walk is less than 1/2 mile. If you want to swim in the South Fork of the Merced River, the most popular spot in Wawona is just down from the Community Center & School. You'll see it on your way to the parking for Lower Chilnualna Fall. Safe & fun for swimmers.

Then get back in the car and drive on to the Wawona shuttle area to ride to Mariposa Grove. On a Saturday in July I'd guess that the shuttles will be running till 6:30 or 7:00 pm. Plan your return carefully. (If you miss the last shuttle out of Mariposa Grove, you either hitch a ride or walk 4 miles on a trail back to Wawona.)

Current Yosemite Guide Newspaper nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/upload/yg12-5.pdf

San Antonio, Texas
Level Contributor
2,266 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: 2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

I would go straight to the Glacier Point area on your arrival day, with a stop at Tunnel View on the way. Then you could hike Sentinel Dome and catch the sunset there or at Glacier Point. The entire Glacier Point area is particularly impressive late in the day with the low sun coloring the faces of Half Dome and Clouds Rest.

Sacramento...
Level Contributor
6 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: 2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

I would also recommend splitting Glacier Point and Tioga on different days... Way too much time and driving even without kids.

On the way to Glacier... hike Taft Point trail.. very short and you walk right out to the edge of the cliff looking over the valley. Safe for your aged kids. hopefully they wont' jump. There are snacks at Glacier point.. not gas. Stop at the tunnel view on your way.. any day is fine. there is plenty of parking there.

Great hamburgers at the general store at Toulomne meadows. on Tioaga Pass. They also have gas up there.. pricey but the only gas around. Mono lake is quite a drive.. and it's really not so great.. boring drive. I usually stop at Toulomne Meadows and hike the Glen Aulin Trail.. start from near the store there at Toulomne about across the street from the store. Very pretty area and there is a wooden bridge you can walk across. Kids can even swim in the river there.. cold but very safe. Lake Tenaya is absolutely freezing!

The Mariposa big trees are awesome and you can see trees fast and easy. No hiking really required. There is a shuttle that takes your right up to them.. $25 a head for adults however. The other big trees someone mentioned somewhere else that are off Tioga pass are a long hilly hike away and no where near as cool at Mariposa big

There should be some water left at this time of year, maybe.. it's been a very dry this year.

Nothing is that great at the visitor center.. There is an Indian village recreations and a museum with park stuff.. nothing you can't live without seeing and an old graveyard.

I agree with the other poster to combine Mariposa with Glacier. Don't pass up the Taft Point hike.. really. Hit the tunnel view, Taft Point, then Sentinel Dome then sunset at glacier point with ice creams.

I would stay as late as you can in the park. Enjoy every minute, you don't have the time to waste. Better to enjoy the park than to sit on a hotel bed.

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
64,482 posts
114 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: 2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

If you choose to make the 2.2 mile round trip hike to Taft Point, hold on to your boys at the edge. Put "Taft Point Yosemite" into Google Images to see what I mean.

Be aware that Mariposa is the small town. Mariposa Grove is the place with big trees. It can be confusing.

The Glacier Point snack stand is only open till 4 pm. The Tuolumne Meadows Grill (next door to the tented Tuolumne Meadows Store) is only open till 5 pm. I sure wish it was open later!

Sacramento...
Level Contributor
6 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: 2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

that's what makes taft point such a cool place... Yes you can just walk of the cliff, but I think they are old enough not to. There is an area with a railing so you can get close and still be safe.. what is great is that there a very few people, unlike Glacier Point.

Chantilly, Virginia
Level Contributor
470 posts
106 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: 2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

Thanks everyone for the great input, suggested itineraries, drive times, and food options. It took me a little while to research some of your suggestions but feel much better about having a bit more of a plan now!

Not sure yet whether we will leave SF early Friday or sight see until 2-3 PM, then do the drive over to Mariposa/YNP but if we get to the YNP area before too late, then I think we will try to do something in the park that afternoon/early evening – either something in the Valley or go up to Glacier Point area. I don’t think there is much to do in Mariposa and I think our VRBO rental is kind of remote so good point about enjoying YNP rather than hanging out in our cabin. If we can’t work it out for Fri, then we will do Glacier Point area/Mariposa Grove on Sat and save the Valley/Tioga Rd. for Sun.

I googled Taft point and it looks amazing, but I would be scared to do that with MY boys (well – my youngest, anyway) plus I have to admit that I am a little scared of heights and open drop offs. In Kauai & the Big Island last fall, my now almost-11 year old (overly confident and likes to play around too much) made me really nervous when we were on the NaPali Coast and he scared me to death at an open/un-railed viewing point near the top of Mauna Kea. This particular experience made what should have been a serene & surreal view of an amazing sunset, for me very stressful and un-fun! I read reviews for Sentinel Dome and Glacier Pt. and they don't seem quite so scary or open, but please let me know if anyone thinks it is dangerous (for this type of child) as well.

Lfitzinger – you also mentioned the Glen Aulin trail and I looked up reviews and photos of that trail and it looks gorgeous. The info I found said 8 miles RT, I don’t know that we have the energy or enough time to walk the whole trail. Would we be able to see much in the first mile or so or is there another shorter trail along Tioga Rd. that you recommend? Are the falls at the end?

Thanks too PacificNWFam for detailed itinerary options and for pointing out Mariposa Grove shuttle times – looks like last one leaves at 6PM. Also appreciate link to what to see as you come into the park. Good to know about the swimming options. Had not thought much about that since we spend most of our summers at our lake place but it looks like it is going to be hot so it sounds smart to throw some bathing suits in the car with us! You mentioned using Big Oak Flat entrance one day. I googled our VRBO location again and it looks like it is actually 10 miles outside and a little SE of the town of Mariposa and the mileage and drive times look to be better coming through El Portal/Arch Rock entrance. I don’t mind driving a little further to Big Oak Flat if there are other views and things to see by coming a different way but just wanted to check.

Sounds like it would be nice to be around Glacier Point at sunset, but we would have a very long drive back, so not sure if we’ll be able to swing that…may try to catch a sunset from Tunnel View area especially if our first day we are able to get to the Valley.

Few more questions:

- We can easily get to the park at least by 7-8AM on Sat/Sun. If we come on Friday PM, will we likely have to wait in line to enter the park or have trouble finding a place to park? Is there a time of day – say after 3-5PM that you don’t see as many people trying to enter the park. Would hate to drive all that way only to get stuck trying to get in or not find any parking spaces. Even if we leave SF on Fri AM, I don’t think we would be able to get into the area until 12-1PM…it might make sense for us to do more sight seeing in the Bay area and time our arrival late afternoon in YNP area (plus our check-in time isn’t until 3 PM.)

-What is the best time for parking at Glacier Pt? If we can’t fit it in on Friday, then we could probably get there really early on Sat AM.

- I know July is probably the most crowded month of the year, but is there a time of day that the Valley clears out a bit from all the people who come in from outside the park?

Thanks again for your help...hard to believe we will be in CA in less than 72 hours!

Redlands, California
Level Contributor
5,736 posts
53 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: 2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

Glacier Point itself has a solid wall so you should be fine.

In the Tuolomne Meadows area I think your boys would love the Pothole Dome hike, which starts right off the road at the western edge of the meadows (on your left). Once you walk around the side of the "dome" you can walk right up it without any danger at all and the views are amazing--canyons and peaks show up that you can't see from the road. Then you come down the far side of the dome into some woods and the river and a very pretty spot--you may have to clamber over a very small rockpile to get back to the proper path. Its only a couple of miles roundtrip but very rewarding.

Edited: 16 July 2012, 21:59
Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
64,482 posts
114 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: 2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

Another option in Tuolumne Meadows is the 1/2 mile stroll / walk to Twin Bridges over the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/loader.cfm…

I suggested using the Big Oak Flat entrance if you want time in Yosemite on Friday. Don't go to your rental and then drive 1 1/2 + hrs to the Valley and then back out the same way. It makes more sense to enter on the shorter route, see the Valley, and drive Hwy 140 just once. But if you have groceries, you may want to use 140, check in to your rental, pack a picnic dinner, and go into the Park.

I think arriving in the Valley after 4 pm on a Friday might have some lines at the entrance gate as it's the weekend. Parking in the Day Use lot should be fine.

Sunset from Tunnel View or even from a meadow should be just fine. Watch the views from the past few days: http://archives.halfdome.net/archive/search

Glacier Point (and the Valley) seem to be most crowded from about 11 till 3. After your visit, I'd love to hear back from you about the crowds you experienced.

San Francisco Bay
Level Contributor
3,109 posts
16 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: 2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

Re: driving to YNP on Friday

This is "getaway day" for the weekend, so this route can get quite backed up going east in the afternoon. I know SF would love you to stick around, but I'd leave early and get to the park as early as you can on Friday.

I'd follow the directions for the more northern entrance

Take I-580 east to I-205 east to Highway 120 east (Manteca)into Yosemite National Park.

and then leave by the other entrance on Friday night. Manteca or Oakdale is a good place to get gas, a snack or lunch before you get into the foothills.

Chantilly, Virginia
Level Contributor
470 posts
106 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: 2 Days next weekend - Pls.advise - running out of time

Thanks vnrose52 for the Pot Hole dome suggestion - I looked it up and that looks like a great short hike for us and my boys love climbing over rocks!

PacificNWFamily - the Twin Bridges/Lyell fork looks good also and not too long. I looked at the map again and now I see what you mean about using the Big Oak Flat entrance if we drive directly into the park from SF. Looks like it could save us a lot of time so I think we'll do that and worry about groceries later. Hopefully, something will be open when we head back to Mariposa Friday night or maybe we can just buy a cooler somewhere on the way and keep perishables on ice in the trunk.

Thanks NorthernCalif on the traffic tip leaving SF and directions. I think we can see the SF sites that we want to see on Thursday and probably won't linger in the Bay area on Friday. After a long travel and sight seeing day in SF on Thursday (leave Washington Dulles at 6AM so will need to be awake by 4AM but good part is we arrive in SF at 8:45 AM) I don't know that we'll want to wake super early but we should be able to leave in the morning and avoid the getaway traffic. Will look into Manteca/Oakdale.

Thanks also for tips on timing. PacificNWFAm - you mentioned gates on a Friday will probably be backed up after 4PM. If we can't arrive before 9AM on Friday, but probably could be there by between 11AM - 1 PM, is there a lull period for the entrance traffic?

I will definitely post a trip report and let you all know how this works out and will also let you know about the crowds we experienced. I know that crowds in July are unavoidable, but the older I get the less I can tolerate so I appreciate the tips on timing our activities.