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Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

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Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

My fiancé and I and planning a trip around CA during September this year, we plan to drive from SFP to San Diego via Napa Valley, Yosemite and Las Vegas.

This post is specifically about our stay in Yosemite but any info on the above route would be hugely appreciated.

We're trying to do this on a budget really so would be looking to spend at most 150 dollars a night on accommodation and 100 dollars a day on activities for the both of us.

A few questions.

- How is September weather wise for this drive/location?

- Neither of us are keen hikers, nor are we in the best of shape shall we say. We enjoy sightseeing and we are both keen photographers. How much hiking (walking) would be needed to make the most out of the stay and see some of the main sights? We plan to stay for a maximum of two nights.

-We plan to rent one car for the entire drive but have also considered an RV for the SFO to Las Vegas stretch as we can use the many sites to park up. If you have done both, which would you prefer?

-Anything you would recommend for couples/photographers?

I know this is a pretty broad list, we're just looking for feedback from people who may have done something similar.



Washington State
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for Yosemite National Park
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1. Re: Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

Hi, and welcome to TripAdvisor forums.

The best place for feedback about your overall itinerary is on the California state forum. Be sure to read the relevant Top Questions on the right side of that page (visible on the full TripAdvisor website, not the app.) After you read the relevant info, repost on that forum. Be clear if you're staying in the city of San Francisco (SF) for a few days or if you're leaving directly from the airport (SFO) for your road trip.

Definitely read the 'Las Vegas to Yosemite' article. Your trip is in reverse, but it's the same drive.

An RV is do-able, but it would be tougher. It's ideal for a trip with few miles and lots of outdoor time. Your trip has lots of miles. And you have to be in a campground or RV Park at night.


September is generally terrific weather in Yosemite. The water level is low (waterfalls trickling) but all roads are open and everything is accessible.

Read the Lodging info in the Top Questions here on this page. You're probably looking at reserving a Curry Village tent cabin, if you can find availability.

The Trip Reports in the Top Q and the Trip Ideas can help you to plan your Yosemite itinerary, but basically I think you'll want to enter at the South Entrance and visit Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. (A walk of 0.8 mile will get you to the huge Grizzly Giant and walk-through California Tunnel Tree, or an outlay of $$$ will get you two seats on the audio tram tour.)

You'd want to visit Glacier Point where the viewpoint is fabulous. Photographers probably want to visit at sunset for best light. This is about an hour from Mariposa Grove and an hour from Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite Valley has famous viewpoints, cliffs, granite features, and wispy waterfalls.

Exiting the Valley, you'd drive up to the Yosemite high country of Tuolumne Meadows. Definitely stop a few times for more great views. In particular, I'd recommend Olmsted Point and the turnout just before exiting at Tioga Pass.

If tent cabins sound too rustic for you, perhaps stay in Oakhurst the first night after visiting Mariposa Grove, then head back into the Park on Day 2 and visit Glacier Point (wrong time of day, oh well) and Yosemite Valley. Then stay in El Portal. On Day 3, head out Tioga Road through Tuolumne Meadows and then south on Hwy 395 to Bishop or Lone Pine.

Another reasonable lodging option is a 'rustic' condo in Yosemite West. You can provide your own meals and save money by avoiding expensive restaurants. More info in those Top Questions.

La Jolla, California
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2. Re: Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

An RV rental will exceed your budget. I can usually find good hotels, especially in vegas, for much less than your budget.

Napa/Yountvile I like Maison Fleury B&B, Vegas there are deals to be had. Yosemite may be tight on your budget but maybe Curry Village?? The Yosemite lodge rooms Are $220. San Diego, I recommend my home town of La jolla. I'm not biased :) But you are limited on cost maybe travelodge La Jolla or Holiday inn express. Best Western inn by the sea is good too.

Have a great trip.

Redlands, California
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3. Re: Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

Two more good spots to stop on the Tioga Pass Road as you leave are Tenaya Lake (you can hike along the far side but the views from right off the road are fine too) and Tuolomne Meadows, where a short hike/walk will take you to the river and great views of surrounding peaks and domes. Despite your professed lack of hiking prowess ;-) I will also recommend Pothole Dome--stunning views from the top, but even just walking around the side to the river is good, and a teeny climb over a few rocks will bring you to a small waterfall and beautiful rock "beach" as the river swirls off. (The Dome is the first big rock you see to your left as you enter the meadows.) Its a good spot to find deer, too, especially late in the afternoon which is when the light is best anyway..

I will also say that I personally would hate driving an RV in Yosemite with all the curves, and you could cut off my ears before I would drive one out down the Tioga Pass itself. But I'm a chicken driver.

Edited: 24 July 2013, 21:54
San Francisco...
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4. Re: Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

Re:photography, there are sometimes short (ranger-led?) photography walks. I've read about them in the little visitor newspaper tgat they give you when you enter the park. If you go to the official Yosemite website, there are links (somewhere on their website) to past versions, to give you an idea.

Edited: 25 July 2013, 04:59
Washington State
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5. Re: Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

Here is a link to the Yosemite Guide newspaper: nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm Great idea!

The Ansel Adams Gallery has fee classes sometimes.

Here is a past thread with more photography ideas: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g61000-i315-k41493…

Oregon Coast
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6. Re: Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

Hi and welcome to the forums.

>>... have also considered an RV for the SFO to Las Vegas stretch as we can use the many sites to park up.<<

A motorhome will cost you every bit of your $150/day budget. Maybe more. Plus you will have campground fees on top of that. In rural areas they average between $25 and $45 per night.

Plus you pay for kitchen supplies. Plus you pay for your linens. Plus you pay for using the generator if needed.

You get the picture!

Your MPG (miles per gallon) will be only about 8-10. Yes, our gas is far cheaper than your petrol, but an average rental car will get about 25 MPG. Figure gas price at about $4.25 per gallon . . . and do the math!

RVs are good for families with children (because the cost of eating in restaurants three times a day quickly adds up!) and good for folks who are not on a tight budget.

Santa Clara...
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7. Re: Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

This September? Please secure your lodging ASAP.

As for photography, many beautiful spots. My better half travels with a high end SLR so I am often very patient and is the tripod carrier! I have a list of the perfect spots in the valley at home from a book I got him of photography in the National Parks. Will pull it out later when I get home for you.

Santa Clara...
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8. Re: Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

Ok... checked out that older photography thread. The Michael Frye app looks great! I think I will buy it for our trip too. http://www.michaelfrye.com/yosemiteapp.html It lists all the specifics of where and when to get the classic shots. I love the sunrise and sunset times and locations.

I was going to transcribe some stuff from our book but alas technology has eclipsed me!

We have Tunnel View in various seasons. I really have to frame some of these as a collage.

I assume you will bring a tripod or at least a monopod? One of the things we have been doing lately is time lapsed photography and sky trails. I will have to check the moon phase but hope we can get some cool night time stuff too.

Have you seen this video already? yosemitepark.com/timelapse-sprnews-2012.aspx

My husband has threatened to buy this expensive rail system or something similar to do these extended sequence. http://www.dynamicperception.com/#oid=1004_1 I told him to build one or do some other MacGyver thing!

Edited: 29 July 2013, 19:51
Los Angeles
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9. Re: Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

An even bigger problem is that the "many sites" simply aren't available on such short notice. You may find yourself outside of Yosemite and taking the YARTS bus into the park, from your RV (or even further away, at this late date).

Sites are not many and there often aren't enough of them.

As for hiking, much of Yosemite is accessible through ordinary walking, especially in the Valley, but all of the major sights (including Glacier Point) do not involve hiking. Parking a car at such places is easier than with an RV, so aside from budget (and it will definitely cost you more than $150 a night), you should consider the other issues. It's getting late to find motels and hotels near Yosemite, so you need to narrow down what you're doing and find a place (cancellations do occur inside the park - always the best place to say) but you have to be on top of it and keep calling their 800 number.

10. Re: Yosemite for beginners (Sept 13)

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