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Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

Saint James, New...
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Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

Our upcoming trip to California in July (7th-18th) is far from ideal timing as it is a week when many people are on vacation. In my planning I've tried to do what I can to lessen the crowds and was wondering if I am on tract. We are in our early 50’s and I am game for just about anything, but my bride is not. We are both early risers. She has issues (not severe, but issues none the less) with heights. Long hikes for her are also out. About 2 miles a shot would be good.

We arrive to the Yosemite area from San Francisco on Tuesday, July 8th. I will purchase and pack a cooler on the way out of San Francisco. We will be staying in El Portal for two nights. I am unsure on what time to leave San Francisco. If we leave about 6AM we should miss the bulk of the Bay area traffic I am assuming. Would that have us arriving in Yosemite about 10AM with many of the 'commuter' tourists? Not sure what to do this day in the valley.

Would it be a better idea to leave later in the day (about 10-11AM) and check into our hotel at 3PM? The Bay area morning rush should be over, and we can relax a little before heading into the Valley. Is traffic going into the park at about 4-5PM any better? I really don’t want our first impression of Yosemite to be one of frustration. Bumper to bumper traffic and then having difficulty parking would be annoying. (Living 30 miles east of Manhattan on an island we know traffic)

The following day (Wednesday) we can leave El Portal by 6-7AM and do some of the more popular tourist things in the Valley. I was thinking of doing the Yosemite Valley Floor Tour at 10AM. I am not sure about the tour as I am more of a ‘tour on our own’ kind of guy; but with the crowds I am hearing about moving around on our own might be problematic.

Once the crowds start to thicken in the valley (About what time do the crowds swell?) I was thinking this would be a good time to take a ride on the Tioga Road. We can visit Tuolumne Meadows and take a hike. We have 6:45 dinner reservations at The Ahwahnee Hotel Dining Room. I am sure my bride would like to go back to the room (El Portal) before dinner to clean up. Is there another option in the valley to wash up & change? I am not sure how far to go on the Tioga Road.

On Thursday we check out of El Portal. I would like to head straight to Glacier Point. If we get there by 8AM that should mean no line to get up the road; and I correct? On my agenda for this day would be stops at Washburn Point and of course Glacier Point. I would like to hike to Taft Point. I would also love to hike to Sentinel Dome via the shortcut. My wife has issues with heights, but as long as she does not have to get too close to the edges (10-20’ or so) she is ok.

I am thinking after doing that we should be out of the area early in the afternoon. We will be staying in Yosemite West the next two nights. A thought is to visit Mariposa Grove in the afternoon but I am unsure. (crowds) Asides from Mariposa Grove would other suggestions does anyone have for the area? After dinner in our rental I want to head up to Glacier Point again after sunset. I would love to sit up there for a couple of hours stargazing.

On Friday morning here’s where it gets dicey. I would love to hike the 4 Mile Trail down to the valley. This is NOT an option for my bride. My initial thought is to drive up to Glacier Point and have her pick me up in the valley. By then I will know but right now I don’t. (I did check Google Earth) Is the Glacier Point Road an ‘easy’ drive? By easy I mean are there many exposed switchbacks? It looks to me like it is mostly a tree lined windy road. It looks like it only opens up at the top. That would be fine; my wife would have a problem driving a road with switchbacks and sheer drop-offs. If I take the bus that just means more time on my own. Since it is our vacation I don’t want to abandon her all day.

I am assuming the hike down should take about 2 hours or so. It would be an hour or so drive so we were thinking she could drive back to the valley, have lunch, relax & read someplace nice until I get there. What would be the best place for her to pick me up? I was thinking of the Swinging Bridge but the map does not show that there is parking there.

Saturday morning I was thinking this would be a better time to visit Mariposa Grove and taking the first tram tour. (9:30AM) After visiting the grove we will head on to the rest of our California vacation. We are heading that general direction anyway. We will be then going to Pismo Beach, Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz, and end up back in San Francisco.

I will fill in the blanks as on what to specifically see / do while in the valley, but at the moment I am just working up a basic game plan. Any comments or suggestions are welcomed.

Thank you

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1. Re: Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

Hi

It looks like you've given some good thoughts to your itinerary!

Ask SF folks about traffic leaving the Bay Area.

I think visiting Tuolumne Meadows on Day 1 would be good. Enter via the Big Oak Flat Entrance and head up Hwy 120 / Tioga Road. Stop for views. Have a picnic. Maybe stroll out to the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River or into the meadow.

Then when you drive back down Tioga Road, turn left at Crane Flat and continue toward Yosemite Valley. You'll get a few nice views. But don't go all the way to the Valley. Turn right on El Portal Road to Hwy 140 and go to your lodging.

On Day 2, head into the Valley first thing. If you want to take an open air tram tour, that's fine. But you don't need to. You can drive up to Tunnel View then to Bridalveil Fall and on to the Valley Visitor Parking. Use the free shuttle to get to the destinations of your choice. The shuttles will get more crowded mid-day.

If you need to freshen up for dinner, plan on a 20-25 minute drive taking 30-40 minutes or more, since you want to leave the Valley when everyone else is leaving. Or freshen up in a restroom somewhere. Even the restrooms at the Ahwahnee are public. But they don't have showers, so it won't be much of a freshening up.

No crowds at Glacier Point at 8 am, but it's about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hrs from El Portal. This is definitely an early morning. Are you planning to stop at the Sentinel Dome / Taft Point trailhead first thing (also will be uncrowded at this time of day) for the Taft Point hike? This one is about 2.2 miles. Will your wife be waiting in the car or walking with you? There is a nice meadow section and some great forested parts. Look for wildflowers.

Then back to the car & drive on to the Sentinel Dome shortcut?

This afternoon could be one of the hikes in the Yosemite West area. I haven't done any of them. (In the Top Q in the lodging info about Yosemite West.) Relaxing at your Yosemite West rental might be good. Or drive down to Wawona, about 25 minutes away. tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-c196037

Friday morning hike down the Four Mile trail sounds okay. I assume you're okay with a steep descent. It's actually more than 4 miles. Your wife's drive will be fairly easy. The only challenging part is Darwin's Curve, and that's 'scary' on the uphill drive to Glacier Point. http://goo.gl/maps/o3hsJ

There is parking along Southside Drive at the trailhead for Four Mile Trail http://goo.gl/maps/xdgyV But if I was the "shuttle bunny", I would prefer to wait at the Sentinel Beach or Swinging Bridge picnic area. Parking view: http://goo.gl/maps/B0Yy8 (Google Maps street view is a better option that the map you're using. There is lots of parking.)

Saturday morning at Mariposa Grove sounds fine. Try to get there by 9 am to get parking. On a Saturday in July, you might want to be there even earlier. The sign saying that you 'must' park in Wawona and take the free shuttle up to Mariposa Grove will probably be set out by 8 am, but I think you'll be okay if you drive by Wawona at 8:30. If I'm wrong, try to park at the small lot to the left of the Mariposa Grove Road gate and take the shuttle from there.

Saint James, New...
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2. Re: Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

Hi PacificNWFamily,

Thank you so much for the quick and detailed reply. It is appreciated. Yes I do tend to think quite a bit about the itinerary. This forum has been very helpful!

I like the idea of driving to Tuolumne Meadows on the first day. It will make it a long day driving, but we are good that way.

My plan was to go to Glacier Point first, then the Sentinel Dome / Taft Point trailhead to Taft Point. I believe that my wife will be taking the Taft Point hike. According to what I read she can do it, but most likely not go too close to the point itself.

yosemitehikes.com/glacier-point-road/taft-po…

Then back to the car to the Sentinel Dome shortcut.

As for the 4 Mile Trail, I am good with steep descents. My knees will throb later but nothing too bad. I am expecting it to be in the ballpark (steepness wise) of sections of the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon. Probably more dramatic though.

Darwin's Curve, that is the one I saw on Google Earth! I will drive up and hopefully be able to talk her into driving it down!

We will be at Mariposa Grove long before 9AM. It is not all that far from Yosemite West.

Thanks so much for the tweaking!

Edited: 30 May 2014, 21:21
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3. Re: Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

>>My plan was to go to Glacier Point first, then the Sentinel Dome / Taft Point trailhead to Taft Point.<<

So you drive to the end of the road (past Darwin's Curve) all the way to Glacier Point. Park, get out, walk around. Then back in the car and drive 2+ miles back on Glacier Point Road to the Sentinel Dome / Taft Point trailhead (possibly full by now, park on the edge of the road?) Then you drive BACK toward Glacier Point to the shortcut. That just seems out of order. I'd do Taft Point, Sentinel Dome, Washburn Point, Glacier Point. Map http://goo.gl/maps/7XLzh Also, it's more likely that you'll still find parking at Glacier Point at 11 am than you will find parking at Sentinel Dome at 11 am (at least, that's been my experience. It may be different when you visit.)

Yes, Mariposa Grove is "only" 30-35 minutes or so from Yosemite West.

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4. Re: Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

So with stargazing, you will drive up to Glacier Point 3 times in two days! :)

I think PacificNWFamily's sequence of Taft Point, Sentinel Dome, Washburn Point, Glacier Point makes the most sense. And I think you can even combine it (if you are up to it) with the hike on Four Mile Trail (actually like 5 miles) down to Yosemite Valley on the same day. Taft Point walk - quite leveled. Sentinel Dome - the trail itself is sort of leveled, with the only challenge being climbing up to the top of the dome (if you want to) at the end. So both walks are fairly easy. The Four Mile Trail from Glacier Point down to the valley - a good portion of it is paved, or sort of paved. I was expecting to find many steps along the way, and found very few. It is a constant grade almost the whole trail. Walking down would be a lot easier than the up direction. It took me a little over 4 hours to walk up. And I saw a guy running down the trail, trying to beat his ride to the trail head in the Valley from Glacier Point. When I met him, he had the upperhand.

The Darwin's Curve only look scary when you are heading towards Glacier Point. (And since you will be driving it...) When your bride drives back from Glacier Point to the Valley, just tell her keep her eyes on the road and don't turn her head to drive through that curve! She'll be all right. :)

If you do this, you might free up yourself for half a day or even more to do sight-seeing at other spots in Yosemite (and there are so many).

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5. Re: Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

Leaving SF that early as you planned should be fine as most of the traffic is in the other direction and later.

Given you are splitting time at Yosemite West and El Portal, it makes sense to focus time in the northern end of the park for the first two days and the southern end the other two days. Yosemite West is closest to Glacier Point.

On the first day, it would make sense to come in in 120, explore a little bit of Tioga Road since you already are up high. But with road work (expect delays during weekdays) or the higher altitude you might decide to skip Tioga Road and just go straight into the valley, see some of the sights on the drive in tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-c2636/… have dinner and back to El Portal.

If you skip Tioga Road the first day, then you should plan to drive it on Wed. Many people spend the full day and make it to Mono Lake and back. If you push your dinner reservation back, you can give yourself time to freshen up. You could freshen up in Lee Vining before driving back via Tioga Pass. Or freshen up at the Ahwahnee itself.

I made the mistake of walking down the 4-mile trail the day pefore my half dome permit day. My knees where so shot i had to stay behind whilst my buddies made the trek up hD (and back safely). If you do not want to leave your beloved, the both of you could just go down the trail just partway about 10 minutes then turn around and go back. There are no steel tire shredder like devices to prevent you from backing up. I found the most impressive views in the first part of the hike and then because it is a series of switchback, the view essentially was the same. But i understand being able to say i hiked down all the way.

I'm going July 4th weekend and not too worried about the crowds. And given your plans, i don't think you need to be worried at the gates about traffic.

Swinging Bridge picnic area has parking. But if that is absolutely full, sto at Yosemite Lodge. Then a short pleasant 10 minute walk across the meadow will take you to Swinging Bridge.

Edited: 31 May 2014, 15:28
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6. Re: Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

I think your itinerary looks pretty good. I would go with PacificNW comments though on the order of things. You don't want to spend extra time in the car with lots of backtracking.

The four mile trail has a steeper pitch than the Bright Angel but I would think you should be fine- there are lots of places to take in the views which double as a resting place. I think meeting up at Sentinel beach or swinging bridge is much more enjoyable for the one who is waiting.

Enjoy!

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7. Re: Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

I haven't kept up with the most recent version of your trip plans, but I would NOT do the Tuolumne Meadows /Tioga Pass area on the day you have the Ahwahnee dinner reservations.

With the road construction going on, you might have a 2+ hour drive back to the valley floor, and the Ahwahnee is tucked way back into the valley. I don't think it does justice to either TM or the Ahwanhne dining room to try to force them together.

Saint James, New...
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8. Re: Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

" I'd do Taft Point, Sentinel Dome, Washburn Point, Glacier Point. Map http://goo.gl/maps/7XLzh Also, it's more likely that you'll still find parking at Glacier Point at 11 am than you will find parking at Sentinel Dome at 11 am "

That does make perfect sense. Thank you PacificNWFamily for the map detailing that. It is very helpful. The parking tip is icing on the cake!

HappyFeet, I like the idea of doing the Four Mile Trail the same day. That will mostly be a game day decision. It will depend on my bride. After a couple of hikes and dizzying heights we will have to see how she feels.

I think she can handle Darwin's Curve on the way down. (just don't look!) She won't be close to the guardrail. That was funny about the guy trying to beat his ride. Now I won't be jogging the trail but I can see someone doing that. Ten years ago I probably would have done it.

When I told my wife that it will take me no more than two hours to hike the Four Mile Trail and at least an hour for her to drive around she didn't believe me at first. Then I showed her a map. I would like to free up some more time to explore other areas of Yosemite so hopefully we can get that done.

ALTippet, splitting time up in two areas and concentrating on those areas was my basic plan. Doing the Tioga Road on the day we arrive might be a tad much, especially given the road work delays. We would have only been able to do a portion of the drive anyway. We probably will head into the Valley instead. The link with the Yosemite Valley plans it out perfectly, thank you!

We can do the Tioga Road the second day. That way we can do it at a leisurely pace. I will see if I can push back our Ahwahnee dinner reservations. If we do miss dinner it won't be the end of the world.

I don't mind leaving my bride, I do require my 'alone time' regularly. I would like it if she did this hike, but even a portion is out of the question. I do want to be able to know that I walked all the way down. In the Grand Canyon she didn't make it 1/2 of a mile on the Bright Angel Trail. Last year she even attempted going off the Fairy Falls Trail in Yellowstone with me. I wanted to get to the top of the hill behind Grand Prismatic Spring. It was very steep and littered with downed trees (it is not a marked trail). She made it about 1/4 of the way up. I left her with a can of bear spray and some water and made it to the top. I gave her an A for effort though.

Thank you for your reassurances about the crowds. I hope you enjoy your trip and get to do Half Dome this time!

LA
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9. Re: Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

Ahwahnee Dining Room is a very special, memorable place and the cuisine is fabulous.

People always talk about going there for sunset, but I'd rather be outdoors on the patio watching sunset and then have a later dinner. Once you are in the dining room, you really can't see the panorama as well.

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10. Re: Upcoming Yosemite July trip, working the details

>>I think she can handle Darwin's Curve on the way down. (just don't look!) She won't be close to the guardrail.<<

But there isn't a guardrail. That's one reason folks are uneasy on this curve. Close up view: http://goo.gl/maps/h7roc

She will be on the inside of the curve, the speed limit is either 20 mph or 15 mph there (I think), and she'll be fine. Her direction: http://goo.gl/maps/r0T8t

One more stop that your bride might enjoy on her drive down from Glacier Point to the Valley is the picnic area on Glacier Point Road. If the mosquitoes aren't out, the little meadow is kind of nice. map http://goo.gl/maps/cjl7h Hmmm, tables are gone, signage is gone, and it's no longer on the Picnic Areas map of Yosemite. This picnic area may be closed and the meadow in rehabilitation.

You might want to purchase a folding chair. There are lots of places where it's lovely to just sit & enjoy the view.