Have you checked for lodging options yet? www.YosemitePark.com The ones in the Valley are usually best for a first time visitor. Also read the Top Questions about Yosemite lodging article in the upper right. You might find availabiltity at a Yosemite West condo or cabin, but weekends are tough. Look at El Portal for a closer out-of-Park town (25-30 min to Valley) or perhaps Groveland (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hrs to Valley.)
Mammoth Lakes is WAY too far for a visit to Yosemite Valley. nps.gov/yose/…mileages9-2007.pdf Driving 2.5 hours each way is just silly. Yes, it's a beautiful drive, but that doesn't make sense. You could spend one night there, I suppose, but it isn't a good base for Yosemite exploration. Where are you going next?
Small map with Places to Go: www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/placestogo.htm In three days, you might choose .... one day in the high country (Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake, Olmstead Point), one day in the Valley (free shuttle to various stops, walk along the river, hike up to a trickling waterfall, wander on a path, hike up a steeper trail, rent bikes, etc), and one day taking in the views from Glacier Point & Sentinel Dome and visiting some huge Giant Sequoias (Mariposa Grove is the largest grove, Tuolumne Grove & Merced Grove are options as well.) Read the Itineraries and Trip Reports for more ideas.
Thanks PNW. I had just checked the nps web site and found it had a history of closings (sorry, didn't realize it was there when I posted), so I am happy about that. We will arrive in LV around midnight, stay there, drive to Death Valley for the next 2 nights, head for Yose & spend 2 more nights & back to LV. We actually have another night, but our plane is FULL and if they "bump" we plan to volunteer, since we won't arrive until midnight anyway. I had thought about going to Yose first but if we get bumped and don't arrive until 4 or 5 the next day, I hate to have to drive over 300 miles to our hotel, or lose our reservation.
We are going for the scenery. We love waterfalls. I know they won't be great, but would like to see the ones that have a little water anyway. I dont' even know which will have water and where they are located. I guess I have a lot of research to do, and not enough time. We also want to do the Glacier Point hike but don't know if we have the time it would take to do it both ways...or if we are in good enough shape now. (We do hike but haven't don't anything more than 8 miles in a while.) Thanks for your suggestions. It looks like the Lodge is the only thing available and I cringe at paying more than $200 a night. (Gotta stretch those retirement dollars.) Ahwahnee is available, but that's even more. Curry Village is open, and we can manage a couple of nights with a communal bath but won't be packing sleeping bags on the plane! Thanks again for your help.
Are you saying most of the "sights" are west Yose? (That's why you said 2.5 hours.)Somehow I thought many would be centered around Tioga Pass. (And I knew Mammoth Lakes wasn't too far from the east entry.) I am really out of the loop on this one! I usually plan everything to a tee, but this is a "Let's do it now!" trip after two friends died suddenly of heart attacks. Guess I need to get on the park website. (Yes, I retired, but am working part time and have 5 grandchildren to spend time with! And life seems busier than ever. :)Edited: 12:28 pm, September 24, 2010
In regards to lodging: if you are willing to live with rustic conditions and a communal bathroom, then Curry will be fine as they provide all the beddings. However, for comfort and location, the Lodge at the Falls is a great choice, even at that price. You really ARE paying for location.
Your best bet to see some kind of waterfall action are at Bridalveil, which is a very easy pullout from the road into the parking lot, with a short uphill walk to it's base, and Vernal Falls. The hike to Vernal is about a mile but very steep- it will challenge your lung capacity! But if you take it slow (there are plenty of scenic stops along the way) you should be able to do it.
There is also a great deal to see along Tioga Road as you enter from the east: Tuolumne Meadows and Pothole Dome, Tenaya Lake, and Olmstead Point (which gives you an overlook of Yosemite Valley from the "back" side.) You can also catch sight of some of the Giant Sequoias if you stop at the Tuolumne Grove and take the paved one-mile (steep) hike down into the grove. However, your ultimate goal will be to get to the valley itself, which is on the western side of the park. Within it's few square miles are enough natural monuments to be worthy of 3 or 4 national parks.
Carefully read macjack's post; she has great info. Look at the small map with Places to Go in Reply #1.
<Are you saying most of the "sights" are west Yose? Somehow I thought many would be centered around Tioga Pass.>>
Yosemite Valley is sort of in the middle of the Park and is nearest the Arch Rock Entrance. No one really calls anything "west Yosemite" so you'll confuse folks if you ask about that. There is a lodging area called "Yosemite West" that is private property accessed through the Park; it is about 25 minutes south and uphill from Yosemite Valley.
The Valley is a prime destination for most folks. Love macjack's description ~ worthy of 3 or 4 NPs. The Visitor Center in Yosemite Valley is 2.5 hours from Mammoth Lakes.
Death Valley to Yosemite is a long drive. And this time of year, it's gorgeous. You won't want to rush through it, but you may want to get to Yosemite quickly. Choices, choices!
How about this idea: you drive "quickly" to Yosemite Valley from Death Valley, heading directly to the Valley. Check in. Enjoy some of the Valley, maybe seeing some sunset light from Tunnel View. (Article: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-c2636/Yosemite… )
The next day, walk up to Vernal Fall. Relax by the river. Go up to Glacier Point in the afternoon. I'll suggest my favorite hike again (I'm teased for suggesting it to everyone): Sentinel Dome. tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-d532061/Yosemi… It's 2.2 miles round trip. Then drive on to Glacier Point for sunset. Stop at Washburn Point on the way for more views. This is probably the best view of Vernal & Nevada Falls. There may be a ranger talk at sunset. One hour drive back to the Valley.
Hmmm. I just thought about the fact that you could actually drive Hwy 95 more quickly back to Las Vegas, but I "planned" this day to be your slow drive along 395. Maybe your long leisurely driving day is the day you exit Death Valley, but you drive the Tuolumne Meadows portion more quickly on your entry day and save the leisurely drive for the last day.
Honestly, there is so much beauty and people have different ideas about what is "best" in Yosemite. Find someplace you like, and enjoy it! If you're a fan of the high country, stay in tiny Lee Vining on night 1 and in the Valley on night 2. There are many excellent ways to get the Yosemite experience!
Thanks PNW and Macjack. Good ideas. I may just follow your "idea" to a tee...less planning for me and it comes from experts for the area. What more could I ask? Oh, yeah, just thought of something more...1) 1st day drive quickly to the valley...which route? 2) If we can't find lodging in the park, what about a VRBO rental house but where? 3) Do you not think it would be too cold to stay in Curry ? 4) PNW you also give advice on Dv as well....how about some expert advice there?
1) The best way to the Valley is in thru Tioga Pass, down Hwy 120 to the intersection with Hwy 140 and on into the Valley. If you're coming from Death Valley and you plan to make a leisurely drive south on Hwy 395 on your return, then perhaps Hwy 95 would be better. Ask folks on the Death Valley for their input.
2) The three areas with private homes are described in the lodging article: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-c59487/Yosemit… Foresta is closest to the Valley. Yosemite West development is between the Valley & Wawona, nearest to Glacier Point. Wawona is at the southern end nearest to Mariposa Grove. There are a few other private homes in or near El Portal and Groveland.
3) Some people camp in tents on top of snow. Will it be "too cold" at 4,000' elevation in an unheated Curry Village tent cabin in mid October? For me? Perhaps, but I know how to bundle up to stay warm. For you?
4) I've been to DV once and loved it. Post a question on their forum and I may add my two cents, but others with more knowledge & experience will give the best suggestions!
Thanks again. Speaking of staying warm....clothing advice! Will jeans, shirts & light jackets be enough? Can we hike ok in sturdy tennis shoes? (And yes, I worry about staying warm in Curry. If we weren't flying and packing light with only a carry on, it would be a different story. I'm usually up for a unique experience!) Of course, I know there is always the possible chance of a freakish cold front, but I ask you in general terms......
I can't travel with just a carry on, so I might not be the best one to ask.
I'd bring layers. In the evening and early morning, I'd probably wear a t-shirt, a polar fleece pullover (or two), and a jacket along with a hat and gloves. I was backpacking here in Washington a few weeks ago and I wore all that. I had to carry it, but when it got cold, I put on my layers and stayed toasty warm. If you're going with the Curry lodging idea, then have warm dry sleeping clothes to wear at night (doesn't have to be pj's ~ sweats work great and they're less revealing if you need a midnight walk to the restroom.) Dry socks and a warm hat are my two best ideas for sleeping in chilly places.
You can probably hike okay in sturdy tennies. If it rains, you'll want something that can dry overnight or that resists moisture.
A freakish cold front? Well, October is fall, and the possibility of snow flurries exists. You're more likely to have days in the mid 60's to mid 70's (I think) but don't be surprised if the high temp for the day is 45 degrees or even 80 degrees. Be ready for anything! (Climate data for October: average high 74°F, low 39°F, 2.1" rain.)
One idea is to purchase a souvenir fleece (polar or sweatshirt) in one of your destinations and to wear that if it gets too cold. Folks do that all the time in San Francisco!
Great idea. (I dont' think we are even considering Curry at this point.) I know how weather can be unpredictable. We have beautiful, beautiful fall scenery in our WV mountains. I have seen it in the 80's and I have seen it with 4 inches of snow on the ground in early October.