It’s like nature Disneyland. I’m talking a group of 50 Japanese tourist being lead around the park by a guide with a flag. Just like Disney or the Louvre.
It’s funny, I’m really learning exactly what I like in a park from all this travel. I like to have water free flowing. I like to have a shower at the campground. Electricity is nice but not essential. I want it to be beautiful with great hiking and biking, wonderful views and gasp, to have almost no one around. When we were in Sedona we arrived at our trail head just after 8am. We didn’t see anyone else for close to an hour. It was perfect.
Yosemite is big. Many of the campgrounds are a good 45 minute drive to the valley where many of the attractions are. When we rolled up Saturday morning we were amazed by all the people. We quickly disregarded it as the “Mother’s Day Weekend” crowd and were sure it would be better on Monday or Tuesday. NOPE. Our campground was booked EVERY DAY. Not one spot left. All of the campgrounds were.
The strangest thing is that I’d guess over half the tourist in the park are not US residents. When we inquired about the masses of people in the park the ranger chuckled and said “This is nothing! You should see it in June.” So I’m glad we hit it when we did. There are several things that we did to better our “Alone with Nature” experience while we were there.
- Bring or Rent Bikes. There are trams that can take you around the park or you can drive and try and find parking spaces. With two small kids, waiting for a shuttle is miserable and getting in and out the car after fighting for a parking spot is worse. Also, we want to cram as much in as we can before nap. Two days we just biked from trail head to trail head and were able to do several small “hikes” within the morning. It was a great way to see the park!
- Get up early. This was no problem for us. Wilson’s now cutting his canine’s so he was up around 5:30 or 6 a couple of mornings. People usually don’t have their act together when they’re camping. So if you can prep what you’ll need for the morning the night before and be the first at a trail head or view its more than worth it.
- Stay up late. So much goes on after dark in the parks. They have evening programs, hikes, and talks that are amazing if you get to enjoy them. Our kids are asleep by 7:30 or 8pm just about every night so we haven’t been able to do these yet but they’re less crowded and seem really cool. At popular parks like Yosemite, you have to reserve a spot for many of these programs. I suggest picking one and signing up the day you arrive so that you can have your pick of topics. Some require a small fee.
- Take a cheesy park tour. We did the “Valley floor tour” which was a giant green and yellow tram that drove you through the park. While its kind of lame, its a great way to get tons of information about the park and potentially get to see something or hear something you didn’t know about. Our tour guide took us to Brideveil falls, which we’d passed a half dozen times but she took us at 4:40pm which was the perfect time during the year for the sun’s positioning to make a rainbow out of the mist of the falls. It was incredible.
- Plan. Plan. Plan. When we get to a park we get the map and find all the things we want to do. We then take a look at our time there and loosely schedule our days. At Yosemite we spent most of our morning doing the popular hikes and sites. After nap we would hit up a less popular hike closer to our campground. Doing this even allowed for us to spot at BEAR!!
All in all we had a great time at Yosemite. It’s an incredible place. There were several times the views took my breath away. And I’m not just talking about being winded from all that hiking with a kid on my back. It really is a must see.