Things to do in Yosemite
September 16, 2014 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Things to do in Yosemite when you only have one day and also the park is on fire! I'll be in Sequoia, finishing a backpacking trip on Tuesday, 9/22 around 10am, and was planning to drive up towards Yosemite from there. I want to be in San Fransisco by the evening of 9/24. I've never been to Yosemite and I'd love to see it, but not sure specifically where to go and what to do.

I am aware of the hike up to Half Dome; you need a permit and anyway I don't really feel up to that physically. I do like hiking and backpacking but probably won't have time for a massive, all-day hike.

I'd be open to short day-hikes in the areas not currently affected by fire, or even to just some scenic viewpoints I can drive up and check out. If there's somewhere I can stay near the park that would be available and not too expensive, that would be nice. I will have my camping gear but when it comes to camping at a "developed" site surrounded by hundreds of other people, I'd rather just stay in a hotel.

Or maybe the fire situation is so bad it's not even worth visiting right now? I'm also open to totally skipping Yosemite for this trip.

posted by drjimmy11 to Travel & Transportation around California (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
At the least, check out the Yosemite National Park website for fire alerts.
posted by Carol Anne at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rent a bike and bike around the valley. Yosemite valley is full of flat, paved bike trails.

If you feel like walking a bit, you can park your rental bike in lots of places and explore a bit.
posted by vacapinta at 10:53 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding the bike. And if you only have one day, you could either a) park the car in the valley and tool around there (99.9% of all the things people come to see are based in the valley anyway, and that's where all the visitors' services are), or b) go on one of the scenic drives in the park. The visitors' center will post advisories of what spots are blocked off from fires.

As for a place to stay - the Yosemite Bug is about a half-hours' drive from the park, is inexpensive, and decent. It's a youth hostel, so whatevs, but it's the only youth hostel in this country which served wine in the restaurant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Drive the loop, take pictures, park at the Ahwanee, do the Mist Trail or something similar, arrive back, eat at the Ahwanee, and afterwards ask the front desk if they have any cancellations. I stayed there for half price one impromptu night.
posted by rhizome at 12:08 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yosemite Fall will be dry, but Bridalveil should be flowing. Vernal and Nevada Fall will also be flowing. You're right below the Meadow Fire, so I'm not sure how smoky those two will be. Make sure to go up to Tunnel View. The view at Glacier Point might be obscured by the Meadow Fire. The Merced or Tulomne Groves would be good to visit if there aren't any other fires in the immediate area.
posted by cnc at 12:21 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to be in the valley, take the valley loop trail on the north side. It's generally pretty empty and serene. It used to be paved but it's returning to nature now in an almost nice way. Biking is a great way to see all of the valley but the valley loop trail isn't really bike accessible. The valley is great but even now I'd expect buses by the busload disgorging folks at various spots throughout the day.

But if it were me, coming out of Sequoia I'd either spend a down day in Kings Canyon down by the river at Cedar Grove. It should be pretty empty during a weekday this time of year, the water not too cold, and the hiking above the roads end very peaceful. Or I'd make the trek up to Tuolomne Meadows and play around on some domes and hike up the Lyell Fork. We were just there and the upper elevations still have water, are somewhat empty, and still very beautiful.

Note that both the valley and Kings Cedar Grove are in that 3-4k foot range and can be very very hot this time of year. On the flip side Tuolomne is high up and can get quite chilly.
posted by mrzz at 1:20 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are wise to avoid Half Dome for a day hike, it's has an almost 5,000 foot gain and finishes at 8,800 feet above sea level and is 14 miles [I stayed the night on top once when I was young and healthy and the hike wore me out for days after]. There are a few spectacular places along the same trail network used to reach Half Dome though. One of the trails is the Mist Trail. It's a trail not for acrophobes though.

Checking the valley weather forecast it looks like you won't get snow or freezing, it looks a bit warm in fact.

What I would do is go for a hike on the Mist Trail early in the morning - it will be in the shade mostly - after you hike as far as you are comfortable with [3 miles (4.8 km) round trip to Vernal Falls, 7 miles (11 km) round trip to Nevada Falls] go for a bike ride or take one of those open busses to Glacier Point or Tolumne Meadows.

And yeah, it's developed in the valley. I stayed at White Wolf campground in late August and there was no one there except me and my friends and a trillion mosquitioes.

My sister used to live in Mariposa - that might be a decent compromise.
posted by vapidave at 5:38 PM on September 16, 2014

Mentioned above: Rent a bike. Rent a bike. Rent a bike. One of the best days I've ever had.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:19 PM on September 16, 2014

I second the Cedar Grove option.

Drive to road's end and park. Day hike up either side of the canyon. Plenty of photo ops on the drive in, and plenty at the bottom. Also, you may be able to get a day ride at the pack station...last time I checked they offered all day/half day options.
posted by mule98J at 9:40 AM on September 17, 2014

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