A visit to Yosemite National Park in California has been on our list to visit for years, so we finally booked our camping trip for one of our summer vacations. If you plan on visiting Yosemite, book well in advance. In order to reserve our campsite, we booked five months in advance.
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The drive from Phoenix was around ten hours. Our kids said visiting the park was one of the most fun vacations ever. Nature beat out all of the man made attractions.
Things to See While at Yosemite National Park
The park is enormous covering more than 1,100 square miles.
- Mariposa Grove
- Wawona Tunnel-You will drive through this on your way from Wawona to Yosemite Valley. Great pull off spot to take photos near the tunnel.
- Bridal Veil Falls is a popular spot to see a year round waterfall in Yosemite.
- Yosemite Falls-Two Waterfalls, upper and lower, located in Yosemite Valley.
- Sentinial Bridge-Gorgeous vantage point overlooking the Merced River with great views of Half Dome.
- Half Dome-Probably the most iconic image of Yosemite.
One of the most popular stops in Yosemite, Mariposa Grove is home to some of the oldest Seqoia trees.
We entered Yosemite from the South Entrance so the choice is to turn right into Mariposa Grove or left towards Wawona. Parking at Mariposa Grove fills up quickly by mid-morning. A free shuttle bus (located at the general store in Wawona) will take you into Mariposa Grove. The last shuttle bus leaves the Grove at 7:00 pm.
Sights to See
Mariposa Grove is divided into two hikes the Lower Grove and the Upper Grove.
Some of the popular sights include
- The Fallen Monarch
- Three Graces and Bachelor’s
- Grizzly Giant
- California Tunnel Tree
We stayed at the Wawona campsite located about 5 miles from Mariposa Grove. The second oldest hotel in California is in Wawona.
If you enter from the south entrance of Yosemite National Park, Wawona is 4 miles to your left. If possible fill up your tank before you enter Yosemite National Park, gas cost at least $1.00 more per gallon within the park. Wawona is home to the second oldest hotel (The Coronado in San Diego is the oldest) in California. It has a gas station and a large general store.
Wawona is a short distance (aprox. 6 miles) from Mariposa Grove. Parking fills up quickly in Mariposa Grove and a shuttle bus can be taken from the General Store in Wawona.
If you feel like golfing, there is a golf course in Wawona as well. The dirt road near the golf course is a great spot to see deer grazing at dusk.
Wawona also has the Pioneer History Museum, a collection of historical buildings from throughout Yosemite that have been relocated to Wawona. Get a glimpse of how things were in Yosemite back in the 1800’s. On the weekends you can take a short carriage ride.
Pioneer History Museum at Yosemite
Wawona is four miles from the south entrance of Yosemite National Park and the Pioneer History Museum is located within Wawona. I love covered bridges, so we had to visit the Pioneer Museum for that reason. The bridge crosses South Fork of the Merced River and is the entrance to the outdoor museum.
According to the signs, the deck and truss portion of the bridge was built in 1857 by Galen Clark, and the bridge was covered later by the Washburn brothers.
Historic buildings from throughout Yosemite, were brought to this spot in Wawona to preserve the history of this area. The granite old jail house from Yosemite Valley is the first building you will see after you walk across the bridge.
Next to the jail is the Wells Fargo building where you can buy stagecoach tickets on the weekend. There is blacksmith and different styles of cabins as well. This is a great spot to learn about the history of Yosemite.
Getting There: From South Entrance, turn left and drive four miles. Turn right by General Store and park. The Pioneer Museum is across the street from the parking lot.
We stayed at the Wawona campground along the Merced River. The campground fills up quickly and reservations are highly recommended. If you enter from the south entrance of Yosemite National Park, Wawona is 4 miles to your left. Wawona campground is on the left past the General Store.
We stayed at the Wawona campground along the Merced River. The campground fills up quickly and reservations are highly recommended. Getting There: From the South Entrance of Yosemite National Park make a right and drive four miles to Wawona.
Sentinel Bridge is a great vantage point to take photographs. It overlooks the Merced River and with a great view of Half Dome. This is also a great spot to take the kids swimming and cool off.
If you are visiting Yosemite, don’t pass up Washburn Point. It is a large pull off area just before the popular Glacier Point. This area has beautiful views of both Vernal and Nevada Falls (without the hike), and a smaller waterfall was observed here as well. There are great views of Half Dome. We visited in July, so the water flow was not very strong, but we still had a nice view of both waterfalls.
Nevada and Vernal Falls
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is an easy 1/2 mile hike. The kids loved climbing around on the rocks. The waterfall plunges 620 feet.
Yosemite Falls is a must see when visiting Yosemite National Park. Located in Yosemite Valley it is an easy hike to the lower falls. The path is wide and level with tall trees.
We visited in July, so the water level was low and you could walk up to and under the lower falls. Because of this the rocks were exposed and made for a fairly easy hike to the base of the lower falls,which were beautiful. There was a large pool of water at the base you could swim in and you could walk under part of the lower falls.
Probably the most iconic image of Yosemite is a shot of half dome.