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If you like hugging trees, wandering off the trail, and eating your lunch on the tops of mountains, then you belong in Yosemite National Park. I grew up in the city and my family wasn’t really into the great outdoors, so we never went camping. I’m not complaining, but after this trip to Yosemite, I wish I could have experienced it sooner. There’s too much world out there to just stay within the confines of your hometown. Luckily, I have likeminded friends who are just as eager to get out of the city as I am. My crew consisted of my best friend Cherelle and Carlos, a badass photographer. We woke up every morning at 7:30 AM, hiked over 8 miles a day, and didn’t return to the room until after 11 pm. Between the early mornings and strenuous days our crew could have easily fallen apart. Instead, we laughed the entire time, took in all of the natural beauty, and appreciated being there together. Yosemite truly is one of the most beautiful and humbling places I’ve ever been.

Yosemite National Park

Where to stay: We stayed at Cedar Lodge in El Portal for $71/night. El Portal is a 20 minute drive from the entrance of the park. The hotel was exactly what we needed, a place to rest our heads after a long day on the trails. The park offers lodging inside at Yosemite Lodge or The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, but both were out of our budget. If you choose to camp, the park offers 13 campgrounds to choose from.

How to get around: We drove from Los Angeles which took about 4.5 hours. We took the 5 North to the 99 N to the 41 E. If you are staying in El Portal, you’ll have a 20 minute drive to the park entrance each day. The best way to get around inside the park is on foot or by the shuttle that runs every 30 minutes.

Where to eat: Within the park you will have plenty of dining options. Degan’s Deli is perfect for grabbing breakfast or snacks before hitting the trails. I highly recommend Yosemite Lodge Food Court for your post hike meal. You’ll have a summer camp moment in the mess hall dining amongst all of the other hikers. On your way home, stop at Happy Burger in Mariposa. It’s a cute diner with great food, order the guacamole burger for me.

Recommended trails & hikes:

Tunnel View Lookout: Once you enter the park, the outlook is a 5 minute drive from the entrance. No hiking necessary. Park your car, get out and take in the gorgeous view. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy your morning coffee.

Lower Fall (Easy): This is perfect hike to start your Yosemite trip.  The easiest and flattest of all the hikes, this trail leads you to the footbridge at the base over Yosemite Falls.

Bridalveil Fall (Easy): This hike will lead you to the base of Bridalveil fall. It’s a tad steeper than lower fall but totally worth it.

Mirror Lake (Easy): We knew we couldn’t leave Yosemite without seeing the famous mirror lake. The trail has a slight incline and it will take about 15 minutes to reach the lake.

Upper Yosemite Fall (Strenuous): After you finish the lower falls trail head over to the upper Yosemite trail and make sure you start early. We made the mistake of starting after 2 pm and between all of our photo taking and water breaks, we ran out of daylight before we could reach the top. If you only do one strenuous hike while you’re in the park, make sure it’s this one.

Vernal Fall Footbridge (Strenuous): I recommend this hike the day after upper Yosemite. The views going up were unreal. We found a spot on the way up to relax and eat our snacks overlooking the spectacular views.

Tips:

  • There is a $25 fee for noncommercial vehicles to enter the park that is good for 7 days
  • The best time of year to go is late Winter/Early Spring. The waterfalls and rivers are flowing, there’s still snow on the mountains and it’s not packed.
  • Yosemite Valley has 4G. You will not have reception anywhere between Mariposa and the park
  • Visit the visitor center before you get out on the trails. They have all of the information you will need to map out your day
  • Finish your hike before it gets dark because the trails technically close at dark
  • Pack wisely. I recommend bringing; a flashlight, reusable water bottle; backpack; first aid kit, snacks; athletic shoes, hat, and sunglasses.

Photos by Carlos DeLaRosa Jr

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