Yosemite is one of those bucket list places that everyone’s seen countless pictures of, whether on a desktop background or on Instagram. I thought I knew what to expect, but when I got there I was totally blown away by the sheer size of everything. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and it’s always top of my list when I’m recommending places for people to visit.
I went by myself, with no car. I thought that this would stop me from really being able to do everything I wanted, but it certainly didn’t. Here are my top tips:
Get a public bus and train from San Francisco
There are coach companies that’ll drive you in a comfy, air-conditioned bus from the city out to Yosemite, but it’ll cost you at LEAST $100US. Or, you can get an Amtrak train followed by a shuttle bus for about $20. A much better choice, if you ask me. Get the train from Emeryville station, and buy a ticket all the way to Yosemite Valley. Once you get off the train at Merced, there’ll be a YARTS shuttle bus you can hop on that’ll take you out to the park. It stops at all the major accomodation spots out there.
Stay at Half Dome Village
I didn’t have any camping gear with me, plus I have no idea how to deal with bears, so I opted for staying in permanent accommodation rather than pitching a tent. Half Dome is the cheapest option out there, I stayed in a cute little hut for less than $100 a night. It had electricity and a comfy bed, though they have cheaper options with no power. There’s a food storage locker to ward off bears, but no fridge or place to cook.
I was there for three nights, and didn’t have to spend any money on food when I was there. I brought a bunch of fruit, muesli bars, nuts, tinned tuna, and crackers. I can’t eat bread, but it’d be easy to just live off sandwiches to save money while you’re there. There’s a couple of restaurants and cafes but they are PRICEY. There’s also a general store where I got an ice cream or two, and a Starbucks if you’re in need of a caffeine fix, but it’s very easy to get away with spending no money while you’re there.
Bring a reusable water bottle
There are taps everywhere to fill them up, so you’ll be saving money and the planet.
Rent a bike and cycle out to tunnel view
There’s a shuttle that can take you all around the valley floor, which is super helpful to get to the trailheads of most of the walks. I rented a bike for one of the days (from Half Dome Village) and cycled around the valley. The roads are wide enough that it’s safe, and there are plenty of bike racks at major points. I wanted to get up to Tunnel View but couldn’t be assed biking up the hill. I parked the bike at the bottom and walked up – it took about 30 minutes and it was SO WORTH IT. Truly the best view of the park (except maybe from the top of Half Dome).
Talk to people
I really wanted to hike up Half Dome but didn’t have a permit. I decided to walk up the Mist trail (which leads to Half Dome) to check out the falls, and ended up chatting to a group after asking them for directions. Turned out they had a spare spot on their permit and invited me to hike up to Half Dome with them. Such a fluke that ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. So strike up conversations with people, you never know what might happen. Also definitely enter the lottery for Half Dome permits, it’s one of those amazing bucket list things that was such an amazing experience.
Use the visitor centre
The park rangers in the valley’s visitor centre know EVERYTHING about the park. Just go in and talk to them to get advice on what to do. They’ll tell you about the best hikes for that time of year, and be able to answer basically any question you have.