#9 The water is gorgeous BUT super dangerous!
While you may have studied Pinterest and a million blogs and planned lots of nice days of basking in the cold waters of Yosemite during your hot summer trip, well, think again. First, it is against the rules at the national park to get in ANY of the water. There are warning signs everywhere about the dangers of being swept away. In the visitor center, there is a serious dedication to warning about the rushing waters.
It is easy for a babbling brook to turn to a rushing river around any turn. We saw it happen many times throughout our stay. So, please, please exercise great caution around the water. Don’t be like this guy!!
If you were dead set on getting that pristine water, stay tuned! We have an AMAZING option to keep every water lover intensely happy!
#8 The parking and road into the park are very, very tricky!
We thought we planned everything so well. Candace found a great Air BNB “near the entrance of the park,” and we did all the map calculations several times. Well, the best laid plans… the drive from the RV park to the entrance and the epic park sign wasn’t too bad, about 30 minutes in the mountains. (It was our third national park!)
However, from the entrance to the actual visitor center with maps, park ranger updates, trails, food, bathrooms, etc., was easily another hour. We got up early each day and were pulling out by 6am in order to avoid the crowds. This plan was great for parking! We were right up front! However, on the first day, we didn’t understand how the park worked, and how to get to the trails, and how to use the bus system. Basically, our early arrival was great for parking and seeing a few sights, but we still waited a long time for the park to open. This was fine after the first day, and we knew where to go. Which leads to the next secret of the park…
#7 Do NOT sleep in!
This is one of the most visited and most treasured of our national parks. We agree that it certainly deserves that high esteem, but so does, you know, everyone else. If you slept in until 10am, HA!, yeah, you missed it. You will be in a line of cars for HOURS with no chance of finding parking. You might get to the first trail or waterfall by 3-4pm.
This gives you a tiny amount of time in the park unless you plan to camp overnight. The line for camping in the most coveted areas was a lottery packed with people by 7am. And, you better have all the right equipment, or you aren’t going.
#6 You cannot imagine the views even just from your car…
These iPhone pics are gorgeous and yet still don’t do the space justice. It is the most breathtaking place we have ever seen or experienced. In absolutely every direction, you will be amazed with the magic of this Earth. Candace wished she had learned a bit more about using the camera and maybe even had a more professional camera just to catch the views. A thousand pictures can’t possibly capture the place.
#5 The wildlife is no joke!
We saw these amazing creatures just about everywhere. This was near the visitor center, so it was quite used to the people and the buses. They didn’t seem to mind a bit. When we ventured out a little further to Hetch Hetchy, the wildlife were definitely more cautious of interacting with people. Have a good look at the pic below. Yep, that is a huge black bear about 100 yards from us. He was running, playing, and rolling around for about 30 minutes. The park rangers were all going on and on about how lucky we were to see a bear on our first time in Yosemite! Lucky! HA!
#4 You know that thing where people stack rocks – it’s a Yosemite thing!
Ok, ok, yes, Yosemite might not have been the first place to see these cairns, or man-made rock stack, but it is a very popular thing to do here! Cairns have deep roots and can be used to do anything from mark monuments, honor the dead, or bring a contemplative spirit. There was a whole area dedicated to it. We all really enjoyed spending an hour trying to make the best stack. We even continued to do this at other national parks! Back at the RV for the night, Trav was quite happy to keep the stacking going!
#3 There are some seriously good local brews you must try!
We may be near wine country, but wow, those local brews!
In a region known much more for its wines, we were pleasantly surprised to find out the the local beers are stellar! You can find it in the park, but you will also be pleased to hear that you can also pick it up throughout the region and markets and restaurants – even the hole in the wall type places carried this great beer. We were sure to bring home a case, which, of course, didn’t last long!
#2 If you don’t like crowds, there are some other options!
Honestly, while there were TONS of people, the shear magnitude of this place will rarely leave you feeling the crowded once out of the car and into nature. However, yes, you still want a bit more solitude than the main part offers. We loved our adventure out to Hetch Hetchy, which is a massive reservoir for the entire region. There is plenty of camping, hiking, and small privately run parks – where you can get in the water. You can drive around to some glorious high peaks for an amazing overlook or you can enjoy a hike from the plentiful trailheads.
#1 You simply MUST venture off the beaten path and try other areas of the park!
Hands down, our favorite adventure in the park was the day we just tried something totally new. We got lost. We ended up in the national forest. We got shady directions. We accidentally found one of the most incredible swimming experience of our lives, and we love to swim! Carlon Falls is hike that begins in the national forest but does bring you into the outskirts of the national park. Check out this shot from Trip Advisor!
The pristine, chilly waters are slowly moving up and over several small waterfalls and find these magical places to pool among the rocks. You can find spots where you have a small pool completely to yourself. We only saw a few people there and most were locals. We have never been so happy to get lost on the road. We had no idea what to expect.
All you see from the road is this tiny unassuming sign! But trust, us, it is amazing. It was our favorite afternoon. It is easily the best kept secret in Yosemite National Park!