Why Yosemite National Park is NOT a good idea on weekends

“Try to avoid Yosemite National Park during the weekends”, our travel guide said. But unfortunately we did end up right at that place during the weekend. There was no avoiding it as this national park was one of the last stops before flying back home on Tuesday.

But it was absolute hell. So even if it seems impossible to avoid it, try to find a way because there is hardly anything fun about Yosemite National Park on weekends. You lose more time getting into the park than actually being in the park…

But once you’ve actually made it in, it’s absolutely stunning. No wonder so many people are trying to see this!

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It was about 2:30pm on Saturday by the time we were nearing Yosemite National Park. We were quite happy to have reached the park this early that day and expected to be able to do a few hikes that evening and then the rest the next day. I was so very excited to explore this gorgeous national park.

Even when we ended up in a queue of cars about one kilometer before the entrance, we were still quite optimistic. It does take a long time for people to purchase their entrance ticket, so it seemed normal. It was the weekend after all.

Around 3:30pm, we finally made it to the entrance. Hallellujah. Or not.Soon we were queuing again. And worst of all, we were queuing in a one-way street. A one-way street which had a TWO-hour queue to the parking area. With no way to turn around and get out of the queue to spend our time more wisely, we ended up spending out entire Saturday afternoon in Yosemite National Park queuing to get a parking space.

By the time we had our car parked somewhere along the road, it was already 6pm and the sun was about to set soon. Since it took us that long to actually get inside the park, we decided to not just exit right way as we had originally planned while queuing. We picked out the shortest hike we wanted to do, which was Lower Yosemite Falls, and made sure we at least had some first impressions of this national park.

The Lower Yosemite Falls hike is a 1 mile (1,5 km) roundtrip and takes only about 15 minutes. It’s already quite amazing to see which at least lifted our sour moods a bit. I guess there was a reason why so many people were trying to get in the park.

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After a special night in a canvas tent at Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort, we got up right after dawn to beat the crowds at the park. We weren’t going to queue an entire day again. Lesson learned.

Our first stop of the day was the Glacier  Point; a scenic viewpoint over Yosemite National Park. And the view simply left me speechless. It’s definitely worth the half an hour drive up there and back. Stunning!

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Then we quickly headed to Yosemite Village to make sure we had a parking spot for the rest of the day. By 8:30am, it was already filling up quickly, but there werre still plenty of spaces left. Luckily.

In Yosemite you can get everywhere by bus while cars aren’t allowed on certain roads. Which isn’t that bad because once you’ve parked your car somewhere it’s best to leave it there for the rest of the day because trying to find another space later on the day is like mission impossible. Unfortunately because there are that many people, the buses are full pretty quickly as well.

Our first hike of the day was to the Vernal Falls Footbridge. It was a 1,6 mile (2,6 km) roundtrip and rated medium. That was about the most I could take at the point as I had managed to sprain my ankle the day before while getting to our tent. It hurt pretty badly but it wasn’t going to stop me from seeing the sights I wanted to see. I would have plenty of time to rest on the flight back home. The view from the footbridge is pretty amazing. It’s not the real deal you get at the top, but it’s already pretty great.

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The second hike we did was the Mirror Lake Loop. The hike itself is quite uneventful and boring – well, as boring as it can get in this amazing park of course – but the mirror lake itself is so beautiful. It was one of my favorite sights of this park. The walk is a 2 mile (3,2km) roundtrip and very easy.

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Unfortunately the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias was being renovated at the time, so we weren’t able to visit the big Sequoia trees. Fortunately we were able to see some Sequoias in Calaveras Big Tree State Park the day before (more on that soon), so we weren’t too disappointed.

When we were exiting the park, we drove past the famous El Capitan; a vertical rock formation of about 900 meters which is a favorite challenge of rock climbers. We parked our car at a picknick spot, and tried to get as close to this granite monolith as possible. It was quite an adventure as it wasn’t an official hiking trail, but there was some sort of code with fallen trees to get to the foot of El Capitan. One can only really get an idea of the height when you’re right beneath it. I’m really glad we were able to make it.

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And that was it for Yosemite National Park. Despite the struggle and many frustrations of the first day, we were still able to do most of what we wanted to in this stunning national park. I really hope to go back one day to do the longer hikes to the top of the falls.

But one major piece of advice; don’t go to Yosemite National Park on weekends unless you can enter the park very, very early. Even then you’re going to have to beat the crowds. Best to just leave it for a week day because skipping this amazing treasure of nature would be an atrocity.

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