Travel Log: Yosemite National Park

A fall visit to Yosemite National Park is magical! After talking about it for several years, the stars finally aligned for a trip to this beautiful and scenic national park at the end of October. Unfortunately, my husband's insane work travel schedule got in the way and he had to back out at the last minute, but I was able to join a group of dear friends for a long weekend camping in Yosemite Valley. One weekend is not nearly enough to see the entire park, of course, but my friends created an itinerary to enjoy the Yosemite's highlights. Spoiler alert: this place is incredible! Please read on to see more photos and learn more about how we maximized our weekend in Yosemite National Park.

The majority of Yosemite's campgrounds are usually open from late April through late October, weather dependent of course. When we visited at the end of October, it was the final weekend for most campgrounds to be open and busier than I thought it would be! We were fortunate with the weather, enjoying sunshine and moderate temperatures during the daytime and zero wildfire smoke from the Sonoma and LA fires. There is so much to see at Yosemite that you definitely want to have a plan of attack. My friends planned out our itinerary as a "Best of Yosemite" weekend to hit all of the "must-see" sights. I flew into San Francisco Thursday night, and our group drove from SF to Yosemite Friday morning. Upon our arrival Friday afternoon, we got settled into the campsite and then took an easy walk out the Mirror Lake trail even though we knew the lake would be dry. It was so gorgeous to be out in the woods and surrounded by the mountains. What a great first view of the park!


I mean, would you look at these gorgeous fall leaves? There were many shades of orange and yellow! Pretty much everywhere we turned was a postcard-perfect view. You will probably notice that my girlfriends and I all have the same Arcteryx Cerium LT down jacket or Cerium LT down vest in various colors (mens versions here and here), it makes a great layer for camping or hiking. Actually, out of our group of ten people there were seven of us wearing either the jacket or vest--maybe at some point Arcteryx should sponsor our group.

Friday afternoon and evening was devoted to our campsite, which was nicely positioned on a river so that we had some space away from other campers. My friends take camping very seriously and brought all of the details like lights to string between the trees! Dinner and drinks around a campfire is really why we all go camping, right? So much fun! Early in the morning we saw deer strolling through our campground, and in the evenings the park rangers came through to remind campers to lock up food as they were chasing bears away from other campgrounds nearby. There are 400+ species of animals that live in Yosemite National Park, so you never know what you will see!

Saturday morning the girls drove to Starbucks for coffee as well as drove around to see the Ahwahnee Lodge and the Visitor Center. Yes, you read that right--I did indeed say that we drove to Starbucks for coffee. There is one Starbucks in the park, located in the Yosemite Valley Lodge. Normally we would have made coffee at our campsite, but the coffee supplies were accidentally forgotten in SF (I'm not naming names!) and you do not want to be near most of us without our coffee. Thank goodness for Starbucks. The Ahwahnee Lodge was also gorgeous (next time I vote to stay there instead of sleeping on the ground), and we shopped for souvenirs at the Visitor Center. On the way back to the campsite, we stopped for some photos in the grassy meadows between the Northside and Southside Drives that offer fabulous views of Yosemite's most famous landmark: Half Dome.

As a first time visitor to the park, I just had to see the scenic view that photographer Ansel Adams made famous. Our Saturday afternoon and evening itinerary involved driving to some famous viewpoints including Tunnel View and Glacier Point. There was no hiking involved to enjoy this famous view--you just find space in one of the parking lots just outside of the Wawona Tunnel and take a short walk to what is known as "Tunnel View." Here you can take in the views of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls together. We were so lucky to have a clear, sunny, and gorgeous day to enjoy this scene, and the drive was only about 20 minutes from our campground. Be prepared for crowds, though--because this viewpoint is so easy to get to, you'll be jostling for space with the tour bus riders and you might even see a wedding party like we did!

Here is a closer shot where you can see a rainbow over the waterfall! We arrived at Tunnel View in late afternoon and the light was so pretty.

The view made famous by Ansel Adams.

We could not stay too long at Tunnel View, however, because we wanted to catch the ultimate sunset views from Glacier Point. From Tunnel View, the drive was about 30 minutes and wound up and up for some jaw dropping views along the way. We planned our arrival at Glacier Point for about one hour before sunset to ensure that we would be able to get a good parking space in the lot and stake out a good spot to watch the sunset. We first took a ton of photos, and then just sat to take it all in.

It is pretty amazing how the light changes from yellow to a fiery orange/red as the sun goes down!

Remember how I said seven out of ten of us have the same Cerium LT down jacket or Cerium LT down vest in various colors (mens versions here and here)? See, I was not kidding! I guess that goes to show what a great layer these down pieces make! This is not a sponsored post, I just think it's amusing that we all have the same jacket. All jokes aside, this was such a great weekend with an awesome group of friends and sunset at Glacier Point was highlight that I will not forget for a long time.

On our way out of the park Sunday morning, we had to stop for a few more photos of the gorgeous fall colors in the meadows. The morning clouds and crisp autumn leaves were too perfect to pass up, as was one of the park signs. I absolutely loved this visit to Yosemite, but after three days without a shower I was also ready to head back to the city. It is a good thing that San Francisco and my hot shower were only a three hour drive away! You can also fly into Fresno for a shorter drive, but since our friends mostly live in San Francisco that made the most sense for us for this visit.

There you have it--I finally made it to Yosemite National Park and was treated to the most gorgeous fall weekend! I would love to visit again, maybe next time in the spring when the snow is melting and Bridalveil Falls is at its peak. I think any time of the year this park is gorgeous, and definitely worth a visit. Have you been to Yosemite National Park? Be sure to leave me a comment to let me know what you enjoyed the most, or when you would like to go! Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope you have a wonderful week!

Linking up with I Do deClaire, Nancy's Fashion Style, Not Dead Yet Style, The Fashion Canvas, Walking in Memphis in High Heels


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