First of all, Yosemite National Park is huge. Massive. Like, there is no way that you are going to see all of it. Yosemite Valley is the part that most people flock to, as it is home to El Capitan and Half Dome, and all the other magical landforms that make it unique.
Here are my top tips for a trip there:
Stay at Tenaya Lodge, just 5 minutes drive from the south entrance of the park and about 75 minutes drive from the main valley attractions – why stay in a tent in the park when you can be here?!
The hotel is 4* luxury, with 4 restaurants and a coffee shop, a gym and 2 pools.
It manages to combine a luxury retreat with a little bit of mountainous “Twin Peaks” vibe. Book early to avoid disappointment (and even higher room rates, and ask for a room in the West Wing which is nicer than the East). The food in the restaurants is wonderful. The coffee shop is perfect for an early start when heading to the park whilst the restaurant offers some delicious Californian breakfast options for a more leisurely start.
Yosemite. Obviously. But get there early. As in, very early. We left Tenaya Lodge at 0645, were in the park before 0700 meaning that we didn’t pay on entrance. It costs $30 per car for a 7 day pass. If, like us, you are in super-early, you pay on the way out (if your conscience dictates that you stop – mine did). We were parked up and on the Mist Trail by 0815. There are three main parking areas, and the valley is connected by a free shuttle bus. Take a look at the map first, though, as it is often quicker and more pleasant to walk between the stops as they are really close together and the bus can be rammed.
We climbed the Mist Trail to the Vernal Falls, and took the John Muir trail back down (this will mean more if you have a look at the map here)
The food in the Yosemite Village is pretty poor, to be honest, but it is readily available and much easier than taking a packed lunch with you.
However, remember to take plenty of water and some high energy snacks with you when hiking out in Yosemite – it is about a mile high in altitude at the top of the Vernal Falls, so your body will react differently to the lower amount of oxygen in the air.