A camping trip to Yosemite National Park feels like one of those quintessential American experiences, sandwiched between a stop at Mt. Rushmore and a sojourn in Disney World. Best known for its waterfalls, giant sequoia trees and towering granite monoliths, the “Valley” was also home to some of the first rock climbing communities in the country, practically the birthplace of modern climbing.
Yosemite has been on my to-do list for years, and when my mother and brother pitched me the idea of an August adventure at the park, I was thrilled at the chance to experience one of America’s most pristine landscapes. With just five days to take it all in, I did my research. Here are some of my Field Notes so you can you access all of that natural beauty for yourself, even on a time budget.
Pack the Right Shoes
I wore two styles of hiking sneakerboots from the Arrowood collection: the Lux WP and the Lux Mid WP. I could not have worn a better shoe for this trip! The Lux Mid WPs were super comfortable and lightweight for long, challenging hikes during the heat of the day, while the waterproof construction suited exploration along lakeside trails.
Break for Lunch in Mariposa
Right outside of Yosemite Valley is a quaint but beautiful mountain town called Mariposa. There you’ll find the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, Butterfly Creek Winery, and plenty of restaurants for when you emerge from the park hungry from a long day of hiking! We were trying to score a late dinner one night and found great pizza at Mariposa’s Pizza Factory, perfect for large groups, local beer, and quick service.
Pitch Your Tent
Camping within the park is obviously ideal, but if everything is booked up there’s plenty of options in the surrounding areas. We split our trip up from Los Angeles by camping a few nights at Shaver Lake in Sierra National Park, then found an Airbnb tucked away in the mountains, 45 minutes from Yosemite in Oakhurst, California. There are so many options for camping depending on which entrance you approach (I found this blog which has an awesome breakdown), but my biggest piece of advice is to book early! Finding campgrounds last minute is really difficult in the summer and you don’t want to be forced to sleep in the car.
Choose Your Hike
The natural beauty of Yosemite is incomparable and the ways to experience it are endless. Waterfalls, meadows, lakes, mountains—I loved hiking as a way to see it all, and with more than 200 trails, there’s an option for you depending on what area of the park you want to see and how far you want to hike. My favorites were Artist’s Point, which give you epic views of the Valley with few crowds and an intermediate challenge, Vernal Falls for the waterfall experience, and Sentinel Dome at Glacier Point, which offers an exceptional panoramic view. I found this link to be an amazing breakdown of hikes. I was also set on seeing some giant sequoias, but Mariposa Grove was closed for August so we went to Sequoia National Park, which was only an hour drive away and so worth it. The nearby lakes, like Bass and Mirror, are amazing in the hot summer months.
Do Your Research
Book campgrounds early, go in the spring when the park is less crowded and waterfalls are rushing, and do your research! Yosemite is massive with so much to experience and you’ll get the most out of your visit by planning which hikes you want to tackle and which sights you’d like to see the most.