I love Yosemite in the off-season! There’s no reason to wait until you can make a “big trip” there – go the next chance you get (outside of the summer season).
I’m going to tell you how to see Yosemite in one weekend. We left at 1pm on Friday and got back at 8pm on Sunday. We felt like we really “got away from it all” and experienced a good portion of what Yosemite has to offer each time. Of course, it would have been ideal leave early a.m. on Friday and enjoy more time in the park. But you can see Yosemite in 55 hours!
I did not get to experience Yosemite National Park as a child. I grew up in Southern California, but not in a family of campers.
My first trip to Yosemite was with my husband and 11 month old son in November 2002. We went again in October 2003. We moved out of state and didn’t return again until October 2007. We completed our 4th trip in October 2011. I’m dying to go back. Each trip was only 3-5 days. Each trip was in October/November which is great for limited crowds, but not so great for waterfalls (unless you’re lucky). So don’t wait!! You don’t need to plan a big grand trip to see places, just plan a bunch of short trips.
If you go in the off-season year, pay special attention to:
- road conditions and closures.
- weather (essential — because it can snow).
- read the Yosemite Guide — they hand it out at the entrance, but I always wish I remembered to download it before I go. It quite literally has EVERYTHING you need to know.
Especially for families (be aware):
- It is at altitude so the kiddos need to stay hydrated. I remember on our first trip, my son’s ears were bugging him.
- The roads into the park are curvy, so beware of car sickness.
- Areas without cell service and limited gas within the park (have a full tank before entering).
- Food and groceries are available, but more expensive and restaurants have limited hours during the off-season. Bring what you need and know where you are going to grab dinner before you make your trip.
- There are many sections to the park and you won’t be able to hit them all in one short trip. In fact, it would take a lifetime to see everything and it all changes with the seasons. Just pick one place and explore your general area. “The Valley” is the place where you’ve seen most photos. You’ll want to spend time there just looking up and “oohing and aaaahing” at the sights.
- Our timetable probably wouldn’t work on busy summer days – so plan to come during the off-season.
- Again, read the Yosemite Guide to find out EVERYTHING you need to know.
- I would also highly recommend watching the sunset at Glacier Point (see photo of Half Dome). We’ve done it 2 out of our 4 visits and I just love it.
- Debi knows everything about Yosemite having grown up going to a family cabin inside the park. Read her Insider’s Guide to Exploring Yosemite with Kids.
- South Entrance through Wawona/Mariposa Grove (easiest from SoCal)
- West Entrance through Merced/El Portal (about an hour longer, but scenic)
- Tioga Road entrance near Bishop (beautiful in summer and fall, closed in the winter)
Where We’ve Stayed:
- Half Dome Village Tent Cabins – formerly known as Curry Village
- Yosemite Valley Lodge – formerly known as Yosemite Lodge at the Falls (my favorite)
- Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal (outside of West Entrance)
Other Lodging Options at South Entrance:
- $30 per car for 7 days