Yosemite National Park in California was high on our must-see list. Both Ryan and I have visited before, and our two oldest spent a few days here years ago to celebrate Ryan’s grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary, but they were too young to remember.
Yosemite is breathtaking. Ryan calls it his happy place. It is steeped in history and could be considered the birthplace of the National Parks idea. Everywhere you look, there is something to capture you: the largest rock formations in the world, multiple waterfalls, the wildlife, the beautiful valley.
We stayed in a KOA campground in Mariposa, about an hours drive from Yosemite Valley. There are campsites in the park, but they fill up quickly (most were already booked when we started looking back in January) and they do not have full hook-ups. We had two full days to spend in Yosemite and we took full advantage of both.
We began our visit to Yosemite with a long, but very worthwhile drive up to Glacier Point.
On the way up, there was a small lineup of cars pulled to the side of the road and Audrey looked out the window and spotted a black bear! That was thrilling.
Once we made it up to Glacier Point, you just feel like you are in a mountain forest. You park and walk along the paved path until you reach this:
A very high up lookout that opens up to this magnificent view:
You look straight down over the Yosemite Valley, with Yosemite Falls (the tallest waterfall in North America) on the left, and Half Dome, the iconic 5,000 foot rock to the right.
This was the perfect place to introduce the kids to the area, with maps and a great top-down view.
We brought along a picnic lunch and sat on the rocks taking in the most glorious view.
After a few hours up at Glacier Point, we hopped back in the car to head down to the valley. On our drive down, Ryan spotted another black bear! I grabbed my phone and recorded a video and apparently I was so excited that I forgot to actually press record. Oops. But it was so cool to actually see a bear in the wild.
We pulled over at Bridal Veil Fall trailhead for a quick walk to look at the waterfall. Um … we did not know we would get soaked in the mist! I’m so glad Ryan had the go-pro out and captured the whole thing (see it here. It makes me smile every time).
The drive through the valley is simply spectacular. You come upon El Capitan – a towering, granite monolith that entices rock climbers to climb the face! Straight up! It’s insane.
We spent the rest of our afternoon at the visitors center where there is a surprisingly wonderful museum/info area with history of the area, the people, the geology. We left the park just before dark.
Yosemite is known for its amazing hiking and so we wanted to try to get at least one good hike in.
We opted for the Mist Trail which takes you up to another spectacular waterfall called Vernal Fall.
The trail has a bit of an incline, but it’s just under a mile each way and was perfect for our family.
At the top of the trail you reach a bridge that crosses the river with a view of the waterfall. We stopped for a photo and to have a picnic lunch. We sort of thought it was the end of the route.
Then Ryan had the brilliant idea to see if the trail kept going and it did, so we followed. It’s steep. With a dropoff stright down the rock face into the freezing river. The stone path was uneven and wet. But he pushed us on.
At one point, I was thinking I would stay back with Audrey. I kept seeing hikers pass us on their way down with soaking wet hair and I thought “I did that yesterday. I think I’m good.”
But Ryan persisted and gave me his coat and on we went.
You guys. Have you ever had those moments where you want to quit or stay back for whatever reason (mine was less about fear or feeling tired and more about just not wanting to become a drowned rat), but then you go for it anyway and it was totally worth it? That was exactly what happened. The waterfall was so big, so loud, so cool to see up close.
We did get wet, but it was not bad and it was absolutely worth it. I thanked Ryan a million times for not letting me miss it.
Once we made it back down, we ventured on to the historic Ahwahnee Hotel (also called The Majestic Yosemite Hotel) where we celebrated Mook + Pop’s anniversary a few years before.
The hotel was built in 1926 with these massive logs and big paned windows and woven rugs and tapestries. It’s so grand.
On our way out of the park, we stopped off at Yosemite Falls to take the quick walk out to the viewing bridge at the base of the falls.
The water was crashing down and again, the mist was for real at the base. We talked to friends a few days later who said they were in Yosemite a year ago and the falls was nearly dry. We just happened to hit the park at just the right time of spring to experience massive waterflow in all of the falls we visited.
Yosemite was spectacular. Two days was quick, but probably perfect for our family at this point. Ryan and the boys would love to go back and do more hiking; I could stare at the waterfalls all day long (and sit in those buttery-soft leather chairs at the hotel).
With each destination, we stand more and more in awe of God’s creativity. What a gorgeous world He gave us to explore and admire.