Day 1 – Iron Door Saloon, Tunnel View & Bridalveil Falls
Driving into Yosemite from San Francisco was really easy with plenty of signposts and obvious scenery changes to let us know we were heading in the right direction. Approaching the park and Yosemite Valley, the roads got pretty high with the elevation causing our ears to pop. Not only that but the high roads were coupled with some pretty sheer cliff edges – I really wouldn’t want to drive those roads into Yosemite in winter without a 4×4 or snow chains! The drive was fantastic however with stunning scenery.
Iron Door Saloon
On the way into Yosemite we stopped at a place we had read about online for lunch called the Iron door saloon. This is said to be the “oldest continuously operated drinking establishment in California” with the saloon dating back to 1852. It was well worth the visit. I thought I’d try something different and had a buffalo burger which is something I’ve never seen on a U.K. Menu!
Continuing on from the saloon we made our way around the winding roads, and 165 miles and 4 hours after leaving San Francisco we finally made it into Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite offers many key tourist spots to go and visit however the reality of the Park is that there is beautiful scenery wherever you look, in every direction. Every road we drove down had regular stopping points and clearings offering breathtaking views across valleys, lakes and forests. You really don’t need to stick to the tourist traps to enjoy the beauty of this place.
With the sun starting to set we decided not to head straight to the Majestic Yosemite hotel where we were staying for 2 nights but instead head up the road to Tunnel View and Bridalveil falls.
Tunnel View & Bridalveil Falls
Tunnel View is a real picture postcard location offering an incredible view of El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls. With that does however come tourists like ourselves and many professional and amateur photographers with tripods so it was a bit of a jostle to get a decent spot to take some photos! The wait was however well worth it.
Heading back down the road we made our way to Bridalveil Falls. We parked up and took the short walk to the waterfall. With California being so dry this summer unfortunately the waterfall was, well, dry! There was a very faint mist coming over the top but certainly nothing like we were hoping to see! I would love to come back in the Spring when the snow and rainfall has happened to see this in full swing.
Majestic Yosemite Hotel
With 2 of the major sights done we checked in to the Majestic Yosemite hotel and after waiting for well over an hour for a table at the restaurant we sat down for dinner in a stunning dining room – it looked like it was straight out of a Harry Potter film!
Day 2 – Yosemite Valley & Glacier Point
Getting up early we headed to the Village Store in Yosemite Village for breakfast and then made our way down to Yosemite Valley to enjoy the views of El Capitan’s 2300m vertical rock face and the Merced River which flows along the valley floor.
El Capitan, Yosemite Valley & Cook’s Meadow
As it was on our route we made a 2nd stop at Tunnel View to check it out during the daytime.
Taft Point hike
Leaving the valley floor behind us we jumped in the car to make our way to Taft Point which promised to offer landscape views of Yosemite. From parking up to reaching Taft Point it was about a 20-30 minute walk. The terrain was fairly easy under foot as from the trailhead to the view point it’s only an elevation change of 200ft (60m) so it’s certainly not a route which most people will struggle with – it’s pretty much a stroll through the woods.
Once we reached the end of the trail, the scenery was exactly as promised and expected at a vertigo inducing 7,700ft (2,345m) – absolutely stunning.
One thing I would point out if you’re planning to copy this route with young children is that it is incredibly dangerous. Many views across Yosemite offer brick built barriers and viewing points. At Taft Point however it is quite literally a sheer cliff edge with only the highest view point offering a thin metal railing as per my photo. There were also a huge number of wasps when we were there (mid-Sept) so be prepared for that. I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable taking young children here.
Read my full review of the Taft Point Trail hike here.
Our 3rd stop of the day took us to Washburn Point as it is on the way to Glacier Point where we were heading to next. Washburn Point was a lot safer than where we had just come from and was situated right next to the road so no hiking involved! This offered some amazing views of Half Dome.
Having made our way up Glacier Point road, we eventually reached the car park for Glacier Point. This is the view point that everyone talks about due to it’s panoramic views of Yosemite and Half Dome. There’s little to say about it really other than wow, the photo’s speak for themselves and still don’t do the views justice.
And one without us!…
On our way back to the hotel from Glacier Point we stopped for a quick look around Cook’s Meadow and to see Lower Yosemite Falls. Like Bridalveil Falls however there was no waterfall (it really was the wrong time of year!) however walking around we did come within touching distance of a stag, deer and fawn!
With the sun setting I took one final photo of Yosemite which as per all the views throughout our day was stunning.
With little energy and food options scarce in Yosemite we grabbed some room service and relaxed for a few hours. After dinner we jumped in the car back to the meadow to do a spot of star gazing and the view was incredible. With it being so dark the night sky was ablaze with starlight and view of the Milky Way. I tried to take some photos but being a complete amateur unfortunately they didn’t come out!
Day 3 – Leaving Yosemite for Death Valley
Our 3rd day in Yosemite involved leaving the National Park to start the next leg of our honeymoon – a 310 mile drive into Death Valley which would take us around 9 hours (with stops).
The first stop on our drive led us to Tenaya Lake which was simply beautiful.
We then made a quick stop to see the views at Lee Vining Canyon before pulling over for lunch at the famous Whoa Nellie Deli and to refuel the car.
And so that was that, Yosemite National Park complete! I absolutely loved everything about Yosemite. The views were incredible, the weather was great and the feeling of being in the great outdoors like that was something I’ve not experienced back home in the UK. I would love to make a return trip to Yosemite in the future, it’s certainly somewhere I’ll be recommending to friends.
With Yosemite done, we got in the car, fired up the air conditioning to maximum cooling and started the next stop on the honeymoon, 1 night in Death Valley…