Now if you follow me on Instagram you’ll already know how obsessed I became with this place after my road trip around the west coast of the USA. In a previous blog post I promised I would go into loads more depth on this place, including tourist "traps" and secret hidden havens, so here it is.
The reason I've quoted the word traps is because I use the term very lightly. As long as you avoid those rip-off bus 'tours' and instead just drive around yourself, the only issue you'll occasionally find is large crowds of tourists. And let’s face it, the whole ‘avoid popular places because they’ll be crowded’ thing is complete B-S. Uh hello? It’s popular for a reason! That’s like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. You’ve still got to do it and anyone that avoids these places is mad, so that's probably a good place to start.
1. Glacier Point
This spot is possibly the busiest in the whole of the National Park. We were warned to get there first thing, and even then, it was full of people. But like I said, you can’t NOT see it!
Whether you want to just take a few photos and leave, or have a proper pit-stop and enjoy a nice picnic on a cliff-edge, the views will, no doubt, take your breath away. There are several look out points which exhibit Half Dome, Yosemite Valley and Yosemite Falls in all their glory.
Top tip: Something I learned very early on in this trip about National Parks, avoid the restrooms when possible. I can honestly say I’ve never retreated from somewhere so quickly in my life because of how badly it smelled, so make sure you go before entering the park if you can help it!
2. Tunnel View
This is another popular view point, probably partially thanks to Apple’s default Mac desktop wallpapers, but it’s surely not to go a-miss when visiting Yosemite. The main viewing area is located east of the Wawona Tunnel (hence the name) and there’s plenty of parking space to pull up and take photos like this one.
Again, I was told to get there early as it’s certainly a ‘must’ on everyone’s Yosemite checklist. But as it happens, we ended up passing it towards the end of the day, just before the sun started setting. You would assume it would be busier than it was, considering pre-sunset is a popular time for photographers, but maybe we just got lucky as it really wasn’t that busy. We had our own space to take photos and didn’t feel like we needed to rush at all. Probably a good thing considering that wall had a reasonable drop the other side of it.
Unlike Glacier Point, it’s definitely not got a pit-stop picnic kind of vibe, as the view point is literally on the side of the highway. The sound of passing cars could slightly dampen the peacefulness of this location but if you're as memorised with this view as I was then you won't even notice.
3. Devil's Elbow
The Merced River runs through the valley of the park, often parallel to the road. That means you're never far from a place to park up and take a closer look at the river, and even take a dip if you’re brave enough. We stopped off every so often, mostly to take some photos, but there was one stop off point that I will never forget.
If your first thoughts were ‘real life fairy tale’, you’d be correct. Places this beautiful can be rare in the world and when we stumbled on this lagoon I never wanted to leave. It honestly just made me want to walk along the whole 233km long river because who knew what other hidden havens like this there were. Unfortunately, we only had 2 full days in Yosemite so things were quite rushed and I would never have had the time (or the stamina, let’s face it). Next time, eh?
4. Summit Meadow
We came across this gorgeous field completely by accident. I caught a glimpse of the wild flowers through the passenger seat window as we were driving past and obviously I demanded that we stopped for a photoshoot.
If you're planning on visiting Yosemite in the Spring and Summer months, you can expect to see all of these beautiful colours. It's a great place to stop for a picnic, or to just do absolutely nothing except relax and enjoy the gorgeous view. Felt like I was in Bambi!
5. Lake Tenaya
I’ve kept this one until last because it is the only place (so far!) that has made me physically tear up due to it's sheer beauty. (Has that ever happened to you before, or am I just sad?) Again, we came across this lake completely accidentally, ironically on our way out of the park ready to head to a completely artificial city, Las Vegas. We pulled over to grab something out of the boot of the car and saw a few people heading through some trees. There was some time to kill so to make the most of the end of our Yosemite Visit, we followed suit. And we were not disappointed.
Bruh. I still get so many feels when I reminisce about this particular spot. The lake is named after the chief of the Navajo people of Yosemite, 'Chief Tenaya', before they were driven out of the area. I briefly mentioned in my USA Road Trip: My Top 5 Places blog post that in Monument Valley, I met a Navajo Tribal Elder called Don who I really connected with. I hope one day he has a lake named after him.
I think I'll start a petition.
If only photos could truly represent how incredible these places really are. All I can say is that 2 full days is definitely not enough to explore every nook and cranny of Yosemite, but it IS enough to fall completely in love with this incredible place. And I can't wait to go back and discover even more!
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