Let me start by saying this, I rarely (if ever) go on vacation without at least securing lodging reservations ahead of time. My internal logic believes it is not prudent to waste precious vacation time hunting for a place to lay my head at night. The last thing I am interested in is sleeping in the car or ending up in some sort of rent-by-hour motel. This road trip was different. In the spirit of the life bus philosophy, Greg and I decided to throw the lodging logic out the window and wing it like gypsies.
Let’s talk about Yosemite for a moment. This National Park is, as you would expect, a complete jewel. Yosemite is by far, one of the most beautiful National Parks we have in the continental United States. Unfortunately, I am not the only individual with this opinion – I read a statistic that on any given day in the summer, there could be up to 20,000 visitors. Winging it in Yosemite is a risky endeavor.
Our gypsy road trip in Yosemite spanned 7 nights. As luck would have it, we found a place to bunk every night we were in town. Please do your research on the lodging in Yosemite as I am not getting to the nitty-gritty details of each location and there may be things outside of my opinions that will further entice you. The best place to go to for further information is the official Yosemite lodging website via the following link: www.yosemitepark.com/lodging.aspx. All of the options I describe below are outlined in more detail here.
In my opinion, pickings are slim if you want luxury, however, the Ahwahnee Hotel will deliver. We did not stay here, but, we ate nearly every meal here as much of their food is fresh and homemade – just an FYI, you do pay a pretty penny for that freshness, but your hips, heart and blood pressure will appreciate you in the long run.
Key Tip: If you are looking for rooms inside the park for a just in time reservation, go to the reservation desks at ANY of the lodges. They all have access to the same reservation system as the Yosemite lodging hotline. (Don’t call this hotline, they don’t pick up in a timely manner and you may starve to death waiting). You may pay a little more for a room or get one near the toilets or elevators, but hey, it’s a roof over your head.
Tuolumne Meadows Lodge – Loved, loved, loved. We were about to stop and pitch a tent for the night, when we came across this lodge. It’s near the East entrance and is often used as a base camp for backpacking trips. This is a tented camp setup which means it is rustic, but, the tents are spaced far enough from each other, they have cozy, wool blankies, and a wood burning stove. The restaurant on site is family style, so I found it to be a great way to meet some really interesting people and uncover tips on things to do. The dinners were so-so, but the breakfast was pretty awesome. If you need more togetherness with strangers, they have a fire pit in the middle of the property.
Key Tip: Ask for a tent along the river, or at the back of the property. Your chances of seeing a wild animal will increase and it will keep you away from the hustle and bustle of the shared, central bathrooms.
Curry Village – Oh what can I say about this place that will make it seem cool? Unfortunately, I can’t think of a thing except that it has been around since 1899. This was my least favorite spot in the Valley. Every time we walked on site, my skin crawled and I immediately was thrown into a funk. I think because it reminded me of a refugee camp (no offense to folks who have had that unfortunate experience). People everywhere, bad canned food, tents within 3 feet of one another – BOO. We stayed in one of the tented cabins that were so close together we heard every conversation going on around us. We were convinced that the brisket Greg had for dinner was labeled as meatloaf the night before.
Wawona Hotel and Spa – The guidebooks were right on this one. This quaint B&B located near the South entrance of the park is lovely. The wonderful thing about this place is that the property is quiet and you can grab a cocktail and/or a good book and relax on the porch. The potential drawback here is that half of the rooms have shared central bathrooms. Unfortunately, we could hear we our 30 something neighbors playing video games at the crack of dawn. I think the lack of soundproofing in our room had to do with the fact that we did get the last room available and I am certain it was not the most desirable.
Housekeeping Camp – As you are driving down the main road to get to the end of the Valley towards Half Dome, you may notice a shanty town on the left hand side of the road. Well, that is not a shanty town people, it is the Housekeeping Camp. These places have 3 solid walls and essentially a plastic curtain used as a 4th wall. I actually really liked this place, despite the strange odor in the ‘tent’, the rampant beggar squirrels, and the fact you felt as though you were sleeping in a bunker. My affinity for it was most likely due to the fact that I thought it had character – it is located right on the Merced River, it has laundry facilities, you can cook at the campsite, there are fire pits, and you have your own covered seating area. It was like car camping without the tent as there was one double bed and a set of bunk beds included. If you don’t bring your own sheets, they have them for rent – cheap – like $2 to $5 a set.
Key Tip: Do request a ‘tent’ right on or close to the river and do not think you are going to get a shower at 7:00 pm at night. No way Jose – you will have to wait an hour in line – pick another time or go to bed with dirty feet.
When you go to Yosemite – and I think everyone should – ignore the crowds and find a way to enjoy the magnificent scenery at your finger tips. It is truly a special place. ENJOY!