At the beginning of October we headed into California. We had to rush through to go to a conference in Phoenix and did not have enough time to see everything we wanted to see. But we still stopped at a few fun places like Yosemite, Joshua Tree National Park, Ladder Canyon, stayed near LA, Palm Springs and San Diego. On a hike in Yosemite I hurt my knee so we did not stop at Kings Canyon and Lake Tahoe, both areas we really would have liked to see.
One of our first stops was Yosemite National park. The closer we came on our drive there the more beautiful it became. Once we drove up to the park, and I mean uphill, the road became very curvy and it dropped of quite steep on one side. I was not very comfortable and the van was struggling with the incline. But we made it safely to the top and from there it was only a short ride to Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails RV Park where we stayed for four nights.
We arrived as the sun was setting, during California’s golden hour and barely made check in. It was dark when we pulled into our site. The park was nice with lots of green and a creek running along one side. This is a Thousand trails park without a swimming pool but we did not miss it as we wanted to discover Yosemite. Cell phone reception was terrible, so the only internet was the free wi-fi from Thousand Trails at the laundry room unless you have Starlink. At the playground our children made friends very quickly, some of which we met elsewhere in California again. Volleyball, basketball, fishing, a lodge with TV and game room were also available but we wanted to discover Yosemite of course.
Once we had breakfast and set up properly we headed to Yosemite valley. The national parks pass ‘America the Beautiful’ granted us quick entry and the drive to the valley was very pretty with plenty of pullovers for photo opportunities and look out points. Once we had arrived at the valley we drove past some the well known sights like El Capitan, Bridal Veil falls, Three Brothers and others. There are plenty of campgrounds and hotels in the area. The river running through was very low as it is fed by the melting ice and snow. All of the water features were pretty dry, the best time to visit for those is in spring. We stopped a couple of times so the children could run around and climb some of the rocks.
The next day we started a little earlier and headed for Mariposa Grove. It is the best place at Yosemite to see the giant sequoia trees. You have to leave your car at a parking lot and take a shuttle to the grove. It is a relatively long drive but there are plenty of scenic view points along the way.
The grove has several hiking trails to pick from. As some of our little ones were not ready to walk a whole lot and we had to carry them we took a shorter hike that took us to some of the bigger trees like California Tunnel tree and Old Grizzly.
The trees are massive and one just stands in awe next to those giants. The hike was just long enough for us and we were happy to get back home.
On day three everyone was tired and nobody wanted to go out. Basti and I decided to hike up to Yosmite Falls, a trail that is about 3.5 miles one way and rises 2425 feet. It was pretty strenuous but the views are magnificent. On the first part of the hike we walked along switchbacks through the woods and could not see much. After about a mile we reached Columbia Rock and had the first great view of the valley.
It was stunning. Halfdome was visible from there as well. We took in the view and had a small rest before we carried on. From here it was more rocky and almost like walking up stairs. Views of Halfdome kept popping up along the way over and over again. At some point we got to see our final destination, Upper Yosemit falls but there was only a trickle coming down. Yosemite Creek is fed by the melting snow and ice so must be a majestic sight in the spring. In October however the water did not make it to the bottom of the fall. The granite wall that makes the valley is huge though and we knew we still had to climb quite a bit.
Once we reached the top, we went to a couple of spots to look down into the valley. There was no barrier so one can walk right up to the edge.
The creek was not moving very fast, the water was cold and very clear. The sun was very low so we had to hurry to make it down before it got dark.e
By the time i had reached the top my knee was hurting and I had to walk downhill pounding my knee with every step. I tried to compensate but that did not really work. In the next few days I was handicapped and we sadly abandoned plans to visit Kings Canyon. We knew through research that the hike was going to be a challenge which we gladly accepted.
The next day we headed South, fortunately on a different route than the one we came on.
I don’t think we spent enough time in the area and could have easily spent another week. For me it was one of the best stops we have made and it is definitely a place I would like to revisit one day.