A few years back Budgie Al and I (Matt) managed to get a few weeks holiday in America. Whilst based in the Bay Area of San Francisco we wanted to make the most of the trip and travel around and one place we were desperate to visit was Yosemite. For those that don’t know, the National Park is in Northern California covering a huge area of 746, 956 acres across the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountain range and the surrounding area. It’s a huge tourist attraction with well over 5 million visitors last year. And, as you may then expect, it can be an extortionately expensive holiday destination! So how did we manage it the Budget Budgie way?
First up – Transportation:
Whilst the train system in the states isn’t ideal, it was our friend on this occasion. I’m writing this on a Sunday, and to book this route for tomorrow would cost me $32. Not bad at all. So of course with advanced planning and booking you can nab this for a bargain. The journey isn’t the simplest it’s true, with a couple of changes, however it was perfectly pleasant. Having said that, I don’t remember it being quite as nice a journey as the Amtrak site suggests…
“You’ll see the state’s premier agricultural region from the comfort of your seat and roomy train interior. Grab a snack and sit back as you watch the coastal mountain ranges pass by on your way to Yosemite National Park . After a quick stop in Merced, CA and a scenic Thruway bus ride in through Mariposa and El Portal, Yosemite National Park greets you with a spectacular sight. Waterfalls, giant sequoias, scenic overlooks and winding trails throughout 1,169 square miles of parkland are just a few of the things that await.”
As it says, you have to change and get a bus once you’re at Merced. However they ran regularly and we didn’t have to wait too long at all – which was a good job as shade was lacking and refreshments were limited to a machine which spewed boiling black water it called coffee. The shuttle busses were also incredibly convenient as they took you around the larger and most popular hotels, hostels and camp sites. Which leads us to…
Accommodation: Yosemite Bug. Rustic Mountain Resort.
Without camping gear Al and I needed a bed, or two, and as such we unfortunately had to pay a premium. There are no ‘cheap’ places in this area. Having said that, the Bug offered very good value for the area. I can’t remember the exact prices we paid back then, but it is now $28 a night for what we had – a male shared dormitory. This was basic. Bunk beds, snoring hikers and an open bathroom with shower curtains which stick to your whatnots. However it’s located great for the bus from the station and the bus into the visitor centre area of the park with them running regularly in both directions. And, after you’ve spent a day in the park doing hikes in the sun all you want is a functional shower and a bed to collapse onto.
Also it’s in a pretty setting with walks in that area too and hammocks and table tennis etc spread around. There’s a very decent food hall too with unlimited coffee by the pint glass and burrito breakfasts. So yeh, certainly can recommend to anyone and would use again. And by would I mean I hope to.
Yosemite Valley itself.
The shuttle bus is free!!! I can’t stress enough how great this is. This is after all Budget Budgie and therefore the word free should always be accompanied by fireworks. The shuttles are supplied to reduce car traffic and are excellent. The drivers were all incredibly knowledgeable and they give fantastic views of the stunning scenery and take you to the start of the different hikes and sections. Bliss.
Some of the trail routes are for the hardcore hiker only so make sure you read up before you pick your pathway. For instance, the Half Dome Day Hike is a 16 mile round trip with elevations of almost 5000 feet and involves cables you have to climb up a near straight rock face. Budgie Al and I dressed in shorts and Sports Direct trainers did not do this or other similar trails. Instead we chose those listed ‘easy’ on the useful map from the information centre. These are up to around 3 miles and are perfect for those with just trainers, a bottle of water and a camera. They also mean you can do a few different ones leisurely during the day and thus see many different areas of the park with the aid of the shuttle bus. Did I mention that’s free?
So what sort of things can be seen? Well, quite simply, breathtaking things. One trail we did took us to Vernal Fall:
“Climb along nature’s “giant staircase,” where you are rewarded with close-up views of two waterfalls and numerous geologic features (depending on how far you choose to hike). Powerful and turbulent, these two waterfalls will soak you in spring and entice you year-round”
Yes, we truly did get soaked – The power of Vernon’s spray was quite phenomenal! This trail was tough on the knees with the ‘giant staircase’ taking you up high with stunning views over the terrain. However, who cares if you’re out of breath if this view is the reward! Woodland. Waterfalls. Mountain Ranges. Sun. Clouds. Birds. Animals. Everything. Nature can be truly breathtaking.
Other trails though are more relaxed and give you more of a ground level experience of Yosemite with rivers and meadows. If you’re not much of a walker and just want to do one, then the ‘Cook’s Meadow Loop’ is often recommended:
“Walk through the heart of it all! Enjoy views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, and Royal Arches from the center of Yosemite Valley as you saunter through this large open meadow.”
For Al and I it offered stunning views, great photo opportunities and spots for food breaks. And I can’t stress this enough, Al requires many many many food breaks. If he doesn’t get them then he becomes a more fearsome animal than you’ll find anywhere else in the national park.
Whilst there are many, many other activities that can be done in the park ranging from biking and ice skating through to kayaking and horse riding, Al and I chose the walking because it’s free, can be done at your own pace with a million breaks and, with the free shuttles, gives you the chance to see an incredible amount of beauty in just a short time. And, sadly, we didn’t have too much time. Just a day and a morning. Having said this, it was fully worth the travel and expense. Which leads to…
Do it! Go there! 6/5.
Thanks for reading,