El Portal & Yosemite National Park ᛫ September 21 – 24, 2017

USA | 0 comments

About three hours after leaving Visalia we reached our host in El Portal. He had a house with two spare bedrooms and quite a lot of Couchsurfing and Airbnb experience. We chilled on his big and comfortable couches and he told us many interesting stories. He worked as a firefighter in the park and could really give us some insights and tips about our visit to the park. But he also warned us to be careful and not leave the trails because we don’t know where we could slip and hurt ourselves. As a firefighter, he had rescued many tourists and seen horrific situations first hand. For some people that help was already too late. 

Sisters at Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park

It’s pretty obvious how the Bridalveil Fall got its name. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon shortly before sunset because that’s when the waterfall is illuminated by the sun and surprisingly has much fewer tourists than earlier in the day.

Day 1 in the Park

The next day we left a little later than planned, but thankfully it was only a 10-minute drive from the house to the park entry. For Yosemite, we had planned two days of visits because it is so big. Two days were still not enough to see everything of course. Like in Sequoia National Park, we again paid $30 for a one-week-ticket. We drove towards Yosemite Valley and the landscape was amazing. There were many trees, a river, waterfalls and the valley was surrounded by mountains on either side. We wanted to visit some places in the valley and some on the nearby mountains. This was a huge difference to Sequoia, where we constantly had to drive up and down the mountains.

Our first stop was the Bridalveil Falls. The first thing I noticed when we got out of the car was the cold. It felt much colder than every other place that we had been to on this trip. But we were prepared and put on the warm clothes we had brought. There were lots of tourists there, but that was understandable because it was only a 5-minute walk from the parking lot to a breathtaking view of water falling down 188m/617ft from a mountain. We climbed around the rocks and took some pictures. Then we continued the drive and went up a mountain. Here, the street started to get winding.

Turtleback Dome

We stopped at a place that our host had recommended. There was no sign or parking lot, but we found a spot next to the street and close to a gate. It was there to stop unauthorized cars, but we could walk past it to hike up the road. It took about 20 minutes to reach some broadcasting buildings, towers, and masts. Although it wasn’t a long walk, it was quite exhausting because we were already at 1500m/4921ft altitude when we started. 

Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park

It was pretty cold on the Sentinel Dome, but we got rewarded with a breathtaking view. On the opposite side, you can see the mountains and Yosemite Falls.

We had to ask someone who worked there which way to go and he showed us a small path behind the building. It led through some trees and over rocks until we reached the platform of Turtleback Dome. From there we had a nice view of Yosemite Valley and we were the only ones there! After enjoying the view for a while, we walked back to the car and followed the road up further.

Further up the Mountain

We didn’t get very far because the street was blocked and we had to join the car line that was led into a smaller road by park rangers. They explained to us that the parking lot at Glacier Point was full and we had to wait up to 90 minutes if we wanted to go there. We decided to wait and luckily it took “only” 40 minutes before we were allowed to drive to our destination.

The road got more challenging, winding through the forest. We were surprised when some trees started to show snow on them and it got more the further we drove. At the same time, there was also smoke coming from small fires that had been burning for a couple of weeks. We learned the firefighters would only extinguish them if they got dangerous. They are actually needed and sometimes even planted in that area to maintain the ecosystem. It was really interesting to see snow and fire at the same time. 

Sisters at Glacier Point with Half Dome and waterfalls in background in Yosemite

Sitting on the edge: This was another amazing spot at Glacier Point with a view of Half Dome, mountains, forests and waterfalls. Some of the highest peaks are covered in snow even in September.
You can tell by our smiles that it was not as dangerous as it might look. 😉

Cold, but Breathtaking Views

After about 15 minutes, we parked the car and hiked up to Sentinel Dome. There, most trees and half of the ground was covered in snow. We were not prepared for that freezing weather and felt very cold. The effort to hike and climb up the rocks made us feel a little warmer though. On top of the platform of Sentinel Dome, we had a great 360° view of the surrounding Yosemite National Park. We hurried to take pictures and return to the car to get out of the cold.

The Glacier Point was not much farther away, but as expected very crowded. This is after all, probably the most visited site in Yosemite (and it was #1 on TripAdvisor). From up there you have a direct view of the village of Yosemite Valley because the mountain just goes straight down for 2199m/7214ft and you can look over its edge. Of course, you could not only look down but also across the stunning landscape. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy and the view wasn’t as good as it could have been. We walked around the site and then ate some lunch (pretzel crackers, guacamole, peanuts, apples) in the car because it was too cold outside. When we left the parking lot, we thought we saw a wolf not far away from us. But it turned out to be a coyote.

Yosemite Village & a Delicious Dinner

Then we headed back down the mountain and stopped at the Tunnel View to (guess what!) take more pictures of the beautiful landscape. 😉 We drove to Yosemite Valley and saw on the map that there was a swinging bridge on the way. It sounded like fun and we parked when we saw the sign for it. But we were a little disappointed when we saw the bridge. It was a normal wooden bridge and just called Swinging Bridge. Nature there was very nice of course.

VerVernal Falls with rainbow in Yosemite National Park

Nature showed us her beauty: At Vernal Falls you get to see massive amounts of water rushing down picturesque rocks and even creating a nice rainbow!

We continued to the village, where we bought some groceries. There was only one small store with naturally overpriced products, but we found what we needed. From there we drove back through the valley and reached El Portal about 40 minutes later.

Our host had a lot of food and he invited us to have dinner. We cooked two different meals because I don’t like fish and Caro doesn’t eat meat. 😀 Together with our host, we prepared chicken with a pesto and parmesan crust, fish with a cheese crust, potatoes, and salad. For dessert, I had some cookie dough which I had bought earlier. It was delicious and the best food we’ve had in a while.

Day 2 in the Park

The next day was Saturday and there were even more people in the park. We couldn’t find a parking space at the first site we wanted to visit. So we kept driving and looking for a pretty long time until we found a spot in front of a tree that only fit because our car was so small. 😉

Next to the parking lot, there was a bus stop and we took the free shuttle to the Mist Trail. It was a nice hike along the Merced River, through the forest and up and down hills. The trail was filled with people. After about half an hour we reached Vernal Falls which was another beautiful waterfall that even had a rainbow! If we had followed the trail further, there would have been more waterfalls. But we returned to visit another part of the park. We kept walking along the river, took a break to eat lunch and then hiked to the Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake & More Waterfalls

The lake didn’t look like a mirror though and we were a little disappointed. Maybe there wasn’t enough water in it and during other seasons it’s different. We only found one small section of the lake that reflected the landscape. It was a nice place anyway and even had some sandy beaches. Since it had gotten late and the line for the shuttle bus was so long that it would have taken longer to wait, we walked back to the car. We had some more sights planned, but there was so much traffic on the road that it took a very long time and we had to change the plans.

Sunset and moon at Turtleback Dome in Yosemite National Park

It was a breathtaking view from Turtleback Dome after the sun had set behind the mountains and the moon came up. Pure peace, love, and happiness!

Instead, we wanted to make it back to Turtleback Rock in time for the sunset. On our way there, we stopped at the Bridalveil Falls again because now the sun came from a different angle. So the falls were completely in the sunshine and even had a small rainbow.

Amazing Sunset Over the Mountains

We hiked up the hill to the viewpoint as fast as we could and reached Turtleback Rock out of breath, but just in time for the sunset. This time, there were three other people there as well, also taking pictures of the stunning evening sky. We enjoyed the sunset magic and then drove back to our host. Luckily, most people had left the park by then so the roads were free. Visiting Yosemite National Park is a must when you are in California, but try not to go on the weekend! 😉

We got back later than the day before and weren’t very hungry. So we just had some snacks for dinner and then hung out with our host again. It was nice to sleep a little longer the following day and then we spent quite some time looking for a Couchsurfing host in San Francisco. We had already written to some people, but nobody confirmed our stay. In the end, we got lucky again and were accepted last-minute.

About three hours after leaving Visalia we reached our host in El Portal. He had a house with two spare bedrooms and quite a lot of Couchsurfing and Airbnb experience. We chilled on his big and comfortable couches and he told us many interesting stories. He worked as a firefighter in the park and could really give us some insights and tips about our visit to the park. But he also warned us to be careful and not leave the trails because we don’t know where we could slip and hurt ourselves. As a firefighter, he had rescued many tourists and seen horrific situations first hand. For some people that help was already too late. 

Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, California, USA

This popular spot is called Tunnel View because it’s right in front of a tunnel that leads through a mountain. From here you have an amazing view over Yosemite Valley and the mountains, including the Bridalveil Falls.

Day 1 in the Park

The next day we left a little later than planned, but thankfully it was only a 10-minute drive from the house to the park entry. For Yosemite, we had planned two days of visits because it is so big. Two days were still not enough to see everything of course. Like in Sequoia National Park, we again paid $30 for a one-week-ticket. We drove towards Yosemite Valley and the landscape was amazing. There were many trees, a river, waterfalls and the valley was surrounded by mountains on either side. We wanted to visit some places in the valley and some on the nearby mountains. This was a huge difference to Sequoia, where we constantly had to drive up and down the mountains.

Our first stop was the Bridalveil Falls. The first thing I noticed when we got out of the car was the cold. It felt much colder than every other place that we had been to on this trip. But we were prepared and put on the warm clothes we had brought. There were lots of tourists there, but that was understandable because it was only a 5-minute walk from the parking lot to a breathtaking view of water falling down 188m/617ft from a mountain. We climbed around the rocks and took some pictures. Then we continued the drive and went up a mountain. Here, the street started to get winding.

Sisters at Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park

It’s pretty obvious how the Bridalveil Fall got its name. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon shortly before sunset because that’s when the waterfall is illuminated by the sun and surprisingly has much fewer tourists than earlier in the day.

Turtleback Dome

We stopped at a place that our host had recommended. There was no sign or parking lot, but we found a spot next to the street and close to a gate. It was there to stop unauthorized cars, but we could walk past it to hike up the road. It took about 20 minutes to reach some broadcasting buildings, towers, and masts. Although it wasn’t a long walk, it was quite exhausting because we were already at 1500m/4921ft altitude when we started. 

We had to ask someone who worked there which way to go and he showed us a small path behind the building. It led through some trees and over rocks until we reached the platform of Turtleback Dome. From there we had a nice view of Yosemite Valley and we were the only ones there! After enjoying the view for a while, we walked back to the car and followed the road up further.

Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park

It was pretty cold on the Sentinel Dome, but we got rewarded with a breathtaking view. On the opposite side, you can see the mountains and Yosemite Falls.

Further up the Mountain

We didn’t get very far because the street was blocked and we had to join the car line that was led into a smaller road by park rangers. They explained to us that the parking lot at Glacier Point was full and we had to wait up to 90 minutes if we wanted to go there. We decided to wait and luckily it took “only” 40 minutes before we were allowed to drive to our destination.

The road got more challenging, winding through the forest. We were surprised when some trees started to show snow on them and it got more the further we drove. At the same time, there was also smoke coming from small fires that had been burning for a couple of weeks. We learned the firefighters would only extinguish them if they got dangerous. They are actually needed and sometimes even planted in that area to maintain the ecosystem. It was really interesting to see snow and fire at the same time. 

Sisters at Glacier Point with Half Dome and waterfalls in background in Yosemite

Sitting on the edge: This was another amazing spot at Glacier Point with a view of Half Dome, mountains, forests and waterfalls. Some of the highest peaks are covered in snow even in September.
You can tell by our smiles that it was not as dangerous as it might look. 😉

Cold, but Breathtaking Views

After about 15 minutes, we parked the car and hiked up to Sentinel Dome. There, most trees and half of the ground was covered in snow. We were not prepared for that freezing weather and felt very cold. The effort to hike and climb up the rocks made us feel a little warmer though. On top of the platform of Sentinel Dome, we had a great 360° view of the surrounding Yosemite National Park. We hurried to take pictures and return to the car to get out of the cold.

The Glacier Point was not much farther away, but as expected very crowded. This is after all, probably the most visited site in Yosemite (and it was #1 on TripAdvisor). From up there you have a direct view of the village of Yosemite Valley because the mountain just goes straight down for 2199m/7214ft and you can look over its edge. Of course, you could not only look down but also across the stunning landscape. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy and the view wasn’t as good as it could have been. We walked around the site and then ate some lunch (pretzel crackers, guacamole, peanuts, apples) in the car because it was too cold outside. When we left the parking lot, we thought we saw a wolf not far away from us. But it turned out to be a coyote.

Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park with valley view

From the Glacier Point, you can look down 2199m/7214ft to Yosemite Valley. The surrounding mountains, waterfalls, and forests make this view even more dramatic. Not for the faint-hearted! 😉

Yosemite Village & a Delicious Dinner

Then we headed back down the mountain and stopped at the Tunnel View to (guess what!) take more pictures of the beautiful landscape. 😉 We drove to Yosemite Valley and saw on the map that there was a swinging bridge on the way. It sounded like fun and we parked when we saw the sign for it. But we were a little disappointed when we saw the bridge. It was a normal wooden bridge and just called Swinging Bridge. Nature there was very nice of course.

We continued to the village, where we bought some groceries. There was only one small store with naturally overpriced products, but we found what we needed. From there we drove back through the valley and reached El Portal about 40 minutes later.

Our host had a lot of food and he invited us to have dinner. We cooked two different meals because I don’t like fish and Caro doesn’t eat meat. 😀 Together with our host, we prepared chicken with a pesto and parmesan crust, fish with a cheese crust, potatoes, and salad. For dessert, I had some cookie dough which I had bought earlier. It was delicious and the best food we’ve had in a while.

VerVernal Falls with rainbow in Yosemite National Park

Nature showed us her beauty: At Vernal Falls you get to see massive amounts of water rushing down picturesque rocks and even creating a nice rainbow!

Day 2 in the Park

The next day was Saturday and there were even more people in the park. We couldn’t find a parking space at the first site we wanted to visit. So we kept driving and looking for a pretty long time until we found a spot in front of a tree that only fit because our car was so small. 😉

Next to the parking lot, there was a bus stop and we took the free shuttle to the Mist Trail. It was a nice hike along the Merced River, through the forest and up and down hills. The trail was filled with people. After about half an hour we reached Vernal Falls which was another beautiful waterfall that even had a rainbow! If we had followed the trail further, there would have been more waterfalls. But we returned to visit another part of the park. We kept walking along the river, took a break to eat lunch and then hiked to the Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake reflection in Yosemite National Park

This was actually only a small part of the whole Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake & More Waterfalls

The lake didn’t look like a mirror though and we were a little disappointed. Maybe there wasn’t enough water in it and during other seasons it’s different. We only found one small section of the lake that reflected the landscape. It was a nice place anyway and even had some sandy beaches. Since it had gotten late and the line for the shuttle bus was so long that it would have taken longer to wait, we walked back to the car. We had some more sights planned, but there was so much traffic on the road that it took a very long time and we had to change the plans.

Instead, we wanted to make it back to Turtleback Rock in time for the sunset. On our way there, we stopped at the Bridalveil Falls again because now the sun came from a different angle. So the falls were completely in the sunshine and even had a small rainbow.

Sunset and moon at Turtleback Dome in Yosemite National Park

It was a breathtaking view from Turtleback Dome after the sun had set behind the mountains and the moon came up. Pure peace, love, and happiness!

Amazing Sunset Over the Mountains

We hiked up the hill to the viewpoint as fast as we could and reached Turtleback Rock out of breath, but just in time for the sunset. This time, there were three other people there as well, also taking pictures of the stunning evening sky. We enjoyed the sunset magic and then drove back to our host. Luckily, most people had left the park by then so the roads were free. Visiting Yosemite National Park is a must when you are in California, but try not to go on the weekend! 😉

We got back later than the day before and weren’t very hungry. So we just had some snacks for dinner and then hung out with our host again. It was nice to sleep a little longer the following day and then we spent quite some time looking for a Couchsurfing host in San Francisco. We had already written to some people, but nobody confirmed our stay. In the end, we got lucky again and were accepted last-minute.

See More Pictures of Our Time in Yosemite National Park

Sign up for the Peace Love Travel newsletter for more travel stories and tips:

 

Any thoughts or recommendations? Just leave a comment ?

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Airbnb

We already stayed in many cool Airbnb places in different countries. And continue finding new ones.

Would you like to try it as well?

Perfect! If you sign up through the link below, you get a $35 travel credit!

Or learn more about Airbnb and our experiences here >

.

See Voucher

Dreadlock couple laughing in Dunas da Ribanceira with ocean view in Imbituba, Brazil

About Us

How we met & why we love to travel >
Travel couple on Dunas da Ribanceira with ocean view in Imbituba, Brazil

Travel

Read more about our journey & come with us >
Rasta girl on Santorini overlooking ocean during sunset

Peace & Love

Let's spread more positivity >