Absorb the buzz and bohemia of San Francisco for a few days before you head for more rural pastures. Yosemite National Park is a beacon rising out of the Californian landscape; nothing will quite prepare you for the sheer scale and majesty of this area, it is other worldly. From hiking the iconic Glacier Point to following in the footsteps of those illusive black bears, you’ll never find yourself idle, or even wanting to be. We’ve handcrafted this itinerary, which can be added to the beginning, middle or end of your Californian adventure. So all that’s left to do is pull on those boots and get your camera at the ready, this is an adventure in one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places.
SMALL TOWN CHARM
You’ll discover that San Francisco is a relatively small city, a tight-knit of bars, cafes, restaurants, parks, shops and houses, all within easy reach of the Pacific surrounding. After a couple of days soaking up the pulse of this beautiful, cosmopolitan city, you’ll be ready to venture further afield to the wilds of Yosemite National Park. Before you reach the park, why not take a bit of time to succumb to the slower pace of this magical bit of the world. Mariposa is a quaint town on route to the West Gate of the National Park and a wonderfully authentic place to visit; the sheriff patrols the town on horseback and little saloon bars dot the high street. This is a small town with friendly people ready to welcome you frin the clapboard buildings that house shops, cafes and bars. Spend the day exploring in fresh, country air as you notice the fecund wildlife all around; then as the sun downs, relax in Alley Bar and sample some of the area’s finest wines and beers before starting the adventure that awaits in the morning.
Rising early, drive along the winding roads to the West Gate of Yosemite (or “Arch Rock” entrance, as it is known for reasons that will become clear), noting how you become smaller and less significant in the rising, carved landscape. As you enter the park you’ll be greeted by incredible towering rocks, hugging the road at first before they get larger, loftier, more impressive and further from touching distance. With every twist and turn you’ll come across patterned rocks more incredible than the one before and valleys that beacon you to explore them.
When you arrive at your hotel, why not head out into the wild to stretch your legs? From fresh waterfalls and winding rivers with beaches, to wild meadows bursting with scented flowers, the choice of things to see (and snap) is overwhelming. Explore the valleys and brave the cool waters for a swim in the most natural of pools you’ll have ever come across, or for something with more thrill-factor, try rafting. The scenic Merced River has so much to offer, but it is just the beginning.Read more
INTO THE WILD
On one of the days, we recommend you get up with the sun, to avoid the midday heat but also to explore in blissful seclusion before everyone else arrives. Whether you’re a pro climber or more of a backseat admirer, there are routes to suit all levels. Making your way up one of the many trails, watch how the light dances across the ancient rocks as the morning sun moves around. And if you find yourself at the foot of one of the spectacular waterfalls there’s a good chance you’ll be close to the foot of a rainbow too, so look out for the pot of gold. While you make your way around this vast adventure ground, you’ll notice that the area is bursting with wild life, with all sorts of different birds and insects, bob cats and bears.
As the sun starts to dip behind the incredible landscape, take your position at a viewpoint. Our favourite is Glacier Point, where you feel like king of the world as you look out over the kingdom you’ve spent the day discovering – the rocks turning a soft pink as the light retreats, the enormous waterfalls tiny dashes making their way down the rocks in the distance. When the night sky emerges, look up at the dazzling stars above; rarely are they clearer and more awe-inspiring.
If you head to the southern part of the park, you will discover a slightly different landscape; Mariposa Grove is home to Giant Sequoia trees and you’ll be amazed by the sheer size of them, reminding you once again that Yosemite really doesn’t do things by halves. Stop off along the way for a picnic at a shaded view point or meadow, taking care not to leave any scraps to entice nearby black bears.
Immersing yourself in Yosemite is a humbling experience; you feel like a mere speck in the cathedral-like surroundings. The sheer beauty and scale of the park is something that will stay with you for ever. We can describe it as much as we like, but until you’ve seen it for yourself, you’ll never really understand.