Don't miss the shortcut...
- More about your oliver guide: Caroline Kesmodel
- Trip type: Family, Mountains
- Activity level: high
- Ideal length of trip: 3 nights/ 4 days - We went in late August, great weather and missed crowds. End of October was surprisingly cold, and some crowds.
to & from
- Don't count on GPS as it can be inaccurate and you will lose cell coverage at many points.
- Definitely print your directions old school and depart before 3PM.
- Don't miss the shortcut (just past Moccasin, take Right on Old Priest Grade Road.) A serious incline…but shaves 20 minutes off the drive. If you miss it, stay on 120.
- Keep your gas tank full, once near Yosemite gas stations are few and far between.
Where to Stay
There are only two main resorts we preferred. Both owned by a Tiburon family.
Rush Creek Lodge at Yosemite
34001 California 120, Groveland, CA
Rush Creek, the newer of the two, opened 2017. Evergreen Lodge is a more rustic experience, yet still a great find. Both properties have pools, spas, exercise classes, onsite dining, s’mores/fires, live music, playrooms and guides for hikes. We preferred Rush Creek for the newer rooms and amenities– such as AC, new pool, hot tubs, 2 great dining spots, cute market and amazing playroom, treehouse and game room. None of the rooms have TVs, but there is satellite radio and lots of games/books provided. Pack accordingly if you need screens, hotspots, etc. Wifi is limited. We liked a room overlooking the pool.
Where to Eat and Drink
- Rush Creek has 2 great indoor/outdoor restaurants with healthy American fare. Great breakfast waffles, healthy salads and avocado toasts. After a long day of hiking, we wanted to dine, have nightly smores, listen to live music, hit the game room and hang by the pool. Rush Creek has a really nice, casual evening atmosphere with families playing games by fire pits. If you want to venture out, good choices are limited.
- The Majestic Hotel, the old Ahwahnee, is worth a visit at least for a drink.
- Also check out Evergreen Lodge for a change of scenery. Make a reservation. Eat outside if you can.
- For trail lunches and drinks there is a General Store with trail mix bar on property.
- The rooms at Rush Creek also have large refrigerators, so bring your favorite rations from home.
What to Do
Yosemite hikes are endless. Our favorites…
- Glacier Point: Legendary vista point, 90 mins from hotel, the views of Half Dome and the Valley are incredible. Definitely go early as it's a popular tourist stop and gets busy. Downhill, 4.5 mile hike, switchbacks, high elevation, get dropped at top by resort guides. Scenic drive and many lookout points on the way.
- High Country/Tioga Pass: 1hr +driving, but our favorite views and fewer crowds. Stop and do 2 mile flat hike to pretty Lukens Lake, then head to amazing views at Olmstead Point, rock climb and view Half Dome. Continue on to Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows-- At this elevation, will tend to see snow or hail even in summer.
- Hetch Hetchy Reservoir: 30 minutes from hotel, amazing water views and falls, bear sightings here, cool rock climbing, mostly flat, few hours hike. 5.5miles roundtrip or make shorter, popular/arrive early.
- Carlson Falls: Fun hike for kids. 5 minutes from the hotel. 3.8 mile roundtrip, mostly flat forest hike following the stream to the waterfalls. A nice hidden secret...was not crowded like a lot of the hikes in the park.
- There are also great massages and classes at Rush Creek.
- And don't miss the nightly live music and s'mores around fire pits.
- Use the resort guides to transport you to longer hikes and get all the concierge info sheets on each hike. Guides can drop you at top of hike and pick you up at bottom. You don't want to hike back up Glacier Point with kids after 120 switch backs!
- Don't forget to pack light backpacks and refillable water bottles.
- Get car pass online ahead of time.
- Check National Park Service's Yosemite website for weather, fires, road closures, etc. It snows even thru May and June, so be aware of current conditions.
- Skip Mariposa Grove, Merced Trail had much better hike thru Sequoias.
- Don't bother bringing bikes, we found very little terrain where they were useful, although scooters worked.
Yosemite, California - Suggestions from the Oliver Community
Just as a heads up when reading Caroline’s guide that the hotels she suggests are not in the actual Yosemite valley floor. Here’s the link to the accommodations in the valley: https://www.travelyosemite.com/lodging/yosemite-lodging-experience/ …The Majestic (aka: The Ahwahnee Hotel) is the most luxurious and recently renovated. We stayed at the Yosemite Valley Lodge and it was perfect – nothing fancy, but at the base of amazing hikes and in the heart of it all.
If you go – pick one night to do a fancy dinner at the Majestic. It’s worth it.
The Starry Night Sky Tour is amazing (ask if Ashley is the leader -she is the best). We didn’t do the Night Prowl, but heard that it’s a great one too: https://www.travelyosemite.com/things-to-do/evening-programs/
We loved our stay at Rush Creek– a perfect place for families to gather. We did the Hetch Hetchy hike with a group aged 2-77! Also did the Mist Trail in the valley with a smaller group up to Nevada Falls which was AMAZING. We had no guides but left early (before 8am) to beat the traffic which I highly recommend. I second Caroline’s recommendation to skip bikes as we brought 5 and only 2 were used briefly.
When there are long lines at park entrances, escape the crowds by heading to Stanislaus National Forest Trailhead/ Preston Falls.
15 minutes from Rush Creek.
Hike on wide paths for up to 8 miles.
Moderate to easy terrain with little gain, gorgeous scenery and fun rock climbing all by the Tuolume River.
We gathered amazing large pine cones and chestnuts for our thanksgiving centerpiece!
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