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One winter day

Destination(s): Yosemite National Park

Having only one day to see a place as grand as Yosemite could be tragic, except that having any time at all in Yosemite is worth celebrating. If you can come in the winter time, you’re in for a special treat. Though it’s a lot of driving, you can reach Yosemite from as far away as San Francisco for a day trip. Anything further away than Merced, Fresno or Manteca means a 2-hour drive. In the winter, entering the park through Mariposa on Highway 140 is the best way to avoid snowy/icy roads. This day mixes a morning walk, a deluxe lunch and an easy afternoon of a few simple walking stops. It assumes you’ve got the whole day, the weather isn’t prohibitive and that you want to see a bit of everything in Yosemite Valley. The Valley is at 4000’ elevation, so check what the weather forecast is saying for that level and bring appropriate clothing. I always look at the webcams on www.yosemite.org/vryos to see what it looks like in the Valley at any given time. Park at the Day Use Parking in Yosemite Village, fill your daypack with some snacks, water and an extra layer, and just start walking due east towards the unmistakable Half Dome. It’s easy to find trails going your direction, along or across the Merced River, as long as you aim toward Half Dome. It’s about 3 miles of very gradual uphill to reach Mirror Lake. There are a couple of bathrooms along the main route. Watch for dramatic icefalls down the face of Half Dome, get the photo of Mt. Watkins reflected in the water, enjoy the ice formations along Tenaya Creek. Make your way back down the paved access trail/road and keep right at the fork, following the bike path. Just after you walk across a pair of stone bridges, you’ll see the Ahwahnee to the right; cut across and find the immense, luxurious dining room for a delicious lunch. After lunch, take the free shuttle bus from right out front, two stops to the Visitor Center to learn from the exhibits, browse the bookstore and ask questions of the rangers. Then stroll through the adjacent Ansel Adams Gallery to see the famous photographer’s art. If you still have a bit more energy, follow the bike path away from Half Dome, to walk the short, paved loop trail to the base of Yosemite Falls. This quick, easy stroll affords great views and a nice look at Lower Yosemite Fall. From here, the shuttle picks you up and will return you to the Village Store which is only two minutes from the Day Use Parking in Yosemite Village. read more about One winter day

Mirror Lake Day Hike

Mirror Lake Day Hike

  • Mirror Lake
  • (Yosemite Valley)
  • tel:+1 209 372 0200
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389

In a neat demonstration of sedimentary processes, Mirror Lake has been gradually filling up with sand, so (except in the springtime) it is not as mirror-like as it once was.  Nonetheless, the lake's banks do provide a glorious view straight up Half Dome's face. Start from Shuttle Stop 17. This is considered an easy walk, with a mild uphill grade. The distance is just about a mile, and if you didn't care about fully experiencing this nice part of Tenaya Canyon you could complete the round-trip in about an hour. This area can get crowded in summer. In winter hikers must start from Shuttle Stop 19, which adds another mile to the trip. In summer months, there is access for vehicles with current disability placards.
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Ahwahnee Dining Room

Ahwahnee Dining Room

  • Northside Drive
  • Ahwahnee Hotel
  • tel:1 209 372 1489
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95379
Yosemite Valley Visitor Center

Yosemite Valley Visitor Center

  • P.O. Box 577
  • West of the main post office in Yosemite Village
  • tel:209-372-0200
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite, 95389

The Yosemite Valley Visitor Center is the heart of Yosemite Village and is open daily, with hours varying with the season. The visitor center is immediately west of the main post office in the park at shuttle bus stops #6 and #9. You'll find information, maps, books, a series of great natural and cultural history exhibits, and helpful rangers to get you oriented to visiting the park.  Every half hour the park's award-winning film is shown in the Theater out back.  The Indian Museum and Indian Village are adjacent. 
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Ansel Adams Gallery

Ansel Adams Gallery

  • POB 455
  • (Yosemite Valley)
  • tel:+1 209 372 4413
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389
Lower Yosemite Falls Day Hike

Lower Yosemite Falls Day Hike

  • Shuttle Stop #6
  • (Yosemite Valley)
  • tel:+1 209 372 0200
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389

The trail to Lower Yosemite Falls is the easiest walk in the park, with the biggest payoff: staring up at a 300' waterfall.  During the spring's snowmelt you may find yourself getting drenched as you gaze at this famous waterfall and listen to the amazing roar of the pounding water. By contrast, if you come in August there may not be a single drop of water - that's a Mediterranean climate.  Start from Shuttle Stop 6. This walk is likely to be crowded in summer. There is wheelchair access by staying on the eastern trail, and the trail is open all year.
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