Luxurious Destinations
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Destinations Within Northern California

Northern California Trip Itineraries

First Time in Yosemite

Destination(s): Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is 30 x 40 miles huge, but for your first visit you should see the giant sequoias in the south end, Yosemite Valley in the middle and the high country of Tuolumne Meadows on the east. Plan on a bit of mountain driving and taking your time with the winding roads through scenery that is a stunning as it gets on this planet. Consider packing picnic supplies and water so you'll have flexibility on where and when you stop for a break - but don't leave any food in your car unattended; bears will sniff it out. Head for the nearest visitor center to get oriented, and go on a hour's ranger walk to spend time with an expert. Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated. It is hard to go wrong here. read more about First Time in Yosemite

Tours Within The Park

Tours Within The Park

  • Yosemite Village
  • tel:+1 209 372 1240
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389

The park's concessioner runs a series of good quality bus tours, from the popular 2-hour Valley Floor Tram Tours, with rangers narrating, to the all-day Grand Tours.  The Valley tram is fondly known as the 'Green Dragon' for the greenish flatbed trailers which drag tourists around the loop.  You'll learn a lot and many people ride the Green Dragon year after year.  New for 2010 will be special subject (climbing, birds, geology, etc.) 3-hour Valley Trams.  Longer tours go to Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove and to Tuolumne Meadows.  Details are at the Delaware North website, or the tour desks at Curry Village, the Ahwahnee or Yosemite Lodge. 
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Degnan's Delicatessen

Degnan's Delicatessen

  • 9015 Village Drive
  • Yosemite Village
  • tel:1 209 372 1000
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389

Degnan's is a social hub for Yosemite Village and it's overflowing at lunchtime.  There's a lot to chose from, but their sandwich selection (all named for park landmarks) is great and the soups are just the thing on a chilly mountain day.  Lots of beverage fridges, ice cream novelties, chips and candy can round out a meal for a picnic table outside or will fill your daypack for a hike to Mirror Lake or up Yosemite Falls.  Open year-round. 
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Mountain Room Bar & Lounge

Mountain Room Bar & Lounge

  • Yosemite Lodge
  • tel:559 252 4848
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389
Lembert Dome Trail

Lembert Dome Trail

  • P.O. Box 577
  • The trail head is at a parking lot north of CA 120 in Tuolumne Meadows at rd. marker T-32. Follow the nature trail that starts here and take off at marker no. 2
  • tel:209-372-0200
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite, 95389

This 2-mile round-trip trail begins from the Dog Lake/John Muir Trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows. Find it by going in on the side road to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.  Bring water, snacks and a camera.

Begin hiking uphill and north from the trailhead. Soon you cross the highway and continue on up through forested switchbacks.  Take your time at this elevation.  The Dog Lake route continues straight ahead over the top of the ridge, while you'll go left along the ridge, still going uphill until the trail puts you onto the granite shoulder of Lembert.  A bit of easy walking then a somewhat exposed class 2 hop puts you on top of the viewing platform for Tuolumne Meadows.  Wind, sun and a lot of rock await you.  The gentle Tuolumne River winds below, and you can see its source in the Lyell Glacier miles to the south. 

Retrace your steps to descend, or go a bit further to Dog Lake, or circle around Dog Dome to come back to level ground to the west.

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Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road

Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road

  • Big Oak Flat Road and Tioga Road
  • tel:209-372-0200-visitor-info
  • Yosemite, 95321

The byway provides motorists with an opportunity to experience astonishing scenery from a vehicle. For hiking enthusiasts, it offers some of the most beautiful High Sierra backcountry trails in California. National Park entrance fees are reduced for people entering on foot, bicycle or motorcycle or after their 62nd birthday. Points of interest along the route include: Big Oak Flat, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Merced Grove, Tuolumne Grove, Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake, Tioga Pass and Olmsted Point. Tioga Road / Big Oak Flat Road leads through Yosemite National Park in the High Sierra Region of California. From Route 395 near Lee Vining on the east end of the byway, head west on Route 120. From Route 49 near Groveland on the west, head east on Route 120. read more about Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road

Iron Door Saloon

Iron Door Saloon

Sentinel Dome Trail

Sentinel Dome Trail

Yosemite Museum

Yosemite Museum

Mountain Room Restaurant

Mountain Room Restaurant

  • Yosemite Lodge
  • Yosemite National Park
  • tel:1 559 252 4848
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95379
Evening Ranger Programs

Evening Ranger Programs

  • Yosemite Valley Visitor's Center
  • tel:209/372-0200
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389
Yosemite Bike Trails

Yosemite Bike Trails

  • Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village
  • tel:+1 209 372 1208
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389

Yosemite Valley has more than 12 miles of bicycling trails on the flat valley floor that have a variety of prepared surfaces. These trails are also suitable for strollers, bikes with trailers and even wheelchairs, and they are one of the best ways to see the sights. You can rent bikes by the hour or by the day. Rentals are available at the Yosemite Lodge and at Curry Village, but not in the winter; spring and fall rentals depend on conditions. Helmets are mandatory and are provided free.  Riding on hiking trails in the park is not permitted.
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Shuttle Buses

Shuttle Buses

  • Yosemite Village
  • tel:+1 209 372 0200
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389

Yosemite's popularity means there's potential for traffic problems and the air pollution that goes with it.  The park service and concessioner have arranged an easy solution in the Valley's shuttle system.  Leave your car in the Day Use Parking at Yosemite Village or Curry Village, and take a shuttle to 90% of the places you want to go: campgrounds, stores, restaurants, shops, trailheads, lodges, etc.  The shuttles are free.  They're hybrid fueled so produce few emissions.  In summer they run every 10 minutes.  Seasonally, there are even special buses that go direct to the Visitor Center from the Yosemite Village day use lot and one that'll take you all the way down-Valley to El Capitan Meadow.  You'll find a map and schedule in the park's newspaper, the Yosemite Guide.  Great deal!
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Cafe at the Bug

Cafe at the Bug

  • 6979 Highway 140
  • Yosemite Bug Lodge
  • tel:1 209 966 6666
  • Visit website
  • Midpines, 95345

The Bug is loved by locals, by international visitors and by anyone open to a different kind of casual dining.  People are friendly, most are there to see Yosemite, and it's easy to find a conversation with someone from Ireland or a group of rangers gathering off duty.  Good coffee, wine, beer and always a different menu of tasty entrees and baked goods.  Order off the menu board at the kitchen counter then relax by the fireplace, or in an easy chair with a Yosemite guidebook.  The staff will find you with your food when it's ready.  Open all year, with easy access to the park.
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Yosemite Theater

Yosemite Theater

  • Visitor Center
  • (Yosemite Village)
  • tel:+1 209 372 0200
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389

Here's a great way to learn something while being entertained by some top-notch performers; not something you might expect to find in a national park visit.  You may have seen some of the Yosemite Theater's performers in the Ken Burns documentary, 'America's Best Idea.'  Check the park's newsletter, the Yosemite Guide for what's playing when you're in the park.  These exceptional evening programs are conducted in the theater behind the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, and are generally on most summer evenings.  Tickets are sold in the visitor center right up to showtime.  Recent features have included Lee Stetson's famed portrayals of John Muir, Shelton Johnson's Buffalo Soldier story and world-class rockclimber Ron Kauk narrating his award-winning film, "Return to Balance. 
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Indian Village of Ahwahnee

Indian Village of Ahwahnee

  • Behind Valley Visitor Center
  • (Yosemite Village)
  • tel:+1 209 372 0200
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389
Mariposa Grove

Mariposa Grove

  • Mariposa Grove
  • Park at the Wawona Store parking area and walk east 0.25 miles to Forest Dr. The trail head is on the right
  • tel:+1 209 372 0200
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite, 95389

The Giant Sequoias in Mariposa Grove are more than 3,000 years old, more than 80 feet around, and reach up over 300 feet seemingly to touch the sky. You can drive to the lower edge of the grove, but parking is strictly limited and you may wait in line for quite a while—better to take the free shuttle from the Wawona General Store, which departs every 15 minutes from 9a to 4:30p in summer. Trailers and motor homes are not permitted on the Mariposa Grove Road and the road is closed in winter (though it's worth the walk).  This grove was part of the world's first national park.
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Ahwahnee Dining Room

Ahwahnee Dining Room

  • Ahwahnee Road
  • Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite National Park
  • tel:+1 209 372 1489
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389
Ansel Adams Gallery

Ansel Adams Gallery

  • POB 455
  • (Yosemite Valley)
  • tel:+1 209 372 4413
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389
The Mist Trail

The Mist Trail

  • Happy Isle Shuttle Stop #16
  • (Yosemite Valley)
  • tel:+1 209 372 0200
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389

The Mist Trail parallels the John Muir Trail from Happy Isles to the top of Nevada Fall and many people make a loop of the two.  Here we'll describe just the Vernal Fall section. The trail is paved or granite and is very popular for a good reason - astonishing scenery, a stiff ascent and an astounding 300' waterfall.  Bring water, sun protection, and if it's May or June, consider bringing raingear, when the route beside Vernal could be called the "Firehose Trail."  The climb from Happy Isles runs steadily up a good paved surface with a few views of the Merced River's rapid descent.  You first see Vernal from below at the footbridge, where in summer there is drinking water and a restroom.  Another 10-15 minutes up and you'll reach the mistiest section.  About 600 granite steps, with steel railings where needed, get you to the top of the fall.  Peer over the edge, but be careful - too many people have been swept over the fall to their deaths.

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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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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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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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Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center

Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center

  • Hwy 120 East
  • (Yosemite Valley)
  • tel:+1 209 372 0263
  • Visit website
  • Yosemite National Park, 95389

Open only in the summer, this is the place to start your visit if you're arriving from the east, or just to get oriented to the park's high country.  The building is part of a historic CCC camp and has a few exhibits, a nice little bookstore, and the ever-helpful rangers  and YA volunteers and staff to answer questions.  There are restrooms outside.  The TMVC is a half mile from the campground.  Several hiking trails take off from here, with the trail across the street, over to Soda Springs being an excellent, easy introduction to this vast subalpine meadow.  You're at 8600' so expect to gasp a little. 
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