The ultimate USA trip! Part three; Yosemite National Park

The drive from San Francisco was smooth and scenic. I couldn’t fault Sam for his confidence navigating the highways. I felt on edge just watching him right-hand driving! It took me some time to feel at ease in the passenger seat (or the driver’s seat in the UK!) but I soon settled. Overall, it took us under 4 hours to arrive at our lodge in El Portal. But the drive was all part of the fun

San Fran > Yosemite


Our lodge (Yosemite Valley Lodge) was minutes away from the park’s entrance, so it was a brilliant location. It had a restaurant, gym, a convenience store, outdoor swimming pools and spa areas.  While it was far too cold to swim outdoors, the hot tub was a treat in the freezing weather. What a treat!

There was also a lounge by the reception, which looked like something out of a Hallmark movie. Cosy, warm and with a huge, roaring fire. A very American log cabin experience! As soon as I saw the Christmas tree, I knew we had done the right thing coming during the festive season. Even the village store was impressive, with its holiday décor!

A cosy welcome at the lodge
Now, that’s a tree! Rockerfeller, who?
A beary cute display (sorry!)
Snack stops at the Village Store


It was very much winter conditions when we were there, and I’m eternally grateful that I packed thermals. Our lodge was toasty, but it was icy outside, so layers were essential. Fortunately, it was dry and sunny every day, so it was pleasant to hike in! The weather is known to be unpredictable, so we were lucky. At least it didn’t snow!

Sunny with a chance of glorious views
A slightly terrifying sign

Our itinerary

Over the 3 days we were there, we climbed the Half Dome summit, marveled at El Capitan, and embraced the fresh air and breath-taking surroundings. We also drove to Tunnel View, which had spectacular views of the, Bridalveil Falls and Sentinel Dome as well as the mighty El Capitan and Half Dome.

Climbing Capitan
View from the top!
You made it, hiker!
These views rock! (Again, sorry)
My own bear in the woods


We ate at the lodge restaurant most of the time, purely for the convenience. It didn’t have a huge menu but the nearest town, Mariposa, was a 40-minute drive each way so it was just easier to eat at the lodge. We did drive there once to mix things up, but it was a long way to go when there was a restaurant on site. Sam enjoyed his burger in Mariposa though!

Tuck in, burger boy!


Like San Francisco, I wasn’t expecting to love Yosemite as much as I did. We’re not strangers to outdoorsy breaks, hiking, and mountains so we knew we’d enjoy but there was a certain kind of peace and tranquility in Yosemite that no other place could match.

Smiles in ‘Semite

There was limited Wi-Fi due to the remote location, so I embraced the opportunity to disconnect as much as I could. Sam even commented that it was the most relaxed he had seen me in a while and I had a decent sleep there, which is a win from someone who doesn’t ‘switch off’. I didn’t even take as many photos as I normally do, I just wanted to be present in the moment.

November was a great time to visit as there was no crowds, traffic or parking issues. But I’d highly recommend visiting any time of the year. Just get there and experience it for yourself!

Next stop, Hollywood! Los Angeles we come.

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