Hiking And Hostelling In Yosemite National Park
*This is a retrospective post about a trip I took in summer 2015 as part of a Trek America tour which you can read about here*
The bracing wind hit my Vegas hangover like a freight train, but the sight in front of me more than made up for it. I was standing on top of a rock with a very steep drop in front of me, looking over hundreds of deep green conifer trees and mountains so white they looked like they were blanketed in snow. The wind whipped through my hair but apart from that, and the occasional few words I and the others in the group spoke to each other, there was no sound- just peace and serenity.
Admittedly I didn’t know that much about Yosemite National Park before I went, but I really wish I did. It’s not that the breathtaking landscape wasn’t enough, but rather the opposite; I needed to know how a place could be so beautiful…
None of us were big hikers but I think we were all feeling a little over-confident still from our hike to Skeleton Point in the Grand Canyon. Never-the-less, Lilly (our tour guide) decided to ease us in slowly with a trail walk to see the Sequoias. I knew they had a reputation for being big but I don’t think I believed just how big until I saw them!
The next day, though, we were ready to take on the 8.5 mile Panorama Trail hike from Glacier Point into Yosemite Valley. This hike took us past pretty much everything Yosemite has to offer, from Half Dome to three waterfalls. The trail was easy enough in most places, and we took our time as we wanted to make a day of it. And made a day of it we did as we even stopped for a good hour lunch break and sunbathing session at the bottom of a waterfall.
We also took all of the little detours the trail offers so we got to see as much as possible. Our first detour took us across the bridge over Illilouette Creek to see Illilouette Falls (which were slightly lacking due to it being the height of summer). We did think we’d gone wrong at one point as the trail started to go uphill (for about 700ft according to Yosemitehikes.com, although it felt longer at the time).
Our second detour came later on in the hike when we arrived at a crossroads and each path seemed to be unmarked. We decided to go (unbeknownst to us at the time) down the short Panorama Point trail. The trail ended at Panorama Point which is exactly what you’d expect; it gives you absolutely stunning panoramic views of Yosemite National Park. This trail then joins back onto the Mist Trail, which takes you down to Yosemite Valley. I’m not going to lie, I hated this part. Hated it. We started by climbing to the top of a waterfall which gave us breathtaking views and time to cool off whilst the wind blew the water from the fall onto our faces. Bliss. However, next we had to climb down the steepest, rockiest, most unsafe stone steps I have ever seen in my life. The stone steps were very uneven at points and had no guardrail meaning, if you slipped, there was a sheer drop coming your way. At one point a man behind us decided he was better than the rest of us and decided to attempt to climb down the smooth stone slope that was the only thing separating the steps from the terrifying drop next to them at one point. Can you see were this is going? Yes, he SLIPPED but luckily he managed to keep himself sliding forward and didn’t slip to the side. If he had have done I would have seen someone fall to their death, which is something I never want to see. What’s more is, if he’d had slipped on the stairs behind us he would have sent us all flying. Gulp. Take note: don’t think you can do this section of the hike quicker than everyone else on it, and don’t selfishly put other people’s lives in danger.
Anyway! when we finally made it down to safety there wasn’t much further to go until we ended up in Yosemite Valley, and thankfully the rest of the trail was flat! The trail emerges in a car park where many people decide to park before going up the trail (brave souls) towards Glacier Point, and where the shuttle buses pick people up. We had to get the shuttle to Curry Village (a place in the valley with restaurants and what not) to meet up with Lilly, but before we made it to the bus stop we got distracted by a large group of people who had gathered by the edge of the road. Obviously not wanting to miss out we wandered over to them and a ranger told us there was a baby bear in the nearby tree. A bear.
I saw a freakin’ bear in Yosemite!
Obviously we were told there were bears there but we didn’t actually believe them as we were from countries were bears just chillin’ in trees was not the norm. But there he was, a little baby black bear hanging out in a tree. We stayed long enough to see him climbing a bit and to listen to one of the rangers tell us about him, but we didn’t stay too long as we didn’t want the little fella to be scared by the big crowd. Off we went, later than planed, to catch the shuttle bus to Yosemite and have so well earned pizza in Curry Village.
By this point in our road trip we had become accustomed to budget hotels that were way better than the budget hotels we were expecting, so we were a little disheartened when we learned that we’d be spending a couple of nights in a hostel. But boy were we wrong to worry! We stayed at the Yosemite Bug Hostel which came equipped with memory foam mattresses in our log cabins, a nice little cafe serving hot meals, and a spa complete with a hot tub.
The layout of the hostel is wonderful. Pulling up into the parking lot made me feel as though I was pulling up to summer camp all over again! If you’re a little squeamish about camping (like me) then with the Yosemite Bug you get all the good parts of camping without the sleeping on the muddy ground and heating baked beans over a tiny flame part. The log cabins give the illusion of ‘roughing it’ outdoors but with all the comforts of an indoor bed, whereas the fact that the showers have to be accessed from the outside give the impression of a campsite shower block, but once inside, the cubicle is just like you’d find in a regular hostel. Win.
After a long day of hiking it was lovely to come back to this place to relax in the hot tub and then have dinner together (although there was a shameful lack of veggie options. Sort it out). We sat outside talking until the cafe closed talking about our lives and getting to know each other better. The Yosemite Bug, for me, holds memories that go beyond just going back there after a day out for a place to sleep.
Have you been to Yosemite? What did you think?