March 19, 2015

Yosemite in the Winter


In January, Brent and I celebrated our ten year together anniversary with a little overnight getaway to Yosemite.  Though I have lived all of my life in Sacramento, besides a trip I cannot remember when I was two, I have never been to Yosemite.  I did not realize what a close and beautiful place I have been missing out on all of these years!


Just a few hours away, a trip to Yosemite is highly accessible.  It makes sense now while people are always so surprised when I say I have never been.  I could literally do a day trip if I was super determined. 


The place is beautiful and for January we had the most perfect weather.  I was hesitant to call this post "Yosemite in the Winter" since there is no snow.  But realistically this is Yosemite (and northern California) in the winter these days.  We were a little nervous about dealing with snow but when we called to confirm with our hotel we were told roads would be completely clear.  They were one hundred percent right. 


Despite the lack of snow, there were quite a few spots within the national park that were closed because of the off season (and chance of snow).  We are big off season travelers so we are used to limitations in exchange for a more affordable rate.  I did my research and knew what we could and could not do.


So our first stop was to one of the few year around waterfalls, Bridalveil, that we could "hike" to.  I say hike very loosely.  It is more like a leisurely walk.  That takes less than five minutes.  We were not planning on doing any kind of intense hiking or climbing, but I was a bit more prepared to do more than a stroll. 

The thing is Yosemite can be what you make it.  It is sort of like the Disneyland of nature and camping.  They have plenty of accommodations, are highly family friendly, and are set up for people to enjoy nature without even breaking a sweat.  Luxury outdoor vacationing even.  You can also rough it in a tent or do some crazy intense climbing.  But this little trip was a look into a whole new world of vacationing in the outdoors for me.  You don't have to sleep in a tent and pee in the woods?  Mind blown.


In Yosemite Village they have the cutest little store and visitor center.  It feels a lot like camp.  I planned all of our stops ahead of time, but you can easily drive around and see most of everything pretty easily.


Throughout the park we caught a few different views of Half Dome.  I have added climbing half dome to my travel to do list one day.


Our other main stop was to Lower Yosemite Falls.  This actually required a bit more of a walk, all paved, but still very easy.


You cross over this sweet little bridge to get there.


We went mid-week in January, and as you can see, there were not a lot of people around.  We actually saw the same people repeatedly because we all were limited to the same spots.  Compared to what I hear about how busy it is during the summer, this is our much more preferred crowd.


After a few hours of exploring, we headed out of Yosemite to our hotel, stopping on the way at Tunnel View.


What prompted the decision to go to Yosemite was that I started seeing a lot of deals for it on Travelzoo around December.  I looked into Yosemite to see what we could do and it if was a place I wanted to visit.  After a little research I started falling in love.  Thankfully, the deals kept coming through and I was able to find a hotel that fit my picky "romantic requirements" while still being in our price range. 


I ended up finding Tenaya Lodge where we were able to book our own little cabin in the woods.  Tenaya offers regular hotel accommodations as well as cottage rooms separate from their main amenities.  It seemed like the perfect winter time getaway where we could be tucked away in the mountains.


It is always the defining moment of whether or not you picked the right hotel as you drive up.  And I must say I was quite pleased.  The room was just the right mix of cozy cabin and hotel luxury.


The main part of the hotel had a beautiful lobby with a few restaurants and gift shop. 


We dressed up for their nicer restaurant that unfortunately was closed for the night.  A typical issue that comes with off season travel, we made the most of it and accepted we would just be the best dressed couple of the night!


The cottage rooms had their own separate pool and spa that we were sure to take advantage of. 


The next morning I was able to get a few more photos of the room in better light.  Our room had a cute little porch overlooking an unending view of trees.


We enjoyed a morning of sleeping in with a cozy little fire and room service.


Before we headed back to Yosemite for the day, we walked around the rest of the hotel to see it all in the daylight.  Here is a view of what the cottages look like.  They come with a few rooms per cabin but because there were not a lot of people around this time of year, they split up all their guests one per cabin. 


The only drawback to Tenaya is that is outside of Yosemite.  It is literally down the street from one of the Yosemite entrances but it takes about an hour to get from the gate entrance to Yosemite Village and the main hub of the national park.  So staying anywhere outside of Yosemite requires at least an hour drive to get out of the gate.  Since we only stayed one night we timed things accordingly so that we made the most of our time.  But having to drive back and forth for multiple days could be seen as an inconvenience making staying at one of the accomodations within Yosemite a little more desirable.

But for this trip my main focus was to find a nice hotel in a new place to us.  I was more concerned about accommodations than where we actually went.  If we were planning a trip to Yosemite for the sake of seeing all of Yosemite, my hotel preference may have been different.


On our way back in to Yosemite we stopped again at Tunnel View when the sun was a bit more in our favor.


We hit all of my must see places on the first day allowing us to more leisurely check out other things on the second day.  We stopped at the Yosemite Chapel.


And took a look around Curry Village.  It felt a bit like a ghost town this time of year but seemed like a fun place to stay with a family in the summer.


There are a variety of places to stay within Yosemite from tent like rooms to more motel like places.  But if you want to stay in luxury, The Ahwahnee is where it is at.  I looked into this hotel when researching Yosemite but it was way out of our price range, even in the off season.  But I knew I had to see what this place was all about.  They also have a restaurant and gift shop open to the public.


On our way out we stopped at Lower Yosemite Falls again for a little picnic lunch.  I packed ahead of time all of our favorite picnic essentials and was able to keep it refrigerated in our hotel room overnight.  My handy insulated picnic basket now goes on every road trip with us.


A little lunch with a view to end our beautiful trip to Yosemite.


As we headed home we stopped for a few more pictures on our way out.


While I always like to take advantage of our trips to go somewhere new, I can definitely see us visiting Yosemite again.  We look forward to it being a fun place to bring a family one day and only scratched the surface of what Yosemite has to offer. 

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