Yosemite: Know Before You Go

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Yosemite is as beautiful as all the pictures you’ve seen! We went in July – smack dab in the middle of peak tourist season and I came away with a few tips. One of the keys to getting the most enjoyment out of any vacation is to have reasonable expectations. If you travel to Yosemite National Park, specifically Half Dome Village/Curry Village, in peak season, you could find yourself frustrated and annoyed. As long as you know a few things before you go, you’re sure to show up with the right mindset and have a great trip!

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What's In A Name? Update: This location was originally named Curry Village. Due to a lawsuit, they were forced to change the name to Half Dome Village in 2015 (and changed the name of many other Yosemite locations, as well). In 2019, they were allowed to change them back to their original names. You can read more about that here. When we were there & when I wrote this, it was still called Half Dome Village.

Yosemite Half Dome

It’s not as easy as it looks to get from point A to point B.

If you go during peak times and plan to drive, know that the traffic and parking are going to be nuts! The shuttles are often packed. You may be waiting around while bus after bus stops, and then leaves, without room for you to get on. Plan your days based on each area (like Half Dome Village or Yosemite Village). Spend most of the day doing whatever you want in one area, so you minimize your driving, parking and/or waiting for a shuttle. You can choose to walk to and from some locations, just take this into account when considering the overall hiking time and distance. It’s about 2 miles between Half Dome Village and Yosemite Village.

Pro Packing Tips

The registration desks can be crazy!

The best times to ask questions at the registration desk is early in the morning or really late at night. The desk at Half Dome Village is open 24 hours a day. Afternoon is when EVERYONE is trying to check in and it can be a mad house.

Yosemite: Know before you go
Home away from home

The tents are HOT in the summer (shocking, I know)!

When we were there, the highs were in the mid-nineties. It was sweltering in the tent mid-day. No big deal – we were camping after all! Although it’s hot, it’s not humid. It feels nice in the shade and the water in the pool and creeks is COLD. Just stop by one of the swimming areas between hikes to cool off. We waded across knee deep water at Mirror Lake and it was just what we needed.

It was also cool at night (lows in the 50’s). We were plenty cozy with the sheets and blankets provided (you can get extra blankets at the registration desk, if needed).

With all of that said, I would not choose to stay in tents in summer a second time. I have since done a TON of research and wrote an article that will help you choose the BEST place to stay in Yosemite (um….no….these tents did not make the list). Check that out HERE!

You can drink alcohol while walking or hanging out anywhere in the park, except on a bridge

Fun little fact I learned from a cashier at one of the stores. Not really sure what the bridge thing is about…maybe afraid people will jump off of them?? The stores sell beer cheap. A few evenings, we got a couple of beers (SierraVesa was a favorite of ours) and walked down to one of the creeks or hung out for the evening’s entertainment at the amphitheater. Obviously, drinking and driving is NOT allowed.

Yosemite: Know before you go

Anything, with ANY scent, has to go in a bear box

I read about this during my trip planning research, so I was prepared. I took several large zip lock bags and a few re-usable grocery bags. This made it really easy to keep items grouped together to throw in the bear box and then grab when needed. One for medicines, one for sunscreen & bug spray, etc. Also, a regular sized cooler can fit in the box if, you have one. And no, we didn’t see a single bear.☹️ There are bear boxes at most trail heads and one outside of each tent (the green box to the right of the kiddo in the picture above). We did take snacks, sunscreen, etc. with us while hiking.

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Restrooms are sparse & unpleasant

Some restrooms are just fine. The restrooms inside the eating areas are great. At Half Dome Village/Curry Village, the ones by the pool are the best, but you have to pay for pool access to get in there. The others in the camp area are usable, but don’t set your expectations too high. As for the restrooms you will find when you are out & about hiking around the park…there are a few, though not many & they are mostly out-house style.

Towels are provided, but no wash rags

The towels are far from plush, but they are clean and they get the job done. There are no washcloths though, so either bring your own or just do without.

Yosemite Tunnel View
Tunnel View

If you are also going to Sequoia National Park (or coming from there)-skip Mariposa Grove

It’s a great little area with some big trees and definitely worth going to IF you are not including Sequoia National Park in your trip. But, if you are, your time is better spent elsewhere. You’ll see bigger and better trees at Sequoia.

There really is VERY LITTLE cell service

Although we did see a few people on their phones from time to time, we had little to no service. We did occasionally hear texts come through in the oddest places (like the wettest part of Mist Trail). Typically, however, we did not have a signal when we actually needed one. Be prepared. Personally, I loved being off the phone for a week.

Yosemite: Know before you go
Glacier Point

Keep in mind, you won’t have access to maps either. Print directions to everywhere you plan to go (turn by turn directions). I’d also advise having a map before you go. You can buy maps in some of the stores, but many are not very good and they were sold out of the best trail map. We found it a few days into the trip, but it would have been great to have it from the beginning. This is the trail map we liked most – I highly recommend it.

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If you are staying in one of the tents on the far east side of the village, try this secret parking area…

The parking can be packed…as in completely full. We just happened to stumble on this little parking area and never had any issue finding a spot here. Just head into the main parking lot and towards the back right as shown in the picture below. Head down the little road and you’ll see some hidden away parking spots on the left!

Yosemite: Know before you go -parking map
X marks the spot
Yosemite parking
Just follow this lady 🙂

All in all, we had a great trip! All the pictures you have ever seen cannot prepare you for the size of the granite cliffs. They are GIGANTIC!!! There are some great trails in the area. Half Dome Village has a wonderful laid back atmosphere. You’re sure to have an amazing time in Yosemite…as long as you know before you go!

Need more tips on staying at Half Dome Village? Check out THIS ARTICLE by a fellow travel blogger that I found before our trip – there is some GREAT info in here & I am so glad I read it before going! Her site is https://www.marpop.com/.

Want some help narrowing down what you will see and do while at Yosemite? You can spend a week or more at Yosemite National Park and still not see everything – after all, the park covers 1,169 square miles! There are hundreds of hiking trails to explore ranging from easy & flat to very long and/or very steep, not to mention all of the other cool stuff to see & do. READ MORE

If you love National Parks, check out these articles as well:

Until next time…

Until next time…

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I provide guidance and practical solutions to help busy parents integrate travel into their lives, fostering joy, fulfillment, and stress-free adventures. Don’t wait until it’s too late; the time to travel is now.
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2 thoughts on “Yosemite: Know Before You Go”

  1. Hi Jody, thanks for the great info about Yosemite! We’ve got a trip planned there for the 1st week of June and are very excited. We have 3 nights booked in a heated tent in Curry Village (we realize it won’t be heated but need the outlet for a CPAP machine) Would you recommend the tours offered by the park? Any other tips you’ve got since your trip there?

    1. Hey Kim,
      I’m so glad you found my “Yosemite: Know Before You Go” article helpful! You are going to love Yosemite. It really is like nothing else.
      Check out my other Yosemite article here for my top recommendations: https://mytravelobsession.com/must-dos-in-yosemite/
      We also needed the heated tent so we could have the outlets. We didn’t do any of the tours offered by the park, but I would guess they would be great. Everyone there is great and so knowledgeable!
      I’d also recommend checking out the outdoor stage area (near the pizza place) in Curry Village. They have little shows there & those were really interesting.
      Enjoy your trip!

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