Camping in Yosemite : 11 Hour Car Rides, Granite Wall Sunrises, and Waterfall Hikes

This past 4 day weekend I went camping in Yosemite with my Dad, my Uncle, and group of a few people that are a part of an adventure sports ministry he runs. It was a ton of fun and I had a super fun time in this beautiful place. This blog will be split into 4 different parts following each of the 4 days of this trip.

Day 1

On Friday morning my dad went to Enterprise rental car to go get a rental 4 wheel drive car for he and I to drive to Yosemite in. Enterprise didn’t have any 4 wheel drive cars and without one we couldn’t drive to Yosemite. We tried to look for a 4 wheel drive car at every rental car place in Santa Barbara that we knew of and none of them had them. We almost cancelled the trip entirely until my mom found out that Toyota rents 4 wheel drive cars. They went to Toyota and got a 2017 Tacoma that only had 4,000 miles on it and was a complete beast. None the less, we got the car, packed all of our stuff into it and left Santa Barbara at 11:30 a.m. img_9567It was pouring outside and on the way to Paso Robles my dad and I saw 2 or 3 cars that slid off the road and into the mud. Once we got to Paso Robles we got some In n Out and then got on highway 46 to go to Fresno and from there go to Yosemite. On our way to Fresno there was a huge traffic jam that lasted about 30-40 minutes. At the end of the traffic jam there were highway safety vehicles who told us to take a U-turn, turn all the way around, and go back due to accidents ahead. So an hour wasted, great. We went back to Paso Robles and chose to take highway 101 up a ways then cut across and take freeway 198 to Fresno. This added probably about 2 hours to our trip, the drive was super pretty though and we finally got to Fresno at 7:30 p.m after driving 75 miles of switchback roads and running into multiple detours. It was recommended that we get chains for our car in case we got snowed in which probably wouldn’t happen. We looked everywhere in Fresno and no store sold them and the one that did had a no return policy so we decided to take our chances and not buy any. On our way out we decided to stop at Arby’s and fill up on Mountain Dew and curly fries before booking it to Yosemite. We left Fresno at 8:30 and finally made it to Yosemite at 10:30 p.m. img_9681On our way to the entrance to the valley it started snowing briefly as we were driving in. We drove to our campsite where we met up with my uncle, set up our tent, rolled out our sleeping bags, and went to sleep at 11:05 p.m. A drive that should’ve taken 5 hours but ended up taking 11, yes 11 hours, was finally over.


Day 2

The next morning I was up bright and early. I got up, grabbed my camera, got out of our tent, and walked around our campsite taking pictures of the scenery and just enjoyed the peace and quiet of being in this amazing place hearing the birds chirping as the sun was rising behind the sheer walls of granite hundreds of feet tall.img_9735 After I went back to our campsite I saw that my dad was awake and we made oatmeal for breakfast along with some hot cocoa. After that we hung around the campsite until the whole group met together and decided what we were going to do for the day. We decided that we were going to hike up the John Muir trail or the Mist trail past Vernal falls and meet at Nevada falls for lunch. With that we packed our stuff for the day and headed off. It was a super beautiful hike and was full of trees, snow, and rivers.img_9806img_9818 We kept on hiking up the trail and noticed that the mist trail was closed due to potential danger from the waterfall nearby so we all went up the John Muir Trail. When we were almost at the top of the trail we noticed it was getting way too dangerous to go any farther due to heavy snow ahead and decided to eat lunch then turn back. We had the best view of upper and lower Yosemite falls from our lunch spot. img_9888After eating lunch we turned back and headed down the trail and got back to our campsite at around 3:30. After getting back I convinced my dad that we should go on a drive around the valley to take in the beautiful scenery and take pictures. img_0211We drove around the valley floor for around 2 hours seeing all of the overflowing waterfalls and snow lined ridges eventually driving to Tunnel View and seeing the whole view of Yosemite Valley. img_0061After visiting Tunnel View we drove back to our campsite and made some clam chowder and chicken for dinner. After dinner I went over to the guest lodge to meet up with the others to unwind, regroup, and share what we did that day while my dad watched the campfire and made friends with a few people from a neighboring campsite. While at the guest lodge we played games, socialized, and shared our highlights from that day. At around 9:00 I went back to our campsite and crashed in my tent.

Day 3


The next morning I was up early again. I saw that Half Dome was visible from our campsite and quickly grabbed my camera along with a couple of lenses and walked to the Merced River from our campground to get a better view, walking across fallen trees across streams through the woods to reach it. Once I got there I had an absolute perfect view of Half Dome coated in white snow above the raging river while the sun rose, I sat there and just stood in awe of how peaceful and gorgeous everything was. There wasn’t a person in sight and I felt so relaxed, happy, and isolated as I watched the clouds engulf Half Dome once again into the grey sky. Before leaving I took out my camera and shot a couple photos of the giant granite monument during sunrise. img_0172I walked back to our campground and made some eggs (that I may have burnt) and bacon with my dad along with some coffee (that I accidentally put wayyy too much artificial sweetener in and tasted tremendously awful). After that the whole group met around the campfire and planned our day. We decided that we were going to snowshoe from Badger Pass to Dewey Point that day so we packed all of our snow gear and drove to Badger Pass admiring the views along the drive.img_0197img_0230 Because of it being too packed, Badger Pass was closed and our plan went out the window. We needed to come up with another plan quick before it got too late to do anything. My Uncle heard of a trail in Wawona (the entrance to Yosemite) called Chilnualna Falls Trail that he’d never been on and so we all agreed that we’d do it. img_0240We drove about 20 minutes to Wawona and pulled up to the trailhead after asking a store clerk for directions.We got out and walked 5 minutes down the trail and saw a giant 20ft waterfall in front of us gushing water downstream. img_0259As we kept on hiking the views just kept on getting better. The trail was the most beautiful trail I’ve ever been on and I was in awe of the scenery around me. img_0281I took pictures whenever I could and embraced every moment. At one point we could see the massive waterfall we were hiking towards through a gap and I immediately took out my telephoto lens ( a far zoom lens for those of you who aren’t camera savvy) and took some close up shots of it. img_0347It was only an 4 mile walk to the top but we gained 2,000 ft in elevation and soon the snow free terrain turned into a a knee deep walk in snow. I didn’t know it yet but I passed the rest of the group without knowing it and was now ahead of everyone else alone by a reasonable amount. I was determined to get to the top and kept hiking through the snow. During the last stretch I was hiking through snow on a small cliff and on my right was a sheer drop. It was super dangerous and I shouldn’t have risked it, but I did it anyway, cause ya know, why not. I finally reached the top and saw the  giant waterfall going over the edge and was about to press the shutter to take a picture when my dad called me letting me know I passed the whole group and should get down immediately. I got down the sketchy cliff digging my heels in the snow so I had good grip and didn’t slip off the cliff to my death. Once I got down I felt really bad knowing that I left everybody behind and went on my own, even if I didn’t know it. We decided it was too dangerous to go on so we turned back and had lunch. After eating my Nutella and peanut butter sandwich I packed up my stuff and headed down with the rest of the group. On our way down it started lightly snowing and made the hike that more peaceful and beautiful. img_0357As we lost altitude, the snow turned into rain and we made it down the trail just before it started to get dark around 5:00. We drove back to our campsite and cooked up some chili and spaghetti. After eating, my dad and I drove to the guest  lodge where we met the others, socialized, and played games. at around 9:30 we drove back to our campsite and went straight to bed.

Day 4

On the last morning I was woken up early by my dad telling me to pack and get ready. I immediately got up and started rolling up my sleeping bag, packing up my duffle bag, and putting everything in the car. We threw all of our stuff in the car, said goodbye to my uncle, and took off at 8:30 a.m. We had the most bomb breakfast at a hole in the wall place called Katie’s Kountry Kitchen in the nearby town of Oakhurst outside of Yosemite. After having the best meal I’d had in 4 days we got in the car at 11 and started the 5 hour drive from Oakhurst to Santa Barbara.img_0461We drove back passing vibrant green hills, flat plains, and finally along the ocean. We got back to Santa Barbara at 3:45 p.m and were finally home. The rest of my day consisted of cleaning out the rental car, having dinner, and editing photo’s I took on the trip until I crashed in bed at 1 a.m facing the fact that I was not ready for the long day of school the next day.


3 thoughts on “Camping in Yosemite : 11 Hour Car Rides, Granite Wall Sunrises, and Waterfall Hikes

  1. Thanks for sharing, Josh! We went in May and I know P. Robb is going to love hearing all about your hike! I know he would love to join you guys next time!! Loved the pics!!! Keep on shooting and sharing! But no more life defying risks, ok? We want you around for a very long time!


  2. Awesome trip Joshito….loved seeing you at your Abuelita’s home a couple of weeks ago. Love the pics and the stories. God bless you young man. Next time you come to Mexico visit me in Rosarito.


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