Tahoe to Yosemite

Relaxing by Lake Tahoe and exploring Yosemite National Park

location location location camping

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by rufusni on February 23, 2013

So height of the season and making a prebooking we ended up in this campsite a about five miles outside the gate into Yosemite National Park. I would have prefered to stay at something more basic than what this place cost.
The turn off for the 'resort' is at a gas station- were it is possible to pick up a few things if needed, and then drive down off the road. It took us ages to get checked in- hanging around waiting is not fun after a long day when all you want to do is put up tents and get dinner going. Efficiency doesn't seem to apply to this place.

So we got sorted and drove across to the tent sites which are in a wooded area by the river. They were supposed to be numbered sites - they were badly defined and unclear of where any actual pitch truely was supposed to be. Thankfully there was no-one too close to us even if it was high season. Strangely there was no bear lockers - and apparently bears have been down into this campsite before...so it was the lock everything in the car strategy tonight then.

It was nice and shady area, picnic table and fire ring. But they do not want you to hang a clothes line up- every so often a staff member would hurtle by on a golf cart and woe betide they saw you had a clothes lines hung up. Now they did have a laundry room with washers and dryers so maybe they just wanted the trade. The other annoying issue it the number of lights they have on the tent campsite, a constant orange glow does not really go with trying to enjoy the stillness of nature at night listening to the river, and meant stars were difficult to see.

The 'resort' - most of the facilties were basic and run down. They had advertised WIFI - but only apparently if you stood on one leg and used one arm as an aeriel in exactly the right place up near reception...well thats an exegerration, but while I have no problems having to go up there to access it, it was very patchy and slow.

But the worst bit was the bathrooms. Fairly grim and dirty. The shower design meant that water pooled on the floor. There weren't really anywhere to leave clothes when in the shower. Not sure how often they were ever cleaned apart from emptying the bins. And given the price tag they were bad.

This place knows that they have you - if you aren't going to stay in the park, closeby options are limited. The tent site we were on was okay - under pines for shade if at the back- but less shade closer to the river. The RV and tent sections are miles apart but there are also cabins and yurts about the place too but never got close to have a proper look. But it was a lot of money for a subpar campsite. I know location location location - but I also like cleanliness, efficiency, politeness. I wouldn't mind paying the rate if the bathrooms were clean and well maintained- I'd let lot of other things slide. The basics make or break a place- and they didn't make it. Location was fine but not enough to make it worthwhile - next time basic campsite with pit toilets seems more appealing.
Yosemite Lakes Cabins & Hostel
31191 Hardin Flat Rd
Groveland, California, 95321

Hiking down into Yosemite Valley

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by rufusni on November 14, 2012

We decided that we would hike down from Glacier Point down the Panorama trail. We planned an early start and drove up the winding road to Glacier Point. That trip up made me feel quite travel sick but it remained just feeling queasy. We arrived up, and made use of the restrooms, enjoyed the views from the top, topped up our water bottles and I ate some crackers to settle my stomach.

The trail down is 8.5 miles and falls 3200ft to the valley floor. There is a good reason that it is called the Panorama Trail the views were incredible on the first section was we made our way down to Illilouette Falls which is after 2 miles. This section we didn't see another soul on the path which was lovely - but any sense of remoteness was spoilt on reaching Illilouette river were we had a water break enjoy the running water for a while, but we discovered rubbish here - we each took some to carry out so that others would not have to endure such a lovely place with wrappers and empty bottles.

Having dropped into a river valley we had to climb up again. One place there was a fair amount of loose gravel that needed a little bit of a scramble and was out in the sun, and the heat of the day was starting to rise. I was glad to get into the forest for a little out of the sun. Then we were dropping down again - the forest was pleasant, lots of little streams - we only saw a handful of people until we reached Nevada Falls.

As we got near the falls the trail get very wet and muddy, and then out of the forest you come out on bare rock. You could hear the falls long before we saw them. Here you are right at the top - the view was stunning. But despite warning signs and guard rails the numbers who risked going near the water at the top of the falls was shocking. The falls were stunning but the water level was low for this time of year as there was a smaller snow fall over the winter than normal, meaning less snowmelt waters.

I found a nice shady spot under a tree and ate my lunch. There are composting toilets up here above the falls if needed. What a stunning place to have a picnic.

My plan with my ankle not being quite 100% after an earlier sprain, was that I wanted to carry on down the John Muir Trail rather than the Mist Trail which is steeper and rough rock steps down. But all the others opted for the Mist, and I didn't really want to go off on my own, so I decided to chance it. It wasn't too bad, but I needed to go slow and got left behind from my group. There were some nice views of Nevada Falls though. But the trail was quite busy and it was a constant fight to get down with so many climbing up ( and many not well prepared with little water and more footwear). The crowds increased by the time I got to Vernal Falls - and here the crowds on the trail actually made it quite dangerous. I also saw one woman take a bad tumble, thankfully someone rang and the rangers were on their way up to get her down. There are some fairly steep drops at the side of the path as well. I had to take a long break at this point, my ankle was getting really sore - but I found a perch where I could see the Falls and feel the spray.

At this point it seemed like pushing your way to get down there were so many people on this steep and narrow trail. Many ill prepared for walking on such a rough path - taking their chance to see the waterfall. I made it down to the bridge, and there is water available here, so I was glad to get a cold drink here.

While at some earlier stage parts higher up on the Panorama Trail had been tarred they were being returned to natural worn paths. But at this lower level the trail was tarmac and undulated a bit as it dropped down to the valley floor. I got down to Happy Isles, and decided my ankle was at its limit so caught the shuttle to Curry VIllage and had an ice cream.

The upper part of the hike was fabulous with stunning views and only a handful of people. But once we dropped past Nevada Falls the trail got busier and by Vernal Falls it was crazy. I'd do the trail again but not in the peak season, so as to actually enjoy the lower section of the trail rather than feel I was fighting my way, and to enjoy the beauty of Vernal Falls. It was a good hike, stretching but not too strenuous but need to make sure to carry plenty of water. Panorama is the right name - from views over the valley to the falls is was stunning.

Ghost Town of the gold rush

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by rufusni on November 14, 2012

We turned off the main road for about a ten mile drive to Bodie, the last 3 miles of which was unpaved and fairly rocky and bumpy ( but then again as you are going to a ghost town its just part of getting to thinking of life when this place was a thriving gold rush town). It was a fairly hot day and there isn't much shade up here as over the years any tree in the vicinity was cut down to burn in Brodie. There are restrooms in the carpark.

This place is maintained in arrested decay, that is the authorities have decided to not restore most of the buildings but simply to prevent further decay so that it is kept as a historic reminder of the gold rush. Only 5% of the building that existed in it heydey in the 1880s even remain. Gold was found here in 1859 by a guy called Body, for whom the town is named. There were fifteen mines in Bodie, as well as numerous mills to process the silver and gold. Power was needed, which originally came from wood burning boilers but wood became a scarcer resource and more expensive to procure. So a hydroelectric plant was built 13 miles away on Green Creek, with the theory that electricity could be transmitted over distance with wires, though they thought it would only travel in a straight line so they built power lines in straight lines. The first test in 1892 was successful and inspired other projects.

There is a small musuem with objects from the time. It is also worth buying the guide book so you know what you are looking at. There are some buildings that are in better state than others. There is a church, saloons, hotels, mills, offices, houses, gym. Some you can get into, others you can peer through windows and doors, but most of the mine areas are off limits as too dangerous.

This is a real desolate spot high in the hills. Little reason other than gold would draw people up here. So many men came for work up here. But it was known for its wickness - apparently there is a story of a young girl on hearing her family was going to Bodie said 'Goodbye God I'm going to Bodie', a phrase that apparently caught on.

This was a fascinating place to visit. The power of the Gold Rush to suddenly develop a town and then with its lack for the town to decline to become a ghost town. Its kind of an eerie place, that once was filled with life and noise, now quiet with the noise of wind and the chattering of tourists. Its strange to think that only 5% of the buildings even remain, that this was once a bustling industrial town, it somehow does not seem possible. Its also strange to see so many items just left behind when people left, simply not possible to take everything across the desolate countryside with them.

It is a desolate spot. You can get water but if you want food you need to bring it with you - and we were there in the middle of the day and it was hot so we needed plenty to drink as we walked about and this is at a fair altitude as well. This place is fascinating - but you will need decent footwear - flipflops won't cut it on the rough streets and the odd bits of scrap nails and things about the place. I loved peering into all the buildings and see a life once lived here, imagining the noise and people. It was worth the detour to see another aspect of American history that was so important in its development - the gold rush. I just wish I could have got on one of the guided tours - which go into areas not accessible otherwise.
Bodie State Historic Park-Gold Rush Ghost Town
Bodie Road
Bridgeport, California, 93517


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by rufusni on November 14, 2012

We were booked to stay at Zephyr Cove Resort beside Lake Tahoe in the campsite. It is on the forest side of the road away from the lake. We checked in, and that took quite a long time. The tent sites are way up the back, which was good as behind us was nothing but trees, which was good when one looked at the RV section which was quite tightly packed in. But the tent sites were further bu a hill so they were on a slope. Our site wasn't too bad as there were levelled reasonably well but looking at some of the other sites they had more of a slope, but we had arrived in good time and got the pick of the tent sites.

The site was under pine trees and there were huge boulders all around us which gave a sense of being somewhere slightly more remote when you looked up the hill, well that is until you looked down the hill and saw RV tightly packed in. The ground was pretty hard and it wasn't the easiest to get the pegs for the tents into.

The bathrooms were reasonably clean- not the most luxurious but functional. In a block there was a mixture of individual shower rooms and then separate toilets - which reduced queues most of the time. The showers at some stage had been fee paying, but they were now free, which was good as the cost of a pitch was high enough.

The resort is just beside the main road around the lake. There are traffic lights to cross the road to get down to the beach and the rest of the resort with a restaurant and a snack bar thing - all about a 2 minute walk. The beach isn't huge. You can rent pedalos and kayaks to get out on the water but they stop renting mid-afternoon so we missed out on that the second day we were here. The water is freezing - its all snow run off- so only two of us were brave enough to try a swim - I went out just deep enough and swam parallel to the beach, but one of the guys decided to swim out to the buoys marking the beach swimming area off - I think he was sorry as the water was so cold, he really found it hard going coming back - I was glad just to have swum parallel and could get out and warm up in the sun.

There is a Safeway supermarket just a little bit up the road as well. Stateline with its casinos is about 4 miles away. There is also a bus that goes there, with its route passing in front of the campsite, and going to the bus station in Stateline - I got that back one day and it was quite handy but it was running late.

We had a few issues the second night. There were an extended family sort of group arrived in the site next to ours. And as we had planned an early start the next morning we had decided on a fairly early night. However our neighbours kept going for a long time, and were quite noisy. They also left lots of food lying about overnight. Now there were good sized bear proof boxes provided but it was all the smaller animals that were around trying to scavenge food that were already a nuisance.

This is no remote campsite, and little rustic appeal. It is definitely a resort type of campsite. There are a few issues that make it less than perfect. I'm not sure I'd like to be here in the height of the season, it was busy enough when we were there but it was still before the 4th July. I'd be happy to stay again to enjoy chilling by the lake, but not in an RV...tent or maybe even one of their cabins.
Zephyr Cove Resort
760 HIGHWAY 50
Zephyr Cove, 89448

Champagne and sunset

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by rufusni on November 10, 2012

We decided our few relaxed days at Lake Tahoe would be best ended with a sunset cruise. We made a quick dinner at our camp, and walked across the road the the jetty at Zephyr Cove. We picked up our prebooked tickets from the booth. There was no sign of the catamaran as we sat and waited and enjoyed the view. Then she appeared across the lake making her way and swinging round to the jetty.

We watched the previous group getting off the boat, and then we were given our safety talk before we got on board and were introduced to the three crew. There is an inside seating area, a seating area at the back of the boat, and then cushions across the deck at the bow. Our group divided up some to the stern, and three of us decided on the bow, and we got three big cushions to lounge on. There were a only a handful of people on our cruise. Our ticket for the sunset cruise included wine, beer and soft drinks. So as we were starting out we were brought a glass of champagne.

It was nice to be under the power of the wind, and watching the sails being unfurled. We glided across the lake, sipping champagne, and watching the sunset.

It got very cold out on the water, especially as the sunset - I was glad I had brought plenty of layers as there was quite a breeze. A few other people retreated into the cabin as they got cold. Though the crew brought out some blankets for those who got cold.

The barwoman kept everyones drinks topped up, and provided some snack mix to nibble on. All the crew were very warm and pleasant. You were allowed to get up and wander about, but make sure you have something resembling sealegs and hold onto something. You can go and get a drink but there is no real need to. I did go for a wander to see our lot at the stern, but I was content to just lie on my big cushion of the deck and relax.

This is not a sightseeing cruise (there are other options for that on Lake Tahoe). This is a chance to get out onto the water and enjoy the scenery and relax. I did like the sunset option. I enjoyed my champagne, glass of wine and a soft drink...sipping away watching as we floated past. It was unfortunate that the wind dropped and we had to motor back to Zephyr Cove, but that's just one of those things that can't really be avoided.

This was a lovely relaxing evening, a few drinks, sunset. Lovely! But was glad to get back to camp for a hot drink to warm up again and sit by the camp fire. Well worth the money...it was a perfect treat!
Woodwind Cruises
605 U.S. Hwy 50
Zephyr Cove, Nevada, 89448
(888) 867-6394


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by rufusni on November 7, 2012

We had a bit of time to unwind at Lake Tahoe, with no serious plans, not even any plans to hike. So we had a leisurely start as the gondala to Heavenly only starts at 10am. There were a few people waiting like us for the ticket office to open.

We got on to one of the cable car which seats about six people and started the ascent up, and the views were incredible as we climbed up the mountain side. There is an observation deck part way up, but you can only get off here on the way up. So we got out of the car, and made our way to the view points.It was worth being some of the first up, as we got to enjoy some peace and quiet before the crowds started to build on the observation deck. Wow! the views over the lake were magnificient.The lake was beautiful deep blues and turquoise. It should be noted that when you reach the top you can't see the lake so well. We spent some time taking photos. There is a small cafe, so we bought some nice coffees - a nice latte which I sipped as we sat and enjoyed the view. We watched an eagle find a thermal and rise higher and higher with ease. It was a nice relaxing morning. We used the restroom facilities which were clean and fairly pleasant.

We jumped back onto a gondola car to carry climbing to the main part of the resort, reaching 9136 ft. Having reached here there is a restaurant but it didn't look appealling and seemed a bit expensive. Here there are no views of the lake. There are options to go up further on a chair lift, but we couldn't justify spending anymore money for a ticket.

We decided that we would go for a short hike and stretch our legs. We headed to Stagecoach Lookout, which gave some nice views of the lake. We started to walk back, and it proved tougher than we expected due to the altitude, it was a little bit tiring, and we were glad to head down on the gondola and head to the lake, enjoy the sun and a quick dip in the cold water of the lake.

This is a pricey morning, the tickets were not cheap, and you'll only get a few hours of 'entertainment' from it. I did enjoy it, but I'm not sure that the price is worth it. Its dear. The views were great but there are as nice views from the lake side. So I'm not sure I'd repeat the experience.
Heavenly Ski Resort
988 Stateline Avenue
South Lake Tahoe, California
(775) 586-7000


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