*Note: this was not a dog friendly adventure, but we will be going back with Cosmo sometime in the future since there are some dog friendly short trails!*
Where We Stayed
We booked a site at Housekeeping Camp ONE YEAR prior to our arrival (yes, you must do it that far in advance). We lucked out and snagged a spot along the river, which cost $116.15/ night. Our shelter consisted of a 3-sided concrete structure with a canvas roof and privacy tarp/curtains to close at night. It can sleep up to 4 people, as it has a bunk bed and one full bed along with shelving, a light and one outlet. They are simple, but do the trick!
Black bears and smaller critters like raccoons, squirrels and birds are plentiful in the Valley, so any and all food or scented toiletries MUST be put in the bear box provided. We had a raccoon visit us one night and caught it trying to drag away my day pack by reaching under our curtain! There was no food inside, but it must have smelled good. Adam had to scare it away by yelling, and in doing so startled awake some fellow campers who assumed we had a bear in the campsite!
The campsite is equipped with bathrooms, hot showers, a convenience store, a laundry facility and easy access to the free shuttle that takes you around the valley. Each campsite has a fire-pit ring for use between 5-10 pm. There are plenty of trees to set up a hammock as well!
After we unpacked and settled in, we decided to stretch our legs by biking to Lower Yosemite Falls. It was a short 15 minute ride and since the sun was about to set, there were only a handful of other people there (which is rare)! Adam and I really enjoyed our time at this first waterfall as it was the first in our stay. We even saw deer as we headed back to camp to catch some zzz’s.
Vernal Falls via Mist Trail
Mist trail is a must-do hike when you are in Yosemite. This trail will take you to two raging waterfalls (Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls) and is the same trail that leads to Half Dome. We began at around 10 am and and made the 0.8 mile steep trek to the footbridge overlook where you get your first glimpse of Vernal Falls. This is where many people stop, as the trail difficulty increases from here.
We continued on up the trail from the bridge and realized after about 0.5 miles that it was time to pull out our ponchos to avoid getting soaked. This trail is called Mist Trail for a reason! Vernal Falls is so powerful that it feels like it is raining sideways when you ascend the 600 stairs to get to the top. I highly recommend a rain jacket or poncho to keep you somewhat dry on this hike!
The rest of the trail to the top is like a stair stepper and can get busy when it is crowded, so be extra careful on this part. When taking a quick break, make sure to turn around to see the big, beautiful rainbow made by the falls! About 1 mile from the bridge we made it to the top of Vernal Falls and could see where the waterfall began, as well as the tiny trail we took to get there (notice the brightly colored ponchos on the left in the picture below).
After a lunch break, we decided to hike back down to the footbridge via the John Muir Trail, as the weather started to look like there was impending rain. We were able to see Nevada Falls from the John Muir Trail, which is an additional 1.5 miles up the Mist Trail if you choose to hike to it.
There was a great lookout point on the John Muir Trail where we could see Vernal Falls one last time before making our way back down. It started to sprinkle on us, so we were glad we had our ponchos on again!
After hiking the Mist Trail, we took the shuttle back to camp and it started POURING. We spent the rest of the afternoon eating, napping and enjoying the sound of the rain.
Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point
Four Mile Trail is not a hike for the faint of heart. This hike is 4.8 miles with 3,200 ft elevation gain. You go from the valley floor all the way up to Glacier Point, which is an amazing lookout point that most people choose to drive to instead. This hike consists of steep switchbacks the entire way, but you are rewarded with amazing views of Yosemite Falls throughout the hike and feeling super accomplished when you reach the top.
We planned to hike to Glacier Point early in the morning so that we could meet Adam’s family at the top to hitch a ride back down to camp, which I am glad we did! We only saw a handful of people on the trail since it is a more difficult hike. Most of the trail is paved, but I would still recommend bring trekking poles on this one!
We wanted to make sure we arrived at the top in time to get a ride back, so we hauled butt up the mountain, and with a few breaks included, completed the hike in 2 hours 50 minutes. The view at the top was outstanding, and 10x better because of our journey to get there.
There are panoramic views all around Glacier Point, so spend some time enjoying the overlook! If you are not afraid heights (or breaking the rules) you can crawl out onto a rock that jets out over the valley floor for a truly epic photo-op.
We looked around the store at the top of Glacier Point before we caught our ride back down to camp, which took about an hour. The rest of the day we spent relaxing around our camp.
Lower Yosemite Falls
We wanted to make the most of our last full day in Yosemite, so we decided to wake up before the sun and bike to Lower Yosemite Falls. If you are there as the sun starts to rise, you can see a rainbow in the mist. Bonus: there is hardly anyone there this early. Double Bonus: it is a dog-friendly paved trail!
Rafting Down the Merced River
This was probably my favorite activity of the whole trip! Adam’s family brought a few rafts with paddles for us to use, so we were able to mosey down the river in them as many times as we wanted to. I recommend bringing your own raft if you have one, because rentals are $28.50/person for one 3-mile float, which goes by very quickly. Housekeeping Camp is located right along the Merced River so we were conveniently able to launch our rafts right from camp.
While floating down the river, you can enjoy amazing views of some of Yosemite’s highlights like Half Dome and Upper Yosemite Falls. The Merced River’s current is just strong enough to take you on a leisurely ride so that you will only need to steer occasionally. You will not get wet unless you choose to capsize the raft, and if you do, the water is cooooold!
We rafted down a few miles before exiting off at the beach landing. Adam’s family met us with a truck to drive us back to camp with the raft…definitely the way to do it! We ended up floating down the river twice, but easily could have done it 10 more times!!
Bike to Bridal Veil Falls
Since we had a relatively laidback morning, we decided to get some exercise and bike to Bridal Veil Falls. We did not realize that it would be a 10 mile round-trip adventure biking on the Valley Loop Trail, but we did it! The trail is by no means flat and has tons of rocks that make it bumpy, but it was actually a really fun trail to gain some speed while avoiding obstacles!
We made it to Bridal Veil Falls Trail (a short and dog-friendly paved trail) and after riding all that way, only spent about 15 seconds at the base of the falls! Bridal Veil is 620 ft tall and the spray from it is so strong that we got soaked in a matter of seconds. So in order to stay dry, we looked at the falls, took a quick selfie and were on our way.
We biked the road back since it was the flatter route, but we did have to be careful of the many cars driving past us. It was a truly fun, challenging and enjoyable bike ride that I am glad we did it!
By the time we arrived back at camp we were ready to eat. We all went to Half Dome Village Pizza Patio and Bar and enjoyed some well-deserved pizza and beer on our last night there.
Until Next Time…
Our last stop before leaving the park was beautiful Tunnel View. You can drive up to and park at this iconic viewpoint, so it is a must-do on your way in or out of the park. It gives you an unobstructed view of Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls. I’m sure it looks quite different depending on the season. I would love to see it in Fall!
After this, we headed home from one of my favorite road trips to date. On our way we stopped at a delicious vegan restaurant located in Oakhurst right outside the park called Love Cafe. I highly recommend stopping for a quick breakfast, lunch or even some kombucha if you’re in the mood!
That’s a wrap! As always if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below 🙂