Why I Hate Yosemite National Park

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I hate to be a hater, but nobody should visit Yosemite in the summer. I don’t care if that’s your only free weekend, if the President is going to be there, or you got in for free. Visiting Yosemite in the summer is a recipe for frustration. It’s just not worth the hassle.

I say this from experience. We visited Yosemite because it was a stop on the National Park toPark Highway, but it was by far my least favorite park.

The crowds were the worst. Perhaps it would’ve been different in another year. This is the National Park Service centennial, so naturally more people have been visiting the National Parks. In addition to that, one of Yosemite’s main attractions – the Mariposa Grove of Sequioas – was closed this summer for renovations. Had that been open, maybe the crowds of people on the trails, in the parking lots, in the campgrounds, at every lake, turn out and road would’ve been a bit smaller, but I doubt it.

I get it, Yosemite Valley is beautiful. The sheer cliffs and exquisite waterfalls are breath taking. But with so many people crammed into the relatively small space of Yosemite Valley the prevailing feeling was one of claustrophobic encroachment, not peaceful wilderness. Call me jaded, but I don’t like my National Parks to feel like city streets.

I wonder what John Muir would think of this wild space now. On one hand it is protected from people who want to exploit the natural resources, but on the other it’s been ruined by the huge numbers of people. I know, I contributed to that crowd. I know, everyone has a right to our public lands. I don’t have great answers, but I do think the shuttle should be mandatory and a parking area should be available at the entrance of Yosemite Valley.

The one redeeming activity we enjoyed in Yosemite was riding our Woom Bikes along the well developed bike trail system on the Yosemite Valley floor. On a bike you can visit Mirror Lake, ride over to Yosemite Falls, travel between campgrounds or visit a Visitors Center without having to fight traffic or tour buses. The trails are flat, paved and offer great views of the valley. I just wish there was a little more solitude. No, actually a lot more solitude.

At every National Park on this Park to Park Highway journey, I’ve tried to get out on bikes with the kids. Little G first learned the art of pedaling at the Grand Canyon. Now that I’ve had a taste of my whole family on wheels, I want more and more. 

The key to our success with biking as a family has been our Burley D’Lite Bike Trailer and Woom Bikes (pronounced Voom). Baby L rides in the trailer along with extra bike tires, a pump, snacks, water and often times Little G as well. Since the Burley D’Lite can handle up to 100 lbs and has adjustable suspension I don’t worry about how the ride is for them, I just worry about how much it’ll work my thighs. No uphill please!

Ideally Little G would ride her Woom bike along with Big E. Woom designs their bikes with kids in mind, even down to eighteen month olds on their tiny balance bike. Their bikes are light weight, easy to handle and durable.

Big E is already a pro, and even though Little G gave up on the Yosemite bike ride before it really began, I know she’ll get the hang of riding her Woom 3. The bike seems perfectly made for her. Others must feel that way too, because a family we passed cheered when they saw our bikes saying, “We love our Woom bikes too! Woohoo!”

After the valley bike ride, I was ready to get away from the crowds and explore Tioga Pass. The Tioga Pass road was purchased a century ago by Steven Mather, the first National Park Service director and one of the advocates of the National Park to Park Highway. Because of that I was interested in driving through the northern part of the park. I also hoped the crowds would dissipate further from the valley. Not a chance.

Unfortunately we got stuck in traffic. A car accident held up a long line of cars for more than an hour. Even after that, any parking along the Tioga Road was taken, including near Tenaya Lake, which looked like a fun place to swim, but not worth the hassle of fighting the crowds.

Our trip to Yosemite included being stuck for an hour on the road to Tuolumne meadows because of a car accident, and another hour of trying to find a place to park in Yosemite Valley. Once we did find a spot, we rode our bikes along with a million other people to Mirror Lake, which was more of a wide spot in the river than an actual lake.

All in all I was glad to get out of the park and to the peaceful campground at Devil’s Postpile National Monument. Although the bike ride was fun, if we ever visit Yosemite again it will be in the spring, fall or winter. I’m done fighting crowds to see beautiful spaces, there are more beautiful spaces in the world with less people.

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Author: Mountain Mom

Hi! I'm Mountain Mom. I live with my husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When we're not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, I spend my time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 we traveled over 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.

6 thoughts on “Why I Hate Yosemite National Park”

  1. To grasp the grandeur of Yosemite, you have to get out of the valley! Go on a hike out of the valley (Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Half Dome, 4mile Trail from Glacier Point). Visit: Tenaya Lake, Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove, Wawona.

  2. We tried to get out of the valley and there was no parking along the entire Tioga Pass road (Wawona was closed). I think it was just a majorly busy time of year, but even so there are some things that the park could do the make the experience better for everyone.

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