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T O P I C     R E V I E W
Member # 4344
 - posted
We just returned from another western trip that included non-Amtrak travels from northern California to the Oregon coast and Seattle before heading east on the EB. But our stay in Yosemite deserves a few comments as well as the opportunity to use Amtrak to get there.

The transit system there works well, if slow at times. The car traffic is a zoo, and we were there at the beginning of the prime season. Perhaps winter would be better.

We parked our rental car and didn’t use it for three days. Next time, rather than drive there we’ll use the YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional System). The buses appear to be the comfortable long distance variety – not a van or city bus.

One route stops at the Amtrak station in Fresno and is about a 2hr 45 min trip to the southern end of the Park at our favorite hotel, the Wawona (now called Big Trees Lodge) where we stayed for two nights. It’s a grand old hotel with more affordable prices than the Ahwahnee Hotel (now called Majestic Yosemite Hotel) where the President stayed during our visit. The route continues another 90 min, into Yosemite Valley and the main park visitor center and the other hotels. There is also the option of taking the shorter trip, about 2hr 30 min, directly into Yosemite Valley from Amtrak’s Merced station.
Both routes connect to Amtrak’s San Joaquin service.

Once in the park, the shuttles take you to all the major sights including the spectacular Glacier Point. It can be slow but beats sitting in the long line of cars going nowhere. It is a beautiful place and should be on everyone’s bucket list, but I doubt we’ll return as we like our Parks a little less crowded. Our favorites are Glacier and Rocky Mtn.
Member # 2801
 - posted
Sorry, it will always be the Ahwannee to me. I've never stayed there but lunch or dinner in the Dining Room is not to be missed. I hope they haven't changed the china. It's a lot like the old Santa Fe Mimbreño design.

Frank in cloudy and cool SBA
Member # 15447
 - posted
Yosemite has become more like Disneyland than a national park. Bumper-to-bumper traffic on the roads and elbow-to-elbow crowds at the dining facilities probably isn't what Teddy Roosevelt or Ansel Adams envisioned for the national parks system. Oh well, the natural beauty of Yosemite isn't tarnished by the hordes; you just have to push a few people out of the way to see it.

My most disappointing experience at Yosemite was driving into the high country as far as I could safely drive my rental car, then hiking on a trail to a beautiful little lake, laying down to relax in the peace of nature and instead hearing a constant parade of jet engines. Unfortunately, Yosemite lies under the jet path for planes serving the Bay Area and at an elevation of 8000 feet, those jets are a lot closer than they would be at sea level.

My most brilliant experience of Yosemite is star gazing in the middle of the night. Standing in an open meadow when everything is quiet and seemingly every star in the solar system is shining brightly is an experience that everyone should experience.
Member # 61606
 - posted
"Sorry, it will always be the Ahwannee to me. I've never stayed there but lunch or dinner in the Dining Room is not to be missed. I hope they haven't changed the china. It's a lot like the old Santa Fe Mimbreño design."

+1 me. Haven't been to the dining room since the new management company took over (the last one apparently had the rights to the name) but even if the food has deteriorated, I'd return for the atmosphere. This is an iconic upscale national park hotel. Don't expect it to be modern, though.

Vincent, national parks like Yosemite that overflow with visitors desperately need a quota system (in this case for Yosemite Valley only). One submits her or his name and pure luck determines the fate.

The YARTS system mentioned above also does the far less visited highlands area of Yosemite and its spectacular east entrance.

I highly recommend Yosemite Valley in spring. The crowds are less and the waterfalls are at their most robust.

EDITED TO ADD: The YARTS system that takes you over the Sierras to Yosemite's east entrance goes on the Mammoth Lakes, a winter ski resort, that might offer great lodging prices in summer.
Member # 5102
 - posted
I haven't been to Yosemite since I was 12 years old, which was in 1977. Back then, my family was there for a winter ski trip (cross-country) and we stayed in cabins that were very basic/no frills. I remember watching kids coming in and out of the hotel nearby (the two story hotel, not sure what it's called), but it looked a lot nicer than the cabins we were in. The buffet breakfast the next morning was interesting. Filled with TONS of people getting ready to head out for a day on the slopes.

And now, 39 years later (ouch!!), I will be there in September for my best friend's wedding. They are getting married at a chapel of some sort (I think it's called Yosemite Chapel?), and we are staying at the hotel that used to be the Marriott Tenaya Lodge. After the wedding on a Saturday late afternoon, the reception is being held at the Ahwannee (I can't get used to that new name either!). I walked inside that hotel/restaurant in 1977 and it was pretty darn impressive. I can't wait to go and have dinner on someone else's dime. [Smile]
Member # 2801
 - posted
The Chapel is a perfect place for a wedding. It's relatively small and at the foot of Half Dome.


Frank in sunny and warm SBA
Member # 4344
 - posted
Smitty - dinner (and drinks) at the Ahwannee will be a real treat. Have fun!

We had lunch at the Tenaya Lodge, very nice, you'll enjoy it. If you have a chance one evening go over to the Wawanoa Hotel (Big Tree Lodge) and enjoy their wrap around veranda. It's only a couple miles from the Tenaya.

The piano player they have most evenings, Tom Bopp, is fabulous -there isn't a song he doesn't know. No charge, but the server circulates for drink orders. Very laid back, and you feel like you're in someone's living room.
Member # 5102
 - posted
Thanks for the advice and comments, everyone! I asked my friend how many people will be in this wedding and he said 30 because they wanted to keep it fairly small. I like that even better!! Hopefully we'll be up there on a beautifully warm mid-September weekend. I'm very much looking forward to it. 8 weeks from today!

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