Do you know these places you travel to, where suddenly everything shifts into perspective. You let go of present worries and fears, because what you see and feel brings back a sense of overview to your life. Yosemite is such a place, with its humbling mountainscape and peaceful green meadows. It takes your thoughts off yourself and onto creation itself.
Know your options
Now let’s looks at the park from a travelers perspective. It is known that the true Yosemite experience needs to be prepared at least 6 months in advance. Why? Yosemite is one of the most famous national parks in the world and accommodation is booked up fast. You can choose between Hotels (Lodges) and Campsites, whatever you want your experience to be. However, if you want so save, you will find it almost impossible to stay inside the park, as rooms start at about 180$ and only go up from there. Camping is still the cheapest way to enjoy the experience. You can check out the most popular camping spaces here. If you get a spot, it would be around 26$ per night, wireless and showers etc not included. And to those who wound up without a reservation but still want to camp, try the first come first served camping spots. Also, apply for a wildcamping permit at the wildnerniss center if everything fails. More than anything, it is an amazing experience that you will never forget, I promise! Now, here comes my tip for the small budget traveler.
The Hostel Way – Yosemite International Hostel
If you want to experience Yosemite and but don’t want to camp, I recommend staying at the Yosemite International Hostel in Groveland. I had a fantastic experience there. The owners were super helpful, the place was clean, the rooms very well looked after, the wireless worked, the kitchen was well equipped and coffee was free. I paid about 38$ last minute for a female four bed dorm, which fantastic is for an american hostel.
How to get to Groveland
This was my biggest worry as I started to plan the trip at home in Germany. When you don’t know your way around with the public transportation system in other countries, this can get a bit scary. But no worries, I did all the beginner mistakes so that you don’t have to anymore! Starting from San Francisco I took a Greyhound bus to Merced. At the same bus stop, I changed to a YARTS bus that took me to the center of Yosemite, Yosemite Visitor Center. Now, If you want to continue to Groveland wait at the same bus stop for the YARTS bus to Sonora. It will drop you off in Groveland. You can always ask the busdrivers too, who are seriously the funniest and friendliest busdrivers I have ever met. (If you are lucky enough to catch a ride with Melissa, ask her about Elmo the elephant who lives in the park!)
Bus connection in short:
Greyhound: San Francisco (or any other city) -> Merced
YARTS: Merced -> Yosemite Visitor Center
YARTS: Yosemite Visitor Center -> Groveland.
How to Commute from Groveland to Yosemite
So here comes the minus point. What I didnt consider was the unlucky bus schedule. The first YARTS bus from Groveland leaves at 9am, which arrives in Yosemite around 11am. This would be almost tolerable, if the last bus out of the Valley wouldn’t leave at 4.30pm! This, people, was a nightmare. Can you see me running up and down the Mist Trail, worrying I’d miss the last bus? And if you actually miss it, there is no other option out of the valley than a 380$ Taxi (oh those horror stories).
So my tip? … Rent a car, come by car OR (this is what I did) frankly ask people in the hostel, if they can give you a ride. For me this turned into a beautiful friendship with two other travellers and a fun roadtrip, further down the national parks. You could also post a note in the kitchen, the day you arrive, that you are looking for people to share a car with. Something will most likely always come up, don’t worry. Happy Traveling!