Hello! Yes, this year I got to tick an item off my bucket list, and that was to visit Yosemite National Park. My schedule in the US (SF part of the trip) was tight (had a tech conference to attend for 3 days and also had to attend Palo Alto for 2 days to visit friends/network.  But there was no way in hell I was going to pass up a visit to Yosemite National Park, and I wanted to spend at least 2 full days here to hike, so I booked a camping tour through Orange Sky Co. It was the most convenient way for someone with no car and a first timer of Yosemite to travel with.

The trip was from the 1st to 3rd of September. This was labor day weekend in the US, fortunately, the media overplayed the fire news in Yosemite that occurred few weeks before my trip. This means less traffic! The drive from SF to Yosemite was roughly 4.5 hours east. Pretty straight forward drive. The group I went with was fairly small, there was about 8 of us. That’s how Dylan, our guide wanted it to be, and it was a good decision.

Day 1

We left SF around 7am, and stopping at a supermarket halfway through. Dylan went to get food to cook for dinner tonight. Some of us got beers, whisky and potato chips. I bought a small bottle of fireball whisky (heard it was the best selling alcoholic drink in the US haha) We got to Yosemite around mid day, and as tourist be tourist, we took pictures with the national park sign.

The good thing about going with a small operator like Orange Sky Co was the efficiency, because we were in a commercial operated van (small one), we got to bypass traffic and use the commercial lane, which was much faster. The first trail in Yosemite we checked out was the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

Nothing too hard, the trail was about an hour + with a bit of incline as it is a loop. For lunch, we had sandwich set up for us by Dylan.

After lunch, we drove into the Valley and that is where you see this view:

Yeap. It was amazing, breathtaking. My camera does it no justice. You have to be there to see it. Later on, we drove down to have a panoramic view of El Capitan. We manage to catch a glimpse of some climbers climbing the Cap (see below). We then did another walk for an hour (can’t remember what it was called…)

Anyways, we got to our campsite around 5pm, set up our tents and started making dinner. We cooked our own steak and chicken over the campfire bought earlier on the way to Yosemite, whilst having cheese and crackers for our entree. It was one of the best meals during my whole trip here in SF. That spice on the chicken! Around 8 the stars came out, and boy it was just amazing. We sat around the campfire making our own smores (roasted marshmallow, cookie & chocolate). A bit later on, I took my camera and wonder into an area where it was completely dark so I could get some pictures of the Milky Way. Bit scary as you can hear rustling noises but these are just squirrels! One of them snuck up to me when I was taking a photo!

Day 2

Woke up at about 7am and we had omelettes, coffee, juice for breakfast and made our own lunch from yesterday’s leftover to be ready for a big hike today. From our campsite, we drove back to the Valley, as we will be doing the Nevada Fall trail (via Mist Trail & John Muir Trail).  The trail starts at Happy Isles (there is a few shuttle bus that comes through) otherwise its a 15 minute walk from the Valley. From the get go, you’ll get to enjoy views of mountains, and get your heart pumping as there’s a lot of inclination towards vernal fall footbridge. It will take about 1 hour to get to the footbridge where you can refill your water bottles and use restrooms. Watch your footing, as I twisted my ankle just before the footbridge. Fortunately it wasn’t that bad and I had tape with me. That wasn’t going to stop me going up. From here, it is another 1-1.5 hour to the top of Vernal Fall. There are a lot of narrow steps towards the top, so make sure you watch your step!

You’ll get to enjoy views like this on the way up to Vernal Falls!

Ok, from the top of Vernal Falls, we will follow on the mist trail to ascend towards Nevada Fall. From here, it is about another 1.5 hours. You’ll walk past the emerald pool (don’t swim in it though..) and silver apron. The first 20 minutes you’ll enjoy flat open space walk then you’ll have to go through steep, rocky steps for the next 40 minutes to reach the top of Nevada falls. This is quite tough for people not physically fit, so take a break now and then and drink water!

Once I reached the top, I decided to have my lunch, grab some photos, put my foot down and relax for an hour. Maybe go for a dip in the pool if you like!? The view up here is amazing (the whole of Yosemite is ha).

Ok, from here, let’s descend back to Yosemite Valley. I took the John Muir Trail, and you should too. This is an easy relaxing 2 hour walk down back to the footbridge. Unlike the mist trail, we won’t be climbing or descending steps, so this will take longer, but nevertheless, you get views like the image above for your whole journey down. From the footbridge, your way back is the same way you got here.

From Yosemite Valley to Top of Nevada Falls via Mist Trail and John Muir Trail will take you around 6 hours, distance of about 9km. It is about a grade 4 and the view throughout this trail is just stunning. You will not get bored. When I got down, I went to the souvenir shop to buy some gifts for people back in Sydney. We got back to our campsite that night around 6pm and started making dinner. Some of the group went to a beach near our campsite for a swim. I took a nap instead haha. Dinner was pasta, it was a great way to restore some carbs. Shared some stories with the group under the stars and then made our way to sleep. I woke up around 3am to try and sneak some milky way shot in, but didn’t really want to wonder off to far away from the campsite..

Day 3

We got up around 7, had some french toast with strawberries and blueberries, some coffee and juice then packed our tent and clean the campsite. Dylan then took us to the top of Glacier Point, where we will be doing the four mile trail (one way downhill) towards the valley.

Here is the top of glacier point:

As you can see in the distance, that waterfall, that was the top of nevada falls, where I was yesterday!!

From Glacier Point, you will take the 4 mile trail (its actually about 4.8 miles) down towards the valley, luckily for us, it was all downhill, otherwise expect a 1km elevation climb up. You’ll walk past a forest first.

Hey look! An elk! Anyways, keep walking for 20 minutes and you’ll reach the start of the descend. From here, you’ll have views of the valley. Do watch your step as you’ll be walking near the edge of a cliff! It will take about 2-3 hours to get down to Yosemite Falls. We got down around 1pm, and had lunch near a beach (leftovers pasta and food etc from the last 2 days). Some of the group had a swim. (I didn’t .. was still recovering from a surgery from 4 weeks ago (didn’t want to risk any post complications)). After that, we left Yosemite around 3:30pm to drive back towards San Francisco. As an appreciation of gratitude, Dylan stopped at an In N out and bought us all dinner. Cool stuff! We arrived back at downtown SF at around 9:30pm, exchanged details and made our own way.

What a journey it was! I highly recommend the tour with Orange Sky Co if you ever consider doing a trip at Yosemite. Do not do any one day tour!! You need to be there for a few days at least and actually do some walks there! Dylan knew his stuff so that was cool, and he was really passionate about it. (I mean, you have to be to keep coming back here right!?). Price was around $400, everything included. Considering transport per way to Yosemite from SF is generally around $50, and you get great food and accomodation, this is well worth it. You can check the orange sky co tour right here.

The night wasn’t over for me though as I went to meet my mate at a nearby hotel, before heading to the Golden Gate bridge…

To view my photos from Yosemite, you can find it on my FB page, here.

10.0
Score

Pros

  • Great Food
  • Small Group
  • Amazing tour guide
  • Tent provided for each person
  • Great hikes
  • Great weather!
  • Road trip feeling

Cons

  • Wish it was longer :)
Food
10
Hikes
10
View
10
People
10
Guide
10

Final Verdict

I highly recommend the tour with Orange Sky Co if you ever consider doing a trip at Yosemite. Do not do any one day tour!! You need to be there for a few days at least and actually do some walks there! Dylan knew his stuff and he was really passionate about it. (I mean, you have to be to keep coming back here right!?). Price was around $400, everything included. Considering transport per way to Yosemite from SF is generally around $50, and you get great food and accomodation, this is well worth it.