TJ: For our anniversary this past weekend, I was lucky enough to snag the two of us a tent cabin at Curry Village in Yosemite Valley for a couple of nights. It’s a place that’s special to me and where she had never been. My family’s been going to Curry Village, and backpacking around the park, since I was little, and I thought Dara would love the place. What’s there not to love about 3,000 foot granite cliffs, waterfalls, and nature?
Dara: As a city/suburban kid from New jersey, I truly could not comprehend the phrase “3,000 foot cliffs” until I got there and just looked up. They are freaking huge, and I still am truly not used to living in a place with visible mountains nearby
TJ: The other great thing about a Yosemite weekend is that it’s a manageable drive – 5 hours from both LA and the Bay! We drove up on a Friday right after we both got off of work (at 8pm… #asstlyfe), and got in very late. But luckily the Curry Village desk is open 24/7.
Funny side note: The first thing we learned when we got there was that they changed all the names for everything in the park after a lawsuit from their previous food provider – so technically we were staying in the very originally (*eyeroll*) named “Half Dome Village”. But I refuse to go by those names since they’re not the ones I grew up with. It’s fine though because if you google anything we mention in this post, the old names still work for now.
Dara: But yea, we got there at like 1am and just grabbed the keys to our cabin before heading off to sleep.
I love the tent cabins at Curry Village because they’re adventurous yet comfy, somewhere between staying at the nearby Ahwahnee Hotel and getting a campsite. They’re canvas tents, with old spring beds, two towels and a little safe, with shared bathrooms and showers, and a central village with raft rentals, bike rentals, a pool, a cafeteria, a bar, a gift shop, an outdoorsy store and a pizzeria. It’s a very cute village, located in the forest below the enormous cliff walls of Glacier Point, with great views of Half Dome,and Yosemite Falls.
It’s a bit harder to get a reservation these days though because a bunch of the cabins were closed off after a rock slide, so there’s less room. I would definitely recommend planning early for anything Yosemite related. Most of the reservations are gone well before the summer starts for anything popular (that includes permits for the Half Dome cables, campsites, tent cabins, and backcountry permits).
True. So anywho – we woke up the next day and got ready for a very active day. We brought our bikes up, only to find that the tires deflated in the ride up, so we ended up renting bikes in Curry Village for the day.
Our first activity was biking over to the famous mist trail – which leads to spectacular views of Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, and is the jumping off point for the Half Dome day hike. It’s a must-see. Two tips: 1. go a bit earlier in the summer, so the waterfall’s full, and 2. hike past the first bridge! The trail is very heavily used, and most tourists will only go up to the first bridge. I recommend going to the top of Nevada Falls, and the base of Nevada at the very least to get away from the crowds and see better sights.
The cool thing about going this late in the season was that, although we didn’t get covered in mist, we did get to hike down to the base of Vernal Falls, and hang out near the pool underneath it. In June, hanging out near the base of the falls would be certain death because of the rough waters, but it was nice being able to walk right up to it.
It’s a sublime, one-of-a-kind hike, despite its popularity. The whole trail is one big stair master, with steps cut into rock, so be warned that it’s a bit strenuous, especially if you’re out of shape. There are a few moments where you’re next to cliffs, so also be warned, it’s not a great place if you’re afraid of heights.
And don’t be stupid – every year some idiot tries to swim in the pool above the waterfalls, and that is of course NOT safe.
We stopped in that area though to have a picnic lunch at the bottom of Nevada Falls before heading back to our bikes and exploring the rest of the valley, going to Yosemite Falls next.
Which this time a year was a bit more of a cliff than a waterfall, but still, very beautiful. Dara and I found a neat wooden bench that marked John Muir’s original cabin, just off the beaten path, with a stunning but quiet view of the falls. We spent the rest of the afternoon biking around, exploring the valley, and then turned the bikes back in.
We hung out at the pool for a bit before dinner, just playing a game in which we guessed all the languages people were speaking around us. Random fun fact: It ended up being German and French.
Two languages that we both (sort of) still speak! It’s kind of fun to say hi. Or just listen in and try to figure out what’s happening.
For dinner, I just got pizza from the pizzeria and TJ doesn’t eat cheese so he got some chicken. I recall trying to find seating to be a nightmare though because there were multiple birthday parties happening.
Then we bought some Champagne, a Half Dome puzzle and some Yosemite playing cards at the gift shop, and hung out in the tent cabin until it got dark out.
The nighttime’s really special in Yosemite. Once it’s dark enough to see the stars, without a full moon, it’s easy to see the milky way. We waited until midnight – it gets pretty quiet in Yosemite around then, and trekked out into a meadow near Curry Village.
It was the midnight of our anniversary beginning so we walked out into the meadow (on a wooden boardwalk – don’t worry, it’s protected!), and brought the champagne and our gifts for each other along. We just just hung out there under the stars for a while, and it was a just a fun, relaxing start to our second year together.
The next morning we grabbed brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel – a famous, rustically elegant 5 star hotel in the middle of Yosemite. It’s definitely worth a visit, the brunch is elaborate and probably the best food you can get in the valley. The hotel itself is very very expensive, and even if you can afford it, the hotel feels a bit antithetical to the whole “experiencing the wilderness” thing.
It was fun to walk around though! The inside of the hotel is gorgeous – rustic cabin chic, with stone walls and wood beams, high vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, fancy lounges and old hidden rooms. It’s a great place to explore.
At that point he weekend was almost over, but before we left the valley, we made several stops on the drive out before actually heading to LA. We made sure to stop for a second at El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls (a short walk from the parking lot), and then went to the famous Tunnel View.
El Capitan is an incredible, sheer granite face, dotted with professional climbers. Kind of terrifying to watch but I admire the sheer fearlessness of those people so much. And the Tunnel View was fantastic – it’s the perfect place for taking photos with your friends and family. We took a couple shots with my polaroid camera there before finally heading over to Glacier Point, the cliff above Curry Village. It has a fantastic view of Half Dome, the best in the park I think. Another perfect place to take photos.
And then after a while there we headed back home! We had wanted to go to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias but they’re closed for renovation until Fall 2017
But that just gives us another excuse to come back soon! There’s so much to Yosemite that a weekend is not nearly enough time to get through it all, but it’s still one of the best destinations on our list.
A high recommend. Check out more pics in the gallery below!