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Yosemite View From The Tunnel. El Capitan on the left, Half Dome on the right.

Is It Worth The Time And Money To See Yosemite In August?

The short answer is yes, but don’t pack your bag just yet.

It’s a long drive from Portland to Yosemite, so careful plans are in order.

You’ve planned a trip before? Sure you have. At least you’ve been on planned trips, so you’ve got that.

The idea of planning follows the Boy Scouts motto: Be Prepared.

No need to get stuck in a natural disaster with good fire watches checking in around the clock.

If you haven’t heard, California is on fire. Turns out Oregon is doing its best to keep up, so look at your route and check the news to avoid fire hazzards.

Any way you go you’ll smell smoke in the air. If you have asthma or allergies be sure to pack your inhaler and other respiratory meds. You’ll need them.

Once you decide to go, and which way, is Yosemite the right choice?

Oregon nature lovers know all about the Columbia Gorge, the Cascade back country, and the Oregon Alps near Joseph. Yosemite has characteristics of all three with slight differences.

If you come into the park from the southwest on Hwy 41 you’ll enjoy winding two lane roads through the trees. If you get carsick this might be a good time to check for barf bags.

Hwy 41 ends in Yosemite, but the road still winds up and down the ridges. On the way to the big sights of Half Dome and El Capitan there’s view points. Oregonians won’t need to stop to look at ridge of trees. You get the same view going to Mt. Hood.

If you plan on spending a few days at Yosemite in August the lodges inside the park are spendy. Anywhere outside the park on the SW corner won’t be as expensive, but the drive gets longer.

You could stay in Fish Camp, a few miles from the park’s gate. Fifteen miles away is Oakhurst, a town of 12,000.

Once inside the gate you drive toward the valley.

The valley is the big reward. Up and down, round and round, on a two lane road with a double yellow center line and signs that say, “Do Not Pass.”

Settle in for a nice high desert drive. It’s going to last longer than you expect.

This isn’t the Grand Canyon where you park your car and walk, or take a shuttle. This is a car deal and the sights are pretty meager of you’ve been outside much in Oregon.

One big difference comes with rocks the size of a small house sitting on steep slopes above the road. They look ready to roll. Signs even warn about rocks.

You keep looking for a view, but the narrow roads and tour buses keep you honest. A long, long, tunnel bores through a mountain. On the other side is the view you’ve been hoping for, and it’s not even close to the valley floor.

The bare brilliance of both El Capitan and Half Dome, along with the steep canyon walls leading to them, sit for your approval.

On the far side of the tunnel you’ll see an immediate left turn into a large parking lot/viewing area. Don’t turn there. You might head into traffic coming the other direction. Park on the right side and walk across the road.

What do you see in these enormous bare cliffs? This is what the earth looks like with the dirt scraped off. Fractured granite eroded by water and rounded by glacial activity give it a unique look. Is it unique enough?

Yosemite carries all the outdoor fun you’d expect. Train rides, horseback tour, bikes, buses, but you want the earth to say something like, “Thanks for coming.”

If you’ve seen Bryce Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon, Columbia Gorge, Yosemite needs to talk louder.

I’m listening and hoping. In the meantime I’m asking one beer brand to explain a few things: Sierra Nevada.

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About David Gillaspie
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