It was surprisingly cold, but light rain jackets were fine and Sherlock didn’t seem to mind napping in the truck while we hiked around and took the shuttle.
Spring and autumn are great times to visit national parks for many reasons. The main reason being that the crowds are usually smaller, and for Yosemite, I would say this one is major. It was April when we visited – therefore the real summer crowds and out of school kids weren’t there, however it was still pretty packed. Every campsite was full, the shuttles were shoulder to shoulder and the lines in the stores were full.
A more reliable reason to visit a national (or state) park in Spring or Autumn is that it will be cooler weather for your dog(s). On the cooler days, or overcast days, you can bring a dog and leave them in the car while you hike, rather than leave them at home, get a sitter, or worse, cut your visit short because you have to rush back to camp. “What to do with Sherlock” is a common problem for us and one we knew we’d have to adapt to again when we adopted her. Not only are sitters difficult to find in smaller towns but doing anything in warm weather can be a juggling act. In the case of Yosemite, naturally, we wanted to spend the entire day at the park if possible. Our campsite was a 2 hour drive away from the park entrance. Almost the entire 2 hour drive to Yosemite was winding and steep and not something we wanted to do again nor do again after only a short time in the park because we needed to rush home for Sherlock. So she came.
Most national parks don’t allow dogs on trails, and I agree that it’s a bad idea, but you can do your dog walks in campground or parking areas and therefore stay away from home as long as you want. Always check the weather in the park before you decide to bring them of course. We don’t bring her it it’s going to be over 60. We bring a dog bed, extra blankets, leash, poo bags, bowls, food, water and snacks, and sometimes we put up some reflective covers in the windows with the most light, in addition to rolling windows down a few inches. She sleeps and watches tourists… from what we can tell.
We left pretty early, knowing it would be raining all day but having no choice since it was our only weekend in the area. Two weeks were the max we could stay due to the season ramping up in early May. However we were pleasantly surprised that it didn’t rain as much as it warned and we were surrounded by low clouds that gave everything an especially magical look. I think I preferred it to a sunny day, where everyone’s photos look about the same as the postcards you can buy in the gift shop.
We stopped at several pullouts, hiked to the base of Bridalveil Fall, which promptly soaked us, and had a picnic at a picnic area next to the river. Giant ravens hung out with us, harassed Sherlock and begged for food and nearly every table was taken by groups of tourists.
We later hiked to Vernal Falls, a non stop climb that kills knees as a hobby, checked out the Yosemite Lodge, the Visitor Center, Store and Ansel Adams Museum. The shuttle took us to most things and we parked in a large parking lot near the store. I bought my usual postcards I will never send off, and an Ansel Adams camera strap.
Both the north part of the park and Glacier Point area were still closed from winter – one unfortunate part of spring visits, however we were beat and tired by the end of the day in Yosemite Valley. We could have driven back the next day, but only to the same part of the park. We had done the hikes we wanted to and what was left was mostly really advanced constant climbs up to the domes or peaks surrounding the valley. The drive back to Angels Camp in the dark was tedious and frightening, and for once the little winding road that google maps decided was a great shortcut was actually the right road to take. Old Priest Grade rather than staying on the 120 – I would NOT take trailers on either and there are signs that will tell you the same. You just can’t make those turns, especially with potential traffic. On the way back we decided to stay on the 120 because Old Priest Grade was pretty rough, but that was a mistake take the short cut (unless you are towing then, maybe stay on the 120.. but the tunnel into the park might get you anyway). We saw some small RVs in the park, mostly rentals.