Yosemite in the time of COVID

This past June we had been observing stay at home orders since mid-March. Which meant for us, staying put as much as possible, only going out to run to the store or do quick errands. Summer is usually a time when we can get away for a bit as a family. Covid has of course thrown its wrench for all of us.

A friend of mine posted about visiting Yosemite and how quiet it was. Entry to Yosemite was limited, requiring advanced ticket purchase. The park was closed to camping inside its boundaries.

I went to recreation.gov to purchase a timed entry ticket. A Monday entry worked best for our schedule and I figured there would be fewer people that way. It took about an hour of refreshing to finally get a ticket for the dates that were available on the day I needed. They had opened them up for purchase two weeks in advance, but now they are available 2 days in advance. Once the ticket was purchased for $35, you must enter the park on the day your ticket is assigned and then it is valid for the week after your entry day. If you don’t enter the park the day that you purchased then it is voided. 

Olmstead Point a peaceful vantage point

We reserved lodgings in Oakhurst, about 15 minutes from the park entrance. It was fairly cheap but it had a pool and only had 11 rooms so I figured it would keep interactions with others to a minimum. Rooms had access from outside so we wouldn’t have to go inside a building and pass other people in hallways. At check-in I only had to deal with one person (who wasn’t wearing a mask) and we could leave the key in our room when we left. I won’t bother making a recommendation here since we won’t return. The property wasn’t very clean, lots of debris around the pool and the grounds hadn’t been cleaned in some time. Thankfully we didn’t spend much time in our room.

Walking amongst milkweed

Entering the park on Monday at the Yosemite West entrance was a simple process and took about 15 minutes of waiting to get through the gate. Tuesday’s entrance was another matter and took about an hour of waiting to get through. It would have been nice if they had a separate line for people that already had their passes.

From our hotel in Oakhurst to the valley floor it was about an hour drive. On the first day we headed up to Glacier Point. We ended up stopping at Washburn Point for a scenic view of Half Dome. There were about 5 other people there so we were easily able to maintain distance from others. After snapping some photos and gaping at the view we drove on to Glacier Point. There were a lot of people walking through the parking lot some with masks, some without. Although there were a lot of cars parked, there was definitely more parking available than on previous trips. We opted not to stop and get out at Glacier Point as the kids didn’t feel safe with the amount of people milling about. 

Yosemite Falls

We hiked to lower Yosemite falls, passing others in masks on the walkway. Most were respectful of maintaining distance. We also explored other walkways through out the valley. We swam in the ice cold clear waters of the Merced. It was a joy to explore the park with so few people out comparatively. There were no busses or crowds. The air was cleaner and the sky was clear and blue. Parking was easy to find, what a treat! If you are able to go while Covid is taking place, I’d recommend it; take the precautions necessary and be respectful of others. Take lots of pictures and leave only footprints.

One of the many alpine streams and meadows

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