I normally would not have traveled to Yosemite National Park the first week of August, as that is probably the most crowded time to go. But that was literally the only time all five of our family could travel together all summer. Yosemite Valley was quite crowded as expected but it wasn't too bad. Once you got going on a trail, the crowds lessened considerably. Except for Vernal and Nevada Falls which still had a lot of water, the waterfalls were just a trickle this time of year. The best time to go see the waterfalls is in the spring as the snow melt really gets going.
We drove to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco early the morning after flying in and immediately checked into Half Dome Village (formerly called Curry Village due to a recent and controversial change in contractor services). I reserved our tent over six months in advance. I got some good advice from a couple of friends about what hikes to take and this guide here also really helped. There is a ton of great info out there about Yosemite hiking. I did a lot of research and planning to prepare for these hikes.
After we checked in, we went for a late afternoon hike. We took the Valley shuttle one stop over to the Happy Isles Trailhead and took the Mist Trail up to Vernal Falls, and onwards to the top of Nevada Falls (at which point the crowds really thinned out), then back down the John Muir Trail to the Valley, and back to Half Dome Village. This was approx 8 miles roundtrip.
The trail to the top of Vernal Falls
The staircase to the top of Nevada Falls
We saw a rattlesnake thanks to some other hikers who pointed him out to us. He was right next to the trail - check out that rattle.
Top of Nevada Falls
That is the back view of Half Dome (top left), Liberty Cap in the middle, Nevada Falls to the right - this is the view from the John Muir Trail.
The next day we drove 1 hr up to Glacier Point. Tip - in summer, go early so you can get a parking space. From there, we hiked up the Pohono Trail up to Sentinel Dome for the 360 degree views, then on to The Fissures and Taft Point, then back to Glacier Point. This was approx 8 miles roundtrip.
We saw two different bears very close to Glacier Point. This was the second one we saw (a young brown haired black bear). He was up the hill from us as we were hiking. Right after I took this pic, he found a bees nest in the ground and started digging into it. Those bees let him have it and he took off down the hill trying to shake off the bees. He crossed the trail in front of us, leaving a big trail of dust behind. We had to wait a little while to let the bees settle down before continuing on the hike.
That is the world famous El Capitan wall to the right
For perspective, Kris is at the upper right of this fissure - check out how big that crack is.
Taft Point - the Valley floor below and El Cap to the right. Yes, that is someone standing at that ledge.
This makes it look like the kids are looking at a big painting. These pictures don't do this place justice.
Half Dome and Yosemite Valley
You can see Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls to the right
My best Ansel Adams impression
Tunnel View - you can barely make out Bridal Veil Falls to the right. Its apparently a real gusher in the spring. El Capitan is on the left, and that is Half Dome in the very back in the distance.
El Capitan from the Valley floor
a post hike swim in the Merced River in front of El Cap
The next day, we rested (and called it an active rest day) by renting bikes for a casual ride on the nice bike path around the valley floor. We stopped at several spots and did some exploring.
The historic Ahwahnee Hotel (now called the Majestic Yosemite Hotel)
Yes, that is a deer in front of the kids on the hotel grounds. He clearly wasn't afraid of people.
The Ahwahnee Hotel interior
The dining room - we had a nice lunch here
Yosemite Falls, just a trickle in late summer, normally a big snow melt gusher in the spring
We rented rafts that afternoon for a fun lazy float down the Merced River
These are the tents at Half Dome Village. Very basic - wooden floors, one light, no outlets, and each tent had its own safe, some shelving, and a bear box (where you store food and anything with a scent). They have a strict policy around this. Our tent had 3 twin beds and one double bed. It was fun for three nights, but we were ready for bigger digs after that.
Our last day in Yosemite, we left the Valley crowds behind and drove 1 hr to Tuolumne Meadows (on the way out to Lake Tahoe), another beautiful area of Yosemite. It was less crowded here. We stopped and hiked the John Muir Trail to Cathedral Lakes. Approx 7 miles roundtrip.
Lower Cathedral Lake