Inside the Park
All the lodges, hotels, and cabin-tent clusters in Yosemite are run by the same booking agency. Contact the Yosemite Park concessionaire (801/559-4884, www.yosemitepark.com) to make reservations. Coming to Yosemite in the summer high season? Make reservations early-6–9 months early, if you have a preference as to where you want to stay. If you wait until the week before your trip, you’ll either find the park sold out or end up in a tent cabin at Curry when you wanted a suite at the Ahwahnee.
Curry Village offers some of the oldest lodgings in the park. Locally called Camp Curry, this sprawling array of wood-sided and tent cabins was originally created in 1899 to provide affordable lodgings so that people of modest means could afford to visit and enjoy the wonders of Yosemite. At Curry Village, you can rent a hard-walled cabin or a tent cabin, with or without heat and with or without a private bath depending on your budget and your needs.
The tent cabins ($95), the most affordable option, are small, fitting cot beds and a small dresser on the wood floor. Bear-proof lockers sit outside each tent cabin. Wood cabins ($179) have double beds (one or two) and electricity, but little else. The cabins with private baths are heated and boast daily maid services, but no TVs or phones. A few motel rooms and unique cabins have TVs and more amenities, but still no phones or significant distractions of the modern world. With its perfect location on the valley floor, a swimming pool in the summer and an ice skating rink in the winter, Camp Curry makes an inexpensive vacation at Yosemite a joyful reality.
Want to camp, but don’t want to schlep all the gear into the park? Book a tent cabin at Housekeeping Camp ($76). Located on the banks of the Merced River, Housekeeping Camp has its own sandy river beach for playing and sunbathing. Cabins have cement walls, white canvas roofs, and a white canvas curtain that separates the bedroom from the covered patio that doubles as a dining room. Every cabin has a double bed plus two bunks (with room for two additional cots), a bear-proof food container, and an outdoor fire ring. You can bring your own linens, or rent a “bed pack” (no towels) for $2.50 per night. No maid service is provided, but you won’t miss it as you sit outside watching the sun set over Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite Lodge at the Falls ($150–250), situated near Yosemite Village on the Valley floor, has a location perfect for touring all over the park. The motel-style rooms are light and pretty, with polished wood furniture, bright-colored bed linens, and Native American design details. Lodge rooms with king beds offer romantic escapes for couples, complete with balconies overlooking the valley, while the standard rooms can accommodate singles, couples, or families. Enjoy the heated pool in the summertime and the free shuttle transportation up to the Badger Pass ski area in winter. The amphitheater at the middle of the lodge runs nature programs and movies all year. The lodge has a post office, ATM, and plenty of food options, and is central to the Yosemite shuttle system.
If you’re looking for luxury amongst the trees and rocks, check in to the
Ahwahnee Hotel ($379–1,189). Built as a luxury hotel in the early 20th century, the Ahwahnee lives up to its reputation with soaring ceilings in the common rooms, a gorgeous stone facade, and striking stone fireplaces. Guest rooms, whether in the hotel or in the individual cottages, drip sumptuous appointments. The theme is Native American and you’ll find intricate, multicolored geometric and zoomorphic designs on linens, furniture, and pillows. Rooms with king beds invite romance for couples, while those with two doubles are perfect for families.
Consider staying at the charming Wawona Hotel ($120–190) near the south entrance of the park. The black-and-white exterior of the hotel complex reminds onlookers of a 19th-century Mississippi riverboat. Indeed the hotel opened in 1879, and has been a Yosemite institution ever since.
The interior matches the outside well, complete with Victorian wallpaper, antique furniture, and a noticeable lack of in-room TVs and telephones. The Wawona feels more like a huge European pension than an American motel, complete with shared bathrooms for the more economically minded traveler. (Rooms with private baths are also available.)
Tioga Pass and Tuolumne Meadows
In the high country, Tuolumne Meadows Lodge ($78, June 1–Sept. 16) offers rustic lodgings and good food in a gorgeous sub-alpine meadow setting. Expect no electricity, no private baths, and no other plush amenities. What you will find are small, charming wood-framed tent cabins that sleep up to four, central bath and hot shower facilities, and a dining room. The location is perfect for starting or finishing a backcountry trip through the high-elevation areas of the park.
Another rustic high-country accommodation, the White Wolf Lodge ($75–110, July–Sept.) sits back in the trees off Tioga Pass. Here you can rent either the standard wood-platform tent cabin with use of central bath and shower facilities, or a solid-wall cabin with a private bathroom, limited electricity, and daily maid service. All cabins and tent cabins at White Wolf include linens and towels, plus breakfast and dinner served family style in the dining room. You can order box lunches to take with you each day. Amenities are few, but breathtaking scenery is everywhere at White Wolf.
Take a day hike to Hardens Lake, or a horseback ride through the backcountry. White Wolf works well for visitors who prefer a smaller crowd, since the lodge boasts only 28 cabins.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition