What to See & Do in Yosemite: Advice from 10-Year-Old Clara

Many of the employees working for one of the organizations that provide services for Yosemite also live in the park. Each summer, the ranks swell considerably, but there are many families who reside in the park year-round. You may wonder what it is like to live in Yosemite, and for many adults, the experience is dictated by a career choice. But what does that mean for family members? We asked 10-year-old Clara – who lives and attends school in Yosemite Valley – about her experience as a Yosemite resident and what kind of advice she would give to park visitors:

2014 Apr Clara Devlin interview photo

“My favorite things to do in Yosemite are explore the park and enjoy seeing Half Dome while I ice skate outdoors. If you are thinking of visiting the park for the first time, a beautiful and easy trail to hike is the Lower Yosemite Fall trail. It’s amazing to say I live in Yosemite National Park. The experience to see Yosemite Falls form our parking lot is cool, and the fact that every week I get to go to school in Yosemite is even better. My very first day of school here a bear hung out in the yard and took a sun bath. One place I like to hike is Hetch Hetchy. It has amazing views and trails – we even stayed overnight. A good souvenir to get when you are here is a recyclable water bottle. You can use it and take it home and show your friends. I put Yosemite stickers that I like on my water bottle. I am a Type I diabetic, anytime I go somewhere I always take my meter, especially when hiking. I always have a Clif Bar or granola bar in my backpack, a water bottle or my Camelbak while hiking. Wear layers of clothing and make sure I have sunscreen. The Giant Sequoias are the biggest trees in Yosemite. They can only grow because of fire. When cones fall from the trees that are closed, so either wildfire or controlled fire burns it. The cone’s scales open to release the seeds. You can tell how old the tree is if you count the rings of xylomes and phlomes or how thick the tree is.”

The Sesquicentini Cocktail at The Ahwahnee Bar

The Sesquicentini Limited Edition Cocktail at The Ahwahnee

The Sesquicentini Limited Edition Cocktail at The Ahwahnee

We’re celebrating in Yosemite! This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act, the first piece of legislation in history to set aside public lands for all citizens. Signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and Yosemite Valley were preserved as public lands for Americans by the Yosemite Grant for all time. This historic act led to the creation of national parks, known as “America’s Best Idea.” In honor of this 150th anniversary – a sesquicentennial – we have created the Sesquicentini cocktail at The Ahwahnee. If you can’t celebrate with us in the park this year, you’ll find the recipe below. Wherever you are, we hope you will raise a glass to toast the Yosemite Grant Anniversary and one of America’s greatest legacies.

In a martini shaker over ice add:

  • 2 shots Beefeater Gin
  • 1 shot Monin Lavender Syrup
  • 1 shot lemon juice
  • Shake and pour in a chilled martini glass
  • Add a splash of Club Soda
  • Garnish with a lemon wheel

If you can join us for the celebration, consider reserving the Yosemite Grant 150th Anniversary Experience at The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Curry Village or Wawona Hotel. This package includes lodging in Yosemite, Yosemite Grant souvenirs and tickets for the Valley Floor Tour.

Your Yosemite Stories: Housekeeping Camp

In the latest Yosemite in Focus newsletter, we linked to the previous post about the history of Housekeeping Camp. We then asked readers to share their favorite stories about this historic Yosemite lodging that straddles the line between camp and hotel. Below you will find some of those readers’ stories. If you would like to subscribe to the Yosemite in Focus email newsletter and receive notifications of lodging discounts and Yosemite news, please visit the Yosemite Newsletters page on our website at http://www.yosemitepark.com/eMail-SignUp.aspx

HKC Family Photo Connie Carbajal

Connie Carbajal:
“As a child I used to camp at Lower and Upper Rivers with my family and as we’d cross the bridge to use the Housekeeping showers and laundry facilities I used to think “Wow!!! These people must be so rich to be able to stay in these units” and hoped that one day I’d be able to have enough money to do the same.

Needless to say we visit Yosemite every 2 years with my husband and children (and a group of extended relatives and friends) and now grandchildren, and we have given them the experience of Lower River campgrounds when there was a lower River campground and now the “Luxury” of the Housekeeping experience.

We come as a group and pick out “themes” to decorate our units.  Than each family picks a night that they cook dinner for everyone in our group and that is the only night they have to prepare and cook dinner and clean up .  This gives everyone a little extra time at the river, hiking, sightseeing or just enjoying a nice hot shower.  And upon their return to camp……a hot dinner and dessert are awaiting them.  Most of us prepare our meals according to our them. For example during our last visit in 2013:  The “La Fiesta” Campsite decorated in traditional mexican style and wore sombreros, mexican dresses for the hostess and  guayaveras (mens traditional shirts)  for the host.  Salsa and chips, along with mexican beer (cerveza) and margaritas, were served pre-dinner, than there was a taco and burrito bar set up with all the fixings.  We topped the night off by playing “Loteria” aka….Mexican Bingo.  Another family (mine) was decorated as a “Western Ho-Down” and we served hampburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad and apple pie handing out red and blue bandanas for all to wear. And another family was decoarted as the “Oriental Express”, making fresh vegetable and chicken egg rolls, asian noodles, steamed rice and vegetables.  Topping dinner off with hot and cold tea and sweet apple and cinnamon egg rolls and yes……chopsticks were provided and many of us successfully ate our entire meal using the chopsticks.

I think you get the picture……we have now given so many families great memories, that we sit around the campfire all night sharing and reminiscing about our experiences.  So much so, that several indivudals that have now begun their own families have gone on and begun their own “group” adventures with their extended families and friends, following in our steps.

BTW…….As you can see we always purchase matching Yosemite souvenir shirts at bargain prices and pose for a group picture on our final day!!! The Carbajal, Padron, Haro, Meldrum and Muralles Families August 2013!!!! Our family saying….”Yosemite Forever”!!!!!!!!”

W.C. Smith learning to fish at Housekeeping Camp

W.C. Smith learning to fish at Housekeeping Camp

W.C. Smith:

“My family has always gone to Yosemite for vacation starting in the early 1920s when they lived in Fresno.  Housekeeping tents were our destination when I was young, – always. In 1944 when I was 6 we were able to come up from the bay area as my Dad had no problem getting gas as he was a defense contractor and had access to unrestricted gas rationing cards during the war. Many people were shut out of Yosemite during the war due to gas rationing. Anyway, my Dad said that it was time for me to learn trout fishing in the beautiful Merced and off we went. After a couple of unproductive hours we met a fly fisherman who seemed to know what he was doing, and we asked for advice. In the course of showing us “how to” he opened his creel and nestled inside in a bed of ferns was the most beautiful brightly colored brown trout. I was stunned. He then handed me his rod and showed me how to cast, albeit not very good. After a few minutes I had a strike and landed an equally beautiful but smaller brown trout. I was “hooked”. We walked back to the housekeeping tents together where he was also staying with his family. My Dad and the gentlemen started chatting and it turned out he was a navy pilot sent to Yosemite for R&R after extensive action in the South Pacific. Although I was too young to really comprehend what was being said my Dad told me in later years that he had been shot down and rescued at sea. He told Dad that the housekeeping tents were the perfect medicine for recovery from a horrific period in his life. He had young kids so we played, fished and swam for a week before we had to go. My parents kept contact with the family for awhile but never met again at the housekeeping tents. Unfortunately that wonderful Navy pilot was killed in the South Pacific in 1945.

I am still a passionate fly fisherman but at a slower pace in my senior years. But every time I step into a stream I still have a vision of that beautiful brown trout nested in a bed of ferns and that wonderful brave man who introduced me to fly fishing.”

Top 5 Spring Hikes

Mist Trail Hiking

Hiking through the mist of Vernal Fall on the Mist Trail    Photo: DNC P&R at Yosemite

Mist Trail

One of the most popular trails in the park, the Mist Trail passes two of Yosemite’s famous waterfalls, Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. In the spring this trail earns its name when it comes close enough to the waterfall to douse hikers with spray. Bring a rain-coat and prepare to get wet! Also, keep your eyes open for rainbows (spraybows) when the sun hits the mist at just the right angle. If the water seems chilly, the open granite slope at the top of Vernal Fall is a great place to soak in the sun and dry out a little.

The round-trip hike to the top of Nevada Fall is 7 miles with roughly 2000 feet of elevation gain, but the great thing about this hike is that there are so many ‘destination’ views on the way that there is an out-and-back hike along this trail for almost anyone. By the time you’ve reached the first views of Vernal Fall from the footbridge (~0.8 miles from the trail head), you’ll have already passed views of Illillouette Fall and Yosemite Falls. Continuing on, the top of Vernal Fall is 1.5 miles in, with spectacular misty views of the waterfall in between. Plus, of course, those with permits, might continue on to the summit of Half Dome.

A note of caution: all too often this trail is the scene of accidents involving wet rocks and slopes leading down to the river. In high-water years, the water polishes the granite banks of the river, making them unexpectedly slippery, and the power of the water catches many by surprise. Be safe. Stay on the trail, and out of the water.

Lower Yosemite Fall and Upper Yosemite Fall

Upper and Lower Yosemite Fall

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls from the Lower Falls Trail    Photo: Chris Falkenstein|DNC P&R at Yosemite


Lower Yosemite Fall is a 1.1 mile loop across from Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. It follows a paved trail, perfect for strollers, to a bridge at the base of lower Yosemite Fall. In spring, when the water fall is at its largest, mist from the Lower Fall blows out over the bridge, leaving hikers feeling like they are on the bow of the Maid of the Mist. (Another favorite for those looking for a quick, and relatively easy walk is Bridalveil Fall. A short, paved half-mile walk from the parking area brings you to the base of this waterfall. Again, expect spray in the spring.)

Upper Yosemite Fall Trail is not a continuation of the Lower Fall loop. Instead, this (7.2 mile round-trip) trail starts behind the Camp 4 Campground, and climbs steadily to Columbia Point which provides a birds-eye view of Yosemite Valley. Then, the trail contours around to reveal incredible views of the upper fall, and middle cascade. Continue up to the rim, and keep your eyes open for a steep, exposed stair that leads down to a viewing area. If you’re still feeling adventurous, continue a short distance on to Yosemite Point for even better views of Half Dome and the valley below.

Mirror Lake/Meadow – Snow Creek Trail

Mount Watkins reflected in Mirror Lake

Mount Watkins reflected in Mirror Lake    Photo Kenny Karst|DNC P&R at Yosemite

A relatively flat one-mile hike from bus stop #17, Mirror Lake packs a lot of scenery into a short walk. Not only is it located below the iconic Half Dome, but during the spring months, the meadow fills with water to form a shallow lake reflecting the near-by cliffs, including Mount Watkins. When the dogwoods bloom in late April and May, their showy white blossoms decorate the banks of the river as well.

Those interested in a longer adventure might be interested in continuing up the Snow Creek Trail, which is one of the quietest trails leading up out of Yosemite Valley. The trail is steep – like all trails that climb up out of Yosemite Valley – and is bathed in sunshine. That makes it warm going during the summer months, and a perfect early-season hike when the temperatures are still cooler. Enjoy the hike as an out-and-back after finding a scenic sunny spot for lunch. The super-fit might consider extending their trip to Indian Rock (5.8 miles past Mirror Lake), or North Dome (9.3 miles past Mirror Lake). A 14+ mile loop descending the Upper Yosemite Valley Fall trail to the Valley floor is also an option.

Chilnualna Falls

Cascades on the Chilnualna Falls Trail

Cascades on the Chilnualna Falls Trail    Photo: Theresa Ho

Yosemite Valley doesn’t hold the monopoly on great spring hiking. The Chilnualna Falls trail in Wawona is 8.2 miles round-trip, and relatively steep, but rewards hikers early on with views of roaring cascades, and a variety of wildflowers along the trail.

With a starting elevation of about 4000 feet, this trail warms up early in the year, and can provide great hiking even when there is still snow at higher elevations. It begins by following Chilnualna Creek for about a half mile, and then cuts back and forth through the forest allowing scenic glimpses of the Wawona area.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Hiking in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Hiking in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias     Photo: DNC P&R at Yosemite

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is a must-visit destination in any season. A visit to the most massive trees on Earth, trees that were already ancient when the Roman Empire fell just shouldn’t be missed.

There is an interpretive sign that says that Giant Sequoias need a lot of water. You may not be able to see that evidence if you visit in summer or autumn, but a spring hike through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias quickly illustrates that point. Sequoias seem to thrive in low places where water collects or runs.

The Mariposa Grove Road opened early this year, giving those of us who can visit in the spring a larger window to explore in relative quiet. From the Mariposa Grove Parking Lot, you can visit the Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel tree in the Lower Grove in just over a mile (2.2 miles round trip) of walking, passing many other notable trees along the way. However, if you have the energy, be sure to visit the Upper Grove as well. The collection of sequoias close to the nature center, although un-named, is simply incomparable. The walk to the upper grove is about 5-6 miles round trip.

Bonus: Hite Cove

Poppies and Goldfields on the trail to Hite Cove.

Poppies and Goldfields on the trail to Hite Cove    Photo: Theresa Ho

Hite Cove isn’t really in Yosemite National Park, but the wildflower display there is so spectacular in the spring time, that we’re going to include it here anyway. The trailhead is located off of Hwy 140 near Savage’s Trading post, and the hike is about 8.4 miles round trip to Hite Cove, which was once a mining town and where you can still see old mining equipment and foundations. However, the fields of wildflowers that the area is famous for, begin within the first few hundred feet.

A Short History of the Oddly-Named Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite

Housekeeping Tent at Camp 16 from the Yosemite National Park Research Library

Housekeeping Tent at Camp 16 from the Yosemite National Park Research Library

Located on the Merced River in Yosemite Valley with an unusual name, Housekeeping Camp straddles the line between camping and hotel accommodations and inspires fierce loyalty among park visitors. With amenities not usually found in campsites such as three walls, a canvas roof, beds, electrical lights and outlets, as well as standard amenities of picnic table and campfire ring, Housekeeping Camp is perennially popular with visiting families. Many of these families return year after year to the same units for easy access to the Merced River’s sandy beaches and activities like rafting and swimming. By examining the origin of Housekeeping Camp and its odd configuration and designation, it is apparent that this particular type of Yosemite accommodation has had great influence on the evolution of national park campgrounds as we know them today.

In the 1860s, after the signing of the Yosemite Grant by President Abraham Lincoln, the State of California administered Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove as precursor to the establishment of Yosemite National Park. The state instituted the designation of numbered camps in Yosemite Valley to indicate where visitors were setting up camp during their visit. By 1878, the idea of a public campground had taken hold and The Harris Camp Ground located near the present-day hotel, The Ahwahnee, was the forerunner of the current configuration of a national park campground. By 1918, a map of Yosemite Valley indicates Camp 19 as the first Housekeeping Camp and by 1920, the park concession was charging a fee for supplies to be provided to campers who needed equipment. Visitors who brought their own went to the free campgrounds, and visitors who rented supplies stayed in a “Housekeeping Camp” – meaning you kept your own house with no maid service.

From the “1920 Guide to Yosemite” by Ansel F. Hall:

“The Housekeeping Camps Department supplies all kinds of camping or outing equipment at very reasonable rates…About twenty camp grounds have been prepared for the free use of the public by the Park Service. Water is piped to these localities and a sanitation system provided for. Applications for camp sites should be made at the National Park Service office in Yosemite Village. Those without outfits, who desire to establish camps, may arrange at the Housekeeping Camps Department of the Yosemite National Park Company (at Camp 17, a quarter mile east of Sentinel Bridge and north of the river) to rent all necessary equipment. This will be delivered and set up ready for occupancy. It is advisable to arrange in advance for the outfit desired.”

Housekeeping Camp was indicated at its present location as Camp 16 on a map in 1921 and remained designated Camp 16 until the 1970s. In 1923, Yosemite’s most influential concession operator, the Curry family, established Yosemite’s first lower-cost Housekeeping Camp with unfurnished lodging and no meals. This iteration included 10 units and was located in the current employee housing area known as Tecoya dormitory at Yosemite Village. In 1943, a Yosemite park map stated that Housekeeping Tents at Camp 16 come completely furnished from $2.25 daily and $10 weekly – what a deal! Ten years later, Housekeeping Camp was no longer considered a Yosemite campground, instead being listed as accommodations similar to Curry Village tent cabins. Amenities such as laundry facilities and a store were also available by the 1950s.

Yosemite’s housekeeping camps were the beneficiaries of the Mission 66 program where significant funds were invested in the infrastructure of national parks from 1956 to 1966. As a result, in the 1960s, the units were constructed as we know them today with concrete slabs. Two units were built back to back as a duplex. The dividing walls and two side walls were concrete slabs mixed with a conglomerate of Merced River stones. The ceiling, front walls and two side walls were canvas with a nylon fly for protection from sun or rain. The patio kitchen was furnished with a wood-burning stove referred to as a ‘sheepherder’ stove. This experimental design for improvement of guest accommodations in Housekeeping Camp was developed with much thought by Yosemite Park & Curry Company’s Gordon Warren, responsible for the construction of the new units, and architects from the firm Spencer and Lee, among others. In 1964 the ‘laundromat’ building was added to house coin-operated washers and dryers, along with a new shower house.

By 1976, the rest of the campgrounds in Yosemite were operated by the National Park Service. As the only remaining example of a ‘housekeeping camp’, Camp 16 was renamed accordingly and continues to be known as Housekeeping Camp to this day. Sometime in the 1990s, the old sheepherder stoves were replaced by campfire rings. Over time, the number of units have been reduced and the current Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan calls for the removal of more. But for now, you can enjoy 266 units in the heart of Yosemite Valley for a camping experience without all the gear. Housekeeping Camp opens for the 2014 season on April 17th and still offers supplies in the form of bedpacks consisting of 2 sheets, 2 blankets and 2 pillows rented for $2.50 per night – subject to availability. Make reservations online or call 801-559-4884 to speak with a reservation agent.

Housekeeping Camp River Units

Housekeeping Camp River Units

Housekeeping Camp Front Office and Store

Housekeeping Camp Front Office and Store






Newly Remodeled Rooms at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls


Lodge Room

Yosemite Lodge at the Falls has completed a renovation of all 245 guest rooms with a fresh design incorporating eco-friendly design elements. This $10 million dollar multi-phased project followed the guidelines of Delaware North Companies’ award-winning GreenPath® environmental stewardship platform in creating rooms with environmentally responsible design elements, refurbishment of the lobby and updated ADA accessible pathways. All rooms are freshly painted using California-based Kelly Moore paints with low and zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). Each room features new carpet made With fibers produced in part from recycled plastic bottles and backing derived from old tires, and the porcelain bathroom tiles contain 40% recycled materials. The light fixtures feature energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs; CFLs use one third of the energy and last roughly ten times longer than standard incandescent bulbs.

Other eco-friendly elements include bulk amenity dispensers in guest bathrooms to reduce plastic waste, shower and bath fixtures are high-performing, water-efficient models. Using just 1.28 gallons per flush, the toilet alone will save 5,000 gallons of water each year! The bathroom fixtures were locally created in Madera, California and the bathroom waste baskets and tissue holders, along with the guest room ice buckets are made of sustainable bamboo. Each room features Energy Star flat-screen televisions.

Yosemite Lodge at the Falls sourced furniture from the historic Old Hickory Furniture Company in Indiana to outfit the rooms. This rustic, durable collection is made using mid-western hickory saplings, known as the hardest wood in North America that is 30% harder than oak and a renewable source that continually sprouts from the same stump. The guest room headboards are designed with an uncut and natural ‘live edge’, making each headboard completely unique. All guest rooms feature personal recycle caddies that were designed by Old Hickory Furniture Company. In addition, the new decor also features artwork by local Yosemite photographers.

Lodge Bunk Room

Lodge Bunk Room

To complement the incorporation of green practices in the room design, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite was able to divert more than 117 tons of construction waste from the landfill during the renovation process, contributing to a 52% diversion rate. All guest room furniture replaced in the renovation was re-purposed and the bathroom fixtures were donated to Habitat for Humanity.

Picturesquely situated near the base of Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls has unique history as the site where the U.S. Cavalry was based when Yosemite Valley was originally under its protection. Built in 1915, the Yosemite Lodge complex was modernized in 1956 and again in 1998 to emphasis glass and wood detailing that blends with the natural surroundings.

You can make an online reservation for Yosemite Lodge at the Falls or call 801-559-4949 and speak to a reservation agent.