Farewell to Yosemite Stables Crews

YVStablesGroup-1356The summer of 2015 was the last time to take a commercial trail ride in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. Come fall, the Yosemite Valley Stable will also close for the two hour and half-day trail rides offered to park visitors since the 1920s. Both changes in stable operations are brought about by the implementation of the Tuolumne River Plan and the Merced River Plan authored by the National Park Service. The plans were conceived to reduce the impact of development in the flood plains of Yosemite’s rivers. Both stables will remain operational for supplying Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps and providing backcountry saddle trips for park visitors. By the summer of 2016, only the Wawona Stable will continue to offer two hour trail rides to park visitors.

For many stables employees, returning every summer to pack and guide equated to many consecutive years of service in Yosemite National Park. Employees often lived in tent cabins near the stable, where maintaining the stable operation gets a very early start each morning. Though the season for trail rides isn’t long in Yosemite – summer months in Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona, spring to fall in Yosemite Valley – the crews spend a lot of time living and working together providing this historically popular activity for visitors from around the world. Delaware North at Yosemite commends the Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley stables staff (including mules and horses!) for their skill and dedication in serving park visitors for over twenty years. Happy Trails!

Cocktails at Wawona Hotel in Yosemite

One of Yosemite’s most genteel pleasures is surveying the landscape from a wicker chair on the verandah of the historic Wawona Hotel – cocktail in hand. Not only does the slower pace of Wawona lend itself to reflection, it also lends itself to libation, particularly on a warm summer afternoon. Cocktail service begins in the lobby of this beloved old hotel every afternoon, with plenty of outdoor seating for those inclined to lovely views. This summer season, Wawona Hotel has created some charming additions to the cocktail menu – including appetizers for nibbling prior to dinner in the dining room.

Two tasty cheese plates featuring almond-crusted Brie and a sampler assortment are traditional shared plate offerings, but this summer menu also features crispy fried Brussels sprouts(!) and a generous smoked salmon fillet to share. To accompany your apps, choose from Wawona namesake cocktails such as the Wawona Julep or the Washburn’s Old-Fashioned. New this year is the Greens Keeper – a refreshing cucumber and lemon flavored gin-based drink. The season’s best specialty martini may be the PomeGranite Dome (get it?) with Patron Silver tequila and pomeganate juice.

In addition to sipping and snacking, Wawona provides the best old-fashioned entertainment this side of the Yosemite entrance gate, as Tom Bopp plays piano and sings about life in Wawona. Join him for an evening of Wawona history show-tune-style, in the lobby of the hotel.

If cocktail hour is not on your Yosemite agenda, lunch in the Wawona Dining Room may provide a restful break in an adventure-filled day. Lunch specialties include salads, hot & cold sandwiches and burgers along with spaghetti pomodoro and fish & chips.

Top 10 Secrets of Summer in Yosemite

Summer vacation fun in Yosemite is not a secret. This busy season accommodates families, students, international travelers and casual daytrippers with warm sunny weather, activities for all ages such as hiking and biking, and access to Yosemite’s backcountry for backpacking under the stars. Sharing Yosemite with so many people may seem inevitable, but visitors can still find places to call their own with unique experiences that are worthy of an Instagram or two. Unless, of course, you want to keep it all to yourself!

1. Hike in Wawona. Yosemite Valley’s iconic trails are crowded for a reason. In Wawona, you can experience the same Sierra Nevada landscape with less company at a more leisurely pace. The Chilnualna Falls Trail and the Swinging Bridge Trail put visitors face-to-face with Yosemite’s magnificent waterworks in the form of waterfalls and the south fork of the Merced River. One of Wawona’s best kept secrets? The Swinging Bridge is perched above one of Yosemite’s coolest summer swimming holes. After a day in the sun, have dinner on the lawn of the Wawona Hotel during the Saturday BBQ.

2. Swim laps in the pool at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Then have an ice cream cone. River swimming isn’t for everyone, and parents may feel more comfortable swimming with small children in a pool environment. One of the best kept secrets at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls? The Cone Stand located at the entrance to the pool provides old-fashioned summer fun with ice cream cones for extra cooling after a dip. And the pool really is limited to lap swimming only at the beginning and end of each day.

3. Stargaze at Glacier Point. No doubt about it, Glacier Point is one of the most popular sights in Yosemite and on a summer day it may feel like every single visitor in the park has congregated there to goggle at Yosemite Valley 3000 feet below. But what is magnificent during the day is just as striking – and much less crowded – at night. Watching the sun set from Glacier Point is truly wonderful, but just wait until night falls and Yosemite’s night sky fills with millions of stars. Star Parties are hosted on select summer weekends with regional astronomy clubs where park visitors are welcome to take a look through club telescopes after dark. Yosemite Valley lodging guests will enjoy catching the Stargazing Tour – a bus tour that departs and returns to Yosemite Lodge at the Falls after a stargazing program at Glacier Point.

4. Check last minute availability at the High Sierra Camps. If you are a spontaneous traveler with a yearning to experience the High Sierra, last minute availability at Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps may be just the lodging for you. Open for a short summer season, the first reservations are acquired by entering a lottery in November the year prior. Once the lottery dates have been awarded over the winter, any leftover dates are posted on yosemitepark.com in spring. The available dates are often sporadic, but they do exist. If you can throw your backpack in the car for a last-minute hiking trip, you may be in for the experience of a lifetime.

5. Visit the Merced and Tuolumne Groves of Giant Sequoias. Yosemite is home to three groves of Giant Sequoias, though Mariposa Grove is by far the most famous. Due to the restoration of the Mariposa Grove in 2015 and 2016, these giants may not be accessible at this location. Luckily, both the Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove require only a moderate 2 mile round-trip hike to view Giant Sequoias – which are found only in California’s Sierra Nevada. Both groves are located near the Crane Flat junction of CA 120 in Yosemite.

6. Order a sandwich at Degnan’s Deli in the AM and hike to the El Capitan picnic area. The made-to-order sandwiches at Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village are deservedly popular at lunchtime, but did you know that sandwiches are made at Degnan’s all day long? Arrive in the morning and order your sandwich wrapped to go for a day hike to the west end of Yosemite Valley following the Valley Loop trail. Sights along this route that follows the flat terrain of Yosemite Valley include Yosemite Falls, Camp 4 rock climbers campground, a stretch along the Merced River, and of course, El Capitan. Once you’ve arrived at Yosemite’s most famous granite monolith, look for the Ask-a-Climber program on the El Capitan Bridge. Equipped with a telescope, one of Yosemite’s local rock climbers will give you the scoop on climbers currently ascending El Capitan.

7. Take Part in the Great Yosemite Family Adventure. Visitors will find a wide range of family activities in Yosemite, but only one activity gives your family a chance to demonstrate their love for Yosemite as a team! Using a GPS unit and information about history, nature and geology, this scavenger-hunt-style program traverses roughly 3 miles of Yosemite Valley with clues, puzzles and riddles to solve for family members of all ages.

8. Buy a Fishing License in Yosemite. California’s fishing season gets underway in April, but summer allows access to all of Yosemite’s prime fishing environment – including High Sierra lakes. California fishing licenses are sold in Yosemite Valley at the Village Sport Shop, and in Tuolumne Meadows at the Tuolumne Meadows Store. You can purchase a license for the season or just for the day or week during your visit to Yosemite.

9. Kayak the Merced River in Yosemite Valley New designations have opened a much larger stretch of the Merced to non-motorized vessels, though the river conditions may make this trip feasible only for kayaks. As of April 2015, kayakers can run the Merced from Stoneman Bridge near Curry Village to Pohono Bridge at the west end of Yosemite Valley. http://www.adventure-journal.com/2014/04/yosemites-merced-river-opens-to-kayaking-and-rafting/

10. Take a guided hike, bike and rock climb with the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Yosemite’s local guides do it all: day hikes, bike-to-hike-tours, overnight backpacking trips, and of course, rock climbing lessons.


Where to See Fall Color in Yosemite

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Though not as brilliant as New England’s fall display of changing leaves, Yosemite National Park offers plenty of autumn beauty thanks to big leaf maple, dogwood and black oak trees. Fall itself can be changeable as a season, since turning … Continue reading

A Summer Day at Wawona in Yosemite

Wawona Hotel in Yosemite National Park

Wawona Hotel in Yosemite National Park

Have you ever spent a summer day in the Wawona area of Yosemite National Park? Though summer is winding down for 2014, you can still spend a day here exploring giant sequoia trees, an historic hotel, the Pioneer Yosemite History Center and hit the greens for a round of golf before fall brings shorter days and cooler nights. Wawona is best known as the home of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias – Yosemite’s largest and most accessible sequoia grove, home to over 200 mature trees that can be thousands of years old! The Big Trees Tram Tour provides park visitors with a detailed tour of Mariposa Grove in an open-air tram vehicle with an audio narrative. This is the last year of the Big Trees Tram Tour as changes resulting from the restoration of the grove get underway in 2015. The tour operates as long as the Mariposa Grove Road is open, so you can still catch a tour until October 2014. Otherwise. you can hike through the grove to admire these lovely ancient trees and enjoy the tranquility of this old-growth forest.

The Bachelor and Three Graces at Mariposa Grove

The Bachelor and Three Graces at Mariposa Grove

Big Trees Tram Tour in Yosemite

Big Trees Tram Tour in Yosemite

After a morning in Mariposa Grove, a leisurely lunch awaits at the dining room of the Wawona Hotel. The summer menu includes classics like Fish & Chips, Caesar Salad and the All-American Hamburger. Dine on the verandah at this National Historic Landmark and admire the Victorian era architecture of the main building as the hotel was built in stages during the 1800s. Before they are pruned in early September, hops vines cover the verandahs. Planted by early settlers in the Wawona area, hops is a main ingredient in the brewing of beer. Though not native to Yosemite, the hops are allowed to remain as part of the historic character of Wawona Hotel.

Fish & Chips at The Wawona Hotel Dining Room

Fish & Chips at The Wawona Hotel Dining Room

Hops vines growing on the verandahs of Wawona Hotel

Hops vines growing on the verandahs of Wawona Hotel

For some exercise and fresh air after lunch, consider playing a round of golf at the Wawona golf course. This historic nine hole course was opened in 1918, and has since become a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary – an award winning education and certification program that helps golf course managers protect the environment and preserve the natural resource aspect of the game of golf. Though golfing is not an activity usually found in national parks, the course is preserved and protected as part of the historic character of Wawona Hotel and as an Audubon sanctuary. Keep in mind that when you are on the course near the hotel, you are viewing Wawona Hotel from the original approach to the hotel’s entrance where you can see the hotel with Chilnualna Falls in the background.

Hole #5 on the Wawona golf course

Hole #5 on the Wawona golf course

The view of Wawona Hotel from Wawona golf course

The view of Wawona Hotel from Wawona golf course

The photos above were taken on a lovely summer day in Wawona and posted to our Instagram account (@yosemitednc).


New Year’s Eve at the Wawona Hotel in Yosemite

wawona_exteriorIt may not have occurred to you that a national park may make the list of favorite locations to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but here at the Wawona Hotel in Yosemite National Park, we can give you plenty of reasons to plan next year’s party at your favorite national park on the eve of 2015:

1. The Venue
The historic Victorian-era Wawona Hotel is lovely dressed up for the holidays, particularly in white. Though we didn’t have much snow this holiday season, the hotel lends itself to twinkling lights, crackling fireplaces and evergreen garlands.



2. Dinner
The New Year’s Eve dinner menu included beef tenderloin, lamb shanks, duck, salmon and wild mushroom risotto with a coconut shrimp and cucumber salad starter – enough said.



3. Live Entertainment
From the traditional Wawona tunes sung and played at the piano by local Tom Bopp to the guitar-based rock of local band Bootstrap Circus, we have you covered with music for all ages.

4. Dancing
You can dance in the lobby and parlor of the hotel to your heart’s content from 10:00 pm until past midnight.



5. Champagne Toast at Midnight (With Balloon Drop!)
The hotel staff will make sure you have something to toast the new year, whether you buy cocktails in the Petite Dining Room that serves as the cocktail lounge, or accept a complimentary glass of sparkling wine as the minutes count down to next year. December 31st, 2014 in Yosemite National Park – it’s a date!

Seasons in Yosemite: Wawona in the Fall

Fall can be a quiet and cozy time of year filled with brightly colored leaves, outdoor fun in the crisp air, hearty meals and perhaps a wildlife sighting or two as animals prepare for winter. You can do all of these things and more in Yosemite National Park during this gentle season, and there is no better place to experience fall than the historic Wawona Hotel.

Historic hops vines trail over Wawona’s verandas and turn yellow in the early fall. Photo by Christy Dudley.

You’ll find fall color in a variety of ways at Wawona. From the hops vines that trail over the verandas of the hotel to the dogwood trees that line the west end of the Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary golf course to the black oaks along the Meadow Loop Trail, fall is found in a range of shades. The Meadow Loop Trail also offers the chance to view Wawona’s wildlife: mule deer with proud antler racks and squirrels caching acorns for the winter. You may even be lucky enough to spot the great gray owl that calls Wawona home. The nature of the Meadow Loop complements the culture in this historic area of Yosemite, as you can spot acorn grinding holes in the granite outcroppings along the loop left by Native Americans. At the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, you can experience different periods in Yosemite’s history all in one place: a collection of historic buildings from all over the park relocated here in the 1950s and 1960s. You’ll see a blacksmith shop, calvary office, resident cabins, the Wells Fargo office and one of the only covered bridges located inside a national park.

During this time of year, the emphasis may be on the show created by trees and shrubs shedding colorful leaves, but don’t forget that the greatest trees of all reside in Yosemite: the Giant Sequoias. Though the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is a short drive from the Wawona Hotel, it is closed for restoration until spring 2017. Yosemite has two other giant sequoia groves located near the Crane Flat area of the park: Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove. Both groves require a moderate 2 mile round-trip hike to view the big trees. An afternoon hike in the grove can help you work up an appetite for hearty meals served in Wawona’s old-fashioned setting.

Dogwood trees in the fall. Photo by Kenny Karst.

Dogwood trees in the fall. Photo by Kenny Karst.

Thanksgiving at Wawona is celebrated with a special dinner in the Victorian-era hotel’s dining room. The Thanksgiving dinner menu includes classics like roasted turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. In addition to the classics, Chef Dwayne McFann will also treat you to delicious fall treats such as wild salmon roulade, corn polenta cake, spiced apple & brown sugar roasted pork loin and butternut squash spinach lasagna paired with California wines. Activities and events through the season include the Fall Gathering in Wawona hosted for donors to the Yosemite Conservancy, stagecoach rides at the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, and nature walks with a park ranger in Mariposa Grove. To experience vintage music of Yosemite, join singer Tom Bopp at the piano in the lobby of the Wawona Hotel from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Day or night, you’ll find a fall filled with plenty in Wawona to make your visit to Yosemite one to remember.

Stagecoach rides at Pioneer Yosemite History Center. Photo by

Stagecoach rides at Pioneer Yosemite History Center. Photo by Nancy Robbins.

Photo by Kenny Karst

Photo by Kenny Karst