Northern California RV Road Trip: Driving an RV to Yosemite National Park

Updated: Jan 30, 2018

Welcome back to my 2017 recap!

Every year I try to plan an epic vacation to somewhere new. There's so many amazing places to see so it's always hard deciding on where it will be. Last year the chosen winner was Northern California! As you saw in my last post, my boyfriend and I love hiking and want to explore as many new places as possible. Once we started talking about vacation plans Yosemite National Park came into conversation and we couldn't help but keep going back to it. After doing some research we were lucky enough to find the "Ultimate Northern California" road trip guide with everything mapped out for us. So we decided, we're doing it! However, there were so many places to travel to and we couldn't afford to stay for more than 2 weeks. How were we going to book a hotel for at least 5 different places and afford to eat out the whole time? Should we book airbnbs so we can also cook? Would we be able to find airbnbs for only a day or two at a time? This is getting complicated. But we don't want to miss out on all of the amazing opportunities while we're there. What if.... we've always talked about doing it one day.... what if.... we rent an RV?! Let's do it! Yes, we did question ourselves a few times if we were making the right decision but we finally decide to stop thinking about it and just do it! Our goal is to always do something different for each vacation and boy was this different.

After months of planning, we packed our bags, flew across the country, and rented a 3 person RV that was going to bring us all over Northern California. We both have always dreamed of doing an RV trip and while it did bring us a bit more stress than we expected it was still totally worth it.

We landed in San Francisco to pick up our RV and drove straight to Yosemite. While I was nervous about the whole "dumping" situation with the RV and how we were going to handle making sure we always had enough water and power, being the passenger I did not think about how driving the RV would be. I figured my boyfriend had some experience driving big trucks before so we'll be fine. But that wasn't totally the case. The first thing we had to do was get on the highway and man did we feel the difference with driving the RV. We felt like one gust of wind would push us into the next lane or we would accidentally cut someone off because we couldn't see them. We soon realized that living in the RV wasn't going to be the hard part of the trip, driving it would be.

We arrived at our first campsite for Yosemite around 10pm and the first thing we found out was that campfires were not allowed because of the danger of wildfires in the area. Hmmmm, we didn't think that would happen. Good thing we had an RV to cook in! Since we were traveling all day and got in pretty late we headed straight to bed with eagerness for our first day in Yosemite.

We were excited to start the drive into Yosemite National Park with the anticipation that we were going to have amazing views the whole time but instead we experienced something different. As we were trying to admire the tall redwood trees that stood outside our car we couldn't because of all the smoke that surrounded them. When we pulled over at viewpoints to admire the natural beauty of Yosemite, our vision was restricted because of all the smoke that block it. We knew that Yosemite was experiencing wildfires before we got there but we didn't think it would affect us. This just made it all real. Sometimes you just don't believe something until you see it. I was instantly disappointed thinking this might be my only chance to experience Yosemite and I might not actually get to experience it. But that's the thing. I was experiencing it. I was experiencing the unfortunate truth of Northern California.

We finally got to Yosemite Valley and decided that today was going to be a day of exploring as many hots spots of the park that we could. Luckily, as the day went on the smoke gradually cleared out and gave us the opportunity to really capture the beauty of Yosemite through our camera. We hit up all the main stops- Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Tunnels Views, and Glaciers Point all within one day. Holy moly there was a lot to see and we wanted to take advantage of being there as much as possible.

Then came the big hike of Yosemite- Clouds Rest. Even though I've done a lot of big hikes I can't help but get a little nervous before every one of them. Am I going to have the right gear? Did I dress okay? Did I bring enough food? Am I going to be in any sort of danger? These are all questions I ask myself before starting. This 13 mile hike offered amazing terrain with an elevation gain of almost 4,000 ft and ended it with ridgeline views all the way to the top. The last few miles were definitely the toughest as the incline only got steeper and the altitude really started to hit you but man did those views help! We weren't even at the very top yet and we were already amazed by the views we were seeing. The final section had a patch of rocks to walk across in which you were able to view Yosemite from all sides of you. I remember walking across and feeling like Yosemite was hugging me. How does it get any better than this?

The first thing I do when I get to the summit of my hike is to pick the best spot, grab my lunch, and just soak in the views (this time, staring at Half Dome). I always try to save time for the summit because that's what all the hard work you've done is for and really enjoy it. When we were on the summit we even heard people saying that they did Half Dome the day before (which you need permits for) and they thought this one was way better. Damn straight!

Clouds Rest Summit in Yosemite National Park

After we snapped some shots, we started our trek back and couldn't stop talking about how amazing that view was. We will forever be in awe of this hike. What a great way to wrap up Yosemite!

Stay tuned to see what our next stops were on our Northern California RV Road Trip!

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