Lodging and Dining in and Around Yosemite
From camping to luxury hotels, family-friendly cafeterias to fine dining, Yosemite offers something for every taste and budget.
There are several good options for lodging outside the park, but because of the size of Yosemite—and the amount of driving in required—we prefer to stay in park lodging. This means planning well ahead of time. Reservations are taken 366 days in advance, and this foresight is absolutely necessary if you plan to visit during summer. (Make reservations by phone at 559-253-5635 or online at www.yosemitepark.com.)
You’ll find a wide range of accommodations, from the very swank to the very humble. We’ve tried them all, and each offers its own advantages. Note that only the Ahwahnee is air conditioned—a summertime luxury that comes at a significant price.
- The Ahwahnee: This elegant Arts and Crafts lodge is nestled in the Valley, an easy walk from Yosemite Falls. Every afternoon, guests will enjoy complimentary cookies and tea in the magnificent grand hall, where enormous wintertime fires are stoked 24/7. The most coveted guestrooms have a view of the falls. (Although it was still a treat, a few years ago we secured just such a view room in November, at a slightly discounted rate—only to find that the falls had dried up to the barest trickle.) Rooms start at $400.
- Yosemite Lodge at the Falls: By far the best value in the Valley, the Yosemite Lodge offers large, comfortable accommodations and plenty of hotel amenities—like on site dining, a large gift and sundry store and a huge pool (open seasonally). Upstairs rooms have balconies with tables and chairs, if you want to dine close to home. Be sure to clean up scraps: A band of raccoons sweeps through the balconies methodically in the early evening and will gobble up anything left behind. And these critters are fearless: One evening I opened the door to our balcony to find five raccoons staring back at me—and I had to slam the door shut quickly before they could scamper inside. Rooms start at $112.
- Wawona Hotel: This 19th-century beauty offers a dozen white-washed buildings scattered along serene, sequoia-studded grounds. Small Victorian rooms are furnished in period style and offer high ceilings, antique iron beds and very little closet space (some rooms just have a hanging rack). Many rooms share a bath. Although this lovely hotel is an hour’s drive to the Valley, it is a terrific option if you need last-minute reservations (which are often available here and nowhere else in the park). Rooms with a private bath start at $178; without at $105.
- Camping: There are campgrounds of all sorts scattered throughout the park; a portion of them are left open for walk-ins on a first-come, first-served basis. The other sites can be reserved five months in advance. The Valley offers several campgrounds—but these are generally noisy, smoky and crowded. More spacious, peaceful options are available in Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows. Another fun option for those wanting to rough it is the High Sierra Camps, a series of five sets of canvas cabins that fall along a loop trail in the backcountry. Rental of these shared dormitory-style cabins includes hot meals and each is about a day’s walk from the next—allowing for a real wilderness experience without having to pack in all the gear. These are such highly coveted accommodations that they are allocated by lottery system. Meals and lodging start at $136 per person.
National parks are not known for their cuisine, and you’ll find a handful of cafeterias and grills in Yosemite that serve the typical watery soups, greasy fries and soggy sandwiches. Here, however, are some notable exceptions:
- The Ahwahnee Dining Room is a luxurious—albeit pricey—indulgence. Diners relax in a 34-foot-tall log dining hall, with live piano music in the background. Here you’ll find exceptionally prepared dinners of osso buco, venison chops and Maine lobster tail—or my favorite: a completely civilized breakfast of raisin brioche French toast served with warm maple syrup and a thick slice of sugar-cured ham. Advance reservations are required.
- The Wawona Hotel also has a rustic, Victorian dining room and a chef who knows his way around the kitchen. There is an especially appealing patio in the warmer months. The bacon-wrapped grilled trout and flat-iron steak with herbed mashed potatoes are even better after a day of hiking. Reservations are suggested.
- Degnan’s Loft (upstairs from Degnan’s Deli, which is open only for lunch) serves up surprisingly good pizza and draft beer. This is a favorite with families, because the atmosphere is casual (hiking boots are OK!) and the prices are reasonable. The view from the second floor is especially appealing; we like to grab a table by the window and watch the deer come out at sunset.
Yosemite National Park
Family Travel, Outdoor Adventures
Camping, Eat, Sleep
Curry Village Cabins
Another option that's a step up from camping but more rustic than a hotel is Curry Village cabins (tent or wood). We rented a wood cabin last Fall and are doing it again in a couple weeks. The wood cabins are right in Curry Village so close to the cafeteria, other food, and activities. They are decorated nicely, many have bathrooms, all have a little deck, and include housecleaning service. I believe we are paying $138/night. As with most lodging at Yosemite, they book up a year in advance but call for cancellations or check Craig's List for people selling spots.