Yosemite Valley

One of the world’s iconic views is the Yosemite Valley Tunnel View named for the vista when emerging from the tunnel on Wawona Road (Highway 41) that brings visitors into Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite Valley Tunnel View on an early May evening

Getting to this Tunnel View vista point takes some mountain driving when approaching from Wawona Road/Highway 41. The drive from Wawona Hotel takes 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic and good road conditions and climbs along hillsides at 5,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation where there are no services, few structures and limited places on the road to stop.

Yosemite National Park Wawona Road

An exhibit I saw in the Visitor Center at Kings Canyon National Park said Giant Sequoia tree rings revealed wildfires in the Sierra on average about every 13 years over the past thousand years.

Yosemite wildfire trees

Places like Tunnel View, Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Village and Ahwahnee Hotel have extremely limited parking. When the parking is gone you may be stuck in traffic for some time trying to get back out of Ahwahnee Road to find an available parking lot space.

Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite Valley

Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” – John Muir

Ahwahnee Lodge is past Yosemite Village on dead-end Ahwahnee Road.

The Ahwahnee old gate

The parking lot at The Ahwahnee was full at mid-day on a weekday in early May so don’t expect to find easy parking here on a weekend in mid-summer. The entire Village was packed with cars. I parked at the picnic area between the village and The Ahwahnee and walked ten minutes to the hotel on the paved path while watching out for bicycles on this flat path between the Village and the hotel.

‘So move your feet from hot pavement

And into the grass’

       – Arcade Fire “Suburbs

Main tip for Yosemite is ditch the car whenever possible. There are free busses circulating around the park and this alleviates the gridlock of car travel in the valley.

The Ahwahnee at Yosemite

This historical hotel is certainly a destination to visit if you are hanging out in Yosemite and want to sit on a lovely patio or lodge community room looking out to the mountains and woods. It is like the suburbs in a cooler setting.

The Ahwahnee

The dining hall is world-famous for its cavernous wood beam ceiling.

The Ahwahnee pool

I have to say I was shocked when I saw the hotel rates as I planned my trip to Yosemite. The basic room at The Ahwahnee costs over $500 per night after tax.

The Ahwahnee lobby window

The Ahwahnee main lobby

The hotel’s location is the selling point rather than the luxury aspect. The rooms are nice, but more like a $200 hotel room in most cities and resorts.

The Ahwahnee Room 204

The luxury is having the money to be sleeping in comfort in one of the most desirable locations on earth – the heart of Yosemite Valley.

One of the sitting rooms at The Ahwahnee

Paths from The Ahwahnee meander along the river towards Half Dome and the eastern end of Yosemite Valley past the vehicle road access.

Yosemite National Park - Half Dome

Yosemite Half Dome close-up

Mirror Lake provides a photographic opportunity for reflection.

Half Dome in Mirror Lake

Granite walls tower above a serene lake on a warm sunny day in May.

Mirror Lake, Yosemite

The trail continues east to the high alpine Sierra country.

Yosemite trails to high Sierra

Yosemite rock garden


Yosemite Lodge at the Falls

There are 226 lodge rooms with private bath and patio/balcony. There are 19 slightly smaller standard rooms and 4 family rooms that can sleep six. None of the rooms at Yosemite Lodge have air conditioning.

Yosemite Fall

Sample rates: Most rooms are booked for summer. The calendar today shows only six dates available between now and Labor Day in September.

Yosemite Lodge, Monday September 5, 2011 (Labor Day)

  • Standard Room = $192
  • Lodge Room King Bed = $219 + $24.09 tax (11.0%) = $243.09

Yosemite Fall

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” – John Muir

There is more availability for summer months at the Tent Cabin locations, but even these have limited open dates for June to August 2011.

Curry Village Tent Cabin

No Heat, shared bath = $96 (double bed and three singles)

Housekeeping Camp Tent Cabin

Electrical outlet, one double and bunk beds, bear storage lockers = $94/night.

Yosemite Park Accommodations

Related loyalty traveler posts:

Yosemite lodging south entrance Highway 41 from Fresno – photos and hotel lodging options between Fresno and Yosemite Valley (5-16-2011)

The mountains are calling and I must go – Kings Canyon National Park Highway 180 scenic drive (5-15-2011)

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »



  1. my decades old joke is:

    “My idea of camping is staying at the Ahwahnee hotel.”

    Nice pics Ric.


  2. Fun post. The Ahwahnee is no doubt hard to swallow for the loyalty traveler, but it is a wonderful old hotel in a stunning location. They just spent the better part of a month renovating it this winter and it looks great. Even if you don’t stay, make a point of visiting and maybe enjoying a drink on the back patio or lunch/dinner in the dining room!

  3. My wife worked in the park for a couple years & had a friend who worked the front desk at the Ahwahnee – he once received a call at 2am from a guest who couldn’t sleep, asking that they turn off that #!%& water outside making all that racket. His response? “Sorry, sir – our dam builders just arent responsive enough to turn off a waterfall right now.”

  4. I was just in Yosemite valley last week may 11-13 and stayed at curry village. It was a little rough staying in those unheated canvas tents but got a good deal at 40 a night via travelocity. It was prime location to pick up the trail to vernal and Nevada falls and half dome but was still closed due to the snow or we would’ve totally climbed it. The place is unbelievably gorgeous with the mountains and waterfalls, Great post!

  5. If you can’t find reservations at the park hotels or can’t swing their prices, you might want to check out Yosemite View Lodge. I stayed there last month and it is literally on the edge of the park boundry. Book a river view room, fantastic view and amazing roar from the water rushing by (at least it was in the spring). Price was about $215 & I managed to get upgraded to a jacuzzi room w/kitchenette (maybe helped arriving late).

  6. Thanks for posing that fabulous photo. There are so many beautiful spots here Yosemite park, that is why i am dreaming of going to that place and spend time to have adventure. This is really an ideal place!

  7. Amazing photos! I am sure camping on this places is one of the most unforgettable experience. Because the place has so many wonderful site that anyone would love and could have fun. Thanks a lot for a beautiful post!

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