An Insider's Journey into Yosemite
Soak in Yosemite's iconic beauty on this breathtaking journey deep inside one of America's favorite national parks.
California: Drink It In
Yosemite’s granite cathedrals, roaring waterfalls and ancient sequoia groves inspired early conservationists to protect its wonders for all time. In 1901, the Sierra Club’s first outing was a hike from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows. Experience Yosemite’s enduring marvels as we retrace that early journey and more, viewing the edifice of Half Dome and the 3,000-foot wall of El Capitan, flower-strewn alpine heights, the grand sequoias, and the silver ribbon of the Merced River.
Travel Curator’s Insights:
- • Expert naturalist guides share powerful insider knowledge for a more meaningful experience.
• It can be next to impossible to get Yosemite's most in-demand hotels. Stay at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel and Tenaya Lodge.
• Stay on the east side of the Sierra to watch the sunrise over Mono Lake, followed by a morning canoe ride.
From $6,995 per person
Ask about reduced single supplements to have your own room. Policies and protocols provided before you book.
July 7-14, 2023*
July 15-22, 2023*
Aug 4-11, 2023*
Aug 12-19, 2023*
Aug 20-27, 2023*
Sept 1-8, 2023*
Sept 9-16, 2023
Sept 17-24, 2023
Ask us for later dates.
July - Sept 2023, 2024
Hover here for specific dates
Trip Sustainability Awards
Has eliminated use of single-use plastic bottles and straws
Has contributed more than $4.5 million to the WWF
Offsets all CO2 outputs from trips and office operations
Day 1: Fresno, CA
Arrive in Fresno, the largest city in California’s 450-mile-long Central Valley. The commercial hub of vast agricultural region, Fresno is surrounded by fruit and nut orchards and vegetable farms. The Sierra Nevada mountain range rises to the east, and Yosemite National Park is less than 70 miles away. Meet your Expedition Leader at the airport, then drive north across the San Joaquin Valley and into the Sierra foothills to reach Yosemite National Park. Leaving flat farmland behind, watch the vegetation zones change as we ascend from scrub and chapparal to the lower montane forest characterized by ponderosa pine, California black oak, white fir and incense-cedar. As we traverse the varied terrain, we'll notice the impact of fire in the different vegetation zones—a phenomenon we witness in different settings throughout our journey as we gain an understanding of how fire ecology shapes the ecosystem. Reaching Fish Camp, surrounded by the Sierra National Forest, we tuck into Tenaya Lodge, a renowned mountain resort on the edge of the park, for a two-night stay.
Accommodation: Tenaya Lodge
Day 2: Mariposa Grove / Wawona / Fish Camp
From Fish Camp, just outside the park boundary, we have quick access this morning to Mariposa Grove, where more than 500 giant sequoias—the arboreal patriarchs of Yosemite—are found. In 1864, President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant Act, protecting Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley for "public use, resort, and recreation," seeding the concept for America’s national parks. This landmark legislation, enacted during the Civil War, marked the first time the U.S. government set aside scenic natural areas to be preserved for future generations. Yosemite National Park was created in 1890, and Mariposa Grove was later added to it in 1906. On a walk through the grove, we’ll view the most famous trees including the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant and drive-through Tunnel Tree.
We are immersed in Yosemite’s early history at Wawona, a wide-open basin that was home to Native Americans and a primary thoroughfare for early travelers to the park. On a visit to the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, learn how Yosemite became an inspiration for national parks throughout the nation and world. In the decades since, Yosemite's incomparable grandeur has drawn countless visitors. Yet people's presence on this land goes back millennia, and we learn about the original inhabitants, early white settlers, tourists, climbers, rangers and more who have been using, abusing, loving, and protecting Yosemite for hundreds and even thousands of years. Find out how the idea for a public park formed and the challenges that exist in protecting and preserving the Yosemite today. This afternoon, escape the crowds on a walk in Wawona Meadow where wildflowers grace the trails in season before returning to Tenaya Lodge for a second night.
Accommodation: Tenaya Lodge
Day 3: Glacier Point / Yosemite Valley
Leaving Fish Camp this morning, we head deeper into the park via famous Glacier Point Road, making our first stop at Glacier Point for a commanding view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and the alpine high country beyond. Continue to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point, with a morning hike in the area before a picnic lunch. This afternoon, we pause at Tunnel View to survey the grand entrance to Yosemite Valley. Famed photographer Ansel Adams, who lived several summers in Yosemite in the 1920s, called the valley "always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space." Waterfalls pour from on high, and we'll stop at several, including Bridalveil Falls.
Our destination for the next three nights is the fabled Ahwahnee Hotel, and since we are privileged to stay inside the park bounds, we have access to the valley floor in the early morning and late evening hours when the daytripper crowds are gone.
Accommodation: Ahwahnee Hotel
Please note: Glacier Point Road will be closed for an extended period of reconstruction and restoration in 2022. In lieu of this drive, we will spend more time discovering the sights of Yosemite Valley.
Days 4 & 5: Exploring the Yosemite Valley
From our coveted location on the valley floor, we have easy access to all the legendary sights on display, from the 3,000-foot vertical face of El Capitan to the sheer granite wall of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Vernal Falls in season, and the silver ribbon of the Merced River. Those who wish may choose an optional float trip (included). And since we travel with two Expedition Leaders, we're able to divide up for easier and more challenging hikes according to personal preference.
Wildlife abounds in the park, though larger mammals, such as black bears, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes and red fox, often remain hidden. Look, too, for some of Yosemite's 262 bird species-165 are year-round park residents. During our stay we'll visit with a local bear specialist and have a chance to do some stargazing, identifying bright constellations in the dark Sierra skies.
Accommodation: Ahwahnee Hotel
Day 6: Yosemite's High Country / Tioga Road / Tuolumne Meadows / Lee Vining
Spend the day following the Tioga Road, a 47-mile scenic drive that connects Crane Flats with 9,943-foot Tioga Pass. The highest automobile road in California, it offers endless panoramas of forested mountainsides, meadows, lakes and granite domes. We stop to view many highlights along the way, which may include North Dome, Olmsted Point, Soda Springs, Tioga Lake and Dana Meadows. The alpine scenery in the park's higher eastern elevations is splendid, and summer wildflowers dot the expansive high-country meadows with color. Enjoy easy hikes away from the road and crowds. Crossing Tioga Pass, descend to the eastern flank of the Sierras where we spend the night at a lodge in Lee Vining near Mono Lake.
Accommodation: Lake View Lodge
Day 7: Mono Lake-Canoeing / Tuolumne Meadows / El Portal
Rise early to watch the sunrise over Mono Lake, when the tufa towers-limestone pinnacles that rise out of the lake's surface-are illumined in dawn's golden glow. Formed at least 760,000 years ago, this saline soda lake has no outlet, causing high levels of salts to accumulate and making its water alkaline. Mono Lake forms an important oasis in the arid Great Basin, filled with brine shrimp that create vital habitat for 2 million migratory and nesting birds. Learn about the fascinating geology of the area over breakfast in the field, followed by a private canoe paddle on the lake.
We then head back over Tioga Pass for more exploration, with entirely different views unfolding as we travel westward, cresting the high mountain saddle and dropping back down into Yosemite Valley. The park roadway, which crosses the southern edge of subalpine Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet, is the only roads across the High Sierra until you are south of Mt. Whitney-marking the northern end of the largest contiguous roadless wilderness in the continental U.S. We stop to hike in the meadows, filled with wildflowers in season.
The Tuolumne River meanders quietly through the meadow channel, cascading over the granite river bottom against a backdrop of rugged peaks and glacially carved domes. Declared a Wild and Scenic River by Congress in 1984, the Tuolumne originates in the high country near the east side of the park. By early evening, we exit the park at El Portal, winding up our Sierra sojourn with a farewell dinner tonight.
Accommodation: Yosemite View Lodge
Day 8: Fresno / Depart
After breakfast, a transfer is provided to the Fresno airport to connect with departing flights.
Please note: This is a new trip. The itinerary above is preliminary and subject to change.
Activity Level: This adventure does not require a particularly high degree of physical fitness. However, please be aware that hiking is the main activity, with two or three excursions per day, totaling 5-10 miles. Hikes on Day 2 are near sea level. Hikes in Yosemite Valley (Days 3-5) will take place at an elevation of approximately 5,000 feet, and hikes on Days 6 & 7 will be at approximately 8,000-9,500 feet. Hikes near Mono Lake are at an elevation of approximately 6,400 feet.
In order to participate fully, travelers should be able to walk unassisted for at least 2.5 miles at a time over uneven terrain, with moderate climbs (up to 200 feet of elevation gain per mile) required on some hikes. Guests can usually choose between more or less strenuous hikes. There will also be scenic drives over a high pass with steep drop-offs, so any traveler who experiences vertigo should take that into consideration. We will rise early and often include activities well into the evening in order to take advantage of times when fewer park visitors are present. There will be opportunities for optional canoeing and a float trip that requires the ability to enter and exit small boats on calm water.
Important Information About This Trip: We have taken great pains to create a rich and captivating itinerary in this iconic destination while attempting to avoid crowds as much as possible. However, Yosemite in summer is always going to be crowded, and there will be times that we simply cannot escape substantial crowds if we want to see the globally renowned natural sites that draw so many visitors from around the world-this is especially the case in Yosemite Valley. But we also employ strategies to help attain the most meaningful experience possible! Our Expedition Leaders know the Yosemite region intimately, including less-traveled corners away from the heaviest crowds. We seek to maximize quieter time at park highlights by waking very early to beat the crowds, and enjoying excursions into the evening when day-trippers have left and other visitors have retreated to their hotels and campsites.
Due to extremely limited parking in Yosemite Valley, we use the park shuttle service to get around while staying in the valley. This is often a very crowded experience, but it is by far the fastest way to move around in Yosemite Valley.
You should also be aware that we spend a fair bit of time driving in vans on this trip. Why is that the case, when the goal is spending time in nature, not vehicles? Well, it turns out that it's necessary in order to maximize your experience-to make sure you get to all the celebrated sights you've come to see. We know you don't want to miss any Yosemite highlights-nor would we want you to! That means we must get you from one sector of this vast park to another via driving. You can trust us to craft routing and timing that includes plenty of rest stops, viewpoints and nature interludes during those transfers.
Getting There & Getting Home:
Arrival: Arrive in Fresno, CA by 4 pm in order to attend a welcome dinner beginning at 6 pm on Day 1.
Departure: You may depart Fresno, CA after 2 pm on the final day.
Yosemite is one of those places many of us say we'll get to eventually. Don't wait! Take advantage of the deep knowledge and special access offered by this skilled operator.
Joy Martinello, Founder
What’s Included & Cancellation Policy: