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Yosemite - honeymoon planning redux due to hurricanes

As wedding gift, we helped daughter and future SIL with lovely honeymoon trip to St John, USVI. Well, hurricanes have their own plans and that trip is no longer possible. They've pretty much decided now to go to the northern California national parks, and end with a couple of days in San Francisco. They'll have 6 or 7 nights total, second week of November (5 weeks from now!). They love the great outdoors, historical sites, hiking. Is flying into and out of SF the best bet, or does it make better sense to fly into Las Vegas? Where is the best place to stay inside the park? I was looking at a VRBO in West Yosemite, if they want to stay in the same spot for 3-4 nights. Or should they break it up into a couple nights in a couple of different places? Where are wildfires active currently?
I really appreciate all suggestions and cautions to help plan this on the fly. She is a nurse working night shift and he's working in a national park off the grid, so the ability to spend time planning this and the wedding stuff is pretty stressful for all concerned!

Thanks!

Posted by
6950 posts

Don't overlook Oakland as an alternative airport. Frontier, Southwest and other budget airlines fly into there.
I would look into the hotels within the park to stay at.
The incredible waterfalls is what sets Yosemite apart.

Posted by
1002 posts

Great suggestion but we booked the original tickets on Delta so we're stuck with them. They're flying out of Knoxville, so no one-hop flights to Oakland from there.

Posted by
1331 posts

Hotel reservations in Yosemite are very hard to get. They book up way in advance (1 year?). Also they are very expensive and the only decent place to eat is in the hotel and it is just as expensive.

Posted by
1002 posts

The Big Trees Lodge shows availability but I think they may do a VRBO. This is mid-week in November. They'll be in SF by the weekend.

Posted by
10 posts

I live in the Bay Area. We used to celebrate Thanksgiving weekend in Yosemite Valley. It is quiet and beautiful in November, without the crowds of summer. It does get cold, especially at night. I highly recommend trying to get lodging in the Valley. The high end hotel the Majestic (formerly called the Ahwahnee) is spectacular and pricey, but very special. Even if they don't stay there they should treat themselves to the brunch. Mid -range and very comfortable is the Yosemite Valley Lodge at Yosemite Falls. Low range, rustic, but fun and comfortable is Curry Village (it too was renamed Half Dome Village) heated tent cabins and small cabins. Make reservations asap as they reduce capacity and fill up. And no, I wouldn't have them move around during their stay. They'll want to devote their time to exploring the beauty. Regarding smoke; it is still smokey in the Park these days, but by November it is likely to be clear.

Posted by
3347 posts

They love the great outdoors, historical sites, hiking. Is flying into
and out of SF the best bet, or does it make better sense to fly into
Las Vegas?

Las Vegas is terribly far from Yosemite. Have you considered having them fly into Sacramento or Reno airports? They are both closer to Yosemite than San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

Posted by
1002 posts

I think Half Dome is a no-go - this is a honeymoon and shared baths and canvas walls are probably not what they had in mind. LOL. The only other one with availability with Big Trees lodge. That's a possibility but I'd love to hear if anyone here has stayed there. The reviews on TripAdvisor are mixed. Thanks!

Posted by
6800 posts

How about San Jose as alternate airport? Does Delta fly there? Sacramento?

Posted by
10 posts

Big Trees is historic/classic and yes, a bit dated. It's right next to the Sequoia Grove of Big Trees, which is currently closed due to fires and projected to be open in November, so iffy. If they like history they may find it romantic. You should know it's a good 45 minute to 1 hour drive to the Valley floor from there and there is a lot of roadwork going on due to landslide damage in last year's storms. If Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is unavailable on your dates, then I'd look in El Portal.

Posted by
1002 posts

Stan - Yes, either of those have direct flights from ATL. San Jose might work - cuts off an hour or so according to Google.

ETA: no, not an hour. not sure what I was looking at. probably easier out with a rental car than SF though, isn't it?

Posted by
1002 posts

Would a rental in Yosemite West be a good location to use as a base?

Posted by
1353 posts

I've been to Yosemite almost annually for several years, and we stayed at the VRBO's in Yosemite West before my daughter's wedding at the Awhanee (main high end hotel in the valley) which is now called something else. The main sights in Yosemite are in the valley and Yosemite West is fairly far from the Valley. If you can get them a hotel room in the Valley that would be very preferable I would think (although the house we stayed at was very nice).

On the days they are spending in San Francisco they could drive up to Muir Woods to do some hiking. Its not too far and has lots of great trees.

ETA: Not sure what Big woods lodge is (they changed the names a few years ago. I suspect it's what used to be Mariposa Grove Lodge which is on the other side of the park from the Valley. Yosemite west would be a better location. I would call Yosemite lodgiing to check on availability as it changes quite often, and I have had luck by calling the past. I agree that Half dome village is not appropriate for a honeymoon if it is a tent cabin, but they also have some "motel rooms" which are nice including one that is set apart and has a fireplace.

It is totally possible and reasonable to tour Yosemite from Yosemite West. It just wouldn't be my first choice.

Posted by
380 posts

I don't mean to throw in a curve ball here. I'm just considering the convenience of airports, getting lodgings, etc. if Yosemite doesn't work out.
1. Fly into Phoenix. Get a rental and drive to the Grand Canyon south rim (I think north rim is closed by November) continue on to Arches, Capital Reef, Bryce and Zion if they are open.
2. Fly into LAX or Ontario. Drive to Death Valley, Mojave and Joshua Tree. Possibly spend time in San Diego instead of SF.

Posted by
1002 posts

Michelle, great minds think alike. :) We all went to Grand Canyon at Christmas, and had also considered the southern/San Diego route for their honeymoon. Just curious why you recommend that over Yosemite/SF?

Posted by
1002 posts

Jill, thanks for the details. I'll call tomorrow.

Posted by
1353 posts

The Awhanee is a luxury hotel - 500.00 a night and would be very appropriate for a honeymoon. I also think think the Mid Range hotel - used to be the Yosemite Lodge would work although it is fairly basic. The rooms I mentioned at half dome village are also basic, but because of the location I think would be good enough for a honeymoon.

Posted by
399 posts

Big Trees Lodge is the new (temporary) name for the hotel that's always been known as the Wawona. My husband and I stayed there in Sept. of 2015 and absolutely loved it. It's like stepping back in time . . . such a gracious, historic place. We loved relaxing on the wide verandas after a day in the park, or sitting in the piano parlor enjoying the nighly piano and vocal entertainment by Tom Bopp, who has been entertaining at the hotel for many years. The dining room is beautiful and the food delicious. You can opt for a room with a private bathroom or save money by booking a room without one, if you're willing to use the the shared toilet and shower rooms. They're immaculate. We flew in to Reno because that particular vacation started with a few nights on Lake Tahoe. After our stay at Yosemite, we drove up to Sonoma valley, then flew home from the airport in San Francisco.

Posted by
13215 posts

I am a big Yosemite fan (lived there for a year in my younger days). I agree with the above that staying in the valley is preferable, IF they can get suitable lodging. For a honeymoon, that would be the Ahwahnee ( aka Majestic), Yosemite Lodge, or a motel room at Half Dome Village. The Big Trees Lodge is outside the valley to the south, but it is a nice historic hotel. It is past Yosemite West if you are driving from the valley.

If they can't find suitable lodging in the valley by calling, a cabin or condo at Yosemite West is fine. We stayed there a few years back. It was a 25-minute drive to the valley or back. It was nice to have the privacy and escape the valley crowds each evening ( although in November that won't be a big problem like it is in summer).

Posted by
1058 posts

Staying in the Valley is the way to go if you can get reservations. I would call the reservation number for the valley every day as cancellations come up all the time. Reservations can be made a year and a day in advance for lodging in the valley. Most regulars make their reservations that far in advance and will often cancel as their plans change. Another option is to stay at the Tenya Lodge at the south entrance to the park. It is really nice. Unfortunately it will take about an hour to reach the valley from there. Don't give up and keep calling. Our daughter was married in Yosemite. It is a very special place.

Posted by
1002 posts

I have reserved a wooden cabin in Half Dome Village. I am hopeful that something will become available in the Lodge or Majestic between now and then. Very nice guy in reservations encouraged me to check daily, too. He felt pretty sure that rooms would open up.

Thanks!

Posted by
3709 posts

I see you are going ahead with Yosemite. Just want to disagree with above advice about Joshua Tree and Mojave National whatever-- these are bottom tier places not on par with Yosemite, Rainier, Zion etc, and I doubt they have lodging.

Posted by
1353 posts

I agree with Tom - I just didn't want to be the one to say it:)

I think even if you don't get different accommodations they will have a great time. I've stayed in the cabins. They are cute and cozy in a great area!

Posted by
8848 posts

After the rock falls at Yosemite....... hmmm

heard on the news a road has been closed ... not sure which one, but things could be a mess while clean up occurs

definitely research it , to see what will be open

Posted by
1002 posts

I am beginning to think Mother Nature does not want them to take a honeymoon.

Posted by
6879 posts

Yosemite is MASSIVE....I would not let a rock fall in one discrete location dissuade you. There is more to Yosemite than El Capitan, like hundreds of trails all over the park. Besides, at any given time, there are road closures somewhere in Yosemite (like the restoration project for the sequoias @ Mariposa Grove or the closure of the Tioga Pass due to weather conditions).

Posted by
1002 posts

Thanks, Agnes!

Future SIL is a wildlife management guy, works in a national park, and does search and rescue. I think they'll be okay. :D

I was able to get two of their three nights in the Yosemite Valley Lodge! I am very hopeful that the third night will become available since it's a Monday.

Posted by
3336 posts

Edit......sorry...I can't get used to the new names because of the stupid vendor that stole them all!! Big Trees is the new name for the Wawona. Not right.


The rock fall area at El Capitan is quite a ways off the main road and shouldn't impact regular park visitors.
In glancing over the thread I have seen no mention of the Wawona Lodge - it's a fantastic Victorian era lodge with rooms in the main building as well as smaller cabins and houses scattered around. We have scored last minute accommodation there before and you might have some luck if you try. It has the feel of an old fashioned mountain retreat with a common room, common dining room, and beautiful grounds. Some of the rooms don't have private baths so just be careful when booking!
Last time we were there, there were several musicians staying there (one turned out to be a Grammy winner!) and they all played together in the music room - turned into a sing along. Felt like something out of the 50s! It's such a great little place!
Just did a quick search and there are rooms available the second week of November...