Easy day trips near Yosemite
We love a good Yosemite visit, but sometimes you just really don’t want to deal with the traffic of the park (especially in summer). Lucky for you, there are endless adventures to be had outside the park. Here are a few of our favorites:
OUR FAVORITE YOSEMITE AREA DAY TRIPS (OUTSIDE OF THE PARK):
1. Beasore Meadows & Whiskey Falls Loop (Dry Season Only)
This is a full -day loop and will take you up into the mountains and meadows above Bass Lake where the air is cooler and the people are fewer. Our favorite time to go in in Spring / Early Summer when the grasses are still green, wildflowers bloom, and the waterfalls are flowing.
From Road 274 at Bass Lake, turn up Beasore Road and follow it all the way up to Chimpmunk Meadow (at this point you can keep going up Beasore Road to see the rest of the meadows and get an ice cream at the Jones Store, or follow the loop toward Whiskey Falls as described next). Turn left onto Central Camp Road and then left onto Road 8029. This is where you need to pay attention.
At the first fork in the road, take the RIGHT fork. (the left fork will take you to Shuteye Peak, but you may need an off-road vehicle to get there).
Shortly after you take that first fork, take your first left. You should see Gaggs Camp Campground. There are some amazing falls and pools to discover here if you choose to stop.
After Gaggs, keep driving on road 8029. The road will fork again. Stay to the left.
Turn right onto Whiskey Snowmobile Trails Road and follow it down the mountain past Camp Five Campground. Stay straight on Whiskey Snowmobile Trails Road for about a mile past Camp Five Campground, then turn left onto Whiskey Snowmobile Trails Road (yes, we know it’s the same name. It’s a little confusing.)
Follow the road out to Whiskey Falls Campground and park. Hike out to Whiskey Falls. They are beautiful.
Now, to continue on: Get back in the car and turn around. Go out the way you came until you get to the “T” in the road. Turn left. Take the road down the mountain, then keep right at the fork, turning onto Whiskey Falls Road and following it down to Road 233. From 233, turn left onto Cascadel Road, then right onto Road 225. This will take you back to North Fork, where you can take road 274 back toward Bass Lake.
2. Sugar Pine Railroad
A surprisingly fun half-day excursion (especially if you have kids), the Old Sugarpine Railroad is just up Highway 41 from Cedar Peak. The old steam train winds through the trees, chugging out steam along the way. A mid-point stop offers a chance to wander the amphitheater and creek area before continuing on. In summer, we recommend doing a morning ride (no later than 11am) to avoid the heat. Some of the train cars are covered, but we love the old log car, which provides no shade (but the best views).
Make reservations in advance and pick up your tickets at the counter when you get there.
3. Shaver Lake
A beautiful lake in the Southern Sierras, Shaver is similar to Bass Lake in terms of amenities, but smaller and on the quieter side. Where Bass Lake offers expansive areas of water to use for motor sports, Shaver offers a quieter shoreline and plenty of shallow beach areas to play on. Worthy of a drive if you’re in the area for more than 3 days.
4. Badger Pass / China Peak
Summer or winter, we love both these locations for snow play, skiing/snowboarding, and mountain biking in the summer.
Badger Pass (now called Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area): You will need to pay to get into the park to access Badger Pass, but it is a great place for beginners to learn how to ski or snowboard. The trails and hills are moderate and it’s an overall enjoyable experience. Ski and snowboard rentals, as well as lessons, are available for purchase there.
China Peak: Just under 2 hours from Cedar Peak, China Peak is fun year round! More crowded than Badger Pass, for sure, but the park is bigger and offers more in terms of amenities. Plus, they offer downhill mountain biking in the summer! If you are in town for more than a few days, China Peak is absolutely worth a day trip.
5. Mariposa Grove
Yes, we know that this is technically within the park boundary. But it’s so easy to access from Cedar Peak that we had to share. Located in the southern portion of Yosemite, just inside the South Gate, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite and is home to over 500 mature giant sequoias. The grove just underwent a major restoration, reopening in 2018. From April - November, make the drive up and check out the grove. It’s awe-inspiring and totally worth going.
From Cedar Peak, drive North on Highway 41 all the way to the South Gate of Yosemite. Once through the gate, take the first right off the traffic circle and park at the parking area for the grove. From here, you will take a free shuttle about 2 miles up the hill and into the grove itself.