Visiting Yosemite Valley in a Pandemic

If you’ve ever been to Yosemite Valley during a non-pandemic, summer weekend, you’ll know how crowded it gets. Here I’ll share my experience visiting Yosemite during a pandemic.

My family of four had a reservation at the Ahwahnee hotel for two nights. We got lucky for a multitude of reasons:

  • The hotel opened on the 13th, our reservation was for the 13th
  • The hotel is now (during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic) requiring rooms to have a 24-hour gap between groups staying. Since our reservation was for the first-night open, we did not have to worry about our reservation being canceled.

The park was limiting entrants during our stay, and thus, there were very few people. A few years ago, we went camping in the park, and it was immensely crowded compared to our recent stay. COVID-19 made our trip much more enjoyable in many ways.

Our Trip

We had decided to go to Yosemite since one of the members of our party had decided he wanted to climb Half-Dome. Our trip was two-nights (Saturday and Sunday night). The rest of us did not climb Half-Dome (myself included).

We got to our hotel around 6pm. You had to wear facial coverings in the lobby, and staying 6 feet apart was advised. After checking in, we headed to our hotel room. The room had two double-beds and a pullout couch bed. The mattress on the pullout was not very comfortable, but with a sleeping bag pad, it was okay. That night, we got take-out from the Curry Village food trucks.

Biking Around Yosemite Valley


On our way to see Lower Yosemite we saw a creek!

We brought our bikes to Yosemite. I believe rentals were closed during our stay. We got to see Upper and Lower Yosemite on our way to the trailhead. We saw much wildlife and even where John Muir built a cabin that he lived in for two years. Later that day, we biked to the Swinging Bridge. We ate lunch there and dipped our toes in the water.

Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls.

Following, we biked to the Yosemite Village Store. There was a line to get in that took maybe ten minutes? We got some groceries and souvenirs there. Face-masks and hand-sanitizing were required to enter.

Half-Dome from Mirror Lake!

We stopped by the hotel to drop off our food and then biked to Mirror Lake. It was a pleasant ride, and the views at the lake were magnificent.

That night we went to the Base Camp Eatery. The restaurant was sit-down. We wore face-masks when ordering but not while eating. Select tables were blocked off to enforce social-distancing protocols.

Seeing Vernal and Nevada Falls

While hiking this trail, make sure you bring enough water. I drank around 1.5-2 liters of water. We brought along a Gregory’s Water Bladder and many water bottles.

The next day we checked out of the hotel and drove to Happy Isles to hike the Mist Trail. The day before, one of our party members had climbed Half-Dome, today, the rest of us were going on the hike with him.

We went up to the Vernal Falls footbridge. On our way up, we got a glimpse of Illilouette falls and many grand views of the river. The footbridge was very uncrowded compared to the time we visited several years ago. There we could see Vernal Falls from a distance. From there, we hiked a little further to the Mist Trail.

To help with social-distancing, descending from the Mist Trail before 4pm was prohibited and is never advised. 

View of Vernal Falls from the Mist Trail.

The Mist Trail was stunning, and we got some dazzling photos in. The only thing is that if you’re not careful, you could easily slip on the wet steps and get injured. There is several puddles along the mist trail so do bring water resistant shoes. If you dislike being wet, bring a rain-jacket or two. It can get cold in the drippy areas, so be warned and bring a light jacket if desired. Be advised, you will have to take this off once you finish the misty part of the trail.

After ascending the Mist Trail, we rested for a lunch break. Some people were played in the water, though we decided not to for risk of falling down the waterfall.

It really does look like emeralds.

While eating, several squirrels tried to take our lunch. Remember to bring something to put your trash and do not feed the wildlife. Many of the squirrels were getting extremely close to humans. Some were even pawing bags!

From here, we started the ascent to Clarke’s Point. A few hundred feet from our picnic stop was a restroom.

We walked past the Emerald Pool and Silver Apron and then took a detour to get a closer look of Nevada Falls.


The Silver Apron is super cool!

At Clarke’s Point, we got some marvelous photos before descending from the Muir Trail. By then, we were exhausted and glad to be on the descent.

Once we finished the Muir Trail, we descended down further to the footbridge, and from there, back to Happy Isles. Our feet were exhausted, and we were relieved to get back in the car.

View of Nevada falls!


Overall, the Mist Trail, Clarke’s Point, Muir Trail loop, is a grueling trail that offers outstandingly sublime views of Nevada and Vernal Falls.

Tips for Visiting Yosemite Valley while Social-Distancing

  1. Keep a mask or other facial covering in your pocket at all times.
    1. You never know when you’ll need to grab a snack at the store!
    2. I kept a handy bandana with me that I can use to cover my face. The bandana is also useful for wrapping fruit, tying hair back, and as an emergency sling.
  2. Check if stores/trails/restaurants are open beforehand.
  3. Have a back-up plan if things are closed.
  4. There’s a lot of mosquitoes in Yosemite, try using this.
    1. It actually works. I got the idea from Shark Tank.

Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to post about your trip to experience in national parks while sheltering in place!