I loved Yosemite and Death Valley, they’re both huge National Parks, with lots to see, so I thought I’d do a comparison post with some of their key differences.
Firstly the weather! We visited both parks in April only a few days apart but the temperature was so different you feel like your in another country. In Yosemite we could only visit Yosemite Valley in the centre of the park as they don’t start clearing the snow from the main road through the park until mid-April. There were still mounds of snow on the side of the road as we drove through, but it was actually a really nice sunny day about (20 Celsius/ 68 Fahrenheit I’m guessing). Death Valley, however, was at least 38 Celsius/ 102 Fahrenheit. Definitely no snow!
These are a bunch of the postcards I’ve collected from visits to America, as well as a few I’ve received from Canada.
I visited Yosemite and Death Valley National Park in April and loved them both. I really recommend them both but it pays to do your research before you go. Yosemite is 3000 kmsq but Death Valley is 13,500 kmsq (which is huge! About the same size as the Bahamas, or Luxembourg and Lebanon put together). Yosemite is lush and green, with mountains, waterfalls, and walks, Death Valley is hot with desert, dunes, and a borax museum (if you’re interested!).
Here are some of my top tips if you’re planning to visit to Yosemite or Death Valley:
- Check the season! Yosemite is still in ‘winter’ until mid-April at the earliest which means that the main road through the park is closed until then when they plough the remaining snow. You can still visit Yosemite Valley, however, which is what we did.
- Check the weather! Related to my first point but it’s important to know what weather to expect. Yosemite might have been in ‘winter’ still but Death Valley was over 100 F in April. Take layers of clothing in Yosemite as the temperatures can change, and sun block and water to both Yosemite and Death Valley. Facilities are separated by huge distances so make sure you take water everywhere!
- Check your car! I don’t drive so I can’t give car advice but check the engine/battery/brakes/fuel etc before you set off. Make sure you fuel up before you enter the parks, there are fuel stops but they’re miles apart and breaking down in Death Valley in particularly could actually get you killed as you are forced to walk miles in the sun looking for help.
- Take a map! And I mean a paper map! Although sat nav or a phone map might be preferable you can’t rely on internet and phone signal or your sat nav to work properly.
- I feel like I might be scaring you off! Here are some of the good things you can see: Tunnel View, Yosemite falls (in spring) and the little walk to Mirror Lake (which is beautiful) at Yosemite. And Badwater Basin (the lowest point in North America) and the incredible scenery in Death Valley.
Yosemite (pronounced Yo-Sem-It-Ee btw) is a huge and awe-inspiring National Park in America. I had first heard of it properly when I did a course on the history of photography at uni and saw some of Ansel Adams’ photos of Yosemite. Adams was a photographer and naturalist and a key player in creating the National Parks system in the US. I wrote a blog post on my other blog about him to coincide with my visit to Yosemite.
Above is Tunnel View, pretty much your first ‘sight’ when arriving into Yosemite (after about 1 hr of incredibly slow driving on very twisty roads). It is an extraordinary view. Quite a few people stop here and there is a little car park which is where I took this photo, you can Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, and Half Dome. I imagine it gets quite busy in season but it was still a little chilly when we arrived. (There was deep snow on the ground as we entered Yosemite, but the day turned out to be really sunny and warm).
Predictably, we started our exploration of Yosemite by seeking the nearest food station in Yosemite Village. The food on offer here is pretty poor, along the lines of burgers and chips. I went for a grilled cheese and some veg sticks (the kids option!) because I thought it was the healthiest and I felt hungry all day. We also wandered into the shop and Ansel Adams gallery (basically a shop) before setting off on a walk to the waterfalls. It was April when we were here and the waterfalls are at their strongest (they dry up completely in the summer and freeze in winter).
By this point it was very hot and the cooling water from the falls was very welcome, as was the surrounding rocks behind which I changed from my jeans to my shorts (which I had changed in and out of in the car at least twice much to boyfriend’s embarrassment) . This was the day when I had my only migraine on the holiday- something of a minor miracle that it was the only one- so I wasn’t really up for a big hike so we took another short walk to Mirror Lake which turned out to be really beautiful.
We only had once day at Yosemite and it took so long to get there that it was really just the afternoon. I would love to go back and explore it more.