Yosemite Quick Getaway

Yosemite Quick Getaway Claimed

2 Days | Fall 2020 | Mom and Adult Son | Light Hiking and Photography

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Trip Overview

Quick getaway to Yosemite for photography and exploring

Full Itinerary

For those of us who live within a few hours drive of Yosemite, this magical place can be a quick one or two-night getaway, as well as a longer trip. And to avoid the incredible crowds and traffic that summer can bring, the fall is a great time to see the park with more breathing room. And if you can manage for a fall weekday you may even have more of the park and its trails to yourself than usual.

Day 1:

My 24-year-old son, who is an avid bird and wildlife photographer, and I headed up on a Monday in early November so he could try to find some owl shots and we could have a quick park visit. We leave the Bay Area by 12:30 and were at our first destination, a meadow outside the park entrance where he’d had good luck with owl sightings in the past, by 4. We explored some beautiful meadows full of fall foliage and dramatic backgrounds and just as the sun had gone down and the light was starting to fade a great gray owl swooped by landed not far from us. We followed it for about 20 minutes until it flew out of range. Success!

We headed to Rush Creek Lodge, a wonderful play to stay that is located outside the entrance to the park. It has a great pool, spa, dining room, bar, games area, fire pits etc, and is wonderful for couples or families. No TV’s in the rooms as instead, they have games to play and encourage you to be outside rather than watching TV inside! The same group also owns Evergreen Lodge, another great option about 5 miles away, off the main road, from Rush Creek. With Covid precautions in effect, we had a socially distanced dinner in the dining room that was delicious (cauliflower app is great and my son loved the brisket mac and cheese) and got to bed early.

Day 2:

We were up and out by 6 am to try to find the owls at sunrise. No luck in finding them this time, but it was still beautiful!

We then headed into the park itself about 9 – and it’s about a 40-minute drive from the entrance to the valley floor. There were SO few cars on the road and the park was such a pleasure to explore by car and foot with SO LITTLE TRAFFIC! The fall colors were out, the sky was blue, it was warm and spectacular.

There are of course so many hike options and we were there more for the photography than big hiking this time, but we walked to Hidden Lake (no water this time of year but still a nice walk), had lunch at the Ahwanhi Hotel (the spectacular dining room is worth a visit if only for a cup of coffee), drove up to Granite Pass (45 mins each way from the valley floor and it takes you through the amazing ‘tunnel view’) for the incredible view of the entire area that really lets you get a feel for the scope of what Yosemite is like no other vantage point does. The waterfalls are not raging this time of year, but the climbers are still on El Capitan (bring your binoculars), the hikes are still spectacular, Half Dome still dominates the skyline and it’s an amazing quick getaway. We did a few more owl meadow stops and were on the road home by 4:30 completely recharged and feeling lucky to live so close to this magnificence.



Time of year


Type of Trip

Adventure/Active, Nature


quick getaway/weekend

Who Went

Family with adult kids

Accommodation Type



less than $200


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