The Best of Yosemite National Park: An American Icon

Discover the wonders of Yosemite National Park alongside naturalists as you learn about and explore Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, Mariposa Grove and many other iconic treasures.
Rating (4.93)
Program No. 19237RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 4 L 4 D
Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Brisbane (San Francisco Airport), CA
DoubleTree by Hilton San Francisco Airport North

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: Check-in with the hotel front desk to receive your room key. Walk to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes and other important information. Please ask for your packet when you check in, if you arrive late. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. Get to know your fellow participants in a session we call Crossing Points and discover what you share beyond a love of lifelong learning.

Dinner: In our private room at the hotel, enjoy a plated meal with salad, entrée, rolls and butter, dessert, and beverage choices including fresh brewed coffee, assorted hot teas, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: The group leader will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have. Dinner on day 3 is on your own in Yosemite National Park. Dining options will be listed in the “Yosemite Guide”, which you can view online at http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm. If you are interested in eating dinner at The Ahwahnee Hotel Dining Room, please be advised that “Proper attire is kindly requested for dinner.” Gentlemen are asked to wear collared shirts and long pants. Ladies are asked to wear dresses or skirts / slacks and blouses. Make reservations by calling (209) 372-1489. Indicated times are approximate; program activities and schedules may need to change due to local circumstances. We will alert you as quickly as possible in the event of itinerary changes. Thank you for your understanding. We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. The Group Leader will often be available during free time to accompany informal excursions, activities, or meals that have been excluded from the program cost. You are welcome to join if you like, with any associated costs on your own. Settle in and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Yosemite National Park, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Yosemite, CA
The Ahwahnee Hotel

Activity note: The drive to Yosemite National Park is about 275 miles, approximately 5 1/2 hours.The walk into El Capitan Meadow is on a dirt path in a flat meadow and the distance is about 100-150 feet. The paved trail from Bridalveil Fall parking area to base of waterfall is 1/2 mile roundtrip with approximately 80 foot elevation gain.

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in hotel restaurant offers a selection of eggs, bacon, sausage, breakfast potatoes, hot and cold cereals, fruit, yogurts, and fresh baked breakfast breads, plus assorted juices, coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: Once we check out of the hotel, we will board our motorcoach for Yosemite National Park which is about a 5 hour drive from Brisbane, CA. Yosemite is one of America's most beautiful and most visited national parks. Designated as the country’s third national park in October 1890, Yosemite Valley has been preserved since 1864. For the first time in history, Congress set land aside for the preservation and recreation for all people, and the national park concept was born. There will be one rest stop en route in California's Central Valley.

Lunch: At The Ahwahnee Hotel, we’ll have a plated 3-course lunch with salad, entrée, and dessert. This hotel opened in 1927 and is a major attraction for Yosemite visitors. Its dining room has a 34-foot-high beamed ceiling, large sugar pine trestles, granite pillars, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Afternoon: Our on-board instructor will lead us on a field trip through Yosemite Valley which is world-famous for its impressive waterfalls, cliffs and unusual rock formations. We will learn about the valley’s glacial past which carved the grand walls we see today. The first stop is El Capitan Meadow. From the meadow, use your binoculars and scan for climbers on El Cap, one of the world’s most popular climbs. Rising more than 3,000 feet above the Valley floor, it is the largest granite monolith in the world. The first ascent on El Capitan was made by Warren Harding in 1958 and records continue to be broken with Alex Honnold free soloing the rock in 2017. Our second stop is Bridalveil Fall for a walk to the base of the falls. Plunging 620 feet, Bridalveil thunders in the spring but during the rest of the year its light, swaying flow resembles a “bridal veil.” It is one of the many waterfalls that can appear in Yosemite Valley. Our last stop takes us to Sentinel Bridge with a classic view of Half Dome framed by pine trees. We will check-in to our hotel after our exploration of the Yosemite Valley floor.

Dinner: Your group leader will give you a voucher to use at any establishment in Yosemite for dinner. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions or you could use the suggestions listed in your program folder. You have a variety of dining options at Yosemite Valley Lodge, The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Village, or Half Dome Village.

Evening: At Leisure. There are many opportunities to enjoy the park after dark on your own. Use the “Yosemite Guide” to find out what programs are being offered, programs offered by the National Park are free of charge. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm Programs at the Yosemite Theater require a ticket that you can purchase the day of at the visitor center bookstore or on-line at https://yosemite.org/experience/theater/.

Mariposa Grove, Big Trees Lodge
Yosemite, CA
The Ahwahnee Hotel

Activity note: The drive to the Mariposa Grove is about 30 miles and takes about 1 hour on a curvy mountain road. The hike into Mariposa Grove is about 2- 3 miles roundtrip on a wooden boardwalk. The Lower Yosemite Fall Trail is a 1 mile loop on a paved path.

Breakfast: A breakfast buffet in the Hotel's dining room will include an assortment of muffins and baked goods, scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, fresh fruit salad, bacon, sausage, French toast or waffles, hot or cold cereals, coffee, tea, juice, and water.

Morning: We will visit the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias which contains about 500 mature giant sequoias. Giant sequoias are perhaps the largest living things on Earth and may exceed 3,000 years in age. Reopened on June 15, 2018, the Mariposa Grove restoration project aimed to restore the grove's dynamic ecology and increase the grove's resilience. Many visitors from around the world are eager to visit the beloved grove of trees that was closed for three years. Be prepared to share your experience with other arboreal enthusiasts who may be craning their necks to see the sequoias for the first time. Your patience with the crowds and new infrastructure is appreciated. Keep an eye out for the sequoia saplings that have taken root with the absence of people. The bus driver will park the bus near the shuttle stop at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Center where restrooms are located. The group will board the National Park Service bus that will take the group into the grove and to the start of the wooden boardwalk to see the sequoia trees. Our naturalist will guide us through the grove and explain giant sequoia ecology and our connection with these large trees.

Lunch: At the Wawona Hotel, enjoy a 3-course plated meal with salad, entrée, and dessert plus choice of milk, coffee, tea, or water; other beverages available for purchase. Located 4 miles from the park’s southern entrance, Wawona was a popular stagecoach stop for passengers traveling to and from Yosemite Valley in the 1800s. If you do not eat fish, please indicate that information under food intolerances when you register.

Afternoon: Aboard the motorcoach, we journey back into Yosemite Valley with a stop at Tunnel View. This renowned scenic overlook offers some of the most iconic views of the park including Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, Half Dome, and the broad expanses of Yosemite Valley — an outstanding photo opportunity. After we return to Yosemite Valley Lodge, join our naturalist for a walk to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall on a paved path with a slight incline. The path is 1 mile round trip. If the water levels are high in the valley, be prepared for a large spray at the base of the fall which could leave you drenched and walkways slick.

Dinner: On your own. This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions. Dining options will be listed in the “Yosemite Guide” park newspaper published several times a year and available on line at http://www.travelyosemite.com/lodging/dining/.

Evening: At leisure.

Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows
Yosemite, CA
The Ahwahnee Hotel

Activity note: Weather permitting (see Yosemite Road Closures in the "Special Notes" section for details), at Tenaya Lake, walk approximately 1/10th mile on paved path to beach. Additional opportunities may be available depending on local conditions at the time of the program; the Group Leader will discuss prior to the field trip.

Breakfast: Enjoy a buffet at the Hotel.

Morning: We will board the motorcoach for a day in the subalpine environment of the High Sierras. Our on-board instructor will provide a narrative that touches on many aspects of the natural and human history along Tioga Pass Road to Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake, and Tuolumne Meadows. Tioga Pass Road offers a 39-mile scenic drive between Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows through forests, meadows, lakes, and granite domes. The road is one of the few roads that pass over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the eastern side into Owens Valley. It started as a dirt road in 1915 and was slowly paved and widened over the years. It was fully completed by the 1960s with the rise in car sales and families taking road trips to the national parks. Olmsted Point looks down on Yosemite Valley from the east--and from a very different angle. Tenaya Lake is a magnificent High Sierra lake surrounded by granite domes, lodgepole forests and Yosemite’s vast wilderness. Tuolumne Meadows is a large, open sub-alpine meadow graced by the winding Tuolumne River and surrounded by majestic peaks and domes.

Lunch: Picnic lunch at Tenaya Lake area will include sandwich, fresh fruit, chips, trail mix, cookie and bottled water.

Afternoon: Enjoy a short stroll into the alpine meadow, Tuolumne Meadows. It is a lush meadow surround by lodgepole forest at 8,000 feet in elevation. The Tuolumne River flows through the meadow on its way to the Hetch Hetchy Valley and Reservoir. Take a short ½ mile walk toward Soda Springs while learning about the alpine environment.

Dinner: Family-style dinner at a local restaurant in a private dining room.

Evening: At Leisure. There are many opportunities to enjoy the park after dark on your own. Use the “Yosemite Guide” to find out what programs are being offered, programs offered by the National Park are free of charge. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm Programs at the Yosemite Theater require a ticket that you can purchase the day of at the visitor center bookstore or on-line at https://yosemite.org/experience/theater/.

Rock Climbing, Free Afternoon
Yosemite, CA
The Ahwahnee Hotel

Activity note: Some standing during lecture in exposed areas. Make sure to bring a hat and sunscreen.

Breakfast: At the Hotel.

Morning: Find out more about rock climbing in Yosemite with a local climber and expert. Climbers took mountaineering to another level in the 1950s and started to ascend the vertical walls of Yosemite Valley. Rock climbers were looking for a different way of life by the 1960s and were influenced by the counter-culture movement that was occurring in the United States. Many people would camp in the valley for several months to climb the granite walls in Yosemite. The gear has changed from homemade gear that was welded together to the thriving industry providing climbers with a range of gear for different types of climbs. Many people climbers come from all over the world and train for years to attempt the granite walls in Yosemite Valley.

Lunch: On your own. Your group leader will be happy to suggest places in the valley.

Afternoon: Enjoy Yosemite Valley on your own for the afternoon. There are many opportunities for exploration. Visit https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm to find ranger-led programs and other events happening in the park. There are many hikes in the Valley including Mirror Lake, Vernal Fall Footbridge, Lower Yosemite Fall and Cook’s Meadow. You may decide to visit the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center or the Ansel Adams Gallery. Yosemite Valley Lodge also offers bicycle rentals for the paved, flat bike path that loops through the valley. You can find out more about bike rentals at https://www.travelyosemite.com/things-to-do/biking/. Your group leader will also make suggestions based on the season and availability of activities.

Dinner: Farewell dinner at the Hotel. Enjoy a three-course meal in The Ahwahnee Dining Room. A glass of wine is included with this dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Say farewell to new Road Scholar friends and prepare for departure in the morning.

Return to Brisbane, Program Concludes
Brisbane (San Francisco Airport), CA

Activity note: The return trip is approximately 5 hours depending on traffic, and includes a stop for lunch.

Breakfast: At the Hotel.

Morning: We will board the motorcoach after we check-out of the hotel for the return trip to the hotel in Brisbane.

Lunch: En route to Brisbane, stop to have a sit-down plated lunch with entrée, dessert, coffee, hot and iced tea, and water.

Afternoon: We expect to arrive at the hotel in Brisbane by approximately 3:00 p.m. (depending on traffic). This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy all your Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. We encourage you to join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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