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Re: Tuolumne Meadows to San Francisco in 1 Day on Public Transport. Is it Possib

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Hello!

I am an Australian backpacker traveling around the world with my girlfriend, and have a campsite booked at Tuolumne Meadows from August 10th to 15th 2007.

At a practical level, I know very little about Yosemite National Park, having never been there, so planning this part of my trip is very difficult. What's more, we will be relying completely on public transport to get to and from our campsite in Tuolumne Meadows. My girlfriend thought it would be too much of a hassle and too complicated to do Yosemite without a car and that we should just stay in San Francisco instead, but I said it would be easy and that I'd work everything out for her.

The reason I said it would be easy is I knew there were public busses that could get us to and from Tuolumne Meadows. But now that I try to work out the details, I realize that its not quite as simple as it first seemed. I think I have worked out how we can get to Tuolumne Meadows fine but getting from Tuolumne Meadows to San Francisco in a single day is proving to be quite a challenge.

Outlined below are our current plans:

We will be coming from San Diego and at this stage have booked tickets for a Greyhound bus which is scheduled to arrive in Merced at 9am.

From here we plan to take the YARTS 'Highway 140' run 5 bus which departs Merced Transpo (I assume this is the Merced Greyhoun Station) at 10.30am.

At 1.30pm, we arrive at 'Valley Visitors Centre' (Which I assume is analogous to Yosemite Visitors Centre) and wait here until 5pm when we take the YARTS 'Highway 120' bus to Tuolumne Meadows.

We assume that the Tuolumne Meadows campground is not far from either the Tuolumne Meadows Store, or Tuolumne Meadows Visitors Centre and would ask the driver to drop us off at whichever stop is closer. From here we would walk to the campground.

We plan that getting from Tuolumne Meadows to Merced is pretty much a reversal of the above steps. The problem being that the 'Highway 140' bus from Tuolumne Meadows doesn't arrive at Yosemite Valley Visitors Centre until 10.55am, which is 55 minutes after the 'Highway 120' bus departs for Merced.

The next bus after this doesn't depart Yosemite Valley Visitors Centre until 4.10pm, meaning we wouldn't get to Merced AMTRAK Station until 6.23pm. The last train from Merced to San Francisco leaves at 6.49pm, which (assuming the bus is not running late) would only leave us about 25 minutes to pick up our tickets check in our luggage.

If we missed this train we would be stuck in Merced overnight. This is really not an option, as my girlfriend really wants to visit Alcatraz and if we get stuck in Merced she wont be able to and she will KILL me! This is supposed to be a relaxing part of our trip, but its looking like it could be more trouble than its worth!

If anyone has even the slightest bit of advice regarding any aspects of my plan, I would be so grateful if you could share it. I really want this to work out, because I've been really looking forward to this part of our trip for so long, but if there's a chance that this wouldn't work out, and we'd get stranded somewhere I might just have to give in and cancel this part of our trip.

Pleas help...

Josh

I started skimming when I got lost somewhere in the beginning. Sounds far from relaxing. If you're a tourist without a car, a great option Josh (if you have a few days), would be to consider going to Yosemite with the Green Tortoise Hostel in San Francisco. The hostel is fantasic, and I've never actually been on their bus tour to Yosemite, but have heard they do a great job.

Here are links to both:

Green Tortoise Tours -

http://www.greentortoise.com/adventures/yosemite.national.park.seirra.html

Green Tortoise Hostel San Fran-

http://www.greentortoise.com/san-francisco-hostel/index.php

You may want to consider renting a car for a week. Yosemite is very large, and I feel that having the ability to drive one's self around makes it possible to have a lot more fun.
Another option is to leave Yosemite one day earlier and spend the night in Merced before catching the train to SF. If you do get to the train on time on the earlier day then you will have one extra day in SF.

Not knowing your plans while you are in Yosemite makes it hard to recommend a car or not. If you plan to do nothing but day hikes out of Tuolumne Meadows then a car isn't necessary but if you want to get down into the valley proper, go to Galcier Point, and to the big trees at the Mariposa Grove then a car would really help. Even though there is bus service in the park the timing of the routes may restrict you beyond your desires.

If you rent a car in Merced it seems all your timing troubles go away. The added problem of cost might offset the ease in timing though. With the weak dollar the cost might not be too painful and the US needs your money.





Old Dude
Maybe I'm missing something, but the last train leaves Merced
at 9PM, but you won't get in to SF until 12:30AM. You have
to take the Amtrak bus from Oakland, according to the schedule.

http://www.amtrak.com/timetable/apr07/W33.pdf

There is a rail line that goes to SF without needing a bus. It
is CalTrain (www.caltrain.org) and there are direct connections
with Amtrak in San Jose (Coast Starlight and some Capitol
Corridor trains). CalTrain is a commuter line - they don't handle
your luggage, however. Also in San Jose, is another commuter
service ACE (acerail.com).

Still, I agree with Mixolydian. Driving will save you many hours
that you could use for sightseeing. You will see more of
Yosemite that way.

You could probably rent a car in Merced or Modesto and drop
it off in/near SF.
avatar Re: Tuolumne Meadows to San Francisco in 1 Day on Public Transport. Is it Possib
July 26, 2007 01:27PM
JW wrote:

> Hello!
>
> I am an Australian backpacker traveling around the world with
> my girlfriend, and have a campsite booked at Tuolumne Meadows
> from August 10th to 15th 2007.

Welcome to California. As you man have noticed, we're not that big on making things easily accessible via shared public transportation. The free Valley Visitors Shuttle is superb, but other fee-based transportation in Yosemite is limited, and often just once per day in each direction.

> At a practical level, I know very little about Yosemite
> National Park, having never been there, so planning this part
> of my trip is very difficult. What's more, we will be relying
> completely on public transport to get to and from our campsite
> in Tuolumne Meadows. My girlfriend thought it would be too much
> of a hassle and too complicated to do Yosemite without a car
> and that we should just stay in San Francisco instead, but I
> said it would be easy and that I'd work everything out for her.

The biggest problem you may have is that most of the known attractions in Yosemite are located in Yosemite Valley. I would expect many of the waterfalls to be either dry or very low, as last winter had extremely low snowfall. Still - there are some great day hikes in and around the Valley.

Even so, there should still be a free Tioga Pass shuttle with a schedule every half hour, with stops from Tuolumne Meadows to Olmstead Point and back. You might start running out of things to do near Tuolumne Meadows unless you're planning on getting a wilderness permit.

> The reason I said it would be easy is I knew there were public
> busses that could get us to and from Tuolumne Meadows. But now
> that I try to work out the details, I realize that its not
> quite as simple as it first seemed. I think I have worked out
> how we can get to Tuolumne Meadows fine but getting from
> Tuolumne Meadows to San Francisco in a single day is proving to
> be quite a challenge.

Yeah. The YARTS buses are subsidized, and primarily serve the interests of employees working in the park.

> Outlined below are our current plans:
>
> We will be coming from San Diego and at this stage have booked
> tickets for a Greyhound bus which is scheduled to arrive in
> Merced at 9am.
>
> From here we plan to take the YARTS 'Highway 140' run 5 bus
> which departs Merced Transpo (I assume this is the Merced
> Greyhoun Station) at 10.30am.
>
> At 1.30pm, we arrive at 'Valley Visitors Centre' (Which I
> assume is analogous to Yosemite Visitors Centre) and wait here
> until 5pm when we take the YARTS 'Highway 120' bus to Tuolumne
> Meadows.

The Valley Visitor Center is the primary visitor center for the park. However - you can get information at any number of visitor centers and ranger stations.

> We assume that the Tuolumne Meadows campground is not far from
> either the Tuolumne Meadows Store, or Tuolumne Meadows Visitors
> Centre and would ask the driver to drop us off at whichever
> stop is closer. From here we would walk to the campground.

Check a map. It's fairly close.

> We plan that getting from Tuolumne Meadows to Merced is pretty
> much a reversal of the above steps. The problem being that the
> 'Highway 140' bus from Tuolumne Meadows doesn't arrive at
> Yosemite Valley Visitors Centre until 10.55am, which is 55
> minutes after the 'Highway 120' bus departs for Merced.
>
> The next bus after this doesn't depart Yosemite Valley Visitors
> Centre until 4.10pm, meaning we wouldn't get to Merced AMTRAK
> Station until 6.23pm. The last train from Merced to San
> Francisco leaves at 6.49pm, which (assuming the bus is not
> running late) would only leave us about 25 minutes to pick up
> our tickets check in our luggage.
>
> If we missed this train we would be stuck in Merced overnight.
> This is really not an option, as my girlfriend really wants to
> visit Alcatraz and if we get stuck in Merced she wont be able
> to and she will KILL me! This is supposed to be a relaxing part
> of our trip, but its looking like it could be more trouble than
> its worth!
>
> If anyone has even the slightest bit of advice regarding any
> aspects of my plan, I would be so grateful if you could share
> it. I really want this to work out, because I've been really
> looking forward to this part of our trip for so long, but if
> there's a chance that this wouldn't work out, and we'd get
> stranded somewhere I might just have to give in and cancel this
> part of our trip.
>
> Pleas help...

Rent a car in Merced if you can. You'll have a much better time getting around to points with little or no public transportation options. The main problem is that most car rental agencies charge considerably more if you're under 25 years old. I would also recommend Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which has pick up and drop-off service at no extra cost (although I hear the drivers appreciate a gratuity). You can rent online, and their weekly rate in Merced is about $160 US a week depending on the car class. Their info says that once booked online, you can call the location to arrange for pick-up. Other car rental agencies can do the same thing (Hertz Local Edition) although Enterprise generally has the best rates in my experience.

By the way - did you mean that you've booked five nights, arriving on Aug 10 and leaving on Aug 16, or four nights, arriving Aug 10 and leaving Aug 15?

Oh - Yosemite does have a problem with bears. More specifically it's with people who don't follow the rules about food storage, at which point bears get aggressive about obtaining human food and/or break into cars where food has been stored. Your campsite will have a food storage locker, and definitely place any food or scented items in said locker.



Post Edited (07-26-07 18:21)
I would just like to mention that while Yosemite Valley is a great place with lots of cool sites to see, there is no shortage of amazing stuff along Tioga Road, which is where Tuolumne Meadows is located.

Even if you don't end up with a car, you will have plenty of great things to see.

That said, I'd still rather have a car, and if I had only 1 trip in a lifetime to see Yosemite, I'd want to see the valley as well as the highlands around Tioga Rd.
avatar Re: Tuolumne Meadows to San Francisco in 1 Day on Public Transport. Is it Possib
July 27, 2007 03:49PM
Mixolydian wrote:

> I would just like to mention that while Yosemite Valley is a
> great place with lots of cool sites to see, there is no
> shortage of amazing stuff along Tioga Road, which is where
> Tuolumne Meadows is located.

Not selling Tioga Road short, but of course Yosemite Valley is where most of the better known attractions (waterfalls, granite formations, etc) are located. If you get tired of the food options at Tuolumne Meadows, a car would give you the option of dining/sightseeing in the Valley, White Wolf, Wawona, or outside the park (Mammoth Lakes, El Portal, or Mariposa).

> Even if you don't end up with a car, you will have plenty of
> great things to see.
>
> That said, I'd still rather have a car, and if I had only 1
> trip in a lifetime to see Yosemite, I'd want to see the valley
> as well as the highlands around Tioga Rd.

There's also Hetch Hetchy, Wawona, and Mariposa Grove, which are great places to visit but poorly served by public transportation. Glacier Point was also mentioned. For a first-time visitor, I think five days in Yosemite staying in Tuolumne Meadows would suck with the limitation of public transportation only. I could imagine five days in Yosemite Valley, with the ability to take the free Valley shuttle late into the night.

In any case, hope you enjoy your visit. We all think Yosemite is a very special place.

By the way, do you have a tent, sleeping bag, etc? I guess this is a fairly basic comment, but I've heard some have little idea what "campsite" really means. It means absolutely no shelter other than what you bring along. You'll get a fire pit, picnic table, bear box (for food storage), and one or two parking spots. You either stay in a recreational vehicle or pitch a tent.

There are "tent cabins" at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, White Wolf Lodge, and Curry Village for about $70-80 a night, but it's not what most people here would refer to as a "campsite". The campground is where you would need to pitch your own tent (you don't sound like you're renting an RV) and go for $20 a night.

In my opinion, you haven't been to Yosemite until you've been to Glacier Point! You get an excellent perspective of the Valley and the surrounding high country from there.

I do like hiking to the top of Lembert Dome in Tuolumne Meadows, that has a better than expected amazing view.
Thanks to everyone for all the responses. I was amazed when I checked back to see so many people eager to help! Asside from being informative, these responses made me realise that if you are all passionate enough to give up your time to help a stranger have a great trip in Yosemite, it must be one heck of a place to visit!

I'm really persuaded to hire a car now. I honestly didn't even consider that when planning this trip to Yosemite. I guess i just instinctively assumed that it would cost way too much, but I've checked on Enterprise's web site and it seems to be really good value (about $200 for the 5 days, including under 25 surcharge).

I haven't driven for about 7 months, and I've never driven on the right hand side of the road, but I'm keen to give it a shot! My main concern now is that when I booked the camping sight at Tuolumne Meadows, I stated that we wouldn't be bringing a car and the conformation email states:

"Your campsite is reserved for the camping equipment you have chosen. If you arrive to the park with different camping equipment, your site might not be able to accommodate it"

Don't know if this will pose a problem.

Oh, and I'm well aware of what they mean by 'campsite'. My girlfriend and I camped in our tent for about 3 months in Europe, although never in a national park. I understand that camping in Yosemite will be 'rougher' than in a 3 star european camping ground and that there are unique considerations such as food storage. Although, there's one thing I'm not sure about. I told my girlfriend there are no showers and she will have to wash in a lake or stream! Just preparing here for the worst really, because I'm assuming there would have to be a place for campers to shower?

And just out of interest, how cold does it get at night in Tuolumne Meadows? We camped at temperatures around 32°F in Denmark, and have pretty good sleeping bags, but have since sent home some of our warmer clothes.

Thanks again,

Josh
avatar Re: Tuolumne Meadows to San Francisco in 1 Day on Public Transport. Is it Possib
July 28, 2007 09:15AM
JW wrote:

> Thanks to everyone for all the responses. I was amazed when I
> checked back to see so many people eager to help! Asside from
> being informative, these responses made me realise that if you
> are all passionate enough to give up your time to help a
> stranger have a great trip in Yosemite, it must be one heck of
> a place to visit!
>
> I'm really persuaded to hire a car now. I honestly didn't even
> consider that when planning this trip to Yosemite. I guess i
> just instinctively assumed that it would cost way too much, but
> I've checked on Enterprise's web site and it seems to be really
> good value (about $200 for the 5 days, including under 25
> surcharge).

It would be a shame for you to come all this way and be limited by your transportation options. I'd guess that you chose Tuolumne Meadows because you could reserve it. However - Yosemite is a big place and you can cover a lot more in five days with a vehicle. One of these days I might spend several days around TM, but it's not what I would recommend for the first-time visitor.

> I haven't driven for about 7 months, and I've never driven on
> the right hand side of the road, but I'm keen to give it a
> shot! My main concern now is that when I booked the camping
> sight at Tuolumne Meadows, I stated that we wouldn't be
> bringing a car and the conformation email states:

Here are the rules in California:

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/dl_info.htm#international

Quote

If you are a visitor in California over 18 and have a valid driver license from your home state or country, you may drive in this state without getting a California driver license as long as your home state license remains valid.

If you take a job here or become a resident, you must get a California driver license within 10 days. Residency is established by voting in a California election, paying resident tuition, filing for a homeowner's property tax exemption, or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents.

> "Your campsite is reserved for the camping equipment you have
> chosen. If you arrive to the park with different camping
> equipment, your site might not be able to accommodate it"
>
> Don't know if this will pose a problem.

That sounds like you might have reserved a tent campsite and they mean that they can't accomodate a recreational vehicle, or vice versa. In my experience, most RV capable campsites can accomodate tent campers, but not the other way around.

> Oh, and I'm well aware of what they mean by 'campsite'. My
> girlfriend and I camped in our tent for about 3 months in
> Europe, although never in a national park. I understand that
> camping in Yosemite will be 'rougher' than in a 3 star european
> camping ground and that there are unique considerations such as
> food storage. Although, there's one thing I'm not sure about. I
> told my girlfriend there are no showers and she will have to
> wash in a lake or stream! Just preparing here for the worst
> really, because I'm assuming there would have to be a place for
> campers to shower?

First - the following is great. Someone took the effort of photographing each campsite at the Tuolumne Meadows campground and making them available on the web.

http://yosemitecampsites.com/tuolumne/

Here's a photo of campsite B-42:



As for the shower situation:

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tmcamp.htm

Quote

Showers: Nearby, at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, only from 12 to 3:30 pm daily

I don't know if those are free for TM campground patrons, charged somehow, or coin-operated.

In my experience in Yosemite Valley, the only public showers are at Curry Village. They're actually the Curry Village guest showers, for guests there or at Housekeeping Camp (tent cabins). However - they supposedly charge a $3 fee payable at the front desk if you're not a guest there; payment was more or less on the honor system. I was charged once, but the second time the clerk refused to take my money and told me to just take the shower and don't worry about paying for it. He even offered to hand me a guest towel.

> And just out of interest, how cold does it get at night in
> Tuolumne Meadows? We camped at temperatures around 32°F in
> Denmark, and have pretty good sleeping bags, but have since
> sent home some of our warmer clothes.

I think it could hit a low of low 30's F. You'll be near 9000 ft elevation. If you have a problem, you might be able to pick up a synthetic fleece sleeping bag liner in San Diego or at a store in Yosemite.

Never fear! You CAN get a shower at the nearby Tuolumne Meadows "Lodge". It's not really a lodge, but a collection of tent cabins. They have a bathroom/showerhouse there. Park in the parking lot. You pay your couple dollars to a person at the cash register at the Main building where the little store and dinner place is (if you want to eat there you have to call for reservations ahead of time I think). They will give you a towel when you pay for your shower.

Do you have the Lonely Planet Yosemite guidebook? Very helpful and will give you all the information you need to plan your trip. Especially when you don't have the internet to rely upon.

Other info about the showers in the Valley. The biggest showerhouse is the one in the back of Curry Village. The one up front near the parking lot is small and you may find yourself waiting in line for a long time. Walk to the back of Curry Village and there is a big dark brown building with more showers. Probably won't have to wait as long there. They only have a few showers at Housekeeping camp and you'll probably wait in line for awhile there.

Info about Tuolume Meadows Lodge Dining:

"The dining room, situated alongside the Tuolumne River provides rustic a la carte dining for breakfast and dinner. Guests can also order box lunches at the front desk the night before needed. Dinner reservations are required, and can be made by calling (209) 372-8413"

The box lunch thing might only be for the Lodge guests (not campground guests), but I don't know.

I also like this website for some good all-around information about Yosemite. It's a little easier to navigate than the park website: http://www.yosemitefun.com

Tuolumne Meadows is at pretty high altitude, so don't plan on overdoing it when you get there.

Also, if you have any other questions about the U.S., feel free to ask. Where else in the U.S. are you going on your trip?
P.S. If you need to email home, there are a couple of places to use the internet in the Valley. The one place I've used and can think of is the tiny library in the Village near the visitor center. You can ask about it at the visitor center and you can try to find it (it's a little tricky). They take names and you get a time assigned to you.

Actually, now that I think of it, they have pay internet stations at Yosemite Lodge by the payphones and probably other places, too. Anyway, just thought that might be helpful information.
Here is booking info:

Campground: TUOLUMNE MEADOWS
Site: FTENT
Site Type: TENT ONLY NONELECTRIC
Equipment: Tent(1)
# of Vehicles: 0
Check-In Time: 12:00 PM
Check-Out Time: 12:00 PM

Unfortunately, I cant remember the exact spot we booked, so I cant look it up on http://yosemitecampsites.com/tuolumne/, which would have been really usefull.

Say I do hire a car and the site I have reserved doesn't have vehicle access, is there somewhere relatively safe nearby that I could leave the car overnight? Like near the gas station, or visitors centre maybe?

Also, I know very little about American cars, and what type of car would be suitable for driving around in Yosemite.

The options are:

Chevy Aveo or similar

Dodge Neon or similar

Chevy Cobalt, Pontiac Sunfire

Pontiac G6, Dodge Stratus or similar

Chevy Impala, Ford Taurus or similar

Im mainly thinking about which car would be powerful enough to go up the steep inclines. But I dont want something thats going to guzzle to much gas!

Thanks Again,

Josh
I think that all of the camp sites in the park that can be reserved have room to park at least one car. The exceptions would be the walk-in Camp 4 (used to be Sunnyside Campground) on the valley floor and the backpackers walk-in campgrounds which would have parking lots. The backpackers campgrounds are not what you have reserved as they are for wilderness permitted backpackers only and can only be used the night before you would go on your wilderness trip and the night after you get back. Again a wilderness permit is needed for use of the backpackers campgrounds.





Old Dude
Josh,
All the campsites will have space for your car, don't worry about that. The only campground that is walk-in is Camp 4 and there's a parking lot.

Go ahead and get the cheapest car. I have an 8 year old Honda Civic and it does fine.
Maybe I take that back.... skip the Chevy Aveo? Those are super tiny. What do others here think? The roads really aren't that steep.
As long as you aren't taking a ton of stuff with you, then I'd get the cheapest car available. I've traveled in the Neon and the Cobalt and both would do just fine in Yosemite. In fact, I can't think of any car currently available that isn't powerful enough to drive there.

What I would recommend is that you reserve the cheap car on the Enterprise web site, and then if you find that your things will not fit inside the car, then ask for an upgrade. If they have a bigger car on hand, they will be happy to move you up to the larger model. If you were planning on taking the bus, I can't imagine you'd have so much stuff that it wouldn't fit into the tiny little Neon.

I showered at Tuolumne Lodge a few weeks ago and it was $4 per person for as much time/water as needed. They provided the towel. The only bumer is that the time restriction makes you have to shower during the part of the day when you are most likely to want to be hiking.

Since you're staying at TM, I think you should definitely consider hiking to the top of Lembert Dome, coming back down, continuing up the trail to Dog Lake, and then back to camp. That's a very nice hike with some great views.

And the other folks are right...you MUST go to Glacier Point. It is an absolute requirement.

Make sure you stop at the Olmstead Point turnout on Tioga Rd. and hike to the overlook (5 - 10 minute hike for a stellar view).

Anywhere you go in the Valley will be nice. For short, easy hikes, Lower Yosemite Fall, Bridalveil Fall, and Mirror Lake are good choices. You could do all three before lunch. For an intermediate hike, take the Mist Trail to Nevada Fall. And if you want to see a new meaning of steep, hike to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall.

If you want to see redwood trees (trust me, you do) then go to the Mariposa Grove in the south of the park. You can make that a quick visit, or you can hike several miles through the trees.

I'm also a big fan of the Chilnualna Falls hike, also in the south part of the park.

But I wouldn't stress over your plans too much. Whatever you choose to do will be amazing and totally worth your time and energy.



Post Edited (07-29-07 11:38)
If you're going to Glacier Point, check out Sentinel Dome, it's a trailhead along Glacier Point Road. Great view!
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