When my husband and I traveled across the country to spend a few days in Yosemite National Park, we expected seclusion, quiet, and a departure from reality. Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared for how populated and tourist-heavy the park would be in Yosemite Village. After two days and one night seeking solace on busy trails and mountain overlooks, we headed to Tuolumne Meadows for part two of our Yosemite experience.

 

It’s only about 54 miles from Yosemite Village to the meadows, but it takes at least 1.5 hours to get there. If you’re the type who gets carsick (like me), get ready for winding mountain roads with not shortage of twists and turns. After climbing from 4,000 feet to 8,000 feet elevation, we finally reached our campsite at the Tuolumne Meadows campground. Since it was starting to get dark, we headed straight for our site to unpack and get set up.

 

 

The campground is rustic with dirt roads and no access to electricity. For us, it was perfect. We had plenty of fellow campers, but once night fell, we could hardly see them. The campground is near dozens of trailheads, mountain lakes, streams, and meadows. In other words, there’s plenty to do.

 

At 8,000 feet elevation, the temperature dropped dramatically at nightfall. To our relief, our 30-degree sleeping bags proved to be worth the extra cost. The next day, we sought out a plan for where to hike. We only had time to try out one trail, but we picked out one for next time, too:

 

Lembert Dome Trail. This was the trail we chose for our early morning hike. It was perfect. Our legs were shot after a strenuous hike the previous day, and this path was short, but difficult enough to keep us interested. The 1.4-mile trail leads hikers to the top of Lembert Dome, where you’re rewarded with panoramic views of the valley floor. We spent an hour at the top making new friends and taking lots of pictures before turning back. (2.8 miles round trip, moderate).

 

 

Cathedral Lake Trail. If we had more time, this would have been the trail of our choosing. The 7-mile trail leads hikers up a 1,000-foot elevation gain, which provides incredible views of Cathedral Lake. The entire hike takes about 6 hours, and it’s one of the busiest trails in Tuolumne Meadows. (7 miles round trip, moderate).

After we descended Lembert Dome, we headed to Tenaya Lake to hang out on the shore and eat some lunch. This photo pretty much speaks for itself:

 

At sunset, we wandered into the Tuolumne Meadows to watch for wildlife and watch the sun sink behind the mountain ranges. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually see any wildlife, but when we heard a pack of wild coyotes howling, we decided to head out before they came to find us.

 

 

I wouldn’t necessarily change how much time we spent in Yosemite: We managed to do and see a lot in 3 days, and we wanted to check out King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks before headed back to Tennessee. But next time, we’ll carve out more time for hiking and exploring in the Tuolumne area. It was the trip we were after: seclusion, quiet, no cell phone service, and plenty of time to sit and stare off in the distance. Our neighbors at the campground were fly fishermen, climbers, backpackers, and serious hikers. Our beginner’s approach to camping and hiking definitely put us in the minority. And that’s a fun place to be when you’re out in the wild.