Grand Canyon and Yosemite

Anna Chassereau

DIS Veteran
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
I am planning a trip to the Grand Canyon/Sedona and Yosemite for this coming June 2021. It will be myself, my husband and our 9 year old son. I am SO excited!! I have traveled extensively and have seen so much of Europe, the Caribbean and other parts of the US like Alaska, NYC, Chicago etc but I have never been to a national park like these two...I cannot wait to experience both of these national parks!

We are staying at Tenaya Lodge right outside the south entrance to Yosemite...and we’re staying at the Hilton Resort at Bell Rock in Sedona...taking a couple of day trips to the Grand Canyon from Sedona, also plan to do a Jeep tour in Sedona, visit Bearizona and I’d also like to schedule a stargazing tour.

Any tips or recommendations from anyone who’s done a similar trip? Good recommendations for restaurants or any must see/do’s for Grand Canyon/Sedona/Yosemite?
 

Nalshersmom

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jan 29, 2012
Yosemite was amazing! We were able to stay in the tent cabins there which were awesome. We tried to go through Death Valley from there and stop in Las Vegas for the night on the way to the Grand Canyon. We went in June, but the Tioga Pass was still closed making Death Valley impossible. If you are going to be at the Grand Canyon during a start party week, you have to go! That was a highlight for us.
 
  • CLKnCA

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Aug 22, 2012
    I have two tips about the Yosemite portion of your trip. I just stayed at Tenaya Lodge for a quick trip a few weeks ago. The hotel is great, so I think you will enjoy that part of it.

    The first tip is the that there is a pretty big distance getting from the hotel into the main part of Yosemite Valley. I noticed that you mentioned that the hotel is right outside the south entrance to the Park. You’re right that it’s very close to the entrance. That’s one of the main draws that I had to this hotel, too. I think it took all of 5-7 minutes at most to get to the park entrance gate itself once you leave the hotel. This was without traffic, so I suppose if there are more people on the road, it would take longer. The distance to the entrance gate is really short, though, so on that part, you're good.

    Now, that said, once you go through the gate, be aware that it will take at least another 45-60 minutes to get to the main part of Yosemite Valley (again, depending on traffic). It’s mostly a two-lane road (one lane each direction), and you’re going up some winding mountain-side roads to get there. It’s not death-defying or anything like that, but I bring that up because if you’re behind a group of cars, you can only go as fast as the slowest car up front. It can take a fair amount of extra time to get there as a result. Also, the speed limit is something like 30 or 35 mph if I remember correctly. All this to say, don’t leave the hotel thinking that you’ll be in the Park and stopping at your picture spot or parking area to start your day of hiking and other adventures right away. It’s a fair jaunt to get to the good stuff. It’s so worth that drive, though, and once you come out of the tunnel and see the Valley laid out in front of you…WOW. Be sure to pull over at the Tunnel View scenic overlook/photo spot (calling it simply a photo spot doesn’t really do it justice) which is on the left just as soon as you exit the tunnel. The view is so surreal there.

    The second tip is, I’m sure you’ve seen that Yosemite has adopted a new reservation system for park entrance. This is to limit capacity as a result of COVID-19. This may change by the time your trip rolls around next June, but it is possible that it may still be there. As of now, you have to have a day-use reservation to enter the park. They release 80% of the day-use reservations on the first day of the month for the following month. For example, today, September 1, they released 80% of the reservations for October. They open them up at 7 am Pacific Time. Here on the DIS, we should all be used to getting up and getting ready to log on to get those hard-to-get reservations as soon as they are released on a particular day, so this shouldn’t be a problem when your time rolls around. Assuming this same system is in place, your June 2021 reservations will be released at 7am Pacific time on May 1, 2021. Once you get a day-use reservation, you MUST show up on the day of your reservation. After you enter the Park on that first day, though, the reservation is good for 7 consecutive days, including that first day. If you haven’t already, you should check out the “Plan Your Visit” section of the Yosemite website at https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/covid19.htm. It also explains the different types of reservations and permits that will allow you access into the park. Having the day-use reservation is just one of the more popular ways of going about it.

    I hope this long-winded tip helps, and I really hope you enjoy the trip itself. You’re going to two beautiful places!
     

    melk

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 20, 2000
    We’ve been to these places, two different trips though. In Sedona we did the broken arrow pink Jeep tour. It was pricey but a lot of fun and our driver took a lot of great family pictures for us. Not sure if it‘s feasible to do a day trip to the North Rim from Sedona but we liked the North Rim, less crowded. We stayed there at the Grand Canyon Lodge, right on the edge of the canyon. It was beautiful. At Yosemite we spent one night at Curry Village in a tent cabin then one night at the Awahnee. They are all unique destinations and unforgettable.
     

    sarah4770

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 8, 2005
    We stayed one night in Death Valley and then drove up 395 ( if you do this, make sure it is later in June, so that tioga pass is open. ), stopped at Manzella for a few hours along the way. We stayed 1 night at Toulumne meadows in a tent cabin. Might be really fun for your son. It was breathtaking. Just so beautiful.
    then 3 nights at the Ahawanee. My only regret is that we did not stay in Yosemite longer.
    I agree with the other poster that said staying somewhere inYosemite Valley might make for a more enjoyable trip. Every thing is so convenient. I am not sure if the shuttles are running though.
    although, I have never stayed at Tenya lodge, so I can’t really compare.
    you are going to love your trip!
     
  • JimMIA

    There's more to life than mice...
    Joined
    Feb 16, 2005
    OP, I have a couple of tips, but I want to highlight a couple of things in this post, because I think CLKnCA really nailed a couple of important things.
    I have two tips about the Yosemite portion of your trip. I just stayed at Tenaya Lodge for a quick trip a few weeks ago. The hotel is great, so I think you will enjoy that part of it.

    The first tip is the that there is a pretty big distance getting from the hotel into the main part of Yosemite Valley.
    This is the first one. This is a long drive, and it will be even longer late in the day when you're really tired. It could also be downright exciting at night...and not in a good way.

    I strongly urge you to try to get a reservation INSIDE the park -- preferably at Yosemite Lodge, which I think is now called Yosemite Valley Lodge.

    Reservations are available 366 days out from your arrival date, and in normal times they are gone within a few hours. But there are two key tricks at play for your trip.
    • These are not normal times, so reservations may be available. So try right away.
      • Keep your Tenaya Lodge reservation, but try to get Yosemite Lodge.
      • You might also consider keeping one night at Tenaya, because of its proximity to the big trees (REALLY BIG!) at Mariposa Grove.
      • But your trip will be so much more enjoyable if you are inside the park, and Yosemite Lodge is smack in the middle of everything. You have a great view of Yosemite Falls from the lodge, and it's easily within walking distance.
    • Reservations fill up quickly, but they also get canceled. So check the cancellation policies for Yosemite Lodge, and act accordingly. Keep your backup reservation, but check cancellations regularly. (This will hold true also for Grand Canyon)
      • If the cancellation period is 30 days, at exactly 30 days out start calling every hour if you can. There is no waitlist, so first caller gets the just-canceled reservation. You'll get in if you really work at it. If you call every couple of days, you probably won't be successful.
    *****
    Things to do at Yosemite: www.nps.gov/yose

    I definitely second the suggestions of Mariposa Grove and Mist Trail. Also Bridalveil Falls trail, and Glacier Point.

    Two cautions about Mist Trail. First of all, it's billed as a moderate to easy hike, but it's actually pretty steep. In particular, the last stretch is basically stairs carved into the rock that go straight up.

    Mist Trail can also be dangerous. Almost every year there are fatalities on the trail. The trail is right alongside a 300+foot waterfall that is roaring with snowmelt in June. You will be drenched no matter how much raingear you wear.

    People are overwhelmed with excitement, the trail is crowded, and one false step or an accidental bump from another hiker, and you are falling into the canyon and being swept away. It is a totally non-survivable fall. Last time we were there, a backpacker got bumped into the water and was gone. An alternative would be a safe hike up to the bridge below the falls. Easier hike, and you get a great view of the falls without the risk.

    Glacier Point is a nice drive (and you may see snow in June) with a spectacular view.

    Bridalveil Falls trail is an easy walk up to the base of a beautiful waterfall.

    Wawona Tunnel -- this is the most amazing view in the park, from halfway up the cliffs looking east down the valley. El Capitan on the left, Glacier Point on the right, and Half Dome in the distance on the right. Just amazing.

    Half Dome - just down the road from Yosemite Lodge. Be sure to watch as least one sunset from the bridge. You can't see the actual sunset, but Half Dome's face is lit up with the fading light. Beautiful.

    El Capitan at night - take a drive and show your son El Capitan at night. Note the twinkling lights flickering on the face of El Capitan -- what could those be? They are climbers hanging 3,000 feet up on the cliff to sleep for the night! El Capitan is a two-day climb, so they have to sleep suspended in a hammock.

    Lots of activities in normal times, from hiking to guided bus tours to bike rentals to ranger talks. So much to do.

    Oh...and JUNIOR RANGER! Be sure to get the book, have your son do the exercises, and get his Junior Ranger badge or patch! Just about every National Park Service site has a Junior Ranger program.
     
    Last edited:

    JimMIA

    There's more to life than mice...
    Joined
    Feb 16, 2005
    Sedona to Grand Canyon

    Sedona to Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim is a 2 hour drive each way, not counting weather, traffic, or lengthy waits at the park entrance. In addition, the portion of the road up Oak Creek Canyon between Sedona and I-40 is narrow and winding.

    I would suggest booking one of the lodges inside Grand Canyon for one night. Last time we were there, we stayed at Maswick Lodge (which is away from the rim) and it was fine. The food there was also good. Drive up and explore, spend the night, explore some more and then drive back to Sedona.

    Grand Canyon NP website: www.nps.gov/grca

    Sedona

    On our last trip, we went to Sedona, then Grand Canyon, and then back to Sedona. We liked Sedona so much we left Grand Canyon a day early to spend more time there.

    Sedona is a magical mix of scenic beauty, artsy-fartsy, and downright weird, but fun. You can get your aura photographed and/or interpreted, take a nighttime walk with spirits, search for vortexes, and who knows what else. You're not in Kansas anymore!

    You will be in the Village of Oak Creek, which is a little south of the actual town of Sedona. But that's actually a good thing because you have to drive through some of the prettiest scenery in the area to get to the town.

    Don't miss the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It doesn't matter whether you are religious or not, this is a beautiful place. It's a church actually carved into the red rock, with a spectacular view. Plan on spending at least an hour here. Seriously.

    Tlaquepaque (Ta-lock-a-poc-ee?) is an arts and shopping plaza you will want to visit. It's between your hotel and downtown Sedona.

    The Sedona Airport -- is on top of a mesa, and has great views.

    Montezuma's Castle National Monument -- This worth a short drive. It's only about 20-30 minutes south of your hotel, just off I-17. This is an Indian cliff dwelling in good repair in a lovely riverside setting. Very cool. Junior Ranger, if available (not sure on this small NPS unit). Moca does have a Jr Ranger program, I looked it up.

    Montezuma's Castle NM website: www.nps.gov/moca
     
    Last edited:

    Simba's Mom

    <font color=green>everything went to "H*** in a ha
    Joined
    Aug 26, 1999
    I am planning a trip to the Grand Canyon/Sedona and Yosemite for this coming June 2021. It will be myself, my husband and our 9 year old son. I am SO excited!! I have traveled extensively and have seen so much of Europe, the Caribbean and other parts of the US like Alaska, NYC, Chicago etc but I have never been to a national park like these two...I cannot wait to experience both of these national parks!

    We are staying at Tenaya Lodge right outside the south entrance to Yosemite...and we’re staying at the Hilton Resort at Bell Rock in Sedona...taking a couple of day trips to the Grand Canyon from Sedona, also plan to do a Jeep tour in Sedona, visit Bearizona and I’d also like to schedule a stargazing tour.

    Any tips or recommendations from anyone who’s done a similar trip? Good recommendations for restaurants or any must see/do’s for Grand Canyon/Sedona/Yosemite?
    The only place I have any knowledge of is the Grand Canyon. We've been there twice-one time so that DH could hike down to Phantom Ranch, stay overbite, and come back up. I was going to recommend the Bright Angel Cabins, right on the rim, we loved them, but I see that there are 3 of you-each cabin has just one Queen-sized bed. However, I would recommend staying somewhere in the park. Maswik Lodge looked nice-it had a nice big food court too! One reason I'd recommend staying in the park is that both times we've been there, parking is virtually impossible, so your best bet is to find a parking place the day you get there, then use the free bus system all week.
     

    NotGrumpyButPrettyClose

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jun 23, 2020
    I have two tips about the Yosemite portion of your trip. I just stayed at Tenaya Lodge for a quick trip a few weeks ago. The hotel is great, so I think you will enjoy that part of it.

    The first tip is the that there is a pretty big distance getting from the hotel into the main part of Yosemite Valley. I noticed that you mentioned that the hotel is right outside the south entrance to the Park. You’re right that it’s very close to the entrance. That’s one of the main draws that I had to this hotel, too. I think it took all of 5-7 minutes at most to get to the park entrance gate itself once you leave the hotel. This was without traffic, so I suppose if there are more people on the road, it would take longer. The distance to the entrance gate is really short, though, so on that part, you're good.

    Now, that said, once you go through the gate, be aware that it will take at least another 45-60 minutes to get to the main part of Yosemite Valley (again, depending on traffic). It’s mostly a two-lane road (one lane each direction), and you’re going up some winding mountain-side roads to get there. It’s not death-defying or anything like that, but I bring that up because if you’re behind a group of cars, you can only go as fast as the slowest car up front. It can take a fair amount of extra time to get there as a result. Also, the speed limit is something like 30 or 35 mph if I remember correctly. All this to say, don’t leave the hotel thinking that you’ll be in the Park and stopping at your picture spot or parking area to start your day of hiking and other adventures right away. It’s a fair jaunt to get to the good stuff. It’s so worth that drive, though, and once you come out of the tunnel and see the Valley laid out in front of you…WOW. Be sure to pull over at the Tunnel View scenic overlook/photo spot (calling it simply a photo spot doesn’t really do it justice) which is on the left just as soon as you exit the tunnel. The view is so surreal there.

    The second tip is, I’m sure you’ve seen that Yosemite has adopted a new reservation system for park entrance. This is to limit capacity as a result of COVID-19. This may change by the time your trip rolls around next June, but it is possible that it may still be there. As of now, you have to have a day-use reservation to enter the park. They release 80% of the day-use reservations on the first day of the month for the following month. For example, today, September 1, they released 80% of the reservations for October. They open them up at 7 am Pacific Time. Here on the DIS, we should all be used to getting up and getting ready to log on to get those hard-to-get reservations as soon as they are released on a particular day, so this shouldn’t be a problem when your time rolls around. Assuming this same system is in place, your June 2021 reservations will be released at 7am Pacific time on May 1, 2021. Once you get a day-use reservation, you MUST show up on the day of your reservation. After you enter the Park on that first day, though, the reservation is good for 7 consecutive days, including that first day. If you haven’t already, you should check out the “Plan Your Visit” section of the Yosemite website at https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/covid19.htm. It also explains the different types of reservations and permits that will allow you access into the park. Having the day-use reservation is just one of the more popular ways of going about it.

    I hope this long-winded tip helps, and I really hope you enjoy the trip itself. You’re going to two beautiful places!
    Ditto for CLKnCA's advice about getting to Yosemite Valley from Tenaya Lodge. There are a decent number of turnouts for slow-moving vehicles and the highway is very safe, but my spouse was freaked out by the lack of guard rails. The views of the park are breathtaking, but at Tunnel View I consider them stunning (if parking on the left exiting the long tunnel is full, there is more parking on the right side). Bring binoculars. We were lucky to watch a group free climbing El Capitan (there's an Oscar-winning National Geographic documentary called Free Solo that covers the subject, available on Disney+). There are also parking spots along the highway in the valley that allow you to access the Merced River. We lucked out on a pretty spot with a view of Bridalveil Fall. Everyone loved hiking through the Mariposa Grove with the huge Sequoia trees.

    If you go through Death Valley on the way to the Grand Canyon, unless traffic dictates otherwise, you'll pass through a town called Beatty, Nevada. On our trip we encountered wild donkeys walking in the middle of the main street. One of them parked in front of our SUV, then ambled to the driver-side window and gave my spouse the big, sad-eyed, needy stare (funniest pictures of the entire trip). My eleven year-old son also loved watching the drones flying around Creech AFB (on US95 before reaching Las Vegas).

    Besides the NPS apps for the specific parks, we found the REI national parks app to be very useful. Cell phone coverage was inconsistent in the visitor center areas and nonexistent in many areas. The apps recommend (and I did) download the maps and other data ahead of time.
     
  • JimMIA

    There's more to life than mice...
    Joined
    Feb 16, 2005
    A couple of eateries in Sedona. We were not overwhelmed with the food, but these were good:
    • Indian Gardens Cafe -- this is up in Oak Creek Canyon, on 89A north of Sedona. Kind of fast food counter ordering, but then you eat in a lovely outdoor garden.
    • Oak Creek Brewery -- in Tlaquepaque. Just what it sounds like, brewery/sports bar
    • Coffee Pot -- on 89A, west of Sedona. This is THE breakfast spot in Sedona. Plan on a wait for a table, but unlimited selection and great food at reasonable prices. I think they serve breakfast only.
    • Barking Frog Grill -- a little further west on 89A. Good food, good service, great teeshirts!
     

    JimMIA

    There's more to life than mice...
    Joined
    Feb 16, 2005
    The only place I have any knowledge of is the Grand Canyon. We've been there twice-one time so that DH could hike down to Phantom Ranch, stay overbite, and come back up. I was going to recommend the Bright Angel Cabins, right on the rim, we loved them, but I see that there are 3 of you-each cabin has just one Queen-sized bed. However, I would recommend staying somewhere in the park. Maswik Lodge looked nice-it had a nice big food court too! One reason I'd recommend staying in the park is that both times we've been there, parking is virtually impossible, so your best bet is to find a parking place the day you get there, then use the free bus system all week.
    Two additional reasons for staying INSIDE Grand Canyon NP
    1. There is a good bit of lodging available there, unlike most national parks, and most of it is in Grand Canyon Village which is VERY centrally located.
    2. The nearest lodging outside the park is Tusayan. That's only 6 miles from Grand Canyon Village, but you could easily have an hour wait at the park entrance station. VERY slow.
     

    JimMIA

    There's more to life than mice...
    Joined
    Feb 16, 2005
    It will be myself, my husband and our 9 year old son.
    OP, is your son in 4th grade?

    If so, let him treat you to ALL national parks! NPS has a 4th Grade Pass that provides FREE entry to all NPS sites nationwide for the child and their family for the entire school year -- September 1 to August 31. Simple online application and you're all set.

    So if he's in 4th grade NOW, you can get the pass and it will still be good next summer.
     

    Anna Chassereau

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 9, 2016
    Sedona to Grand Canyon

    Sedona to Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim is a 2 hour drive each way, not counting weather, traffic, or lengthy waits at the park entrance. In addition, the portion of the road up Oak Creek Canyon between Sedona and I-40 is narrow and winding.

    I would suggest booking one of the lodges inside Grand Canyon for one night. Last time we were there, we stayed at Maswick Lodge (which is away from the rim) and it was fine. The food there was also good. Drive up and explore, spend the night, explore some more and then drive back to Sedona.

    Grand Canyon NP website: www.nps.gov/grca

    Sedona

    On our last trip, we went to Sedona, then Grand Canyon, and then back to Sedona. We liked Sedona so much we left Grand Canyon a day early to spend more time there.

    Sedona is a magical mix of scenic beauty, artsy-fartsy, and downright weird, but fun. You can get your aura photographed and/or interpreted, take a nighttime walk with spirits, search for vortexes, and who knows what else. You're not in Kansas anymore!

    You will be in the Village of Oak Creek, which is a little south of the actual town of Sedona. But that's actually a good thing because you have to drive through some of the prettiest scenery in the area to get to the town.

    Don't miss the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It doesn't matter whether you are religious or not, this is a beautiful place. It's a church actually carved into the red rock, with a spectacular view. Plan on spending at least an hour here. Seriously.

    Tlaquepaque (Ta-lock-a-poc-ee?) is an arts and shopping plaza you will want to visit. It's between your hotel and downtown Sedona.

    The Sedona Airport -- is on top of a mesa, and has great views.

    Montezuma's Castle National Monument -- This worth a short drive. It's only about 20-30 minutes south of your hotel, just off I-17. This is an Indian cliff dwelling in good repair in a lovely riverside setting. Very cool. Junior Ranger, if available (not sure on this small NPS unit). Moca does have a Jr Ranger program, I looked it up.

    Montezuma's Castle NM website: www.nps.gov/moca
    You are awesome thank you for all of this great info and for looking up the Jr Ranger program!! I appreciate all of your tips and advice so much!:)
     

    Anna Chassereau

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 9, 2016
    OP, is your son in 4th grade?

    If so, let him treat you to ALL national parks! NPS has a 4th Grade Pass that provides FREE entry to all NPS sites nationwide for the child and their family for the entire school year -- September 1 to August 31. Simple online application and you're all set.

    So if he's in 4th grade NOW, you can get the pass and it will still be good next summer.
    Yes he’s in 4th grade so this is perfect timing for us to take this trip!:) I will definitely be getting this pass!
     

    JimMIA

    There's more to life than mice...
    Joined
    Feb 16, 2005
    Just to give you an idea of your savings -- a regular NPS Annual pass for the whole family is $80 for a full year. But the fees you will save are MUCH more than $80. You are getting the $80 pass for $0.00.

    532180
     

    GoofTroop4Life

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 16, 2020
    Thanks to everyone who posted tips! We are taking a similar trip in June/July with some extra time to visit family in LA, so this is all very helpful. I was looking at Maswik Lodge. Does anyone know if the renovation is on track to be completed this year?
     

    bennifer

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2013
    We had a trip planned for this past June that included Yosemite then a drive down highway 1 ending at Disneyland that was pushed to June 2021. Now that we don’t know if DL will even be open by then, this thread has me starting to think that Yosemite and Grand Canyon is a better option for us. Thank you OP for the idea!!!
     

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