Adventures in Glamping: Yosemite National Park

Last Saturday morning, I woke up not the usual sounds of the clanking garbage trucks, honking traffic, and weekend morning rattle of one of the most populous cities in the country, but to the steady rushing of rain on a canvas roof. It took a minute to orient myself in the cozy gray light—then I remembered that I’d traded our city digs for the white and wood of a hillside yurt, just outside of Yosemite National Park.

It was the first year I wasn’t traveling for Thanksgiving Day, so I decided to take advantage of the long weekend and head to the mountains. I knew it was going to be cold and potentially snowy, so I ruled out a tent and decided to embrace the “glamping” trend by renting one of the yurts at Yosemite Lakes Resort.

For centuries, yurts have been a portable, bent dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia as their homes. More recently, they’ve become one of the hot-ticket abodes to rent for those too weary (or wary) to go tent-camping.

Yosemite Lakes, a division of Thousand Trails, has two yurt villages—a hillside yurt village and a river yurt village. I accidentally drove to the river yurt village first, and though it sounds picturesque, I ultimately decided I’d made the right choice to go for a hillside yurt. The hillside yurts were positioned far off the main road, which meant they were nice and quiet, and had lovely mountain views.

For two nights, I paid $261 for my yurt, and it easily rivaled some hotel rooms I’ve  paid more for. In terms of food prep, it came equipped with a kitchenette (full fridge, stove top, microwave, and full-size coffeemaker), dining set, and a propane grill on the front deck, which meant I could leave the heavy camp stove at home and forgo the charcoal, which can be hard to find this time of year. (For those who want a more rustic experience, it also came with a grated fire pit, for campfire roasts and dutch ovens—and I definitely took advantage of it for s’mores roasting later in the evening!) The yurt also had a full-size futon and a small TV, a queen-sized bed, and a propane-powered cast-iron stove for heat. Linens were included. It was so cozy to lay in bed with a nicely controlled fire to keep me toasty! Our bathroom was (almost embarrassingly) larger than my bathroom in San Francisco, with a shower, closet space, and shelving for toiletries.

Do note though, that the yurt location is completely off the grid in terms of cell service and Wi-Fi. I loved it—it felt great to completely unplug. In case you do need to check email, there’s Wi-Fi at both the check-in area and the Family Lodge.

In terms of location, mine was one of the most conveniently close campgrounds outside of the park. Evergreen Lodge is closer to Hetch-Hetchy Resevoir, which is an extension of Yosemite, but to get to Yosemite Village, you had to take an incredibly long and windy road. Yosemite Lakes was a pretty straight shot (about five miles) to the park gates, and then a spectacular drive down to the Valley.

To be honest, I’d ruled Yosemite Lakes out because it looked at first glance like an RV campground. But it kept turning up in searches, so eventually I looked a little harder. While it is technically an RV campground, they also have the yurts as well as cabins for rent. It was too chilly for outdoor activities while I was there, but it had a mini golf course and a pool, and in the family lodge (which also had Wi-Fi) there was a pool table and ping-pong, a robust take-one-leave-one bookshelf (mostly with dishy romance novels and YA fiction), boardgames, and a popcorn machine.

Though this was my first foray into glamping, it definitely had its upsides. It was incredibly convenient not to have to schlepp all my more hardcore gear out of the city (and out of the closet), but still be so close to nature. I can easily see us on another yurt adventure in the not-so-distant future.

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