Last year I wrote about some of my camping trips, and I want to update you on more awesome outdoor adventures! Since I last wrote, I’ve been snowshoeing in the Sierras, canyoneering in Death Valley, hiking in Yosemite, and climbing in Joshua Tree. USC really is in an amazing location for many of America’s natural wonders. While the city is amazing, I find it very important to take some time away from screens, concrete, and traffic. Since each of these trips were to popular and significant outdoor locations, I thought I’d do a several part series on the Great Outdoors near USC. This is Part 3:

Yosemite National Park

I decided to kick off the school year last August by making the trek up to Yosemite Valley. Because it is one of the oldest and most famous national parks, it has been on my bucket list for while. This was my first real camping trip at USC without SC Outfitters, because my friends and I finally have cars! Yosemite is about 6 hours away from USC, a little bit north of Mt. Whitney and Mammoth. This trip is at least a three day, weekend trip, as it takes about a half day each way to drive up. It’s absolutely worth the journey though!

On the first day, we drove up in the afternoon and arrived later at night. We slept in a secret pullout spot on the road told to me by someone from my internship in Bakersfield last summer. Since this was in August, it was prime tourist season for Yosemite and all of the park campsites were booked up months in advance. No biggie though – there are always plenty of spots right outside the park in other campgrounds and even on the side of the road, like the pullout we used. The next morning, we headed into the park for a longer day hike to Cathedral Lake. The hike was supposed to be about 6 miles round-trip, but we got lost in the beginning so it was probably more like 7 miles… The top of the hike was Cathedral Lake itself, which was overlooked by a spire of rock that looked like, well, a cathedral! Since it was a hot day, we had packed our bathing suits and got to cool off with a swim in the lake. I love swimming in lakes way more than the ocean – it’s clearer, not salty, and doesn’t bash you with waves. The only downside is weird feeling mud usually.

That night, we tried scouring the park campgrounds for open spots due to cancellations, but we found out that if there were cancellations, they were already sold again at 8am that morning. So, pro-tip for Yosemite: before you head off for your day hike, check out the campgrounds for a site upgrade. Luckily, we found a great spot in one of the campgrounds just outside the park. The site had a real, live babbling brook right next to it. We roasted marshmallows and watched the stars. The next morning, our final day, we headed to the visitor’s center and to find the best views the park has to offer. I love seeing the visitor’s center because you learn so much about the park that you never would have known otherwise. Plus, the rangers always have the best advice on where to hike and what sight to see. The views from around the park were amazing, and we got to see all the classic sights like Half Dome and El Capitan. 

I’m planning on going back in April for a backpacking trip – hopefully we’ll catch all the waterfalls that were dried up last time. If you haven’t already, check out my last blog about the Eastern Sierras and Death Valley! Also, be sure to catch my next in two weeks on Joshua Tree National Park.

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Chemical Engineering (Petroleum), Class of 2018, Learn more on her profile here!