By Greg Aragon
Spring is a great time to visit Yosemite National Park. Melting snow is causing cascading waterfalls, lakes are serene, wildflowers are blooming and the air is crisp and clean. I recently escaped to Yosemite and had a front-row cabin to all of this natural majesty.
My getaway to Yosemite began when I checked into a cozy cabin at Evergreen Lodge, located near the park’s western entrance. A rustic hideaway, the lodge sits about six miles down a winding dirt road, lined with a canopy of pine, cedar and oak trees, flowing streams and spectacular open meadows.
The inn was built in 1921 to facilitate the building of the O’Shaughnessy Dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley. Since it’s opening, the historic structure has been a post office, a restaurant, and general store, as well as an underground moonshine brewery and part-time brothel.
Today, the lodge offers a “classic Yosemite experience” with 88 wooden cabins scattered throughout 20 acres of towering pines, each with a balcony to create a sense of privacy, yet within easy reach of the central plaza, tavern and recreation areas.
My deluxe cabin featured a king bed, a large sitting area with queen sofa bed and a private deck looking into the wondrous nature. The cabin also came with a cast iron gas fireplace, air conditioning, spacious bathroom with shower, Wi-Fi, Alexa devices for in-room entertainment and music, phone, historic artwork, Keurig coffee brewer, electric kettles, refrigerator, feather pillows, vaulted ceilings and more.
Beyond the cabins, Evergreen offers guests all sorts of surprise diversions for play or relaxation. There are hammocks, horseshoes, bocce, and zip lines, to name a few. Everything here is maintained to provide a sense of connection to nature, wilderness, and history, while still “affording the modern creature comforts and respecting the surrounding natural resources.”
The lodge also offers guided recreation programs to help guests experience Yosemite. Activities include fly fishing, rafting, snowshoeing, van tours of the valley, and bike rides to hidden waterfalls and pools. Upon arriving at Evergreen, visitors receive a program of activities available for the week of their stay. A stop by the recreation desk can help anyone find something fun to do.
The highlight of my resort stay was taking the Hetch Hetchy Wapama Falls naturalist hike, which I booked at the recreation desk. A lesser-traveled jewel at Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy is a smaller version of Yosemite Valley, replete with domes, waterfalls, forests, lakes and rivers, and incredible vistas.
On this leisurely 5-mile roundtrip, I and a few other resort guests hiked above the shores of this tranquil reservoir to the 1,200-foot Wapama Falls. To get there we walked through lush meadows, over trails of dirt and granite and passed brilliant wildflowers, small creeks and meadows. During the hike our guide shared stories about the history of Yosemite and told us about the area’s geology, trees and wildlife. The Hetch Hetchy Wapama Falls naturalist hike runs January–June and costs $125 for adults and $65 for kids 8 to 12.
After the hike I had a great dinner back at the Evergreen Lodge’s Tavern restaurant. Covered in rich wood, the tavern has been a local gathering spot for over 90 years and is a focal point of the property. My meal began with beet salad with arugula, pomegranate seeds, spiced walnuts, orange supremes, whipped goat cheese and guava balsamic reduction. For the main course I devoured braised lamb shank with butternut squash, potato and goat cheese mash, sautéed kale, pearl onions and red wine jus. I washed it all down with a cold beer.
The next morning I drove into the 1,169-square-mile Yosemite National Park for a tour of the valley floor ($35 entry fee per car). Here I caught a shuttle, which makes 21 stops to all major park highlights. Beginning at the Visitors Center, I learned about the history of Yosemite, the different animals found there, and about John Muir (who many consider the father of national parks).
A highlight in the valley was a stop near El Capitan, which at 3,593 feet tall is the largest single monolith of granite in the world, and hike to the thunderous base of Yosemite Falls. Another geological wonder, this landmark drops water from a height of 2,425 feet, making it the tallest waterfall in North America.