Friday, August 21, 2015

The Rough Guide to Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon

The Rough Guide to Yosemite, Sequoia, & Kings Canyon is the ultimate travel guide to three of the USA's best national parks. This title helps you discover America's highest waterfalls, Yosemite's lushest meadows and near vertical cliffs such as El Capitan and Half Dome. It helps you find information on the world's largest trees in Sequoia National Park, along with black bears and fine limestone caves in Kings Canyon.

Get practical advice on the best hikes, most comfortable camping spots, the finest hotels and great places for a rowdy beer. Full color sections cover horse riding, snow shoeing, and rafting as well as wild animals like bears, marmots and mule deer. It helps you explore every corner of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon with clear and accurate maps that will ensure you won't miss a gorgeous vista or wonderful campsite. Make the most of your trip with The Rough Guide to Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon.

The holiday-makers' favourite guidebook series The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

Paul Whitfield is an experienced hiker and climbing enthusiast, whose credits include the Rough Guides to Alaska, New Zealand, Mexico and California. He lives in New Zealand.


Start early. It’s best to visit the most popular sights, particularly Lower Yosemite Fall and Bridalveil Fall, before 9am when the low-angled light brings out the best in the scenery, and wild animals are at their most active.

Get off the beaten path. The vast majority of visitors never stray more than a twenty-minute walk from their car and only visit the most popular sights.

Stay out late. The hour or so before sunset is usually spectacular and "golden hour" is no time to be in a restaurant or your hotel room.


With so much to see and do in the Park it’s hard to pick favorites; what follows is a brief list of some of the most popular and worthwhile sights and activities.

With half a day to play with, aim for the Valley and stroll to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls, hike some or all of the Mist Trail to Vernal Fall, and gaze up at El Capitan from El Cap Meadow.

If you have a full day, you could also walk to Mirror Lake, visit the Yosemite Museum and Indian Village, and, if driving, admire the late-afternoon views from Tunnel View on Wawona Road then continue to Glacier Point for sunset and the stars after dark.

On a two- or three-day visit, in addition to the above, hike either the Four-Mile Trail, Half Dome Trail, or Upper Yosemite Fall Trail, and make side trips to Tuolumne Meadows and Mariposa Grove near Wawona.


You can visit the Park at any time of year, even in winter when the waterfalls turn to ice and the trails are blocked by snow. Unless you are here for winter activities, choosing the best time to come to Yosemite depends mostly on whether you’re here for hiking or viewing waterfalls. Summer is generally dry with occasional thunderstorms; spring and fall are more variable, with Valley temperatures peaking in the seventies. Winter means snow but often with sunny days and highs up into the fifties.

May and June are fairly popular months, particularly in Yosemite Valley where the waterfalls are the big draw. While lowland snows should have melted by this time, throughout May and early June the high country is likely to be off-limits with both Glacier Point Road and Tioga Road still closed by snow. The Park is at its busiest in July and August when daytime temperatures in Yosemite Valley and Wawona are regularly in the eighties and nineties, and the rivers and lakes are (just about) warm enough for swimming. This is a good time for hiking since almost all the high-country snow has melted. If you don’t mind missing most of the waterfalls, September and October are excellent months to visit, with smaller crowds, most Park facilities still in operation, and plenty of hiking in cooler weather and on dry ground. In October, the Valley and Wawona both put on a decent show of fall colors. November is more marginal, with snow storms likely and the high-country roads usually closing early in the month. December through March witness cross-country skiing and skating in full swing; tire chains are generally required. By April, Wawona and the Valley may well be free of snow, but late storms are not uncommon. With a few lowland exceptions, April is too early for much hiking.

Traveling outside peak summer season also offers rewards, with rooms easier to come by and prices markedly lower. Even in winter you can stay in budget tent cabins fitted with heating stoves, and low-country campgrounds remain open.


Hikers, of course, have special needs (see on p.97), but all visitors should dress in layers to be able to peel off or add on clothing as conditions dictate. Sunblock, a hat, and insect repellent are pretty much essential, as is a flashlight, since even in Yosemite Valley artificial lighting is kept to a minimum. Shops in Wawona, Tuolumne Meadows, and especially the Valley, stock most things you’re likely to need.


Prices for accommodation, restaurants, tours, and incidentals are fairly high in Yosemite, and those on a brief visit might balk at the $20 entrance fee (though if you arrive by bus, you don’t have to pay it). Outside the Park, costs are much the same as you might expect in rural California, though accommodation is still on the pricey side, especially in the peak summer months. In contrast, much of what you’ll be doing in Yosemite is free. Scenery costs nothing, and many of the most picturesque spots in the Valley are accessible by the free shuttle bus. If you are tackling overnight hikes (for which permits are free) then you can camp in the backcountry for no charge. In addition, the Park Service runs numerous free ranger programs, and much of the evening entertainment comes gratis as well. In winter there’s even a complimentary shuttle bus connecting the Valley with the Badger Pass ski area.

Most helpful customer reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful.
5Very Highly Recommended
By Jean Grey
I initially encountered this book while perusing guides for my upcoming summer trip to Yosemite National Park. Since I began reading it, I have not wanted to put it down. It is a comprehensive, practically encyclopedic yet compact book on everything about Yosemite. I don't know how the author managed to pack so much valuable information into such a small source.

The book begins with important and bare basics: a few introductory pages of beautiful glossy color photographs of attractions in the park, a park map, brief intro, a brief what to see and do guide (including average rainfall & temps for all months of the year), and then a color photograph section entitled 20 Things Not To Miss.

The rest of the book then focuses on well-organized sections with pertinent information on everything from the basics of preparation and travelling with all groups such as children and those with disabilities, to the geology, flora, and fauna of the park. Anyone could figure out which are the best hikes for them and which things they could do in every season just by reading for a few minutes in these sections. What I love most is that there are black and white photographs of park landmarks and influential people, such as John Muir, peppered throughout the book, which further illuminate the awesome landscape and spectacular story of Yosemite. The reader gets to discover interesting gems about Yosemite throughout the book. This book makes it a joy to plan my trip because it takes the guesswork out of planning with its lists of who should bring what (and I have to plan for my entire family).

Whether you love in-depth guides, like I do, with facts and photos about everything, or you just want a really good guidebook to accompany you on your visit to glance at now and then, this is the book for you. This book is recommended for the first-time visitor as well as repeat visitors (unless they know the park like the back of their hands). I think I would buy this book even if I wasn't going to Yosemite - it's that enjoyable and fun to read. Or maybe it's just that the park itself has such an awe-inspiring presence and history that reading anything about it is engrossing.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful.
3Not Nearly as Rough as the Title Implies
By Fritz R. Ward
The Rough Guides offer fairly good travel recommendations for trip planning and the third edition of their Yosemite book is no different. If you want to enjoy a fairly traditional vacation in Yosemite you can find all the contact numbers you need here, as well as descriptions of lodging, bus tours, etc. I was pleased, in fact, to see that the author recommended Green Tortoise and the Yosemite Bug Hostel "Bug Bus" for those seeking group tours. Neat activities for kids, where to find internet access, tips for good pictures, and notes on local attractions (don't forget the Valley Cemetary) round out the first half of the book.

On the other hand, I really was hoping for more of a guide to outdoor activities, and these receive a decidedly short stick in this book. Author Paul Whitfield does offer short descriptions of 50 hikes, but none that you would not find in other guides. Indeed, he claims that if you just walk 20 minutes from your car you will be free from the crowds. Not on many of these trails. Mist Falls, the Four Mile Trail, Yosemite Falls, Panoramic Point Trail, and the climb to Half Dome are all very popular. He does of course include other standard walks: Wampama Falls, Soda Springs and the Wawona Meadow hike. Six backpack trips round out the rest of the book.

The part of the book I appreciated least, however, was the format. The print is tiny, the pages off white, and key information is in tan boxes which give the book a drab look and make it difficult to read for any extended period. It does not have enough plates to make up for the difficult read.

On the whole then, this is a decent book for planning a vacation with, but there are better choices out there. Moon Handbooks Yosemite by Ann Marie Brown is the best of these. A new edition of it is due out this year. For day hikes, I like Robert Stone's Day Hikes in Yosemite National Park and, for shorter walks, Best Easy Day Hikes: Yosemite. The best source for the park as a whole remains Jeffrey Schaffer's Yosemite National Park: A Complete Hiker's Guide. The bottom line on this book then is you can use it for trip planning, but there are better sources out there.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
4Good, but not great
By drumlinds
I brought this book on a week-long trip out to Yosemite. I used it mostly for its maps, what to expect in terms of weather and wildlife, and what to do when we left the park. Don't expect a lot of pictures, but there are plenty of maps and most of them are good. I would recommend getting a copy of the excellent National Geographic Yosemite Park map if you plan on spending time in the park, but the maps in this book will do fine for planning or if you're only there for a day or two.

The hiking summary is good - 40+ pages are devoted to hiking in the park. There is an extensive listing of 43 day hikes and 7 sample overnight hikes (options for overnight hikes are almost endless). The book also has chapters for each of three park "sections" - Yosemite Valley, Northern Yosemite, and Southern Yosemite. It deals with accomodations in a separate chapter, where they are organized by areas within the park and then by areas outside the park. The author also briefly discusses areas of interest/attractions outside the park in all directions. I found this to be very helpful, since Yosemite is a 3+ to 5 hour drive from any major airport.

I do disagree with the author on a couple things. He lists Half Dome as a suggested "day hike". This is an extremely strenuous hike - 17 miles round trip - and should not be put in the day hike category (although some people do it as one). I hiked it as an overnight trip and it was exhausting. The author also puts visiting Mono Lake as #11 of the top 18 things not to miss. Because of that I went there and was sorely disappointed - I wouldn't recommend it. It may make for nice pictures, but I would have much rather spent my time in Yosemite itself.

I also thought the glossary needed a little work. I always felt like I was looking for something I'd already read, but I could never find it when I went to the glossary. I'd usually find it flipping through the book or reading a section later on.

Overall this is a decent guide book. I am biased towards Rough Guides, and I bought this without considering other guide books, but it's not the best Rough Guide I've ever used. When I go back to Yosemite I'll look for other guides, as I imagine there's a better one out there. If I could give it 3.5 stars I would, but I thought it deserved more than 3.

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