Living Large Among Giants

Tenaya Lodge provides a relaxing base camp for exploring iconic Yosemite National Park

If there’s a place that can make a person feel Lilliputian, it’s Yosemite. This land of giants—the 2,425-foot-high Yosemite Falls is one of the world’s tallest waterfalls, El Capitan is the largest granite monolith in the U.S., and the three groves of giant sequoias are the world’s biggest trees—annually attracts over five million visitors who crane their necks to look up at its mammoth natural wonders. And like so many national parks, summer can be particularly crowded as visitors from around the world flock to take in the sights. But by planning ahead, they can avoid crowds and maximize their exploring time.

An oasis on the perimeter of Yosemite National Park, Tenaya Lodge amenities include three outdoor swimming pools. 

Sylvia Harmon grew up in nearby Whittier, California, and has visited the park more than 15 times. One of her insider tips is to visit in spring, when waterfalls bloated from snowmelt thunder to the ground, or autumn—also less crowded and a gorgeous time of year (though rivers and waterfalls may be low by then). But if you are visiting in summer, she recommends “arriving at the gate early—very early, like 6 a.m.—to miss the crowds.”

One of the lodge’s signature activities is a stargazer flashlight hike where, far from city lights at an elevation of over 5,000 feet, there’s a clear view of the Milky Way.

Guided tours are another way for guests to spend more time enjoying the view and less time behind the wheel. Myriad companies provide tours ranging from four-hour to multi-day outings. These companies know the lay of the land and can offer educational commentary along the way.

New in 2019, 50 two-bedroom Explorer Cabins provide guests with a glamping experience. 

Or guests may consider staying near the park: Close to Yosemite’s south entrance, Tenaya Lodge is the ideal base camp for park exploration. Built in 1990, Tenaya sits at 5,288 feet above the valley floor on 48 acres bordering the Sierra Nevada for a stunning view. With 240 guest rooms and suites in the main lodge, 57 cottages and, new in July 2019, 50 two-bedroom cabins, the lodge can accommodate groups from large to small.

“Wine in the Woods” is a popular event each August featuring farm-to-table fare and wine from local winemaker Idle Hour. 

It also offers one-stop shopping for activities with a fully staffed activities department providing an extensive menu of on-property activities including stargazing and geocaching—as well as Yosemite outings with horseback rides, jeep tours and guided nature hikes. The resort’s very own luxurious convertible Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is available to whisk guests into the park, stopping at the historic village and delivering them to the Mariposa Grove shuttle. For guests lucky enough to visit during August, the resort offers “Wine in the Woods”—a magical night of dining amid the sugar pines and incense cedars, with a farm-to-table menu and wine by local winemaker Idle Hour. The event sells out every year, so guests will want to buy tickets in advance.

A guided jeep tour gives guests an open-air experience while touring Yosemite’s sights. 

According to Harmon, it may take many visits before a tourist has fully explored Yosemite’s nearly 750,000 acres. But one thing is for sure: The undisputed best way to see the magnificent park is with the top down.

Cottages at Tenaya Lodge are nestled in the forest offering rustic charm among the evergreens with easy access to the main lodge.


An hour-and-15-minute drive from Fresno airport. Plan your visit, check park hours:

Discover Yosemite,
My Yosemite Park,
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite,

Yosemite National Park,
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite,

Climbing wall
Jeep tours
Horseback riding
Mountain biking—bike rentals available
Rock-climbing excursions
Whitewater rafting
Yosemite Valley tours—including the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias in Tenaya’s luxury Mercedes-Benz Sprinter convertible bus.
Guided hikes, including the Waterfall Nature Hike: 5.5 miles of stunning hiking trails in the Sierra National Forest to a gorgeous waterfall. 

For the weary adventurer after a day exploring the park, the LEED Silver-certified 10,000-square-foot Ascent spa using indigenous plants in its luxurious treatments.

Options include five restaurants ranging from the Embers, with Sierra alpine cuisine prepared by an award-winning culinary team, and the Sierra Restaurant—offering a locally grown, sustainable organic menu— to three casual dining establishments on the property.

For more information on the new Explorer Cabins visit

As seen in the July 2019 issue

Categories: Mountain Travel