Logistics for Yosemite Valley in March

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Camp Curry / Half Dome Village in March
A stay in Yosemite Valley in March doesn't have to be expensive or freezing. The nice part about March is that the Valley is less crowded, since it's the off-season, so you don't necessarily need to reserve your campsites 6 months in advance as is necessary for the summer months. I booked our heated platform tent in Camp Curry / Half Dome Village two months in advance and the weekend went super swimmingly.

Timing.
We went to Yosemite Valley the first weekend that Camp Curry ("Half Dome Village") was open 7 days per week, allowing us to stay Friday-Sunday nights. Earlier in winter, it's only open on weekends. Prices are also cheaper this first weekend (March 17), rather than the following weekend as not quite as many merchants are open that weekend. It was in the 50s during the day, and the 30s at night. Fine hiking weather!

Campground.
Camp Curry is hundreds of little platform tents crammed together in a maze of identical tents. Each with its own bear locker. Quiet hours are 6am-10pm, but with the canned sardine nature of the tents, you'll be able to hear your neighbors whispering late into the night.

Some tents have two sagging twin beds, some have an umcofrtable double and a twin. Your stay includes towels, sheets, and camp blankets. There's one electrical outlet and a bare lightbulb, plus a chair, and a little jewelery vault. Some tents have heating, some don't, but you reserve whichever you need online. We probably would've been fine without the heater as we also brought our low temperature sleeping bags, but it was nice to be able to return to a warm tent after a shower. Bathroom & showering facilities aren't too far away, but they have odd maintenance schedules, so sometimes you have to walk a bit further. Showers include shampoo and soap, and the bathrooms are fairly clean. Bring shower shoes.

Food and scented items are kept in your bear locker. There's lots of bear-proof trashcans about, and there's absolutely no campfires or open flames allowed in Curry Village. You need to go to a picnic area with grills (although J and I may have fired up the backpacking stove for lunch at the picnic tables near Yosemite Falls).

The temporary "Half Dome Village" sign, and a list of everything that was open March 17-20.
Half Dome Village Temporary Sign Yosemite Hours of Operation in Mid-March
Camp Curry Platform Tent - some have heaters
Bear locker for all your food + scented item storage.
Inside Bear Locker
Inside the Camp Curry platform tents - 2 twin beds - with a heater (only turned on in the off season).
Inside the Camp Curry Platform Tents with Heater
Map of Camp Curry. Soooo many tents.
Camp Curry / Half Dome Village Map
Bathroom & shower facilities at Camp Curry. We were close to the restaurants. Running water! No problems with hot water!
Camp Curry / Half Dome Village in March
Camp Curry / Half Dome Village Bathrooms & Showers
Camp Curry / Half Dome Village Bathrooms & Showers Camp Curry / Half Dome Village Bathrooms & Showers
No cooking at Camp Curry! We went to a picnic area for this.
Backpacker Lunch at Yosemite Falls
Parking lot / closed ice rink. At least it has nice views!
Camp Curry / Half Dome Village in March

Eating.
Eating can be a little tricky, as many of the restaurants are closed for the season or have limited hours. At Camp Curry itself, there's the basic food/souvenir store, a coffee shop open until noon and the Pizza Deck open in the afternoon and evening. So if you enjoy the world's most mediocre California-style pizza, that's an option. The Ahwahnee Hotel ("Majestic Yosemite Hotel") also serves breakfast, lunch, dress code dinner, a pricey Sunday brunch, and drinks at a well-stocked bar. Closer to Yosemite Falls, there's the grill and supermarket in Yosemite Village. Right next to Yosemite Falls there's Yosemite Lodge which has a good restaurant, an incredibly mediocre cafeteria, and a lounge/bar.

When bringing your own food and staying in tents or campsites, you have to store your food in the provided bear lockers. Not your car! Not your tent! This also includes other scented items like toothpaste and deodorant. For lunch during hiking, we brought along an assortment of fresh apples, cereal bars, bacon jerky, dried peaches, and trail mix. For lunch while shuttling around the Valley, we chose to bring along a tiny camp stove, titanium kettle, and dehydrated beef stroganoff but Yosemite Lodge and Yosemite Village also have nearby food options.

All told, in three days, we ate at every restaurant option available except for The Ahwahnee's dining room.

Booze.
Many of the Yosemite National Park supermarkets (i.e., the one at Yosemite Valley and other at Camp Curry) sell alcohol. There's also a lounge at Yosemite Lodge and a bar at The Ahwahnee Hotel. The cocktails we had at The Ahwahnee were absolutely delightful, and you can even take them outside to enjoy a view of the grounds while you sip.

Eating options at Camp Curry. Coffee + bagels + cereal + baked goods in the morning. Pizza Deck in the afternoon. Also, the little souvenir/grocery store and a mountain gear shop.
Camp Curry / Half Dome Village in March
Yosemite Lodge Lounge for your drinking needs.
Yosemite Lodge Lounge
Yosemite Lodge Cafeteria.
Yosemite Lodge Cafeteria - terrible for the morning
Camp Curry Coffee Shop eating area.
Breakfast at Camp Curry / Half Dome Village

Getting around.
Despite being in the off-season, parking can still be a tiny bit of a pain in Yosemite Valley. They run free Valley shuttles around the loop which are pretty useful for getting around. These run until 10pm, and in this off-season, they don't have the El Capitan line, so it's pretty much for getting around: Yosemite Lodge/Falls/Village, The Ahwahnee, and Camp Curry. It's also possible to just walk the 1.7 mile trail between Yosemite Lodge and The Ahwahnee, which we did twice. The views during the walk can be quite lovely.

Hiking.
Camp Curry is an easy walk to Happy Isles and the trailhead of the Muir-->Mist Trail that can take you to a view of Vernal Falls. The Mist Trail isn't open in the winter, so we kept on with the John Muir Trail up to Clark Point. It was 2.5 extra miles of uphill trail (the Mist Trail is only 0.3). It involved a bit of snow climbing and some vertical trail. So. Not for the faint of heart. It also was somewhat similar to the hike we did as part of our 2011 Yosemite Valley backpacking trip, so next time I think we'd consider doing the Upper Yosemite Falls trail instead. Faaaaaantastic views from Clark Point, though. Possibly worth it.

The trick to hiking in 50 degree weather is layers. We both wore zip-knee hiking pants, but there was no need to convert to shorts. For a top, I wore a sports bra, sweat-wicking T-shirt, and a long-sleeves sweat-wicking cowl-neck shirt. I also brought my fleece, so at varying points I had 3 or 4 top layers on. I also kinda wish I brought along gloves, because the snow hiking required a considerable amount of gripping the cold, wet ground.

On the free Yosemite Valley Shuttle. Camp Curry - Yosemite Village - Ahwahnee - Yosemite Falls - Yosemite Lodge.
Yosemite Valley Shuttle
Layers.
Muir Trail Up to Clarke Point

Activities.
Aside from the ever-popular hiking, there's a reasonable amount of activities to pursue in Yosemite Valley in March. In particular, there's the small Yosemite Museum & Gallery in Yosemite Village which has some Native American baskets and displays as well as location-relevant art that is for sale. The Ansel Adams Gallery also in Yosemite Village, is more of a craftsy giftshop with Motawi tiles and art prints for purchase. Although, we also managed to purchase an expired battery for one of my film cameras there for $4, lol. Around Yosemite Village you can also walk or take a Valley shuttle to the Yosemite Falls, as well as the Ahwahnee (and its lovely gift shop).

With a car, you can reach some of the spots the Valley Shuttles don't serve in the winter: El Capitan and the short [but damp] walk to Bridalveil Fall.

Skiing is also apparently an option at this time of year, but J and I stayed mostly Valley-bound, busy with hiking and walking from the Ahwahnee Lounge to the Yosemite Lodge Lounge.

Some stuff is closed. Ignore at your own risk.
Everyone ignoring the closed sign
El Capitain by car.
El Capitain

Tunnel View
Clarke Point

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