Yosemite Part 1 – Planning and Getting to the Park

Taking a vacation with a dog, a good idea or bad?  I would say that it depends.  There are pros and cons to taking a dog with you, and we’ll discuss them here.


We recently took a trip to Yosemite with Sierra.  It was a great experience for all of us because we went into it knowing the limitations we would face.  Let’s start at the beginning.  The first thing you want to do is to make sure your dog is up to date on all of their shots, and is in good health before the start of the vacation.  The last thing you want to do on the way to your relaxing vacay is to have to find an emergency vet to treat your dog in an unfamiliar town.  Next, you want to make sure when packing for a dog, you always plan for the unexpected.  Bring extra food, water, treats and toys to make sure you will be prepared for a few days if the trip is unexpectedly extended.  If you are going to be in the car for more than a few hours, we recommend that you exercise with your dog for a longer than usual period of time to get them nice and tired before starting the trip.  (We took Sierra for a 4 1/2 mile bike ride before we started the 7 hour drive to Yosemite.) After the initial exercising, we would also recommend planning to stop every 2 hours to let you and your dog have a break, stretch and use the bathroom.  If you know your dog has problems in the car, make sure you purchase some calming aids to help take some of the stress out of the big trip.  There are some decent calming aids that don’t require a prescription and can be used with relative safety.  (We use Pet Natural and Homeopet).

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So now you are packed and ready to go! Now let’s move on to the review of taking a trip with your dog to Yosemite.

We started the day by finishing some last minute packing.  Kelly, my wife, finished loading the car while I took Sierra for a 4 1/2 mile bike ride to get her nice and tired for the first leg of the trip.  We left around 10am, a little later than we wanted to, but I guess it helped us avoid some L.A. traffic we would have encountered if we left at our planned time of 8:30.  We gassed up, got some breakfast burritos and some coffee, and we were off.

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The first stop we made was a rest stop on the other side of the grape vine.  It was just a quick break for Sierra to go potty and we were back on the road within 10 minutes.  Our next stop was in Bakersfield.  It took us a little under 3 hours to get there from Orange County.  They have a dog park called Knoll Park that is about 5 miles off the freeway and is a great place to stop if you want to let your dog run around for a bit.  For reference, it’s about twice the size of Costa Mesa’s Bark Park.

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We stayed there for about 30 minutes before Sierra got tired out and then we were back on the road.  The final rest stop was about 30 minutes outside of the park to gas up and give Sierra one more break before we made the trip to Yosemite Valley.  (The entrance fee for the park is $20 so make sure you have that accessible when you get the to ranger booth.)  We arrived at the Upper Pines campground around 5:30pm.  We set up camp and then took the dog for a walk into Curry Village to check things out.  When we got back, we tied up Sierra to a 30ft leash so she could roam around the camp site while we made dinner.  After dinner we started a fire and the three of us sat down for some relaxation.

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Rules for bringing a dog to Yosemite:

-Dogs need to be on a 6 ft. leash when being walked around the park

-Dogs need to stay on paved trails

-Dogs can not be left unattended (in a tent, RV, or outside a store while you shop)

DO bring your dog to Yosemite if:

-They like the outdoors

-They are well behaved on a leash

-You are looking for a low key trip without a lot of strenuous hikes

DON’T bring your dog if:

-They bark at birds, squirrels, unfamiliar people, or just because (a bark will travel a long way in the valley and you will quickly make a lot of enemies if it cant be stopped fast)

-You want to do some of the more strenuous hikes to the waterfalls or even half dome

-Your dog doesn’t do well in new environments with a lot of stimuli

-Your dog gets cold easily (When we stayed the temperature was in the 30s every night, but during the summer months it will be warmer at night.  However, due to unpredictable weather, it could get that cold any night of the year.)

Coming Soon: In Part 2 we will look at the hikes you can and can’t go on with your dog in the valley.  

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