Many of us dog owners prefer to bring our 4 legged family along for trips rather than leave them at the mercy of friends and family or book them into a boarding kennel. I happen to have a dog with anxiety issues so I decided to bring him along on a weekend trip to Yosemite with my son.
If you are driving in on 140 through Mariposa, stop at Happy Burger Diner. It’s a quirky little burger joint, but my bunless burger was amazing. They have a huge menu and offer a wide range of food options from burgers to tacos. It has a dog friendly seating area outside with water bowls for your furry friend. Right off the road, you can’t miss it as there are advertisements along the way. It was a good spot to get out and stretch our legs before the twisty trip into Yosemite. Side note, every time I drive through Mariposa I wish I had allowed us time to stop and wander through the museum and shops. It’s leftover from the gold rush and still has an iconic old west feel.
I wanted to make sure we were in a hotel as close to an entrance gate to Yosemite as possible. There are a few entrances, but for me, it made sense to stay somewhere off 140 since that was my route in. That left me with Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal. Turns out it was the best value option as well! The rooms are a little old and tired, though it did look like some remodeling was going on, so that may be improving. The large pink bath tub had jets and made us giggle at how silly it was. But the room had a small kitchenette and a fireplace which was wonderful to take the chill out of the air. Get a river view room. The Lodge sits right along the Merced River and it’s GLORIOUS. We loved sitting on the balcony and listening to the water rush by.
Things to keep in mind. Though Yosemite View Lodge is pet friendly, you do have to register your pet at check in. They’ll give you a piece of colorful plastic ribbon to tie on to your leash when you are walking your dog on the grounds. If you are caught without it, they’ll assume you snuck a dog in and you’ll get a charge on your bill, so don’t forget it! You may leave your pet in the room unattended but only if they are confined in a kennel. I did bring along my folding crate and did this while visiting their restaurant for dinner. I wouldn’t want to leave them like that for a day in Yosemite, but for a quick bite to eat it was great to have the option as most hotels will not allow you to leave a dog in the room. A big bonus for this hotel is how kid friendly it was. It has several pools and hot tubs, both indoor and out. This was great for Riley to let off some energy after sitting in the truck for a few hours. Also take some time to shop in their gift shop as it had really nice items. The gift shops in the park were more expensive with a smaller selection. They also have a little convenience store with food items should you want to whip up breakfast in your room or grab a box of donuts for the road. You are truly in the middle of nowhere so food options are limited!
Now in to Yosemite we go! The park ranger at the gate will give you a map and show you the dog friendly path. Basically, only the paved trail around the valley meadow and the roads. I had some confusion if dogs were allowed on the paved path up to Yosemite Falls, I’m unsure on that as I was told yes by some and no by others. So we just stayed to the paved path around the meadow. Want to leave Fido in the truck while you walk to a waterfall? Not allowed. Even if the weather is perfect and you can crack the windows, it is not allowed to leave a pet in the vehicle unattended. So be prepared that you may not get the Yosemite adventure you dreamed up with your pooch, but if you are happy walking around the valley meadow then it can still be very rewarding. There is nothing as awe inspiring and humbling as walking along the valley of granite giants.
Some minor details. We took our dog on a gorgeous weekend in January. It happened to not have any snow so we didn’t need snow chains for our truck tires. Watch the weather and warnings from the park’s website as snow chains are required at times and some of the park may be closed due to snow conditions on the roads. We practically had the park to ourselves. I’ve been to Yosemite a few times and that isn’t the norm. It can often be fairly crowded and hard to find parking. If you have an anxious dog like ours, you may want to go in the off season as the crowd of people during peak times could be too much for your dog to handle.
If you are looking at other lodging options, Tenaya Lodge may be a better fit for you. It’s highly recommended and dog friendly. You can not leave your pet in the room unattended but they offer pet sitting packages so you can explore Yosemite more in depth or enjoy the lodge’s amenities without worrying who gets left behind with the dog. They also have a lot of activities for the whole family, from a kids adventure course to horseback riding. You could make a vacation out of just visiting the resort.
I would say if you are the adventurous type and want to explore as much of Yosemite as you can, I don’t recommend bringing your dog just due to the restrictions of the park which I fully understand and agree with to help preserve the vegetation and wildlife. However, it can still be rewarding and we enjoyed the views and exercise even with the restrictions.