Bozeman to Stanley, ID to Yosemite to Lake Tahoe
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We had made reservations at the Awhahnee Hotel in Yosemite Natl. Park a year prior, a place we had always wanted to travel to as a family. We also wanted to road trip and see some other areas, so we decided to begin our adventure in Bozeman, Montana, ending in Lake Tahoe. On the list: Bozeman, Stanley, Ketchum, Boise, Tioga Pass, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe.
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Day 1: Bozeman and Bodhi Farm!
Our family (my husband and I have 3 kids—12,15 & 17) flew into the Bozeman, MT airport and picked up our sprinter conversion van by the company Moterra, a luxury camper van rental company throughout the west. We were blown away by this van! It was pristine, the décor modern and cozy, down comforter for the bed…and stocked with everything we could ever want or need on a road/camping trip. Completely exceeded our expectations! We landed at Bodhi Farms, an organic farm complete with nordic tipis for a little glamping. We relaxed, unpacked and enjoyed an incredible farm to table dinner at their field kitchen.
Day 2: Helping on the farm, Big Sky hiking, dinner in Bozeman—BLACKBIRD!
We woke incredibly rested after a lovely nights’ rest in our tipi. The beds were “normal” beds with frames, and incredibly comfortable. Although the daytime temps were close to 90 degrees, nighttime cooled off a lot, so much so we turned on our electric blanket layer. We appreciated the complimentary breakfast at Bodhi, and agreed we had the best sleep. We booked a volunteer spot for our family to help at the farm that morning, learning how to cultivate marigolds and weed broccoli plants. This special time, working a farm together with my husband and kids made me realize that there is always some way to give back almost anywhere you go in this world. We ventured up to Big Sky for a hike and to check out the ski area. Now on our list for the ski season! We enjoyed a beautiful hike (Beehive Basin Trail No. 40) up to Beehive Lake.
We stopped in Bozeman for delicious, inventive wood fired pizzas and enjoyed the extensive wine & beer list at Blackbird. LOVE BLACKBIRD! After Blackbird we stopped at Music on Main, a weekly music festival on Main Street in Bozeman.
Day 3: 6 hour drive—Goodbye Bodhi, hello Stanley Idaho, Sunny Gulch Campground, Redfish Lake Lodge dinner.
We said goodbye to Bodhi and headed out for a 6 hour drive from Bozeman to Stanley, Idaho. We headed south from Butte, MT along the Salmon River, eventually making it to Stanley. We set up camp at Sunny Gulch campground, a beautiful campground with epic views of the Sawtooth Mountain Range. We headed over (5 minute drive) to Redfish Lake Lodge for dinner, a beautiful old school lodge that boasts stunning lake & Sawtooth views, amazing food and service. We headed back to camp for s’mores and our first night tent & van camping!
Day 4: Hiking at Redfish Lake, pass through Ketchum, Boise to sleep and see a dear friend.
We woke up to chilly temps and morning mist, and made a big breakfast in our van. After eating by the campfire, we packed up camp and headed over to Redfish Lake for a hike.
We took a water taxi across the lake for the Redfish Inlet hike. Stunning. Redfish Lake might be the most beautiful mountain recreational lake I have ever seen. We passed through Ketchum, the cool mountain town near Sun Valley Idaho. Check, another ski town I’ll look forward to visiting! We made it to Boise late afternoon, and capped this wonderful day at our friends’ home, complete with dogs, homemade dinner & cake, and the best company ever.
Day 5: Yosemite bound! 8.5 hour drive from Boise to southeast Oregon, down through Nevada to Tioga Pass, California to Aspen Campground.
As we left Idaho, the drive became desolate and arid, and I admired the mellow colors and difference in landscape. We began to see more trees and vegetation, and we knew we were nearing Yosemite. We arrived at our campsite, Aspen Campground, a beautiful campground set along a mountain creek dotted with boulders, around 6PM. We made dinner in our van-kitchen and the kids fought over who would stay in the awesome van bed vs the tent by the rushing creek. I never won, and I was fine with that :).
Day 6: Depart Aspen Campground, explore northern Yosemite, arrive at Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Valley.
After a campfire breakfast, we began our 2 hour journey toward the majestic Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. Aspen Campground is located just a few minutes from the northeast entrance to the park. We loved hiking through the pristine Toulumne Meadows, a stunning mountain meadow surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We then headed to Toulumne Grove, and made the 2.5 round trip hike to view a grove of two dozen giant sequoia trees. We drove another 45 minutes into the breathtaking Yosemite Valley, past El Capitan and arrived at the amazing, historic Ahwahnee Hotel. We unpacked in our room with valley views and met our cousins for dinner in the iconic Ahwahnee Dining Room, and card games in the Great Lounge.
Day 7: Hike to Glacier Point, Merced River fun and dinner on our own private river shore.
We packed our van with cousins and headed to the 4 mile hike/Glacier Point Trail trailhead. The hike was a difficult one but worth the incredible views of Half Dome and Nevada Falls. The younger girls opted for hiking only half way, so they could enjoy some raft time on the Merced River. My sister-in-law was brilliant by bringing along three tubes and one raft. Totally worth it! We all met up post-hike on the shores of the river for pizza and river floating. We ended our evening on the back lawn of the Ahwahnee, tossing the light-up frisbee and judging our own family photo contest.
Day 8: Mist Trail hike, Ahwahnee activities & leisure within the beautiful Yosemite Valley.
We bid our cousins farewell as they left to explore Big Sur, and headed to the Mist Trail—a moderate hike to view Vernal Falls on the way to Nevada Falls. Everyone decided that making it to the Emerald Pool, just above Vernal Falls was enough after the challenging hike the day before. Still 4 miles round trip, we were happy to be back at the Awhahnee for pool time, river time and a leisure bike ride around Yosemite Valley. We had a very up close view of a momma black bear and her babies as we neared the hotel post-ride. Unfortunately, they ran out from the area rumored to be their home, chased by a visiting family of humans. The “sons” went up into this area along the single road leading to the Ahwahnee to flush out the bears. We could hear the mother complaining that she refused to go home from vacation without seeing the bears. They ran out so quickly (across the road where they could have been hit by a car) that she missed her photo-opp. I was mortified and saddened by what I witnessed. At dinner in the dining room, we agreed to look on the bright side of what we witnessed—the bears were safe, and although sad to leave Yosemite, we were excited for our Lake Tahoe adventure.
Day 9: 4.5 hour drive to Lake Tahoe, lunch at Sprouts Cafe in Tahoe, arrive at Coachman Hotel.
We got on the road for our 4.5 hour drive to South Lake Tahoe. We took the scenic route through the historical Grove City, home to the oldest California saloon. We passed through San Andreas (and prayed), and finally made our descent into Tahoe. We had lunch at Sprouts Cafe and loved the food, vibes and view! We then checked into the Coachmen Hotel, a renovated 1960’s motel with a modern rustic theme.
The hub of the property was a bar/coffee shop with modern furniture and eclectic décor with open sides merging indoors and out. The pool was heated, plenty of seating outside, abundant board games, bikes to rent (free!), and baggo. A super lively atmosphere! We played a bit and headed out for dinner at Toulouse, New Orleans fare a 5 minute walk from our hotel. Once again, we had a close encounter with a HUGE brown bear, honestly, it looked like a grizzly bear—we watched him amble down the road as we kept our distance. The food was good and came quickly which we were grateful for. After gorgeous sunset views over Lake Tahoe, we headed home.
Day 10: Drive and sight-see around Lake Tahoe, dinner at Ten Crowes BBQ.
We awoke to our only rainy day. One out of ten, not bad! The boat we had secured to rent was cancelled, so after the delicious Coachmen Belgian waffles and breakfast burritos, we set out to tour this spectacular lake. We brought our raincoats, and popped out to view various points of interest as we looped up and around the west side of the lake, past Emerald Bay, toward Incline Village. Due to construction and detours, we turned back at Incline, and lunched at the Old Post Office Cafe (loved it!) in Carnelian Bay. Francesca ordered a Monte Cristo sandwich, our family’s first exposure to this to-die-for sandwich. After shopping around Tahoe Village for souvenirs, we landed back at the Coachman and ventured up toward the crowded strip near the casinos for dinner. I almost always opt for natural beauty and elegance, especially when visiting any mountain destination, however we had such a healthy dose of nature over our vacation, we didn’t mind hitting the strip! We ate at Ten Crows BBQ, which had paper straws (thank you!), and a fantastic female singer/guitarist entertaining the outdoor clientele. Wish I got her name, she rocked it.
Day 11: Coffee and depart—homeward bound!
We had the fabulous coffee at the Coachmen, and departed for the 45 minute drive to Reno airport. We were sad to say goodbye to our van-life adventure (and our van!!), perhaps our favorite vacation we’ve ever taken. As sad as we were to say goodbye, we couldn’t help but look forward to getting home to see friends, our pets and enjoy the final lazy days of summer!
Would you recommend this trip to a friend?
What was the highlight of your trip?
The highlights of this trip are so many:
- The van was spectacular. It was just as fun to drive as it was to ride in. A bucket-list item for not only my husband, who drove most of the time (I am the map beholder and co-pilot) but for the kids. Cozy, safe and fun. Put it on the list!
- Glamping at Bodhi Farms
- Blackbird restaurant in Bozeman
- Seeing our friend Jenn in Boise
- Yosemite -Ahwahnee!! Make your reservations well in advance.
If you were to take this trip again, is there anything you would add or do differently?
I would spend the night in Ketchum as it had that mountain ski town charm I love!
Spend another night (more than 2) in Lake Tahoe and paddle board or rent a boat.
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