If visiting Yosemite National Park, Calif., is on your bucket list - and it should be - the next two months are the time to go.
Summer crowds have moved on, yet you can still access the park via its eastern entrance, Tioga Road (state Route 120). This extremely scenic, high-elevation route, best known as Tioga Pass, reaches an elevation of 9,945 feet, and because of snow, it is usually closed from November to late May or June. But when open, it's the fastest way for Nevadans to reach the park, saving hours over the less-interesting drive to the other entrances on the western and southern sides.
Yosemite Valley, the location of Half-Dome, Yosemite Falls and other scenes that became American icons through the photographs of Ansel Adams, is naturally the most popular location in the park. To reach it from the small town of Lee Vining, which lies along U.S. Highway 395 and is the jumping-off place for those bound westward through Tioga Pass, you will need to allow about 2½ hours.
However, it will take most people much longer than that because there are so many irresistible places to stop along the way - lakes, meadows, granite domes and scenic overlooks. In fact, you could easily spend several days or longer just checking out the trails and sights along Tioga Road.
For first-time visitors to the park, Yosemite Village is a good place to start. There you will find not only the main visitor center but also restaurants, gift shops, a market, a post office and a medical clinic.
The elevation in this area is approximately 4,000 feet. Expect September temperatures in this part of the park to average a maximum of 82 degrees Fahrenheit with minimum lows of 51 degrees. In October, look for temperatures in the low 70s during the day and low 40s at night.
You can also sign up to take a horseback or mule ride, swim, go birding or perhaps take a guided hike or a ranger program. If you're more comfortable being your own guide, there are more than 750 miles of hiking trails in the park, something for every age and ability. A couple of easy trails to hike in Yosemite Valley are Bridalveil Fall and lower Yosemite Falls, but hit those early in the day to avoid the crowds. Cycling is also popular in Yosemite Valley, and there are more than 12 miles of mostly flat, paved paths. Seasonal bicycle rentals are available at Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village.
While most of the park's trees are evergreen, in mid-October you might see some great fall colors from some of the deciduous trees found there, including big-leaf maples, black oaks and Pacific dogwoods.
A variety of lodging can be found in the park. Also, the surrounding towns, including Lee Vining, have quite a few choices.
There are many choices of campgrounds in and surrounding the park as well. Some are open year-round, while others at the higher elevations close in September. Some are available on a reservation basis, while others are on a first-come, first-served basis. For complete camping information in and around the park, visit yosemite.com. For more detailed information on camping, lodging and the park in general, visit nps.gov/yose.
There are a variety of driving routes to get to Lee Vining. I prefer to drive through Death Valley.
Deborah Wall is the author of "Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide" and "Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States," published by Stephens Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.