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Exploring Yosemite During the Government Shutdown

January 4, 2019

All images included in this post have been taken by our Naturalist Guides during the last couple of days on guided adventures with guests.

Fortunately, most of Yosemite is open to you during the current Government Shutdown, and even though most Park Rangers are not able to provide the services we all love and rely on, here are a few tips to help make sure you can still enjoy Yosemite to the fullest.

As you read this blog, the concessionaire who operates Yosemite’s hotels, restaurants, and other services is open for business.  Whether or not you’re staying in a Yosemite hotel, you are welcome to use the facilities, because they are owned by the American public.  Additionally, many local community groups are organizing temporary facilities and clean-up efforts at high traffic areas in and around Yosemite.  We’ll keep updating you on social media channels, and you can see below for more details.

Now more than ever, make sure you’re familiar with the seven principles of Leave No Trace as Yosemite operates with limited services during the Federal government shutdown. Read on for helpful tips on how to be practice and benefit from Leave No Trace during your next Yosemite adventure.

1. Plan ahead and prepare – it’s easier than you think.

A little bit of research goes a long way in Yosemite. Before you begin your travels, take some time to familiarize yourself with current regulations and weather and road conditions directly from the Park Service.

Bring along a good old-fashioned map of the area you’re adventuring in to make sure you’re not frustrated if cell service is not available! Consider starting your trip early to avoid times of high use helps make sure your trip is as enjoyable as possible and have the smallest impact on the area you’re visiting.

And of course, you are always welcome to stop by our sister property’s Recreation Desk to chat with our Yosemite experts to get directions, trail suggestions and other helpful information that will help you make the most of your Yosemite adventures (our Recreation Team are on our annual break!). You’re also free to enjoy Rush Creek’s public spaces – we just might be your best rest stop ever!

Keep in mind that during the Federal government shutdown, Park Rangers and Visitor Centers inside the park will not be available, so planning ahead will be especially rewarding right now.

2. Travel, park, and camp on durable surfaces.

When exploring Yosemite seek out resilient types of terrain. Ideal durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow. When seeking out a place to camp be sure to be at least 200 feet from lakes and streams and keep your campsite small. When it comes to finding parking for your Yosemite exploration, park only in preexisting parking spots and never pull into vegetation to park your vehicle. Yosemite National Park is comprised of delicate nature and sticking to preexisting trails, parking and campsites helps us maintain this beautiful place.

3. Dispose of waste properly

This principle applies to everything from litter to human waste to rinse water. Pack it in, pack it out. Always inspect your campsites, picnic areas and rest stops for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter. It’s as simple as always leaving a place cleaner than when you found it.

To help guest dispose of waste properly during the current Federal government shutdown, we’ve partnered up with Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau and some of our fellow Highway 120 corridor businesses to provide trash bags at the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station and allowing guests to drop off the trash on their way out of the park.

And to make it all sweeter, we’re inviting people to turn your garbage into goodies! Bring your trash to our sister property. Rush Creek Lodge, and you’ll get a round of drinks on us.

When talking about disposing of waste properly, this includes human waste. Due to the Federal government shut down, Yosemite is operating with limited services and public restrooms have been locked. So what does that mean for the Yosemite adventurer?

You do have a few options:
  1. Go before you go. Stop in and visit one of the gateway’s local businesses (like Rush Creek Lodge!), and give yourself the chance to go before you go.
  2. Use the restrooms at one of the concessionaire’s properties. The concessionaires continue to operate most of the lodging inside the park, so feel free to stop by and check out the architecture of the Majestic Hotel on the way to use the facilities.
  3. Use one of the port-a-potties put in place temporarily to help guests and reduce impacts. Local organizations and businesses have worked with the National Park Service to place portable toilets in highly trafficked areas to help reduce the stress of the public restrooms being available.

4. Leave what you find.

The adage “take only pictures, leave only footprints” still holds true. We always encourage Yosemite adventurers to leave things as they find them during their explorations. In order to make sure Yosemite is around for future generations to experience, it is crucial to leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them.

Giant Sequoia Tunnel - Kim Carroll Photography5. Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).

While campfires are a timeless camping ritual, they can also be one of the most destructive ones. Far better choices include a lightweight stove for cooking or an LED lantern for light. Stargazing is an excellent alternative to watching a campfire– and of course if you want to dive a bit deeper into the world of stargazing you can join our Star Guru for one of our guided stargazing tours.

We’ll have our outdoor firepit lit every night for our complimentary s’mores, so no need to worry about tending to your own fire. In the case that you are in an area where campfires are permitted, use established fire rings, keep your fires small and burn all wood and coals to ash to ensure your campfire is out completely.

Old Big Old Flat Trail in Yosemite6. Respect wildlife.

It’s important to not approach Yosemite’s wildlife for so many reasons. Observing wildlife from a distance allows Yosemite’s animals to live as normal a life as possible. And just like you should never approach an animal in its wild habitat, never feed the animals either. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters their natural behavior, and exposes them to predators and other damages.

This also means you should protect wildlife by storing your food and trash securely. In Yosemite, we encourage guests to store food and trash in bear boxes to prevent wildlife somehow finding its way into your supplies. And most importantly, dispose of all trash in proper receptacles. If a trash can is full due to limited services as part of the Federal government shutdown, do not place trash on or around the trash can; pack it out and dispose of it at the concessions inside the park or at local businesses located just outside the park, like or sister property Rush Creek Lodge!

And most importantly, control your pets at all times. Although Rush Creek Lodge is not a pet-friendly hotel, we understand when our fellow Yosemite adventurers want to bring along a family pet. Here in Yosemite, pets have a very limited area they can visit. By following park regulations and sticking to paved trails, keeping animals leashed and picking up all of your pet’s waste, you’ll continue to create safe spaces for Yosemite’s wildlife to live in.

7. Be considerate of other visitors.

We like to think the most important principle of Leave No Trace is treating others the way you would like to be treated. By respecting other visitors, being courteous and letting nature’s sounds prevail you’ll help protect the quality of all Yosemite adventurer’s experience.

Happy trails!


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