We drove two separate vehicles and parked them at each end of the trail for easier transportation. The drive was long and traffic was terrible, due to the National Park Centennial.
The Quick and Dirty:
Location: Yosemite Valley Happy Isle Trail Head, Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center
Day 0 – Varies, Happy Isle Trail Head and Mammoth Lakes Adventure Center
The drive from Orange County to Yosemite took close to nine hours. In anticipation of getting to camp late, we booked a campsite for the first night. A few days before the trip, we confirmed our permits with the ranger and called in for night box pick up at Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center. The night box pick up works well if you know you will not be able to make it before 5:00 PM.
We drove north from Orange County towards Yosemite. With the Centennial weekend at the park, the drive to the Happy Isle trail head from the park entrance took an additional hour due to the traffic. We ended up parking the car at the Half Dome Village parking lot (formerly Curry Village).
We made the drive across Highway 120 towards Highway 395. The drive took us through Tuolumne Meadows and the rest of Yosemite. We made it to the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center to pick up our permits, then stopped in town to grab dinner and headed to Coldwater to settle in for the night.
The camp host noted that it has been crazy busy at the camp. In some cases, people fighting for spots or pulling in and stealing spots!