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Not all campsites and hotels in Yosemite have the same allure, and neither do the waterfalls and gas stations. With these tips, you can boost your luck and dodge some unwanted surprises.

June 24, 2007

INSIDER TIPS

In Yosemite, summer books up faster than other seasons, and weekends faster than weekdays. Here are some secrets.

COOL IT

No matter where you're staying, you can pay a day-use fee to get into the Yosemite Lodge pool. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, it's $5 for an adult, $4 for a child.

TRICKED OUT

The hottest ticket in Curry Village is Specialty Cabin 819, a.k.a. the Foster Curry Cabin. This is the Yosemite retreat of your dreams, from its stone fireplace to the atmospheric old photos on the walls to the 32-inch flat-screen monitor and DVD player. It goes for $249 nightly and can be specifically reserved -- if you reserve early.

WONDER-FALL

The Housekeeping Cabins along the Merced River are rustic-- shared bathrooms and showers -- but sites 230A and 231A are beach-adjacent with views of Yosemite Falls. Sites 391J and 392J are also prime spots with great scenery. (You can't specifically reserve these units, but you can request them.)

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 01, 2007 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Yosemite: A June 24 article on Yosemite National Park misidentified trees in a photo caption. The trees were incense cedars, not redwoods. Another caption in the story misidentified the Ahwahnee Hotel's dining room; the photo showed the hotel's lounge.

OUTSIDE CHANCE

If you can't land a campsite, cabin or hotel room you like in Yosemite Valley, some lodgings outside the park (the Yosemite View Lodge and Cedar Lodge in El Portal, for instance) are much closer than some lodgings inside the park.

DECKED OUT

The Ahwahnee Hotel has more than 70 "standard" rooms, all priced at a hefty $426 per night, but if you request Rooms 444 and 450 -- you can only request them, with no guarantees -- you might share a private deck with a view of Yosemite Falls. Rooms 502 and 507, also "standard," share a smaller deck on the hotel's opposite side, with a view of Half Dome.

INFORMALLY YOURS

The Ahwahnee's dining room, above, has been quietly loosening up the last few years. Men don't need jackets for dinner anymore, a spokesman says, as long as they're wearing a shirt with a collar, pants made of something dressier than denim, and shoes, not sandals or sneakers. (It's more casual for breakfast and lunch.) Dinner entrees run $20 to $39.

ROOM SERVICE

As family plans change, hotels and campgrounds get lots of cancellations. If you don't get the site you want on the first try, don't assume that it's gone forever.

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PITFALLS

Every vacation has a few pitfalls, but with a little advance notice you might be able to avoid a visit to bummerville.

THE BEARS

It's not just that Yosemite's ursine residents make regular visits to campgrounds. (The carved bear at Cedar Lodge, above, doesn't count.) They attempt hundreds of car break-ins yearly, shattering windows. Not only do campers use bear lockers for their food, all overnight guests are required to take all toothpaste, detergent, shampoo and air-fresheners out of their cars, lest the scent lure bears. The desk crew at the Yosemite Lodge also urges families to pull out child seats and empty ice chests overnight and stow them in guest rooms.

THE WATERFALLS

Park officials were able to open seasonal roads that lead across Tioga Pass and up to Glacier Point by May 11, the earliest date in years. But that lack of snowpack meant that most of the park's waterfalls peaked in April and May. Yosemite Falls, the most popular single destination in Yosemite Valley, could dry up by July -- a big disappointment for anyone who comes unaware. (Bridalveil Fall, also visible from the valley, usually flows through the summer, no matter the rainfall.)

THE GAS STATION

In late May, when other gas stations in and around the park were charging about $3.50 per gallon, the El Portal Shell was hovering at $4.35 for a gallon of regular. So take note: There are gas stations usually way cheaper in Oakhurst and in the park at Wawona, Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows.

THE HAZARDS

During the last three years, the park has been averaging one death per month. In "Death in Yosemite," authors Michael P. Ghiglieri and Charles R. "Butch" Farabee Jr. analyze more than 1,500 deaths in the park since the mid-19th century, including 79 since 1999. Among them are 144 drownings, 122 deaths in hiking and scrambling incidents, 104 deaths in rock-climbing efforts and 159 in motor-vehicle accidents.

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