With almost 3.5 million visitors every year, Yosemite is one of our most-loved and most-visited national parks.
Horror stories of traffic, crowds, and congestion abound.
If you know a few tricks, it actually isn't very hard to have a beautiful corner of the park all to yourself.
Head for Tuolumne Meadows on Highway 120 and you'll find that you've left most of the crowds behind.
To find your own private lake (or at least one you won't have to share with many people), set out for Tuolumne Meadows on a weekend in late May or early June and hike to one of the nearby lakes.
It's one of the most beautiful times to visit an alpine lake.
As you read this, many of the lakes are still ringed with snow and partially iced over. The quickly melting snowpack is turning every creek into a series of rapids that carve their way through the remaining snowfields.
It's Yosemite with a touch of Narnia.
Just last Saturday two of my friends and I made the easy 2 ½ mile hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Elizabeth Lake. We had the whole lake and its granite valley all to ourselves. Last May we had the same experience at Cathedral Lakes.
There's still time to see some of these lakes with snow and solitude. Last weekend the snow was still thick above 9,400 feet. Elizabeth Lake (trailhead is in the Tuolumne Meadows Campground -- park on the road and hike through the campground) and Cathedral Lakes (Cathedral Lakes Trailhead) make excellent destinations.
If you wait a weekend or two, try a higher-elevation area like Gaylor Lakes and Granite Lakes (Gaylor Lakes Trailhead), or Spillway Lake and Helen Lake (Mono Pass Trailhead).
If you go, make sure you're prepared. You need multiple layers of clothing and waterproof boots (my Carhartt work boots did the job just fine). A waterproof jacket or poncho is also a must.
Make sure you're in good physical condition. Check with the ranger station before you set out, bring plenty of food and make sure someone knows where your intended destination is.
Leave early and pick a hike that isn't too long so you have plenty of time to get back in case conditions change or you have difficulties. Turn back if a thunderstorm threatens. Stay away from tall trees and open areas if you see lightning.
Sunscreen is essential because the snow intensifies the effect of the sun's rays. And make sure you have a first-aid kit. Watch for streams flowing underneath snow and use caution if you cross.
Never hike alone.
For more safety information, visit the Park's website: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wilderness_safety.htm. You can talk to a ranger and get answers to specific questions by calling (209) 372-0200.
Now that I've warned you about possible dangers, go out and have some fun!
You can't really imagine how beautiful it is until you see it for yourself. Food and gas are available at Crane Flat. Hamburgers and other hot meals can be purchased at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill.
Getting campground reservations in Yosemite is extremely difficult, but it is usually possible to get a beautiful National Forest campsite on Lee Vining Creek just outside the park's east entrance.
Entrance to Yosemite is $20 per car, but you can buy an annual pass for $40.
If you go, I'd like to hear about your trip.
Adam Blauert is an avid outdoorsman and local historian who enjoys fishing, backpacking and exploring the western states. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org