Road Trip

Visiting Yosemite: A guide to grand touring the national park in a family-friendly SUV

Grand touring isn't dead. It's just different than it used to be.

Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Cruising up the coast of California in a Ford Mustang. Taking an RV full of family on a trip to explore the American West. Leaf peeping in New England while hopping from bed and breakfast to bed and breakfast in your family sedan. These are classic examples of U.S. road trips that do not feature a grand touring car.

Is the dream of grand touring dead? The advent of the EV and the popularity of the minivan and SUVs have not killed it. In fact, they've revolutionized it.

No longer do you have to cram six people into a sedan with your brother standing up between mom and dad in the front. You can tour in comfort in a modern SUV and still have as authentic an experience as you did in your childhood, perhaps better.

Autocamp Yosemite pond Airstream Autocamp Yosemite is a unique and luxurious way to "camp" near Yosemite.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Buckled into a thoroughly modern Honda Passport, this grand touring trip set off from Autocamp Yosemite, a resort made entirely of Airstream trailers, tiny houses, and small cabins, just as the sun was starting to shine the first light of morning. Headed seats, accurate navigation, and right-sized cup holders gave the beginning of the trip an optimistic note.

On the winding roads of CA 140, the Passport was relatively efficient and stuck to the road much better than the Honda Pilot would have. The sun continued to rise and touch the tree tops as the route wound its way over and around the Merced River.

2019 Honda Passport The Honda Passport is smaller than a Honda Pilot and bigger than a Honda CR-V.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Making it into the park before the sun has fully risen is not only a treat but a necessity if you want to beat the hoards of tourists that flock to the park's most famous sites, pushing into your space with their selfie sticks, cigarette smoke, and overstuffed backpacks.

Tunnel View Yosemite morning Tunnel View is one of the can't-miss spots in Yosemite National Park.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Start by winding your way up Wawona Road to the start of the Artist Point Trail and Tunnel View with an observation deck that requires no hiking to get to and a view that you've likely seen countless times before in pictures. El Capitan rises on one side as Cathedral Rocks grace the other. It's impossible to fathom exactly how big they are from the viewpoint, but no one leaves the spot unimpressed.

Continuing to head up the mountain, the Passport's V6 had no problem passing 5,000 and 8,000 feet as the SUV rose out of the famed Yosemite Tunnel. The turn up Glacier Point Road had the SUV pointing for, you guessed it, Glacier Point. Getting there early meant not being stuck behind busses and being able to easily cruise uphill while stopping for a bit of hiking and observation along the way. Pulling off for a walk on the Mono Meadow Trail is a must, but watch out for bears.

Mono Meadow trailhead 2019 Honda Passport Park at the tailhead at Mono Meadow for a scenic hike.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Back from the hike, the journey up the road continued to Washburn Point, where the Passport braved the crowded parking area, easily maneuvering into a tight spot near the far curb, setting up its occupants for a short walk to a viewing platform to see awe-inspiring views of the Clark Range and Sierra Crest rising up from the treetops, Illilouette Falls flowing, and the profile of Half Dome. It's one of the better selfie-taking spots in the park because of the angles of the scenery.

Yosemite National Park Washburn Point view Washburn Point provides a different view of Half Dome an surrounding hillsides. Be sure to visit in the morning before the parking spots get swallowed up by tourists.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Continuing further up Glacier Point road, easily passing 9,000 feet of elevation, the road ends at the Glacier Point parking area where the peanut-bladdered find relief in the numerous restrooms available. Parking is easier further down the row you travel. Spaces are narrow so making full use of the Passport's on-board camera system to ensure proper space sitting was wholly appropriate.

Glacier Point crowd Yosemite National Park Getting up to Glacier Point early in the day should be a priority for adventure seekers who don't want to deal with heavy crowds.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

From there, it's a short and slightly uphill handicap-accessible walk to the most spectacular view that Yosemite offers. Standing before the visitor on the observation deck are Half Dome and three waterfalls. The Yosemite Valley floor is carpeted with thick trees that mask the ant-sized cars winding their way to Yosemite Village. Space is limited and tourists are generally pushy, but be sure to leave time to have a moment to put down your phone or camera (or both) and just stand and take it all in. (And maybe thank Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir for ensuring that it is still around.)

Glacier Point Yosemite National Park guide key sign The National Park Service has installed these helpful signs to show visitors what they're seeing. The space around them is often crowded so take a quick picture then move and use the image on your phone to help you navigate.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Before you leave, use the restroom again. There are several, often overlooked options available so check for the shortest line.

The trip back down Glacier Point Road to the Yosemite Valley isn't nearly as long as it seems when driving the other direction. By now, it's likely near lunchtime, but before heading to The Ahwahnee for lunch, stop on the way back down near Bridalveil Falls where roadside parking is generally easy to find and the views are, once again, spectacular.

The Ahwahnee's dining room isn't as fancy during the day as it is during the night. This gives parents dressed in hiking clothes the opportunity to sit and dine in the historic hotel without the obligation of staying at the hotel and wearing a dinner jacket.

The Ahwahnee dining room Yosemite National Park The historical Ahwanee dining room is a must-stop. It has tasty cuisine at prices that aren't outrageous.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Continuing after lunch, the rest of the day relies more on your patience and the time limits of daylight rather than the availability of sights to be seen. Skip the urge to circle for a parking space near the Visitors Center and instead cruise for an hour along Big Oak Flat Road and head east on Tioga Road. When touring with little ones, this gives them an opportunity to take a 45-minute or so nap that can be used to your advantage later in the day.

Pull-off points with unique views are abundant along this road the further you travel. Don't forget your camera and perhaps think about leaving the heated seats on if you're hopping in and out of the car in the cooler months (read: not June or July but most other times of the year).

Olmstead Point Half Dome Olmstead Point is on the other side of the park from Yosemite Valley and worth the trip. Here, Half Dome is in the distance.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

If your shoes have sufficient grip and you're still feeling up for some hiking, don't miss a stop at Olmstead Point where the terrain looks nothing like what you'll see in other parts of the park but the view shows off the back side of the terrain you saw earlier in the day from Washburn Point. Proceeding down the road, the stone encroaches and it's easy to think of what the terrain must be like on the moon.

Venture even further east to Tenaya Lake, a peaceful respite that provides the opportunity to sit and marvel at calm true-blue water away from mobs of tourists. That's also a good turnaround point, where you can head back to the Valley to take advantage of the waning afternoon crowds to see some of Yosemite's most popular features including the El Capitan Meadow, Valley View, Yosemite Chapel, and Yosemite Falls.

Tenaya Lake Yosemite National Park Tenaya Lake is a peaceful respite away from the hustle and bustle of Yosemite's more popular attractions.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

While a stop at the Yosemite Visitors Center provides some historical context for your visit, if you're looking for souvenirs, the best place to go is the Village Store.

Souvenirs in hand, it was now nearly dark on the Valley floor, and it was time for these travelers to point the Passport back to AutoCamp. The two-row SUV had served as a trusty steed - reliable, comfortable, and easily maneuverable. Those aren't the characteristics that shoppers frequently look for, but it's something that they remember when it comes time to get their next vehicle. Though not a traditional grand tourer, the Passport provided a grand level of touring capability.

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Friday auction find

Is this the cleanest Honda Prelude left?

This 22-year-old Honda looks almost new.

Cars and Bids

It's Friday, which means we're rounding out the week by obsessing over sales listings and car auctions. It's a good time to be looking, if only from a distance, because there are cars like this 1999 Honda Prelude Type-SH just waiting for us to take them home.

We hear it all the time, but this is likely one of the cleanest remaining fifth-generation Preludes around today. No modifications have been performed, which alone makes this car rare, but the mileage takes the exclusivity a step further. With just 28,700 miles on the clock, this Prelude is nearly new.

The Prelude's 2.2-liter inline-four made 200 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque when new, and this one's mileage is low enough that those numbers are likely still close to accurate. A five-speed manual is on board here, and despite the fact that the car is front-wheel drive, Honda made numerous upgrades to the car that gave it sharp handling.


1999 Honda Prelude Type SH Manual transmission and patterned cloth seats. Does it get much better?Cars and Bids


The Prelude Type-SH was better than its standard counterpart in nearly every measurable way. It rode on 16-inch alloy wheels and lowered suspension that set it an inch lower than the normal car. It also features an active torque transfer system, which could transfer as much as 80 percent of drive power to the outside wheel during cornering. Independent front and rear suspension rounded out the package to make the Prelude Type-SH a quick and nimble front-drive car.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the nostalgia of these cars. After all, for many of us they bring back fond memories of our school years, when cars like the Prelude were new and unobtainable by most young drivers. Even so, it's important to remember that a 20-plus-year-old Honda won't provide a modern driving experience and won't be as sharp as you probably think it will. That's not enough to stop many people (us included) from wanting one, but it's worth noting.


1999 Honda Prelude Type SH The Type SH features many upgrades over the standard Prelude.Cars and Bids

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New compact car

Honda announces 2022 Civic Hatchback

The 2022 Civic Hatchback features a sweeping shape.

Honda

The new 2022 model year cars are coming. Earlier this month, the 2022 Honda Civic Sedan began arriving at dealerships across the country, but Honda isn't resting there. Instead, the automaker just announced the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback, which will come later in 2021 with European-inspired styling and enthusiast-friendly powertrains.

The Civic Hatchback takes much of its inspiration from the new Civic Sedan that has already begun hitting dealers' lots. The automaker says that the new Hatchback is designed for young, active buyers and notes that it will build the car in the United States for the first time. Production will begin later this year at Honda's Greensburg Indiana Plant.


2022 Honda Civic Hatchback The new Civic Hatchback will be offered with a manual transmission option.Honda


The Civic Hatchback takes its styling cues from European sportback cars. That means a smoother, more stretched-out profile instead of the abbreviated liftback shape typically seen in hatchbacks. The design makes the Civic Hatchback's wheelbase 1.4 inches longer and pushes its rear track width out by half an inch. At the same time, the car is 4.9 inches shorter than its Sedan counterpart.

Since it shares so much with the Civic Sedan, the Hatchback shares many of its counterpart's features. The list includes standard features such as:

  • A 7.0-inch color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Updated suspension and steering tuning
  • New front airbags designed to reduce traumatic brain and neck injuries during a crash
  • Updated Honda Sensing camera system with a new Traffic Jam Assist feature

Honda will also offer upgrades, such as a larger HD touchscreen and a Bose premium audio system for the Sport Touring trim.

Two engines will be offered in the Civic Hatchback, both of which can be paired with a six-speed manual transmission. The base LX and Sport trims come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. The EX-L and Sport Touring trims get a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.

Buyers who don't want to shift their own gears can continuously variable transmission with either engine. However, buyers that do will be treated to a brand-new manual gearbox, at least in the Sport and Sport Touring models. Honda says it redesigned the transmission to provide a sportier feel. It has improved shift rigidity, shorter shift throws and features a new dual-mass flywheel that reduces noise and vibrations from the drivetrain.


2022 Honda Civic Hatchback Folding rear seats opens the Civic's cargo area for better storage.Honda


Honda has not detailed pricing or exact release date information yet but says that the new car will arrive later this year. Pricing for the 2022 Civic Sedan starts at $21,700 before destination and climbs to $28,300 at the top end.

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