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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Tesla quietly released the "toy" today.

Tesla

Tesla is known for being unpredictable, so today’s news is not totally shocking, despite being extremely cool. The automaker released a new vehicle today, but not for use on the road, and not for use by grownups. The Cyberquad for Kids landed today with a sophisticated feature set and a very adult price tag of $1,900.

The Cyberquad for Kids checks in at 122 pounds and can carry a person that weighs as much as 150 pounds. Two forward speeds include 5 and 10 mph settings, and reverse can reach 5 mph. Depending on the rider’s weight and speed, the Cyberquad for Kids can travel up to 15+ miles on a charge. Tesla says that an empty battery can take up to five hours to fully recharge.

A full steel frame underpins the quad, and though it’s being pitched for kids, the ATV features adjustable suspension, rear disk brakes, LED light bars, and a cushioned seat. The futuristic EV looks almost identical to the larger Cyberquad we saw during the initial Cybertruck demonstration.

A thorough set of assembly and troubleshooting directions are available on Tesla’s site, but despite the Cyberquad for Kids’ complexity, don’t get any ideas about using it on the street. Tesla recommends using it on sidewalks and for stunts, but I think we’re all looking forward to the eventual tidal wave of YouTube videos this thing is going to generate.

Tesla Cyberquad for Kids Kids 8 years and older, and up to 150 pounds can ride. Tesla

If you’re hoping to get a Cyberquad for Kids, you might be out of luck. Though it only launched today, it’s already out of stock. There’s no word on if more will become available. Those that were lucky enough to snag one should start receiving them in early 2022.

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The Integra returns next year as a 2023 model.

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In the last couple years, we've seen a few big-name nostalgic automotive nameplates return to the market. There was the Land Rover Defender and more recently the Ford Bronco. Now, it's Acura's turn to stroll down memory lane, as it gears up for the release of the fifth-generation 2023 Integra. The car will return in 2022 as a four-door with a liftback, and most importantly, it gets plenty of go-fast bits in the places that matter.

2023 Acura Integra While it's true that the Integra looks like other Acura sedans, it's not an indication of how it will drive. Acura

Before we go too far: Yes, the Integra looks like the ILX and the TLX sedans, and yes, it has four doors. Remember that the first-, second-, and third-generation cars were available with four doors. It wasn't until the Acura RSX (sold as the Integra in Japan and Australia) that the car shaved two doors and became exclusively a two-door hatchback. So, while the look may be disappointing to some, it's not out of place.

2023 Acura Integra The new Integra will come with a limited-slip differential and an optional manual gearbox.

All the specs are here, too. The 2023 Integra will get a high-output 1.5-liter engine, a limited slip differential, and an available six-speed manual gearbox. If that isn't the recipe for a fun front-drive enthusiast car, we don't know what is. The prototype rides on matte-finish 19-inch wheels and comes with Brembo high-performance brakes.

2023 Acura Integra Acura will release more details closer to the car's launch in 2022. Acura

Acura says that the 2023 Integra will mark the car's first time being built in the United States, and notes that the car will enter production at its Marysville Auto Plant in Ohio. The car will be formally introduced in the first half of 2022, so we'll have to wait until then for detailed specs and pricing information. The good news, however, is that Acura says the car will start around $30,000, making it accessible to a wide swath of the car buying public.

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