Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Graham Bishai.
Moderne Hostel ($)
3905 Main St., Mammoth Lakes, CA; (760) 934-2414; holidayhausmotelandhostel.com; reception open 7am-9pm
Despite lacking a social atmosphere, this is about as good as it gets when it comes to hostels in the area. The facility is clean and modern, featuring a well-decorated living room with a cable TV and a kitchen, which, if you didn’t know Moderne was a hostel, you could mistake for a regular kitchen at your friend’s house. The only features to be desired were outlets and shelves on the top bunks—gotta stay connected to every social media even when you’re one with nature. This means you have to fight tooth and nail for a bottom bunk. This hostel is adjoined to a hotel, with plenty of parking in its motel-style parking lot. Mammoth Lakes is a ski resort town, so if you’re missing some essentials, you should be able to find them.
Dorms from $39, privates from $80; reservation recommended; BGLTQ+ friendly; Wi-Fi; linens, soap and shampoo included
Half Dome Village $$$
9010 Curry Village Dr., Yosemite Valley, CA; (888) 413-8869; www.travelyosemite.com/lodging/half-dome-village/; reception open daily 24h
Almost certainly the most fun place to stay in Yosemite, this miniature city is comprised of campers young and old. It’s truly a village in every sense of the word, as it has its own buzzing bars, pizza place, and coffee shop. As the sun goes down, villagers sit outside, drink beer, and play cards. It also has a pool and a fully-stocked grocery store with no shortage of beer. From here, you’re only a short ways to Yosemite Valley Visitors Center. Your preferred level of frill is up to you: you can get a tent, a heated tent, or a motel room—all while telling your friends you’re camping like a badass. The cute small-village feel will warm your heart, and the heated tent you’ve chosen will warm your body. When you look up at the night sky, you’ll see Yosemite’s stars; in daylight, you’ll see the huge cliff looming over your tent. It’s all in the fun of a campsite, which, luckily for you, boast the amenities of a small-town motel.
Rooms from $140; reservation required; wheelchair accessible; Wi-Fi, linens included; bug spray recommended
The Groveland Hotel ($$$)
18767 Main St., Groveland, CA; (209) 962-4000; www.groveland.com; reception open daily 7am-9pm
Lounge in luxury in this plush, homey, and recently renovated inn-style hotel. It features a sleek and modern feel, complete with earth-toned pastel walls and catalogue-photo furniture. Right in the quaint town of Groveland, a gateway to Yosemite, this hotel is a convenient spot near shops and cafés to stock up on the goods before you head out for the 40-minute drive to one of Yosemite’s gates. Sit and enjoy a cocktail from the bar on the spacious back patio, or enjoy the live music played five days a week during the summer. Guests get 15% off at the in-house restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you need more than three square meals a day, there’s also a small store selling bougie food, drinks, and coffee. It will fill up during the summer, and that means the prices go up. If, however, you can afford to shell out a little extra for a stay here, you will be quite comfortable.
Privates from $85 during low season; privates from $200 during high season; reservation recommended; BGLTQ+ friendly; no wheelchair accessibility; Wi-Fi; linens included; laundry on request; pet friendly
Groveland International Hostel ($)
18605 Main St., Groveland, CA; (209) 962-0365; http://www.yosemitehostels.com/; reception open 3pm-10pm
It’s a place to stay, it’s clean, and the price is right. If that’s all you need, this place will do the trick. But—if you want beds that aren’t creaky, you don’t want to walk outside for a shower, or you’re looking for a more picturesque setting, then maybe pass. The hostel is just a couple of minutes by foot from Groveland restaurants, coffee shops, and bars, so you aren’t confined to the space here. The rooms are in small houses, and inside, shared rooms have metal bunk beds. You’ll also find indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a full-scale kitchen. Outdoor decks were recently damaged by flooding, so the patio space in the back is a little rough around the edges. Wi-Fi does exist but is incredibly slow, so don’t expect to upload your hi-qual photos to any kind of platform (darn, guess your Insta will have to wait).
Dorms from $32, privates from $79; reservation recommended; wheelchair accessible; Wi-Fi; linens included; laundry $10
Graham left behind the stressed-out chaos of Cambridge for the laid back life on the West Coast. A refreshing change of pace, he assumed, until the line for coffee on his first morning took 2 mins longer than he’s used to, and the Northeast nasty jumped out. Starting in Vancouver, Graham meandered south, toning his calves being a pedestrian on San Francisco’s hills and by navigating the monstrosity that is Los Angeles using just his feet and public transit (only resorting to Uber twice!) Graham’s love for the West Coast life only increased as he sat by the Puget Sound in Seattle, sipped kombucha in the crunchy cafes of Portland, climbed into a waterfall in Yosemite and stayed in an abandoned opera house in Death Valley. By the time he hit upper 80s sun of San Diego, buff calves and sun tanned, the words “West Coast, Best Coast,” almost slipped out of his mouth. Identity crisis looming, he figured it was time to go home.