Yosemite National Park is one of most beautiful places on earth, but I wouldn't call it romantic - not for us, city-types anyway! And even if it is romantic, it's not "budget". Was it really impossible to have a budget and romantic getaway at Yosemite? I set to find out, and here are the gems I found.
Picnic of Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake is one of the most beautiful places to visit at Yosemite - a must-go, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the lake isn't always full and reflective. Fret not, there is still hope for your Mirror Lake date! Pack a picnic, and pick a quiet spot on the lakebed to soak in the views. It's an experience not to forget.
For me, Vernal Falls is one of the most romantic spots at Yosemite. It's not dinner romantic, but something about the (mild) struggle up the hike and the majestic Vernal Falls made this trail the most memorable for me. The Mist Trail to Vernal Falls begins at Shuttle Stop #6. I like to pick up a soda and ice cream sandwich at the snack truck to share. Then, we make our way up the steep steep trail. None of this sounds romantic, until an hour in when you finally catch a glimpse of the 3,300 ft high fall. The view is incredible, and at sunset, the view can make you fall in love. I even caught a misty rainbow when I hiked it! It doesn't get as Yosemite-romantic as this.
I'm not sure any of the above recommendations qualify as romantic or a date for you (well, when in Yosemite!). And I'm not sure that this one is truly "budget". But let's call this one a budget alternative to the Ahwahnee Dining Room for a candle lit dinner. The Mountain Room restaurant isn't as quiet or "fine-dining" as the Ahwahnee Dining Room but I almost prefer it, for the lower prices and the views. The restaurant features a multi-story ceiling to floor glass window that faces Yosemite Falls. Sure, the atmosphere is not as intimate, but just imagine - striking Yosemite Falls view, in a heated restaurant, with a side of steak for a reasonable price? Sign. Me. Up.