Yosemite in Summer 2020, a Dreamlike Experience

A Review of Yosemite Dreams: Rustic and Refined Lodging Near Oakhurst

By J.C. Thomas

In 2020, visiting Yosemite National Park in the peak of summer feels like a dream. Weird and lovely, almost eerily serene in the absence of big crowds, experiencing the park in this way is a privilege offered only by the extraordinary tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even at the most popular spots in Yosemite Valley – icons like Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls – the crowds are sparse, parking spots are available, and it’s a cinch to take photos without strangers in them. Summer in Yosemite will never again be so sublimely subdued.  

During my family’s recent Yosemite visit, we spent two wonderful nights at Yosemite Dreams. This unique property is just outside the town of Oakhurst and 17 miles from the south entrance to Yosemite National Park. The charismatic couple behind Yosemite Dreams, Phil Ireland and Lisa Wobler, hosted our stay in their family-friendly Craftsman Flat, one of three distinct lodging options on the park-like 2.5-acre property. The accommodations, location and peaceful ambiance, along with dreamy days in the national park, all made for an unforgettable experience.

Starting with its June 11, 2020 reopening, the park has limited access via a temporary day-use reservation system. Visit the Yosemite National Park website for up-to-date details. A tip: If you don’t score a reservation you can also enter the park by YARTS bus or any private tour.

First Impressions

As suburbanites with small children, our national park plans were to admire and appreciate the majesty of the wilderness without venturing far from the beaten path. Yosemite Dreams’ setting, which is definitely rural yet urban-adjacent, proved to be a great fit. We approached Yosemite Dreams, minutes outside Oakhurst with its supermarkets, banks and other essential conveniences, rumbled off the paved road, and slowed to a cautious crawl. The GPS said we had arrived, but we had not.

A little farther up the road, past horse corrals and flocks of wild turkeys but still solidly within cellphone coverage, and we reached the gate to Yosemite Dreams. With no gate code found in our emails and no posted instructions, we had a moment of dumb millennial-esque confusion until Phil came strolling down the hill to open the gate and welcome us.

Phil, Lisa and their friendly dogs Cooper and Copper like to greet all their guests personally. After that, they are happy to be as available or invisible as you desire. We took a leisurely tour of the property, which includes the Lover’s Cottage, a vintage Airstream trailer and the main house, with Phil and Lisa’s home upstairs and the Craftsman Flat on the ground floor. These structures, while spacious, seem to disappear into the folds of wooded groves and gardens, as does the outdoor yoga studio. Guests are enticed to spend as much time outdoors as in, especially during this sunbaked season.

The natural features of the site – the clustered granite boulders and the mature sequoias, pines and manzanita – are enhanced by masterful landscaping. Relocated rocks and weathered railroad ties line pathways that wind around distinct pockets of outdoor space. Some are furnished with benches, hammocks, and even a fully made-up queen bed. Touches of whimsy include a labyrinth, fairy garden, and for those staying in the Lover’s Cabin, a claw-footed bathtub concealed behind boulders. Guests are also welcome to pick fruit from the orchard, which in late July was bursting with ripening apples, pears and peaches.

Accommodations and Packages

My family stayed in the Craftsman Flat, a spacious ground-floor home away from home with two bedrooms, living room and kitchenette, and a parlor area with a full-sized dining table. Several walls are lined with bookcases, fully stocked with a library’s worth of novels, reference books and choice children’s books. There were games and toys for the kids as well as a few dog toys, as the flat is pet-friendly too.

The refrigerator and freezer were thoughtfully stocked with condiments, coffee, ice and even some frosty beer mugs ready for a perfect ending to a day of exhausting fun in Yosemite. Squishy couches and the space’s refined eclectic décor encourage relaxation too. The flat opens onto a huge, furnished patio with a gas BBQ grill, and there’s a toaster oven, microwave, coffee maker and cabinet full of kitchen wares inside. Guests can buy supplies in Oakhurst to prepare a full meal or do as we did and reheat some takeout.

Other accommodations at Yosemite Dreams are the Lover’s Cabin, with a no-kids, no-pets policy and romantic setup for two, and an immaculately restored mid-century Airstream trailer. The trailer has two beds, a shower, toilet, working stove and living area. Its décor is a fitting time capsule, with vintage barware and crocheted afghans among other cheerful touches. The trailer also has an adjacent furnished patio and BBQ.

In addition to accommodations, Yosemite Dreams offers a variety of packages, custom tours, workshops and yoga classes led by Lisa, a certified yoga instructor. Past workshops have covered beer making, jewelry making, photography and writing.

The Story of Yosemite Dreams

Lisa and Phil relocated from Southern California to the place they named Yosemite Dreams in 2015, ready for a new venture in hospitality. The decision wasn’t straightforward, as they had considered opening a bookshop or perhaps a coffee shop before running with Lisa’s childhood dream of owning a B&B. Complementing her vision is Phil’s outgoing nature as a people person.

The couple considered a few different destinations in California before landing on Yosemite. A conversation with some friends who had returned from touring of Utah’s national parks and raved about a B&B there sparked an inspired idea – to pick a place on a road into a national park. Phil, an avid backpacker and outdoorsman, has explored the Sierras on annual treks for decades. Yosemite was therefore a perfect choice, and the couple looked to Oakhurst as the busiest hub on the busiest road into the park.

The property that is now Yosemite Dreams was something of an afterthought by Phil and Lisa’s Realtor, the final site to consider after a string of spots that didn’t quite fit. Lisa recalls that as soon as she set foot inside the gate, she declared “this is the place.” The major reason is that it felt like a park, with its pathways connecting discrete spaces where they envisioned spots for sitting, strolling, yoga and meditation. It’s a place equally suited to family fun, solitary stillness and romantic getaways – in fact they’ve had “so many engagements” of couples staying at Yosemite Dreams.

Further, the main house, cabin and landscaping were already ideal for a B&B. The couple added only a storage shed (hand-built by Phil) and the Airstream, plus aesthetic updates and considerable ongoing upkeep, to make Yosemite Dreams complete.

As hosts, you couldn’t ask for a more capable duo. Lisa teaches yoga classes at Yosemite Dreams, and Phil, a renaissance man with a background in journalism, education, photography and videography, also works as a tour guide in Yosemite National Park and can recommend experiences there to suit all desires.

Phil encourages all visitors to see the park over three or more days, instead of rushing through one. He believes you can’t fully appreciate the beauty of the park (nor Yosemite Dreams, nor the entire region) in a short space of time. Instead he advises, “Sit down, let the place sink in, as it takes time to appreciate its size, the trees, the green, even the heat and the shade.”

I couldn’t agree more.


Yosemite Dreams

39245 Washburn Lane, Oakhurst, CA 93644

(760) 481-9245


Disclaimer: California News Press and its contributors received goods, services and/or other professional courtesies to facilitate this review. All opinions are those of the author.

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