Yosemite Falls are the highest waterfalls in US with a
height of 2425 ft (740m) divided into two parts, the Upper Yosemite Fall
and the Lower Yosemite Fall, some very inspired names :-). To get to the
base of the falls, follow the short trail (0.5 miles) that starts at
Yosemite Village Center. The top of the Upper Yosemite Fall can be reached
by hiking a 3.5 mile (about 5 km) strenous trail. Like all the other falls
in the park, Yosemite Falls are at their peak in May and early June when
the winter snow melts and the flow of the falls increases. The flow
decreases in July and often even disappears in August and September.
We were wandering through the park trying to return to
Yosemite Village when we came upon the stunning site which you can see in
the picture. I realized that we were looking at "El Capitan" and I have
to say that there is no better name for it. The granite wall measures
around 1350m (4000ft) from base to summit and is impressively vertical
with a surface that looks like it was polished. I saw two rock-climbers
making their way to the top (and really admired them).
Half Dome stands at the elevation of 8,840 feet. Its
unique profile has become a symbol of Yosemite and geologists presume that
its missing half had fallen off when the Ice Age glaciers passed through.
It is made up from a type of granite. The trail to Half Dome is
approximately 17 miles round trip and the hike is one of the most
anticipated for avid hikers. Trail starts at Happy Isles Trailhead.
Glacier Point offers a great view of Yosemite Valley.
From here you can see Yosemite Falls, Vernal and Nevada Falls and the
remarkable silhouette of Half Dome. This viewpoint is located 3215 ft
(980m) above the valley floor and it is accesible only during the summer,
the road being blocked by snow in the winter.
The trail that takes hikers to Vernal Fall is
appropriately called the Mist Trail. On its last portion - before
getting to the top of the Vernal Fall - the trail passes in front of the
320ft tall fall which sprays the trail with a fine mist that will most
likely get you all wet in no time. The first time you can see Vernal
Fall is on a bridge lookout and you can stop there if you don't want to
get wet, but that will be a pity.
After getting to Vernal Fall, the Mist Trail continues
for another two miles to the top of Nevada Fall where it joins the John
Muir Trail. This part of the trail (from Vernal to Nevada Fall) is more
strenous than its first part to Vernal Fall. You can take the John Muir
Trail to descend back to Yosemite Valley. This one gets around the back
of the Half Dome. Good hikers can continue from Nevada Fall to the top
of the Half Dome (about 10 miles round trip). Some portions of the Mist
Trail are closed in winter due to snow.
This viewpoint offers a beautiful panorama of Yosemite
Valley with El Capitan on the left, Bridalveil Fall on the right and Half
Dome in the center. The lookout is located on Highway 41 at the western
end of the valley.
Bridalveil Fall can be reached by walking a short
distance from a parking area through a beautiful grove. It is approximately
620 ft (227 m) tall, formed by the Bridalveil Creek which plunges from a
valley above. Though Bridalveil Creek rarely dries up completely, it
shrinks to a thin film by late summer.
This road crosses Yosemite from west to east and is a
truly scenic drive. Along the way you will enjoy views of granite peaks,
beautiful lakes, wildflower-covered meadows, and green forests with Giant
Sequoia groves. You'll probably want to stop for pictures at many points on
Olmsted is a scenic turnout on the Tioga Road. There
are panels that explain the geological phenomenon that takes place there
and identify the different peaks that are visible. The views from this
point are very beautiful but it's unique granite formations make this
place photogenic in its own right.
View from Olmsted Point
Olmsted Point offers nice views over the Tenaya Canyon
and the Cathedral Range.
The quintessential Sierra Lake
Tenaya Lake is located along the Tioga Road (Hwy 120)
about seven miles west of Tuolumne Meadows. The lake is beautiful, clear
blue and surrounded by the sheer slopes. Here you'll find a few beaches,
ample parking and a picnic area. Many hikes in to the high country start
from here. Crowded during the day, the lake becomes very peaceful in the
late afternoon. It's also open to swimming for those who don't mind the
The High Country
Tuolumne Meadows. I've been here a few times but still
can't pronounce this correctly ;-) Standing at 8600 feet elevation this
subalpine meadow is an eye treat. The wide grassy fields are surrounded
by snow-capped peaks and in spring and midsummer the meadow fills with
wildflowers. Some streams are running through the meadows and fishing is
popular. Many hikes in the high country begin here. There is a general
store that stocks last-minute hiking supplies, a few tent-cabins (all
full in summer), a restaurant with pricey but good food and a picnic area.
Another one of Yosemite's popular day hikes is the hike
to the summit of Mount Hoffmann. Because of its central location and the
high elevation of 10.850 feet (3308 m) the summit provides one of the
best views in the park. The trailhead is located on Tioga Road (Highway
120). Follow the signs to May Lake turn off. There is a parking lot right
at the trailhead. The hike is about 6 miles round trip with an elevation
gain of 2100 feet. The first potion of the trail goes up to May Lake High
Sierra Campground. You'll see Mount Hoffman towering above the lake's
southwestern shore. Take the path on the southern end of the lake to
continue on the trail. The trail seems to dissapear often but you'll find
stacks of rocks marking the way. After going through a small meadow, there
is a section of rocky slope with loose rock on some portions. We've seen
lots of marmots on the way. Once you find yourself on the plateau the
views are spectacular. The last portion up to the summit requires some
rock climbing (no special equipment neccesary).
Cathedral Lakes Trail
A moderate hike of approximately 7 miles round trip,
the Cathedral Lakes trail is one of the most popular of Yosemite's high
country destinations. The trail begins in Tuolumne Meadows, along Tioga
Road. It starts out climbing, then it levels off. This hike is very
beautiful, most of it going though the green forest and at times crossing
small meadows and streams. We got to see a family of marmots (we were to
see many of them while hiking Mount Hoffman the next day). The Lower
Cathedral Lake is located at an elevation of 9288 feet while the Upper
Lake is found at about half mile past the Lower Lake at an elevation of
9585 feet. Pack a lunch and something refreshing to drink and once you
get there pick one of the two pretty lakes and enjoy basking in the sun
and looking at John Muir's favourite mountain, Cathedral Peak.
The area around Tuolumne Meadows is a climbers'
paradise full of polished domes, needle-like summits and alpine peaks.
And probably the most beautiful and striking peak in that area is
Cathedral Peak (some say it is the most beautiful peak in Yosemite,
possibly in the entire Sierra Nevada range). The peak is made up of two
spires sculpted by ancient glaciers; the western one is called Eichorn
Pinnacle. John Muir made the first ascent of Cathedral Peak in 1869 and
since then many climbers have followed in his footsteps. The peak has an
elevation of 10911 feet (3326 m). The most popular climbing route on
Cathedral Peak is the Southeast Buttress route, with a maximum difficulty
of class 5.6, however, there is an easier class 4 route which ascends
its northwest side, nicknamed "Mountaineer's Route".
Yosemite is home to a variety of animals, out of which
deer are the most commonly seen by visitors. They tend to hang out in
meadows early in the morning and in the late afternoon or evening. I was
able to see deer on all my visits to Yosemite. As for other wildlife, I
didn't see any. My guess is you'll be more lucky if you find a quiet spot
during early morning or early evening; you may catch a glimpse of wildlife
in action. Although you are adviced to lock every piece of food for fear of
bears, I don't think bears are easy to find in Yosemite. They tend to avoid
people, so you are not likely to see them in developed areas (I would still
advice that you lock the food). Instead, you will probably be able to see
lots of birds, especially in meadows, along the rivers, and in forests
adjacent to meadows.
Hiking in Yosemite
Yosemite National Park is a hiker's dream. Here you can
find any kind of hike, from a flat terrain walk on the valley floor, to a
full day hike up Half Dome and just about anything in between. That's why
hiking is a popular activity in Yosemite, and is a great way to see the
park. Trail maps can be found in any of the visitor centers and they are
also sold in most stores throughout the park.