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eirekay Yosemite National Park - A travel report by Eire
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Yosemite National Park,  United States - flag United States -  California
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eirekay's travel reports

Yosemite-The Roads less traveled may be the Best

  35 votes
Page: 1 2
Yosemite's Valley Floor is best left to Mondays-Wednesday. Trek to Tioga Pass or Wawona's South Gate to avoid the crowds and enjoy the splendor! Lake Tenaya, Alder Creek Falls and Tuolumne Meadows await.

Northdome from the Valley Floor
Northdome from the Valley Floor
Yosemite National Park is in my backyard (almost). It is one of the natural wonders of the world. It also has become increasingly busy, but there are still uncrowded or less crowded areas of the park that equal anything the Valley floor has to offer. The most traveled area-the Mist Trail up Vernal & Nevada Falls, leading to the summit of Half Dome, is best left to Mon.-Wed. A better weekend strategy is to explore the park’s outer rims. Head north on Tioga Pass, which takes you through pristine forest and offers great opportunities to explore w/o the crowds. A hike on the relatively easy Porcupine Creek Trail to North Dome offers views equal to Half Dome’s, but at 5.2 miles (as opposed to Half Dome’s 16) is a great day hike. Added bonus: great views of Half Dome and a ½ mile side trip takes you to Indian Rock, the park’s only natural bridge. Further up Tioga Pass is the incredible Lake Tenaya-perfect picnic stop, complete with tables, but I prefer the granite boulders that line the shore. Complete the day by taking in Tuolumne Meadows. June-September the meadows are filled with alpine wild flowers, rimmed by jagged granite peaks.

Working the south end of the park, take in a couple of dramatic waterfalls. Starting at Wawona Lodge, Chilnualna Falls trail (5 miles) is steep but features beautiful cascades along the trail. A much easier trail, Alder Creek Falls (7.8 miles) is a well kept secret. A quick scramble down to the base of the falls will leave you standing on a granite boulder that literally trembles with the power of the falls, and in complete privacy. Last weekend (June 2005) we back packed this trail and did not see a single other group. The Pioneer center at Wawona offers a look back at California’s past. Trek further down Wawona Road to Mariposa Grove, a grove of Giant Sequoias, nestled in wild ferns. Take the tram to the top of the grove and then hike or ride horseback to the bottom.

Favourite spots:
A Marmot watches hikers in Toulumne Meadows
A Marmot watches hikers in Toulumne Meadows
Back Packing: Clouds Rest! Accessible from the Lake Tenaya trailhead, I love packing this trail, making camp at the base of Cloud's Rest & waking before dawn to make the final scamble to the top. Journey the rest of the way to the Valley Floor, taking in Vernal & Nevada Falls or return to Lake Tenaya. Second Choice:Grant Lake trail - take the Ten Lakes trail to the top of the Saddleback and then follow the Grant Lake markers to the less traveled Grant Lake. Ten Lakes basin has become increasingly used. Grant Lakes offers the same pristine alpine lakes with fewer crowds. By Car: Tioga Pass with a picnic & swim at Lake Tenaya, followed by a walk through Tuoloumne Meadows with a possible marmot sighting! In June & July expect patches of snow. Best Fall: The taller Vernal and Nevada Falls are fantastic but Alder Creek offers the beauty and awesome force of the falls with an easier (and less traveled) hike.

What's really great:
Cloud's Rest with Half Dome in the distance
Cloud's Rest with Half Dome in the distance
* Sunrise from Cloud's Rest offers a 360 degree view of Yosemite from 9,000 feet. From here you can take in Half Dome, Tenaya Canyon, Mts. Gibbs, Koip Peak, Lyell and Mt. Clark in a single turn. * The serenity of sitting at the base of any of Yosemite's many Falls. * Lake hopping the Ten Lakes basin, tossing snow balls in 80 degree weather while swimming in pristine alpine lakes! * Sliding through the natural water slides at the top of Chilnualna Falls. * My most magic moment? Sitting quietly in a grove of trees at the edge of Half Moon Meadow with my 3 children and watching as bears came down in the evening to fish in the streams.

ElCapitan - watch Rock Climbs Accend
ElCapitan - watch Rock Climbs Accend
On your drive around the Valley Floor, make sure to pull over at the base of El Capitan to view the rock climbers as they make their accent to the top of this sheer granite wall! If you have binoculars or a good telephoto, you can watch closely as the climbers hammer petons in place. Another great stop is Bridalveil Falls which cascades over 600 feet in to a misty froth! Another great drive (or hike from the valley floor-4.6 miles of switchback) is up to the top of Glacier Point. The views of the valley floor and Half Dome are stunning and there is a cool drive through a granite tunnel along the way.

Winter time there are a number of cross-country ski trails - again lightly used - making for a beautiful off-season trip. Yosemite Valley and Wawona are low enough altitude wise to get a couple of feet of snow but Tioga Pass is usually closed by mid-November and really re-opens before mid-May.

Alder Creek Falls-little known but awesome and secluded!
Alder Creek Falls-little known but awesome and secluded!
Wawona Lodge offers the charm of a turn of the Century (20th Century) lodge. Carefully restored, it evokes images of the early California Settlers. On the Valley Floor, Curry Village tent cabins (my frequent choice) provide the necessities. These canvas tents on platforms sleep four on comfortable cots with mattresses (blankets, sheets & pillows provided) but with few amentities. Showers and bathrooms are in separate buildings close by - they are very clean but shared and camp ground quality. The Ahwahnee is expensive but charming. Yosemite Lodge is expensive but NOT charming. Outside the park but close to the South and West gates respectively, Oakhurst and Groveland offer clean, more reasonably priced hotels. Expect to pay $120 for a 3 star in Oakhurst. Slightly less in Groveland or Mariposa which are slightly further from the gates.

Yosemite Falls from Ahwahnee Patio
Yosemite Falls from Ahwahnee Patio
The Ahwahnee should be experienced for its rustic charm but it's expensive - save it for Breakfast - reserve ahead for a window table with a view of Yosemite Falls. On the other end of the scale, Curry Village cafeteria offers a terrific nightly BBQ that conjures up the pioneer west. BBQ chicken with beans, biscuits and corn-on-the-cob are the perfect meal at the end of a long day hike. You are a captive audience with few options in Yosemite so consider bringing a picnic lunch if possible.

Make sure NOT to leave any food in your car, day or night. The bear warnings are sincere. Bear Boxes (large metal containers with clips) are available at most trailheads. I have left food and coolers in them for up to five days and have never had anything stolen from a bear box.

Other recommendations:
Half Dome's famed CABLES
Half Dome's famed CABLES
A trek up Half Dome (16 miles) is best accomplished early in the week when there is less traffic on the cables (those ants in the pic are hikers). Heavy crowds on the Mist Trail, which many take to scale Vernal and Nevada Falls, can add time. Start by 8am to come down in day light. The top of this magnificent dome is broad - bring a frisbee and have a toss! The views are incompariable! Take a pair of gloves to use on the cable portion-best are knit ones with rubber bumps on the palm and bring plenty of water. Go up the Mist trail to catch the falls but the better trek down is the John Muir trail. John Muir adds a mile but the gentle switch backs are much easier on the knees, plus the Mist Trail is, well, misty and can be slippery on the trip down. IF you have the time, Back Pack to Little Yosemite Valley, hike the top of Half Dome in the early morning w/o packs (can be left in bear boxes) and then go on to Merced Lake for a terrific 3-4 day trip total. Permits required for overnight.

Published on Monday July 4th, 2005

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Wed, Feb 14 2007 - 11:26 PM rating by travler

Yep! This is a great destination.

Wed, Feb 07 2007 - 09:05 PM rating by antonioagui

A very accurate description!
Beautiful pics!

Fri, Jan 26 2007 - 11:09 PM rating by mrscanada

I've been here and your report is perfect.

Fri, Dec 30 2005 - 08:47 AM rating by picu

Really wonderful report and beautiful photos, well done!

Sun, Oct 23 2005 - 04:55 PM rating by toribio


Mon, Sep 26 2005 - 03:53 PM rating by isaacmolina

very gud

Mon, Sep 12 2005 - 09:20 AM rating by porcupine

This report is a hiker's delight

Mon, Sep 05 2005 - 06:15 PM rating by mistybleu


Call me stupid, but I didn't realise Yosemite National Park was so beautiful. I did some investigation and it's an incredible popular place to visit, I wish I'd gone there while I was on the west coast.
Great report.


Tue, Jul 05 2005 - 05:57 AM rating by davidx

I've read the previous comments and they say it all. Splendid.

Tue, Jul 05 2005 - 02:17 AM rating by britman

Great feature - well written and beautifully illustrated

Tue, Jul 05 2005 - 01:07 AM rating by picasso

First Class report about Magnificent place i fell in love with some 25 years ago.We always stay at Grovelend's Pine Mountain Lake,and we visit the area for a week almost every year.Some times i just want to go there for the rest of my life,away from crowded and bussy,but from another hand gorgeous San Francisco,but we live ,where the work is,regrettably .


Tue, Jul 05 2005 - 12:14 AM rating by gloriajames

hiya Eire,
good informative reports with pics...
hope to visit some day.
thanks for sharing!

Mon, Jul 04 2005 - 05:37 PM rating by christianj.

Hi Eire,

that's a great + informative report with wonderful pictures. Congratulations!


Mon, Jul 04 2005 - 04:59 PM rating by rangutan

A wonderful place, seems more natural than the Alps in central Europe.

Mon, Jul 04 2005 - 04:13 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Thanks to your report I feel like going tomorrow to Yosemite.

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