Favorite thing: The Taft Point and Sentinel Dome hikes are located on glacier point road. The trails split at the trailhead near the parking lot and each is 2 miles round trip. Taft Point is an overlook hanging over Yosemite Valley and is an easy walk through a meadow. Sentinel Dome is a bit tougher and requires a scramble over rocks to the top.
If you love hiking, Yosemite provides a beautiful backdrop for this sport. There are two trails which are categorized as moderate hikes: The Vernal Falls Footbridge and the Valley Floor Loop.
Vernal Falls Footbridge begins at shuttle stop #16 (Happy Isles). The trail is 1.4 miles round trip, taking between one and two hours.
The Valley Floor Loop starts at shuttle stop #6 (Lower Yosemite Fall). The trail is a 13 mile full loop, taking from 5-7 hours.
FYI: Each year, there are visitors who drown or are swept away to their deaths. The water may look shallow or inviting on a hot day, but wading in pools upstream from waterfalls is a dangerous practice.
*Info. taken from the Yosemite guide
Favorite thing: Yosemite Valley has an extensive system of trails, ranging from very short walks to Lower Yosemite Falls to strenuous hikes to the top of Half Dome. This is definitely a place to spend some time exploring. Once you figure out how to navigate the shuttle system, you can go from stop to stop and see all the highlights. Another option is to grab a backpack, food and water and set off exploring by foot. Either way, plan to spend some time taking in the valley.
For those individuals who have hiked more difficult terrain and are proficient at it, there are three trails which have been categorized as 'very strenous' or 'extremely strenuous' hikes.
Very Strenuous Trails:
The Top of Yosemite Falls can be accessed by taking shuttle stop #7 (Camp 4). This trail is 7.2 miles round trip, taking 6-8 hours.
Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point can be reached by traveling to Southside Drive. The trail is 4.8 miles one way, taking 3-4 hours each way.
Extremely Strenuous Trail:
The most difficult trail is that which leads to the Top of Half Dome, beginning at shuttle stop #16 (Happy Isles). It's a 17 mile round trip, taking 10-12 hours. Please note: the last portion of this trail is an exposed climb along cables fixed to the granite.
FYI: On a long trail such as that to Half Dome, every hiker should carry a flashlight with good batteries and have detailed maps and compass. HALF DOME IS A VERY DANGEROUS SPOT DURING A LIGHTNING STORM.
*Info. taken from the Yosemite guide
If you are in excellent condition and are an experienced hiker, there are three trails rated as strenuous. They are Upper Yosemite Fall Trail to Columbia Rock, The top of Vernal Fall and the Top of Nevada Fall .
The Upper Yosemite Fall Trail begins near shuttle stop #7 (Camp 4). It is a 2 mile round trip, taking 2-3 ours.
The Top of Vernal Fall can be reached by taking shuttle stop #16 (Happy Isles). It is a 3 mile round trip, taking 2-4 hours.
The Top of Nevada Fall begins at shuttle stop #16 (Happy Isles). It is a 7 mile round trip, taking 5-6 hours.
FYI: You can pick up free day-hike maps at any visitor center at Yosemite. For detailed maps and guidebooks see www.YosemiteStore.com.
*Info. taken from Yosemite guide
The brisk walk to lower Yosemite Falls is the walk that pretty much everyone does. It only takes about 15 minutes from the parking lot to get to the footbridge of Lower Yosemite Falls. There's an upper part but it was closed when I was there.
Fondest memory: It's a beautiful fall, but all the people/tourist there seem to make it less natural and more of a spectacle.
Once you arrive to Vernal Falls you'll find just above the falls a large pool of water. This clear fresh water is cascading from the mountains further upstream.
Plenty of people take a rest here and enjoy the wonderful views and some take the chance for a dip at the top end of the pool. Keep away from the Falls edge though!
This is a photo of Bridal Veil Falls. It's taken from about the first overlook of Yosemite Valley as you come in from the south entrance (Thanks Michael for helping me out with this picture, I owe you one!). Even in these conditions the view from this lookout point is amazing. Imagine it being a beautiful day with blue skies...
I couldn't travel through the park as much as I had hoped for. Due to a lot of snow in the higher areas of the park a lot of the roads were closed. I did try to go to the waterfall that you see in this picture. It is not a long walk from the car park to the waterfall and I didn't mind a little bit of rain. I passed a couple of people that returned from the waterfall and they adviced me not to go, because I would get soaked. But I am not afraid of a little bit of water, so I walked on.
I could here the sound of the waterfall, and I was anxious to see it. I figured out that the waterfall should be right round the corner, behind some rocks. When I came round the corner, it was like someone was throwing a bucket of water right in my face. Within seconds I was soaked! I ran back to find some shelter behind some rocks and started laughing... Those people I met earlier on were not kidding. Because I was completely soaked I started to get cold. I didn't try to get another glimpse of the waterfall, I had learned my lesson :-)
Favorite thing: This was an EASY hike. Like 10 minutes from the parking lot. This was a cool one to check out because when you are at the foot of the falls you are pretty much like 20 yards from it. So you almost feel like youre in the path of the fall. This fall is best viewed on the morning you are leaving the park. The entrance to the parking lot is situated near the exit and I don;t think the shuttle bus goes this far.
There's a lovely picnic spot called Swinging Bridge on the Valley Floor. As you might guess, it has a "swinging bridge" that crosses from one bank of the Merced River to the other. After a long day of hiking, having a barbecue towards sunset at this peaceful spot is just perfect.
Fondest memory: From this spot you have wonderful views of Yosemite Falls, the highest falls in the valley. Awesome.
To try and walk the whole of the John Muir Trail may be a tad overambitious for most people - it stretches for 212 miles from Yosemite Valley through some of Muir's favourite country to Mount Whitney in the South. It is, however, possible to walk a small section of the trail. We picked it up at the top of Vernall Falls and followed it for approximately 2-3 miles before rejoining the Mist Trail further down the valley.
You'll probably hear John Muir's name crop up quite a few times during your stay here, and for good reason. He dedicated his life to the protection and preservation of this landscape that he loved so much and he's now seen as an inspirational figure in Californian history. Indeed, it's him we have to thank for the Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Club.
after passing by all the other tourists, hiking up to the top of the Vernal falls and then bumbling through the woods up to the Nevada falls, seeing everything new for the first time with quite a bit of naivete, feeling the air thin out and the people fade away... and then looking down into the valley and feeling your smallness.
If Yosemite doesn't make you spiritual or a hippie then something is wrong with you!
Hike to the top of Half Dome! You need to get a wilderness permit if you stay overnight, which I highly recommend. It takes about 6-8 hours to get the base and then about 20 minutes of climbing cables. Try to time it so that you are at the top of Half Dome at sunset. IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND! Just make sure you scurry back down to camp before it gets dark.
It is a fairly hard hike as most of it is up hill, but there are many beautiful places to stop and rest or take a swim along the way. It is definitely worth it.
Fondest memory: I love the water. Sierra mountain streams and rivers are the clearest, crispest and most refreshing I have experienced. A very healing place to be.
Favorite thing: This was quite a hike to get to even the foot bridge of the falls. it takes about 45 minutes from the entrance and its quite steep. But there are a lot of stopping points to get magnificent views of the surrounding wilderness.
Favorite thing: Here's the water cascading as I mentioned before. Beware the water here is running quite quickly and it's very cold!