I spent this past weekend in Yosemite Valley, also known as the Disneyland of National Parks. About 4 million people visit Yosemite every year and it often feels like they are all in the Valley at the same time. This is not the way I like to enjoy the outdoors, but the charm and appeal of the Valley rarely keeps me away for long. I love to visit in the fall when the trees are colorful, and I really love to visit in the winter when a fresh snow has blanketed the valley in white. Luckily, my favorite seasons in the valley correspond to a slightly lower tourist density.
Having done nearly every mile of trail out of the Valley (and several of them multiple times) I’ve been wanting to take my high country sense of adventure to the Valley floor and explore some areas that are off the beaten track. This past weekend I visited three such places and I’ll be featuring them throughout the week. A mere stone’s throw (or, um, rockfall’s tumble) from the hordes of people, I found myself in complete solitude, enjoying the classic sights of Yosemite without the throngs of crowds.
This entry is about Turtleback Dome, a really simple and easy location to visit that will get you a classic view without tour buses getting in the way. You may know Turtleback Dome from its web cams, but it’s a much nicer place to visit in real life.
You can access Turtleback Dome either by parking at the point where the access road meets Wawona Road (41) – see map below – or parking at the paved shoulder pullout just west of the tunnel (Rostrum parking, if you’re a climber). Either walk up the access road about 3/4 of a mile until you reach the top, or head straight up through the brush and up the steep granite from the Rostrum Parking. Aim for the large boulder you see at the top.
From the top of Turtleback Dome you are treated to views of Half Dome and the Valley below. It’s a similar perspective as Tunnel View but you won’t be fighting for space to get a photo. Look to the north for a view across to Big Oak Flat road and the waterfalls tumbling down Tamarack Creek.
There are several large granite boulders on the top of Turtleback Dome. Although we didn’t see anyone climbing, evidence of regular bouldering activity was clear – lots of chalk marks.
This was a quick and nice ‘leg stretch’ on our way into Yosemite Valley and a perfect way to kick off a weekend of “Yosemite Valley Solitude Hikes”.