April is a somewhat unpredictable time of year in terms of weather in Yosemite, so when I made campground reservations a few months ago I had no idea if I’d be snowshoeing or hiking. April is about the latest I’ll go to the Valley since I prefer to avoid it during the busy summer season, and this year it ended up being perfect timing. It has turned out to be a dry winter and with clear skies and forecasted highs around 70, I planned a couple of great Yosemite Valley hikes that would get us to some classic sights as well as away from the crowds. On Saturday we hiked the northeast gully of Liberty Cap to the summit, and on Sunday we hiked the Rockslides, the Old Big Oak Flat road that used to be the only road into the Valley.
A new episode of my favorite web series came out the other day. Enjoy!
“Yosemite Steve” (not to be confused with Yosemite Sam) has done it again with the newest Yosemite Nature Notes video. This one is all about the glowing Horsetail Falls, a phenomenon that happens during the sometimes serendipitous convergence of several components – time of year, angle of sun, clouds, time of day, and recent weather patterns. A couple of years ago I made the trek to Yosemite Valley to experience the falls, only to strike out and be frustrated with a cold drizzly rain. Someday I hope to see this beautiful sight, but in the meantime there are plenty of other beautiful Yosemite experiences to have.
There is also this excellent video from Steve. Enjoy!
I’ve shared them here before and you know how much I love them – the Yosemite Nature Notes videos. I was incredibly pleased to find out this morning that a new one has been released. Watch to learn about the historic architecture of the Rangers Club in Yosemite Valley.
The history of access to Yosemite Valley is interesting – highways 120, 140, and 41 have not always been there. One of the first paved roads into the Valley was the original Big Oak Flat Road (a history can be found here). It was a dangerous road and was eventually replaced with the safer tunnel design of the current road, and then eventually taken out via a major rockslide in the 1940s. Today this road is an afterthought, a forgotten footpath frequently blocked by rockslides and overgrown trees.
This road is quite visible from many points in the Valley. As you descend 41 from the Tunnel View, look across the valley at the slopes west of El Capitan. You’ll clearly see an old road cut through the terrain. It disappears in places (where it has been taken out by rockslides) but it’s easy to visually pick it out.
Sierra Point is a viewpoint on the eastern end of Yosemite Valley from which you can see four waterfalls: Yosemite Falls, Illilouette Falls, Vernal Falls, and Nevada Falls. This old map shows a trail to Sierra Point from Happy Isles (look between Happy Isles and Grizzly Peak). However, this trail was closed back in the 1970s due to rock slides.
It is still possible to hike to Sierra Point but it is not a nice and easy trail like the others you’ll find out of Yosemite Valley. I personally found the route pretty straightforward and easy using detailed instructions and GPS waypoints given to me by a friend (and readily available via some googling), but I hate to gauge difficulty since it is so subjective. People inexperienced with off-trail travel (especially on steep terrain) and routefinding might find this to be very difficult. So the typical caveat applies: Only you know your skills, comfort level, and abilities so it is up to you to make the call when out there.
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.