Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Best Hike of Your Life: Yosemite

If you're not really up for Half Dome but want to truly experience Yosemite National Park in it's full glory, this is the hike for you.  Clocking in at around 13 miles with plenty of elevation, switchbacks, and waterfalls to view along the way, I'd budget a full day.  Here's your path (you can open the image to enlarge--trail path is outlined in yellow):

Start at Four Mile Trail (which at 4.8 miles and brutal switchbacks pretty much the entire way up should be renamed to Climbing Uphill for Almost 5 Miles trail or something a bit more foreboding.  The views as you get higher up will negate your earlier misery, I promise.  The trailhead is right off of Southside Drive on the valley floor, but come early because parking by the trailhead goes fast.  We headed out at around just past 6:30 AM and it was dark and cold -- wear layers!! Give yourself about 4 hours to reach the end of the trail at Glacier Point -- there are plenty of photo-ops and views to enjoy along the way so no sense in rushing.  No water or bathrooms are available until you reach the summit at Glacier Point so pack your bags accordingly.

Great views of El Capitan and the valley floor as you wind up the trail
Meet some new friends along the way

As you make it to the end of the switchbacks, you are in for stunning views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls

Glacier Point can also be reached by shuttle so there will be a ton of people at the top.  There are bathrooms, a place to buy ice cream and sandwiches and trail food, and of course, incredible viewing areas.

After you feel well rested, it's time to embark on the second half of your adventure, taking Panorama Trail, 8.5 miles of true splendor with views of the backside of Half Dome, and several waterfalls. When we hiked here in May the trail was still a bit overgrown and even washed out in some areas, so be prepared to maneuver around rocks, fallen trees, and streams.  That just adds to the fun.

You can get a sense of how small Yosemite makes you feel here - that's my husband busting the trail ahead of me.  I'm usually a good 5 feet back.  His legs won't let him walk that slow haha.
The backside of Half Dome -- strange isn't it?

A great way to get back down to the valley floor from Panorama Trail is to take the Mist Trail by Vernal Falls. I didn't take any photos on this part of the trail so let me explain -- it is breathtakingly beautiful.  You'll be walking down narrow steps cut into the stone literally being sprayed by the waterfall mist most of the way.  For me it was truly horrifying -- the stones are slippery; there's no railing; there are tons of people going up and down on the same narrow steps -- old people, young people, people in flip flops.  I literally was shuffling down terrified for my life.  But now that I am safely back home I really wish I could do this part of the hike again and be less focused on slipping to my death and more focused on how incredibly beautiful and surreal this hike is.

Imagine this but covered with swarms of people via
For some reason these pictures don't make it seem nearly as terrifying as I remember ... via

When you make it back to the valley floor at the end of the Mist Trail, you don't have to walk all the way back to your car parked at the Four Mile trialhead -- just hop the shuttle at stop 17 and enjoy and reflect on the insanity that you just did that. Need more Yosemite info?  Check out our previous post about easier hikes, lodging, and what to pack.

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