Thursday, March 31, 2016

Yosemite in the Spring

I visited Yosemite once again last weekend, but for the first time since moving back to the Bay Area. It was my first time staying in Yosemite Valley and that made a huge difference in terms of getting on the nearby trails before the crowds. We picked a perfect time to go because the waterfalls were raging and the roads were clear, but you could still get in a snowy experience if you wanted. We also went at a unique and confusing time when many landmarks had been renamed as part of a trademark lawsuit, but they weren't renamed on every sign, map, or brochure, so we had to learn two names for some things.

We did a few hikes/casual strolls in the valley and a nice snowshoe near Badger Pass and I've described them below.

I've also written about Yosemite here and here.

Mirror Lake - 
There are multiple trails that lead to Mirror Lake and they range from wide and paved to small and somewhat rocky. Two or three routes start (or pass by) The Awahnee /Majestic Yosemite Hotel and another leaves from Curry/Half Dome Village.

It is about a 2-mile round-trip walk if you just go to the lake and back. A longer, 5-mile loop takes you to the lake, around it, and back. The paved trails are great for people with kids, strollers, or wheelchairs, but be advised the paved section ends right at, or right before, the lake.
One of the paved trails to Mirror Lake with nice view of Half Dome.

Mirror Lake being true to its name.

More Mirror Lake
Examples of two different types of trails leading to Mirror Lake.

Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls -
This spectacular and strenuous hike takes you up close to two amazing waterfalls. If you just go to the top of Vernal Falls it is 2.4 miles round trip via the Mist Trail and much of the trail is paved or stone. Nevada Falls is a bit farther (5.4 round trip) and the trail beyond Vernal Falls is more natural.

Don't take the Mist Trail (which is closed in Winter) if you have trouble with sheer ledges or walking on steep, moist, stone steps. On a separate trip I learned these steps can get really icy too! Taking the longer way may not take much more time since it is more gradually sloped, typically has less traffic, and has no bottlenecks. We took the Mist Trail up and decided to avoid it on the way back down by taking the John Muir Trail.

Vernal Falls has a large open rock area that is great for resting, eating, or waiting your turn to take photos close to the waterfall.

Looking over Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

Nevada Falls

Badger Pass Snowshoe - It has been a goal of mine to one day snowshoe or crosscountry ski on Yosemite's many miles of machine-groomed snow trails. In the winter and early spring, much of Glacier Point Road is converted to a maintained snow trail with many more miles of marked trails often packed down by human traffic. I still hope to return and maybe backpack out to the Glacier Point Ski Hut for a night or two, but we did get in a nice snowshoe.
Our route left the Badger Pass Ski Area on Old Glacier Point Road, then turned up a steep hill to take in the views of the Clark Range from the Old Badger Pass Summit. From there we went back down the hill and on to Summit Meadow where we had lunch before returning via Glacier Point Road. My favorite parts were off the maintained tracks, but the machine-groomed sections definitely take less energy to travel on.

Valley Loop (parts of it) - 
As you may have guessed already, the Valley Loop Trail loops through much of Yosemite Valley. The full loop is 13 miles, but it can easily be done in smaller sections. While exploring the Valley, we frequently found ourselves on this trail enjoying its great views of all the waterfalls and impressive rock features. If you have the energy, this trail offers a fantastic alternative to driving slowly around the valley while stuck in infuriating traffic. It is quieter, more peaceful, and provides a more personal experience of the awe-inspiring scenery that draws so many people to Yosemite.

Check out my other Yosemite posts on:
Ten Lakes, Emerald Lake, Cathedral Pass, & more
Hetch Hetchy

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