Yosemite NP Travel & Hiking Guide
Overview - Yosemite National Park yet another incredible park in the great state of California. Similar to Yellowstone, its range of landscapes and wildlife is incredible, and if you are in California, you definitely don't want to miss this park.
Details - Yosemite National Park is a huge national park with a wide range of great hikes at varying levels of difficulty. Due to the fact that we only had one full day in Yosemite, we decided to make the most of it by hiking most of the parks hardest hikes in one day.
We got up at 5am to drive down from our campground, Crane Lake, to the Yosemite Valley to our first hike, Four Mile Trail (4.6 miles One Way up to Glacier Point, all track backs up the side of the valley). This hike is best done first thing in the morning, as it offers some great views of the Yosemite Valley in the morning light. The trail is a worn down paved path most of the way to the top, with a dirt path for the last mile. It is relatively straight forward, but it is track backs climbing 1,600 feet up the side of the valley, so it is not for the faint of heart.
The Yosemite Valley from Four Mile Trail.
This was one of my favorite hikes of the entire trip due to the fantastic views you have the entire time. And once you finish the hike and get to Glacier Point, which is a great spot to rest, the views get even better. You can see a majority of the Yosemite Valley. While I tried to capture the scale of the valley with a couple of panoramas, this is basically impossible, you need to see it for yourself.
Panorama at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.
A couple staring into Yosemite Valley.
After taking a break at Glacier Point (which you can drive to if you are short on time), we started the second part of our hike, taking Panorama Trail around the valley all the way from Glacier Point to Nevada Falls. Panorama Trail (5.2 miles to NV Falls, straightforward) was a very nice hike all the way around the valley, with some fantastic views of the fire damage that remains after the last fire. There are also an unbelievable amount of deer on this trail, as we stopped counting how many we saw.
Fire damage on the Panorama Trail with the Half Dome in the background.
Illilouette Falls about halfway to Nevada Falls on the Panorama Trail.
After taking the Panorama Trail all the way around the valley from Glacier Point, we stopped to enjoy the view and eat lunch at Nevada Falls. Please don't feed the squirrels at Nevada Falls, they are extremely dependent on humans for food and will basically attack you if you have food out for too long. After resting, we started the third leg of our Yosemite adventure by hiking up the Half Dome Trail (4.5 miles from NV Falls). This trail winds up the back of the Half Dome and is not very challenging until you reach the last 1.5 miles. Here the steps are extremely steep and after you pass the "monastery steps" as we like to call them, you will come to the final leg of the Half Dome Trail, where you must use chains and wooden planks to haul yourself to the top. This part basically requires the use of gloves and fortunately, if you don't have any on you, there is a huge pile of them for visitors to use.
The chains and planks part of the Half Dome Trail.
Gloves at the base of the Half Dome.
Another view of the chains at the Half Dome.
Despite the last legs challenges, the views at the top of the Half Dome are worth it as usual. And, in what was a surprise to us, there is a landing on top of the dome that is the size of a couple football fields. The summit was much larger than we though.
A 360 panorama from the top of the Half Dome.
Another panorama from the top of the Half Dome.
Looking north from the top of the Half Dome.
Again, be sure to spend some serious time at the top of these hikes, as the views are worth absorbing. Do note though that you can't climb this in inclement weather, as you can easily be struck by lighting or blown off the top. Our fourth and final leg of our journey was the hike back down the Half Dome Trail (4.5 miles to NV Falls) to Nevada Falls. From there, we hiked the remaining 4 miles down the Nevada Falls Trail (4 miles to the shuttle at the bottom) and took a look at Nevada Falls on the way down.
After we got back down to the parking lot and having hiked close to 23 miles, we decided to take the shuttle back to our car. Unfortunately, the shuttle we needed stopped running 25 minutes before we got down. So we were forced to take another shuttle and walk the rest of the way. Lesson learned: always check the shuttle schedules if you plan on using them. This added about a mile to our now 24 mile total for the day. That was a long mile indeed.
Final Words on Yosemite National Park
Overall Verdict - Overall, we had a great time in Yosemite. The weather was perfect and we successfully hike the trails we wanted to hike.
Days/Nights to Camp/Spend Here – We would recommend spending 3 nights so you get at least 2 full days of hiking in, as there was more we could have done, but didn't have time for.
Camping Evaluation - Crane Lake Campground was again, just a standard campground, nothing special. It worked for us.
Best Time To See Yosemite National Park - Morning, as most people will tend to drive in from other areas of California in the afternoon. You will also see the valley in the morning light.
Tips/Tricks - Know your free shuttle times. This can be crucial at the end of a long day.
Best Hikes - If you can do only one hike, do the Half Dome, but be sure to drive over to Glacier Point to take in the view.
More Photos - Below in the slideshow and more in the gallery here.