Yosemite National Park embraces a great tract of scenic wildlands set aside in
1890 to preserve a portion of the Sierra Nevada that stretches along
California's eastern flank. Ranging from 2,000 feet to more than 13,000 feet,
the park encompasses alpine wilderness, groves of giant sequoia trees, and
Yosemite Valley, which may be the world's best known example of a glacier-carved
canyon. The dramatic scale of its waterfalls, rounded domes, massive monoliths,
and towering cliffs has inspired painters, poets, photographers, and millions of
Getting there ...
We started our journey at ~8:30AM and had a 4+ hours smooth drive to Yosemite.
We entered the park from Highway 140 which is still impact by a major landslide
happened in 2006 (temporary bridges with one lane only and traffic control).
Due to COVID-19, reservations (day-use reservation or lodging reservation inside
the park) are required to drive into Yosemite National Park in this summer.
Although it may create some inconvenience for people who do not plan ahead, it
does make the park much less crowded and make the overall experience very
enjoyable even in this high vacation season. It was an extremely hot
weekend and the highest temperature we saw was 113°F
while we were driving on Highway 140 along Merced River.
The First Day ...
- Yosemite Valley
It was still more than 106°F
when we entered the Yosemite Valley. We had a few quick stops along
the Southside Drive in the Valley before we went to lunch at Yosemite Valley
- Columbia Rock on Upper Yosemite Falls Trail
We took the Yosemite
Falls Trail, one of Yosemite's oldest historic trails (built 1873 to 1877),
after a nice and cool lunch break. Instead of going up to the top of
the Yosemite Falls (it will have 2700 feet elevation gain), we only went up
to the Columbia Rock (only 1-mile one-way, but still with steep 1000 feet
climb). The trail starts near Camp 4, along the Valley Loop
Trail, and immediately begins its climb, switchback after switchback,
through oak woodland. At the Columbia Rock, you will be rewarded with
spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, and its many iconic landforms such as
Half Dome, North Dome, and Sentinel Rock, etc.
The hike was really strenuous under this extreme heat
condition and we almost ran out of water when we finished the hike. We
walked back to the Yosemite Valley Lodge restaurant to have a few cold drinks
and ice cream to cool ourselves down.
- Valley View
we stopped by the classical Valley View vista point
before we headed to our Airbnb in Yosemite West.
Day 2 (7/11) ...
- Sunrise at Glacier Point
Woanyu and I went up to the Glacier Point
for sunrise. The Glacier Point Road will be closed to all traffic
in 2022 to rehabilitate and improve the road. It's good we can come up here
this year before it is closed.
- Olmsted Point
In order to avoid another hot day, we decided to go
through Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows at a higher elevation (8000+ feet).
Olmsted Point is our first stop which offers a view south into Tenaya
Canyon, giving, in particular, a view of the northern side of Half
Dome, Clouds Rest, and a view of Tenaya Lake to the east. You can
wander around the so-called “erratic” boulders that are staggered around the
granite slopes. These giant boulders were left when the last glacier came
- Soda Springs, Tuolumne Meadows
One of the largest high-elevation
meadows in the Sierra Nevada, Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet has been also
among the most visible to past pioneers, and present visitors and
scientists. Within Tuolumne Meadows, visitors see the Tuolumne River
meandering quietly through its meadow channel and cascading over the granite
river bottom against a backdrop of rugged mountain peaks and glacially
- Dog Lake, Tuolumne Meadows
Dog Lake trail is 2.8 miles (4.5 km) round-trip with 600-foot elevation
gain. The trail rises steeply for 0.75 mile to a signed junction: turn
left to the top of Lembert Dome, or continue straight at the junction to the
scenic Dog Lake (although there's nothing remotely doggy about it).
- Tenaya Lake
After a nice ice cream break at Tuolumne Meadows, we
started our drive back to the Valley. We went to the picnic area at
the western end of the Tenaya Lake to enjoy the cool water at a shallow lake
- Tunnel View
Before heading back to our Airbnb, we had to stop by
another classic Yosemite icon: Tunnel View. We found the cell phone
signal was good here :-)
- Sunset at Glacier Point
After dinner, Iris and I went to Glacier
Point for sunset. The grand view here is one of the best spots for the
late afternoon light in Yosemite. Believe it or not, although we have
been to Yosemite so many times (my 13th visit this time), my family have not
been up to the Glacier Point since 1998 (so it's Iris' first time up here).
Day 3 (7/12) ...
- Taft Point
Taft Point is one of the most spectacular viewpoints on
the south rim of Yosemite Valley, and is one of the most easily accessible
by trail (relative flat 2.2-mile round-trip hike from the Glacier Point
Road). As you approach Taft Point, you'll also encounter "The
Fissures", a group of narrow and deep crevices in the granite with open
views to Yosemite Valley below. Watch your step around The Fissures
and at Taft Point!!!
- Sentinel Dome
The summit of Sentinel Dome offers a panoramic view of
most Yosemite Valley, as well as much of the rest of Yosemite National Park.
At an elevation 8300 feet, it is only 500 feet below the summit of Half
Dome. However, the hike to get here is only 1.1 miles and 400-foot
gain (one way from the trail head at Glacier Point Road where we also hiked
to Taft Point), compared to 7 miles (one way) and 4800-foot climb to reach
the summit of Half Dome.
- Merced River in Yosemite Valley
After lunch at the Yosemite Village,
we decided to take an easy afternoon (no more hiking) to immerse ourselves
in the Merced River in the Valley. Next time we may try to float down
the Merced River...
- Valley View & "After" Tunnel View
Day 4 (7/13) ...
- Mariposa Grove
The Mariposa Grove is the largest grove of the giant
sequoia tress in Yosemite, featuring about 500 mature sequoia trees.
On Jan. 18 and 19, 2021, a raging storm with 100 mph winds toppled 15 giant
sequoias, destroying the trail, boardwalk, and restroom facilities in the
area. The grove was re-open in May 2021 with the widespread damages
still visible everywhere. Also due to COVID-19, the shuttle bus is not
operating this season. It means we need to park at the Mariposa Grove
Welcome Plaza (near South Entrance) and take an additional 2-mile hike (one
way) into the grove. Although there were such inconveniences and
damages (and some complaints from Linus and Iris), it was still quite an
experience to be with these giants.
Going Home ...
Yosemite National Park is one of our favorite places to visit. We have been
here so many times, and we still enjoy the varieties in the park very much.
This was the first family trip that we could travel together since the pandemic.
Although it was a short trip (and not an exotic foreign destination), the nature
beauty and family time were the best reward after the long separation.
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