You should have a lifetime dedicated to explore the beauty of nature, but the world doesn’t work that way. Busy schedules allow most people two days off, and half of the second one is often spent thinking about the week ahead. So you are planning on visiting one of the most sublime natural scenes on Earth and you only have one day, how can you make the most of it?
-Plan your timing right. Try your best to avoid holiday weekends if possible, we had no choice but to visit on July 3rd and the park was an utter madhouse.
-Think about food. No one wants to be hangry on the trails. Wake up as early as you can and have a hearty breakfast at home. Don’t rely on the mediocre, expensive, and crowded food options in Yosemite Valley. Grab a sandwich along the way and stow it in your backpack. We popped in the Coarsegold Market to stock up on fresh supplies.
-Park your car and hop on the bus. This way you don’t have to worry about the hassle of parking in the meager lots of the popular sights. The system is really very easy to navigate, even if you do not commonly use public transportation. As long as you have a park map you can see where all of the trailheads are at each stop. Bus drivers are always willing to point you in the right direction.
-Know before you go. Have a plan of which sights you want to see and what type of mileage you are looking to do. Knowing our time constraint and that it was holiday weekend we decided on three spots: Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, and the Mist Trail. Skip Mariposa Grove in lieu of visiting Sequoia National Park on a separate trip, much more fulfilling to see the big trees in this dedicated setting.
It doesn’t get better than this, a truly awe-inspiring sight that you will never forget. Glacier Point is about an hour away from Yosemite Valley, but if you’re coming from the south as we were it’s right on the way. Buses do not run this far out of the valley so hop in your car and take the very visible sign off the main road. On our way up cars were stopped in the middle of the road and at first we were annoyed, wondering why? Then we realized – they’re looking at a bear!
Right off the side of the road on the banks of the forest a small bear was stopping traffic and delighting passengers. Our very first encounter with a bear in nature, thankfully from the safety of our car. Lesson learned, if a bunch of cars are stopped randomly in the road, take a peek yourself and you might see something special. We continued on up the road and ran into expected holiday weekend traffic. A civilized line was formed and a park ranger was allowing groups of cars to go ahead. Bring a book or a game to amuse yourself, this could take quite some time and there really isn’t anything to see if you plan on waiting. The wait is well worth the sight a million times, once you’re there you’ll forget all about it. The anticipation will melt away like the glaciers that formed this grand spectacle.
It’s essentially an overlook spot with a short walking path. From here you can see clearly into Yosemite Valley. You will view iconic Half Dome and spy Yosemite Falls in the midst of the mountains and forests. Now you know the layout of the land, go forth and conquer the trails!
The namesake falls. Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America at 2,425’. It flows hurried down in three cascades and runs from November to July [Check status of falls before planning your hike: Falls Webcam]. As you’re busing around the park you may have caught it from the road. The Lower Yosemite Falls trail is a short, easy, accessible one mile hike will get you to the base of the falls. At the trailhead you will be piqued with excitement with a view perfected framed by the trees.
Pair with Sentinel/Cook’s Meadow [2.25 miles] and you have an unforgettable walk. You get phenomenal views of the falls and surrounding rock croppings, always keep your eyes peeled for flora and fauna.
If you have time for one hike make it the Mist Trail. Full of wondrous jaw dropping sights and decently moderate exercise, you’ve got it all here. Get off at the Happy Isles bus stop to reach the trailhead and think about the distance you want to pursue on this trail. Short on time towards the end of the day we were only able to make the 3 mile round trip to Vernal Falls. If you have more time you could extend this hike to 7 miles round trip and also see Nevada Falls. At the start of our hike near a creek we saw the first of many Stellar Jays.
These beautiful vibrant jays would be as common as pigeons along the trail. The hike is crowded and hilly, push through. There are bathrooms and water fountains, convenient facilities. All around you will be beautiful sights, tall rock formations, creeks, enchanting forest, and before know time you will capture your first view of Vernal Falls.
You might catch a rainbow. Walk off the trails and down to the rock to get hit with that infamous mist, be very careful of your footing. If you look behind you the tendrils will be trailing off down the valley.