Fun Fact: Yosemite became the 3rd national park in the US (after Yellowstone and Sequoia) on Oct I, 1890. So in honor of Yosemite’s birthday month I’m reminiscing about our last adventure in April and hope to get you inspired to plan a trip there. If you haven’t been; you’re missing out on enchanting forests, gigantic sequoia trees, unique rock formations such as Half Dome and El Capitan and the tallest waterfall in North America. It’s really a magical and peaceful place to unwind and explore.
Our favorite hotel is the Tenaya Lodge, which is just outside of the south park entrance. The hotel is cozy and rustic chic and they have several fireplaces, outside you can even roast marshmallows. If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite, make sure to reserve a hotel early, as they sell out quickly (esp. if you want to stay inside the park).
On the first day we wanted to explore lower and upper Yosemite Falls. Lower Falls was too crowded; as it’s a very easy hike (I wouldn’t even call it a “hike”). So we only did a quick stop there. Our goal was to get to upper Yosemite falls, but we ended up on Valley Loop Trail – which we hiked on for 1 hour in the wrong direction. And yes – you guessed it: I gave directions (there you have your stereotype about women reading maps *rolling eyes*) When we finally got on the right trail, it was already late afternoon. Nevertheless, we enjoyed awe-inspiring views on Yosemite Valley and Half Dome from the trail (see picture above). When we got closer to the waterfall we couldn’t believe our eyes: there were people on top doing tightrope over Upper Yosemite Falls. Insane! I got dizzy just from watching below. We went off the main trail (pssst – don’t tell) and the closer we got to the base of the waterfall, the more the power we felt as the water was pounding onto the rocks on the bottom. We also got a rewarded with a free shower from the mist of the waterfall. It’s truly one hike you shouldn’t miss when you visit Yosemite (even if it’s only half way – you will enjoy the thrilling views along the way).
The next morning we got up before sunrise as we had a big day planned! The main reason for our trip to Yosemite was Ulli’s birthday, as it’s become a tradition to do a memorable “birthday run” each year. This year he decided to do the trail run up to Half Dome. This is one of the most popular hikes and generally takes up to 10-14 hours. It’s a steady elevation gain of about 4,800 feet and 18 miles roundtrip. The beauty that awaits you on this hike can’t be put into words (I’m giving you a glimpse with the pictures below): dreamy views of two waterfalls (Vernal and Nevada Falls), Half Dome and from the summit panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra. WOW! At 7am, we parked our car at Curry Village (now called Half Dome Village) and split up: Ulli started his run and I was equipped with my camera and hiking boots! While he ran up the John Muir trail to Half Dome trail, I took the route on Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls. There were only a handful of people on the trail at the time, as usually it gets very crowded during the day. The last few feet to the top of Vernal Falls you have to climb up stairs on the Cliffside– so just a heads up if you’re afraid of heights. I took a break on top of the waterfall and had a quick chat with a fellow photographer who had set up his equipment for scenic shots. From there I went on Nevada Falls Trail (winter route) and made new friends along the way (the furry kind: squirrels and deers). The final stretch to the top of Nevada Falls involves climbing steep stairs which was a lot of fun. My favorite part of the hike was on top of the 594-foot high Nevada waterfall– there’s a plateau where several trails come together (incl. John Muir Trail) and the view from up there was STUNNING! Sunny blue skies, green forest, rock formations, a splashing stream flowing into the giant waterfall – my happy place! After a short photo session I continued on Half Dome Trail and even saw a few runners. The trail goes along Merced River and then through a forest area where there is a camp ground as well (good spot for an overnight backpacking trip). Then the trail goes back up very steep to Half Dome – finally I saw Ulli running towards me. He was at the top of Half Dome where there was lots of snow and no more visible trail. The cables (to climb on half dome) were still closed at the time. I decided to turn around here as I couldn’t go all the way up to the cables (you need a permit in the summer to do this). I hiked back down on John Muir Trail, to enjoy a different scenery. As if the trail wasn’t special enough I got to see a rainbow in front of the waterfall! Speechless. After about 7 hours I was back at the car and Ulli was already waiting (it took him 4:45hrs running over John Muir-Half Dome). Certainly a memorable birthday adventure!
Yosemite you may be over 126+years old but you are as beautiful as ever. Thanks to some generous donation by a private conservation group the park will even expand an additional 400 acres this year. So pack you hiking boots and plan a trip to Yosemite!