Yosemite Valley’s Day Hikes

Yosemite National Park is one of my favorite parks in the United States. The high mountains, the smell of the pines, and the roaring waterfalls excite my senses and energize my body. While I’ve stayed all over the park, I really enjoy the hikes and atmosphere of the Valley, so on Jo’s first full day  in the park, I decided to take her on a number of hikes offering some great views to some great valley sights.

The first hike was to the foot bridge over the Merced River. Hopping on the bus from Camp Curry, we got off at Stop 16 (Happy Isles) and made our way to the John Muir trail head. The hike to the foot bridge is 1.6 miles round trip and offers some steep inclines. Thankfully, it’s paved and shaded in many areas- making it an easy hike. Once you get to the foot bridge, you’re treated with an amazing view of Vernal Falls. Just across the bridge are toilets and water fountains if you need them.

Hike number two required us to hop in the minivan and drive out to the Bridal Veil Falls parking lot. Jo and I lucked out and got some front row parking. 1000 feet later, we were basking in the showering mist of the falls. Of all the hikes we went on this day – this was by far the easiest.

From this point we got in the van again and started making our way up Glacier Point Road. This is an amazing drive, that was made even more incredible by a recent lightning strike. The smoldering fire sent smoke and pine into the air, giving the curves ahead a cool look and feel. Eventually we made it to the Taft Point Trail Head, that also doubles as the trail head for the Sentinel Dome Trail. Each trail is 1.1 miles out to their destinations, as we were going to do both.

The hike to Taft Point is pretty flat and then drops a few hundred feet. Once out of the clearings, the trail takes hikers to the fissures. These cracks in the granite allow one to look several hundred feet below. Another couple of hundred of meters later and you’re standing on a railing overlooking the valley floor directly in front of Yosemite Falls and El Capitan.

Retracing your steps will take you back to the parking lot and the trail to Sentinel Dome. It’s another 1.1 miles out to the top of this granite dome and well worth the hike. The last quarter-mile is on paved roads and pretty much straight up. But don’t worry, as long as you have good knees, you’ll be able to make it. From up on top, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of Half Dome.

The total distance for these hikes is over 6 miles. If you’re keen to seen an amazing sunset, drive out to Glacier Point and watch it here. From that parking lot, it’s a quarter-mile to the point – bringing the total walked distance to just under 7 miles for the day.