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Yosemite Valley Spring Hiking

June 10th, 1995

June 1995

Saturday morning, June 10th, my hiking buddy Ed Emond and I drove from the City to Yosemite for an all-day hike to the rim from the Valley floor. Our goal was to do the park-literature-listed “Glacier Point and Vernal and Nevada Falls, 10 hour trail, marathon hike”. The route boasts a total elevation gain of 3,980’ over slightly more than 13 miles of trail not including a bus shuttle on the Valley floor between trail’s end at Happy Isles and the starting point. We parked at the foot of the Four-Mile Trail (it’s actually 4.8 miles long) and by 10:00 a.m. we were on our way hiking up to Glacier Point. Directly opposite our trail on the other side of the valley, we could see Yosemite Falls, which looked more beautiful than I’ve ever seen before. Though we had been led to believe we would encounter snow on the climb up, other than a couple of left-over snow chunks on the trail, we saw no serious evidence of it. Lots of water flowing down, though. Glacier Point, our destination, is at the 7,214’ level, and it’s a 3,220’ climb from the Valley trailhead.

Arriving at lunch time, we encountered less than a dozen people on top at this popular scenic view point. The lack of people is attributable to the condition of the 30 mile road up to Glacier Point, which is still closed due to snow. The view of the Valley from Glacier Point is fantastic. From our vantage point we saw lush, green meadows on the valley floor, Nevada and Vernal falls filled with torrents of gushing water, Half Dome profiled against a clear, blue sky and in the distance a panorama of snow-capped mountain ridges and peaks. After lunch we continued around the rim on the 5 mile Panorama Trail, where we encountered the remaining 760’ of our day’s 3,980’ total elevation gain. As our path dropped into Illilouette Gorge, an unmarked off-trail viewing spot gave us a spectacular front-row seat of the huge cascade of water flowing over Illilouette Fall. Further down the trail we crossed the bridge above the Fall and continued up and over to the trail’s end at the Nevada Fall junction. Along the Panorama Trail we encountered no snow. It was quite warm (very hot in the sun) and we could see snow on the higher elevations in the distance. We met or passed about a dozen hikers and backpackers on the trail.

At Nevada Fall we encountered many dozens of hikers, which was to be expected, since this is a favorite tourist climb from the Valley floor. Saw no snow there and none was reported over at nearby Little Yosemite. After pausing for views and photos, we opted to take the 3.5 mile Mist Trail down to the Valley Floor. The Mist Trail is quite steep and the initial drop is over a series of stone steps cut into the granite cliff face. Since the trail is in the open and exposed to the sun, which was quite warm, we were happy to be going down rather than climbing up. Arriving at the Vernal Fall overlook, the viewing area was filled with resting and sunbathing bodies. Looking ahead down the trail through the famed “mist” area, we could see lots of water on the steep rock steps which comprise that portion of the route. With the huge amount of water flowing down the Merced River over Vernal Fall, there was little in the way of that famed trail mist – it was more like a cold, windy, rain storm. Also, progress was slow due to the large number of up and down hikers also using the trail. Even with my poncho I managed to get quite damp and my hiking boots were thoroughly soaked. Fortunately the distance through the mist area is not that great. Afterwards the warm day served to dry us and by the time we reached Happy Isles on the Valley floor, I was quite dry.

Shortly after 5:00 p.m., we boarded a Valley shuttle at the Happy Isles bus stop. After what seemed to be a rather long ride it brought us to within a short quarter-mile walking distance from our car. There we changed clothes and then departed around 6:00 p.m. for our return to the Bay Area.

The Valley is filled with people and all campsites were reserved long ago and are occupied. But for day users, that doesn’t matter. The weather is great, the waterfalls beautiful and right now the hike to Glacier Point is a real treasure. The best advice for day users is to plan all activities in advance, get there early, park quickly and move out.