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The roads of Yosemite have just passed their initial stage of development. Most of the 138 miles of road in the park were built for old-time stage coaches and for horse travel. With the advent of the motor has come a second period—that of reconstruction and improvement. The highway from El Portal to Yosemite and the roads on the floor of the valley illustrate the type of present-day construction; but it must be remembered with indulgence that such roads are just beginning to be, and that most of the park routes, although not at all bad, are yet mountain roads.
Let us assume that the motorist is now in Yosemite. Besides the routes to the low country, the following scenic trips may be taken within the park:
Each of these (except number four) is described in the following road trips.
(15 miles—1 1/4 hours by stage)
Most charming because of the climax of ever-increasing scenic beauty and grandeur, is the fifteen-mile ride from El Portal up the gorge of the Merced to Yosemite. It is rather to be regretted that modern auto-busses hurry us over the new highway in less than an hour and a half, giving us scarce time to appreciate the majesty and beauty of the ever-changing panorama.
Leaving El Portal, the road parallels the north bank of the Merced, passing beneath gnarled oaks and silver-gray digger pines. In the high water of early spring, Indian Creek, across the canyon, descends over the picturesque Chinquapin Falls. Entering the gateway of Yosemite National Park, we follow up the riotous Merced River, noting here and there a hardy yellow pine or an incense cedar venturing down to the canyon bottom. About two miles inside the park is Avalanche Falls across the river. The trail bridge below is the crossing of the Sunset Trail, which ascends past the foot of the fall and climbs 2500 feet to the Wawona Road. A short distance up the canyon the road passes beneath Arch Rock, a natural tunnel formed by huge blocks of granite. Just beyond, Grouse Creek descends the south canyon wall by a series of cascades.
We have now entered the true mountain forest, and ride beneath yellow pines, incense cedars, Douglas firs and now and then a true fir. Elephant Rock towers above and to the right. Just below it is Battleship Harbor, a placid stretch of the Merced in which fancied granite dread-naughts ride anchor. At the left the old Coulterville Road steeply descends the canyon wall and joins the main highway. This first road to Yosemite was opened in 1874 and was for years the main stage route from Merced. For the benefit of those who require entertainment the chauffeur often points out the image of a white Persian cat on the rock wall to the left. A short distance beyond and on the same side of the road are Wildcat Falls.
Crossing two small bridges we obtain the best view of Elephant Rock down the canyon. At the left are the Cascade Falls, during the flood-waters of early spring one of Yosemite’s most beautiful cataracts. The top of the cascade is 594 feet above the road. About a half mile further is Pulpit Rock, on the south side of the river. It is best viewed by driving beyond and then looking back down the canyon. Below the road and at the right is the government power plant, where the water from the Merced drives two thousand-kilowatt electric generators. The intake and dam are passed further up the canyon.
Three thousand feet above, the ephemeral Widow’s Tears Fall drops 1170 feet from the rugged ramparts of the south wall. Another mile takes us past the site of the old Indian village Ah-wah-ma to Pohono Bridge. From this point two roads ascend the valley, one on either side of the river. The more picturesque Pohono Road runs up the south side of the canyon. This is described in Road Trip I-A. The El Capitan Road, following up the north side of the valley will first be traced. A short distance from the bridge we are treated to a most impressive view of the Gates of the Valley. At the left the sheer 3300-foot precipice of El Capitan dominates the entire landscape. Its majesty is matched by the beauty of the Bridalveil Fall and Cathedral Rocks opposite. Between them is Nature’s threshold, the brilliantly verdant Bridalveil Meadows, dotted with dark green pines and oaks. Beyond, Half Dome is partly hidden by the projecting cliff of Glacier Point at the right. The summit of the lofty bare granite ridge in the distance is Clouds Rest, the highest point on the Yosemite walls. If the winter snows be still melting above the rim we will see at the left the Ribbon Fall dropping delicately over its 1612-foot precipice into a recess just west of El Capitan. Its Indian name was Lung-oo-too-koo-ya, or “pigeon fall.” Near its base the Big Oak Flat Road branches to the left and ascends thru the piles of shattered granite talus of the north wall. At this point was the Indian village, Hep-hep'-oo-ma. The road to the right leads past the El Capitan Checking Station and across El Capitan Bridge to the Bridalveil Road (Road Trip I-A) south of the river. Continuing up the north road we pass thru El Capitan Meadows, where were the Indian villages of Aw'-o-koi-e, He-le'-jah, Ha-eng'-ah and Yu-a'-chah. As we skirt the base of the almost vertical wall, the stage driver will generally point out more or less interesting images. Chief among these is Tote-ack-ah-noo-la, the “Rock Chief” of the Indians, whose title was translated into Spanish to make the present name. In a shallow niche 1189 feet above the road stands a hardy Jeffrey pine 82.4 feet in height and two feet in diameter. Across the river are the massive Cathedral Rocks and the delicately pinnacled Cathedral Spires. Further up the canyon the massively sculptured pyramids, the Three Brothers, rise abruptly to the north. Opposite them the road to the Bear Pits turns into the woods. Turning northeast, our road passes Rocky Point at their base. This is We-ńck, the place where Chief Tenaya’s three sons were captured in 1851.
One mile beyond is Yosemite Lodge, one of the two large hotel-camps of the valley. The main buildings occupy the site of Koom-i'-ne, the largest and most important of the old Indian villages. Just northward the Yosemite Fall makes its triple plunge of 2600 feet, the highest waterfall in the world. The upper fall drops 1430 feet sheer. Crossing the azalia-bordered Yosemite Creek, the road skirts a wide meadow and turns sharply across the valley. To the left is a magnificent panorama of the Royal Arches, North Dome, Washington Column and the precipice of Glacier Point. At the right the great obelisk of The Sentinel rises from the south wall.
Crossing Sentinel Bridge to Yosemite Village we halt at the Sentinel Hotel which, with the cottages opposite, occupies the site of the old Indian village Haw-kaw-koo'-e-tah, the home of the band called Yo-ham'-i-te, for whom the valley was named. A short distance beyond is the office of the U. S. National Park Service, where all campers should stop and register.
We continue up the canyon, now paralleling the south river margin thru a beautiful pine, fir and cedar forest. Thru the trees we now and then catch a glimpse of the Quarter Domes beyond the dominating Half Dome, and finally the summit of Clouds Rest. Three-quarters of a mile from the village is the picturesque Sierra Club Lodge at the right of the road. A short distance further is Camp Curry, delightfully situated among the giant pines and cedars at the base of the towering cliff of Glacier Point. At this spot was the large Indian village of Too-yu'-yu'-yu, and a short distance to the northeast in the meadow was Too-lah'-kah'-mah. This famous hostelry, Camp Curry, is the final destination of all stages. The road continues up the canyon to Happy Isles.
(5 miles—20 minutes by stage)
The Bridalveil Road, ascending the south side of the valley, is scenically superior to the north, or El Capitan Road. Crossing Pohono Bridge to the south side of the Merced the road immediately enters a dense and beautiful forest. A short distance takes us to Fern Spring, justly famous for the purity of its ice cold water. One-half mile beyond we suddenly emerge at Bridalveil Meadows, obtaining a most charming view of the Gates of the Valley. At the right, Bridalveil Fall leaps 630 feet from its hanging valley, the one side of which is formed by the massively sculptured Cathedral Rocks, and the other by a solid granite ridge terminating at Leaning Tower, another eminence of the turreted south wall. On the opposite side of the canyon rises the sheer face of El Capitan. In the recess at its west the evanescent streamer of Ribbon Fall descends in a lace-like film.
At the edge of the meadow about 100 feet north of the road a dense grove of oaks and pines shelters the graves of two pioneers, Rose and Shurban, who were massacred here by the Indians in May, 1852. Near the river was once the Indian village of Sap-pah'-sam-mah. The road now passes near Bridalveil Fall, charming glimpses of which are now and then revealed. A subsidiary road turns to the right and leads to the foot of the falls. This short side trip should be taken by all visitors. Just below a very large rock at the east margin of the stream is the site of the ancient village of Lem-me'-hitch'-ke. In view of this fact, our stories of the Indians’ great fear of Pohono, “the spirit of the evil wind,” may be somewhat overdrawn.
Just below the imposing buttress of the lowermost of the Cathedral Rocks is El Capitan Bridge, and near it Lo-to-ya (Flower) Spring. North of the river is El Capitan Checking Station and the terminus of the Big Oak Flat Road (Road Trip IV). East of Cathedral Rocks we are treated to a sudden view of the two marvelously slender Cathedral Spires, each rising 500 feet from its base and appearing to tower even above the Yosemite rim. Directly opposite across El Capitan Meadows is a most comprehensive view of the mighty wall of Tote-ack-ah-noo-la, the “Rock Chief” of the Indians, whose title was merely translated into Spanish to make the presen t name. Chauffeurs often point out the likeness of the chief and other more or less imaginary mural images. In a shallow niche 1189 feet above the road stands a hardy Jeffrey pine 82.4 feet high and two feet in diameter.
In driving beneath the oaks, alders, pines and firs we enjoy ever-changing vistas across the placid river. Three Brothers, massively piled promontories of the north wall, are least harshly seen from this road. Directly ahead rises the watchtower of Sentinel Rock. At its west flank the transitory Sentinel Fall descends in a series of cascades during the spring thaws. Below Sentinel Rock we pass the site of Galen Clark’s cabin, of old Camp Awahnee, and of the more ancient Indian village of Loi'-ah. About one and a quarter miles further is Yosemite Village. All campers should register at the National Park Service headquarters.
(9 miles—2 hours ride—1/2 to 1 day walk)
Every Yosemite visitor should spend at least one day within the valley itself before beginning the more strenuous trail trips. There is so much to be seen from the valley floor that weeks might be spent there were it not for “the call of the High Country” beyond the walls. The following itinerary includes a visit to most places of interest in the upper (east) end of the valley: Sentinel Bridge, Indian Village, Royal Arches, Washington Column, Indian Cave, Mirror Lake, Half Dome, Mineral Springs, Tenaya Bridge, Happy Isles, Camp Curry and Le Conte Memorial Lodge, in the order mentioned.
Road Trips I and VI describe the region west of the village. The following excursion may be made by motor in two or three hours. Hikers will find it a moderately long half-day tramp or a leisurely one-day ramble. An early start should be made in order to see the sunrise at Mirror Lake. It is well to ascertain the hour beforehand, for this varies with the season of the year.
From Yosemite Village we cross Sentinel Bridge and follow the poplar-bordered road across the meadow. Straight ahead is Yosemite Fall and the Lost Arrow, and at our right a most comprehensive view of North Dome, the Royal Arches, Washington Column, Half Dome and Glacier Point. At the Grizzly Hotel site the El Capitan Road (Road Trip VI) branches westward, while our route turns up the canyon. The distant buildings to the left of the road are the Government barns, shops and warehouses. In this group is the menagerie which will well repay a subsequent visit. Nearer is the picturesque old cemetery where many pioneers of the region lie at rest. A little farther eastward on the largest open level area in Yosemite is the site of the important old village of Ah-wah'-ne, from which the valley took its Indian name.
Continuing along the Royal Arch Road we soon pass the new Rangers’ Club House. Just beyond, a cross road to the right leads to the garage. To the northward, high overhead, are the silhouettes of the Castle Cliffs, and at their east the deep cleft of Indian Canyon which, to the Yosemite tribe, was “Le Hammo” because of the arrowwood which grew there. Along the precipitous cliffs of the east wall ran their main trail into Yosemite from the north. From the valley floor at the base of a cliff just west of the Royal Arches they first climbed a large oak and then made their way along narrow ledges toward the northwest. It was at this oak that old Chief Tenaya was captured in 1851 by Lieutenant Chandler and the scout Sandino.
At the mouth of Indian Canyon is Yo'-watch-ke, the only Indian village in the valley which is still occupied. During the July celebrations it is picturesquely alive but at other times the few dirty o'-chums are almost repulsive. This area on the alluvial fan of Indian Creek is the warmest spot in the valley and botanists will here find many plants typical of the lower altitudes.
A short distance further we pass Camp 17 at the right of the road. About a quarter of a mile beyond and on the opposite side is Camp 20. At a road junction is a small settlement called Kenneyville, which occupies the site of the former Indian Camp of Wis’-kah-lah. Here the Le Conte Road turns south, leading to Camps 15 and 7, and across Stoneman Bridge to Camp Curry on the Happy Isles Road. Doubling back to the westward is Sequoia Lane, a road leading to Camps 6 and 7, and to Yosemite Village, one mile distant.
We continue eastward, passing Camp 8, which is above the road and just at the west end of the Royal Arches. During the spring thaw the beautiful but ephemeral Royal Arch Fall descends over a cliff at the left. Its Indian name, Scho-ko-ya, meant “basket fall.” In the next half mile our road is flanked by the overhanging cornices of the colossal arches. They must be viewed from afar if we would realize how aptly they were called by the Yosemites “Scho-ko-ni,” which means “the movable shade to a cradle basket.” At the left of the road and directly beneath the arches is Camp 9. As we continue along the road, breaks in the forest reveal intermittent views of Washington Column towering above to the left, and of the great face of Half Dome dominating all the east.
A short subsidiary road to the left now leads to Indian Cave immediately under Washington Column. The Yosemites named this retreat Hol'-low', but sometimes called it Lah-koo'-hah, which means “Come out!” It is a low, broad, deep recess under a huge rock and is said to have been occupied as a winter shelter; also when the Yosemites were attacked and almost exterminated by the Mono Lake Piutes. The overhanging rock is black with the smoke of ages, and far back in the cave large quantities of acorn shells have been found.
Returning the short distance to the main road, we again turn eastward, soon passing a group of excellent mineral springs at the right. The highway now bears gradually to the north into the mouth of Tenaya Canyon and in one-half mile ends in a “loop” at the west margin of Mirror Lake. The relative darkness in this deep canyon and the absence of wind during the early morning hours insures a perfect reflection for almost every morning of the vacation season. Most perfect are the reflections of Mount Watkins (the Wei-yow or “Juniper Mountain” of the Yosemites) guarding the entrance to the forbidden gorge of Tenaya. Unfortunately the delta of Tenaya Creek has greatly encroached upon the mirror and has reduced it to but a remnant of the beautiful lake which the Indians called Ah-wei'-yo, or “quiet water.” From the end of the road the Tenaya Lake and North Dome Trail (Trail Trips 4 and 6) continue around the western shore of the lake and up the canyon.
After the appearance of the sun over the shoulder of Half Dome, we retrace the last half mile of our route, turning aside for a short visit to the mineral springs. A little distance further the main road forks and we take the left-hand branch which crosses Tenaya Bridge. A detour to the westward now takes us around and over a portion of the lateral moraine left at the junction of the ancient Tenaya and Merced glaciers. Near this point was Hoo-ke'-hahtch-ke', an Indian village inhabited up to about 1897.
A road which branches to the right offers a short-cut to Camp Curry, about three-quarters of a mile distant. It passes Camps 11 and 14, and the site of the Lick House, one of the inns of early days. The main road, however, bears to the left and parallels the beautiful banks of the Merced. Less than a mile takes us to the Happy Isles Bridge. Here the main trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls, Glacier Point, Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Merced Lake, etc. (see Trail Trips), turns south and ascends the Merced Canyon. At the right of the bridge is a U. S. Weather Bureau observation station. On the west side of the stream is the old power plant and from it starts the footpath to Happy Isles. The short side trip from island to island should not be missed. Especially are these charming garden spots noted for the beauty of their flowering dogwoods, maples and alders. The round trip to Sierra Point (Trail Trip 12) may easily be accomplished from this point in one hour. A refreshment stand is maintained in the vicinity. To escape the dust of the road one may follow the picturesque Happy Isles Trail from its beginning near the power house to Camp Curry, one mile westward.
Our road now bears to the northwest and rounds the imposing buttress of Glacier Point. One-half mile takes us to a spring at the left of the road which once supplied the large Indian village of Um’-ma-taw. A short distance beyond, our route is joined by the short-cut road from Mirror Lake. Near this road is a cabin often pointed out as having belonged to John Muir. It was really built and used by James C. Lamon, a pioneer and the first permanent resident of the valley. Muir’s cabin has long since disappeared and its only existing photograph is in the possession of Dr. Wm. F. Bade. The orchard at the right occupies the site of Too'-lah'-kah'-mah, another vanished community of the Yosemite tribe.
Extending for a considerable distance along the road are the tents and bungalows of Camp Curry. If we have time to stop, we may be refreshed by a swim in the huge open-air swimming pool, by cooling drinks at the soda fountain or by a rest beneath the great pines and cedars.
From the camp center a road to the north leads across the Stoneman Bridge to Kenneyville. At the right of the road is the site of the old Stoneman Hotel, which was built and maintained in the early days by the State of California, but which burned down in 1896. Close to the bridge, on the banks of the Merced, was once the large Indian village of Too-yu'-yu'-yu.
West of the Camp Curry bungalows we pass Camp 16, between the road and the river. Near this point the Ledge Trail turns to the south and mounts the talus slopes above Camp Curry. A short distance beyond is the new Le Conte Memorial Lodge picturesquely set among the pines and incense cedars where once was the Indian village of Ho-low, and where the old schoolhouse stood until 1911. The lodge is an ideal place to spend the remainder of the afternoon amongst photographs, flowers, books and maps, and in a cool and absolutely restful atmosphere. To the right of the road, where the river makes a big detour to the north, is Camp 19. One should note the remarkably perfect reflections in the river below the rock wall parapet during the remaining half-mile walk to Yosemite Village.
(28 miles—4 to 5 hours by auto)
A trip to Glacier Point should be part of everyone’s Yosemite itinerary. Many motorists prefer to make the excursion by road instead of by trail. The round trip from Yosemite can be made by machine in one day, but it is better to reserve accommodations in advance at the Glacier Point Hotel and remain there over night to view the sunrise over the High Sierra. Another excellent plan is to send one’s machine around by road while one walks or rides to Glacier Point via the Vernal and Nevada Falls Trail (Trail Trip 1), returning to the valley via Chinquapin Road. The description of the first 14.5 miles of this trip, which follows the Wawona Road as far as Chinquapin, will be of interest to those leaving Yosemite by that route.
From Yosemite Village we follow the Bridalveil Road (Road Trip VI-A) down the valley four and a half miles to the Bridalveil Checking Station, where the Wawona Road turns to the left. Here all motorists must register. For safety the park regulations permit the ascent on even hours only, and at a speed of not more than twelve miles per hour. We now climb steadily beneath a dense forest of pines, fir, incense cedar, oak and laurel, and at one and a half miles halt at Artist Point (Alt. 4701, 750 feet above the valley floor). The view of the Gates of the Valley to the east is claimed to be one of the most perfect of all Yosemite landscapes. Gradually climbing another 690 feet we finally halt at Inspiration Point (Alt. 5391). The view of Yosemite is similar to that from Artist Point, but with the depths and distances more impressively accentuated. Across the canyon is Fireplace Bluff. A view-finder beside the road indicates each point of interest. All machines should be registered at the Government Checking Station. Telephone communication and water are here available.
About half a mile beyond Inspiration Point is Fort Monroe (Alt. 5540), an old-time stage relay station. This is a fair campsite for auto parties. A good spring will be found near the Pohono Trail junction. The visit to the wild-flower gardens and many fine lookout points of the Pohono Trail (Trail Trip 18) is an especially fine one-day walking trip from this point.
Our road now leads thru most magnificent pine forests, which open now and then to give us short glimpses of the canyon of the Merced, thousands of feet below. About two miles from Fort Monroe the Hennessy Trail (Trail Trip 25) branches to the right and descends to El Portal, ten miles distant. Grouse Creek Crossing, a half mile further, is a good auto camp. Fishing is fair downstream. Another two miles takes us to Avalanche Creek. There are here no camping places and the stream contains no trout. Caution: The worst turn on the road is about 200 yards beyond the crossing. One mile beyond Avalanche Creek the Sunset Trail (Trail Trip 24) leaves the road at the right, descending to the Midwinter Ranger Station near Arch Rock on the El Portal Road.
One mile further is Chinquapin, an old stage relay station at the junction of the Glacier Point and Wawona Roads. There is here a ranger station and during the summer gas and oil can be obtained. In the vicinity are many good campsites. An excellent spring will be found 200 yards north of the ranger cabin. Fishing is fair in Indian Creek about a quarter of a mile southward; best fishing is downstream. Many deer are generally to be seen in the region. Chinquapin is especially noted for its wonderful sunsets. Before leaving, all machines should take water.
The main road continues southward to Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees and thence to Merced, Madera and Fresno. Our route turns eastward and climbs abruptly 1300 feet in the next three miles to the head of the canyon of Indian Creek. This long, hard grade takes us to the 7500-foot level, where we are at last on the gently sloping plateau above the valley walls. The following eleven miles is a delightful succession of mountain meadows and forests of red fir, lodgepole pine and other sub-alpine species. Numbers of deer can almost always be seen from the road, especially early in the morning.
Peregoy Meadow, about five miles from Chinquapin, was famous in the early days for its wayside inn on the “Yosemite Trail” from Clarke’s (now Wawona). The old buildings have long since disappeared, but the trail, now called the Alder Creek Trail (Trail Trip 19), is still used. From Peregoy Meadow to Glacier Point are many fine campsites. About one mile eastward is Bridalveil Creek Crossing. Fishing is good upstream, and fair about one mile downstream, but generally poor near the road.
At a trail junction about one and a half miles further, the Ostrander Lake and Buck Camp Trail (Trail Trips 20 and 21) turns southward (right). Here one may park his machine and walk to Ostrander Lake via Trail Trip 20 and return, a fifteen-mile one-day round trip. The lake offers some of the best fishing in this section of the park.
Swinging gradually to the northeast the road passes to the east of Ostrander Rocks. A trail to the right leads to Mono Meadow and the basin of the Illilouette. Three miles further at Pothole Meadows the Peregoy Meadow Trail (Trail Trip 19) leaves the road at the left. A short distance beyond and at the same side of the road is the Pohono Trail turnoff (Trail Trip 17). A half mile further, just as the road starts its final descent to Glacier Point, is a trail to the left leading to Sentinel Dome. The summit is but a few minutes distant and from it is revealed a vast panorama of the High Sierra.
A gradual descent in the final one and a half miles takes us past several lookout points to the road termination at Glacier Point Hotel. Excellent accommodations are here obtainable. The overhanging rock and Glacier Point are 200 yards northward. (For trips from Glacier Point see Trail Trips 1, 2, and 16 to 23.)
(Lake Tenaya 57.7 miles. Tuolumne Meadows 65.2 miles. Mono Lake 88.2 miles)
Most charmingly scenic of all trans-Sierran routes is the historic old Tioga Road. Built by Chinese labor in 1881 to transport ore from the Tioga Mine (near Mono Lake) across the Sierra to the San Joaquin Valley, it soon fell into decay when the venture was abandoned. In 1915 the road was purchased by a group of public-spirited citizens and presented to the government. Since being well repaired it makes Yosemite accessible from the east and opens up the wonderfully fine camping country of the High Sierra to the automobile tourist. Hundreds of motorists take this exceptionally scenic short-cut to Lake Tahoe. In normal years the road opens July 15th and closes September 30th. Detailed information may be obtained from the “Circular of General Information regarding Yosemite National Park,” or at the Motorists’ Information Bureau in Yosemite Village. The first twenty-three miles of the following trip describes the Big Oak Flat Road as far as Carl Inn, and should be of use to auto parties leaving the park by that route.
From Yosemite we may follow either the Bridalveil or the El Capitan Road westward. At El Capitan Bridge, four miles west of the village, the Big Oak Flat road turns abruptly northward. All machines should be registered at the nearby checking station. For safety, the park regulations permit the ascent on even hours only and at a speed of not more than twelve miles per hour.
Gradually mounting the talus slope of the rough canyon side, we emerge 1200 feet above the valley floor at New Inspiration Point from which is our last comprehensive view of the Gates of the Valley. The outlook, although scenically not as perfect as that from the Wawona Road, is nevertheless quite attractive, for the depths below when viewed from this point seem almost always to be permeated by a transparent blue haze.
Near the top of the steady four-mile climb is Gentry Checking Station, where motorists should again register. This is a possible camp for motorists but rather a poor location. One-half mile further is the “Gentry Townsite,” laid out about 1914, and beyond, the site of the old Gentry Sawmill. There are here a few good places for auto camps. Water will be found at a spring above the road.
Cascade Creek is crossed a short distance northward. The crossing offers no good campsites. Fishing is fair. The short steep grade beyond the bridge is known locally as “Fords’ Rest.” We now ascend Lilly Creek to the crossing about half a mile above. Here the blazes of the old Mono Trail may be seen at the left leading down to a point on the rim of the canyon about three miles distant, where was once the terminus of the Coulterville Road. In the early days this was one of the chief routes used by the Indians and cattlemen.
Two miles beyond Cascade Creek is Tamarack Flat (Alt. 6390), named from the “tamarack” or lodgepole pine here so abundant. This is a splendid camping place, but somewhat cold. Fishing is fair and horse feed may be found upstream. A trail branching to the right leads to Aspen Valley, six miles distant. It is extremely brushy, poorly marked and almost impassable.
Three miles westward is Gin Flat, the summit of the Big Oak Flat Road. The meadow, bordered by red and white fir and Jeffrey and lodgepole pine, offers an attractive but cold campsite. There is a tradition that a barrel of gin was once buried here by one of the old-time whiskey peddlers, who was shortly afterwards killed. A more or less desultory search on the part of not a few “old-timers” failed to discover the prize, so after a few decades the matter became almost legendary. But in 1909, as a battalion of negro cavalry were marching to Yosemite for patrol duty, the tradition was in some way “picked up” in Groveland by one of the troopers. The commanding officer could hardly understand why his troops pushed on so readily the next day until, when camp was pitched at Gin Flat, they started to dig. Not a stone in the vicinity was left unturned—but the gin was never found.
At Crane Flat (Alt. 6311) two miles further west are many excellent campsites. This camping ground is the one nearest to the Tuolumne Grove of Big Trees. Water is conveniently piped from a spring to the vicinity of the ranger cabin. It is a good plan, if camp is to be made at Crane Flat, to gather firewood en route, for it is scarce in the immediate region. Motorists should register at the log cabin of the Park Ranger, and all east-bound cars should take water. A road branching southwestward leads to Hazel Green, about five miles distant on the Coulterville Road, and to the Merced Grove of Big Trees, seven and a half miles away. It is narrow and steep, but in fair condition. About a quarter of a mile from Crane Flat the Davis (private) Road turns to the left from the Hazel Green cut-off and leads to Big Meadows (4.5 miles) and El Portal (11.5 miles).
The main road bears to the north a short distance after leaving Crane Flat and, after one mile of steep descent, enters the Tuolumne Grove of Sequoias. Most of the thirty trees in the small grove are advantageously seen from the road, but a short side trip to the tunnelled Dead Giant (above and to the right) is well worth while. This subsidiary road is steep and narrow and most people prefer to walk to the giant.
One-half mile below the grove the main road passes beneath the rustic gateway which marks the boundary between Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest. There are two possible auto camps in the next mile, but neither are very good. Bearing westward the road follows down the canyon of North Crane Creek. Good camp sites will be found at the crossing about two miles below the park line. Hogdon Ranch, a little more than a mile further, is another good place to camp. At this abandoned cattle ranch an old road branches to the left. It is impassable because of washouts. A mile and a half further along the main road is Carl Inn, a mountain summer resort on the South Fork of the Tuolumne River. Accommodations are excellent. Gasoline and oil may here be obtained. There are many fine campsites in the vicinity and fishing is fair. One may obtain saddle or pack animals at the hotel for trail trips in the region.
Just west from the hotel is a main road junction. The Big Oak Flat Road to Chinese Camp, Knights Ferry and Stockton continues down the South Fork, while our road crosses the New England Bridge and bears northward. One mile takes us to another junction where the Hetch Hetchy Road (Road Trip V) branches to the left. The Tioga Road turns eastward, ascends a rather steep grade thru a fine forest of pine, cedar and oak, and in 4.2 miles again enters the park at Aspen Valley Ranger Station. Motorists should stop and register. A government telephone is here available. There are excellent camping places in the vicinity and a good spring about two hundred yards northwest of the ranger cabin.
Two miles inside the park is Aspen Valley, another abandoned cattle ranch. The long meadow offers a delightful camp. The Carlin Trail, which is used chiefly by cattlemen, branches to the westward at this point and makes a rough descent to Ackerson Meadow six miles distant. Leading southeast is a trail to Tamarack Flat on the Big Oak Flat Road. Over most of its six miles it is so brushy as to be almost impassable and it is now little used. About one mile north of Aspen Valley the seldom used “Packers’ Trail” begins at the left of the road and bears northward toward Hetch Hetchy. From Aspen Valley eastward good camping places are so numerous that several will be passed each hour. They will therefore not be mentioned in the following text.
Our road now ascends Long Gulch, passes over a low divide, and in 4.2 miles crosses the Middle Fork of the Tuolumne River. This is an attractive auto camp but horse feed is scarce. The stream is well stocked with rainbow and eastern brook trout. We now follow along the well-wooded banks of the Middle Fork and in about three and a half miles, where the road makes a big bend toward the southeast, we find the beginning of the trail to Harden Lake, Hetch Hetchy, and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
The beautiful little Harden Lake (Alt. 7575) is only one mile distant by trail. It is a most attractive place to lunch and the round trip can easily be made in less than one hour. From points just north of the lake a most comprehensive view of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne is revealed. Harden Lake contains no trout.
White Wolf, some two miles beyond the Harden Lake Trail Junction, is one of the many fine meadows which our road now traverses. The old Ten Lakes Trail shown on the U. S. G. S. maps as leading eastward from this point has been superseded by the new Ten Lakes Trail. up Yosemite Creek. The old blazes may be followed eastward two and a half miles to Lukens Lake (Alt. 8450), a charming little mountain lakelet surrounded by a park-like forest. It has not yet been stocked with trout.
About three miles beyond White Wolf the Yosemite Creek Trail (Trail Trip 11) branches to the right (south). Yosemite is ten miles distant by this excellent trail. Passing several small meadows, one of which is Dark Hole, we descend in about two miles to Yosemite Creek Ranger Cabin. The station is connected by telephone to Yosemite. From here a good trail bears to the southwest and joins the main Yosemite Creek Trail one and a half miles below. Good camp sites are numerous in the vicinity and at the Yosemite Creek Crossing, about a quarter of a mile eastward, the new Ten Lakes Trail follows up the east bank of the creek. Our road now ascends about two and a half miles of heavy grades, finally passing over a flat divide and descending almost imperceptibly to the large meadows at Porcupine Flat, an excellent camping place. One mile further the Yosemite Falls Trail branches to the right and leads southwest five miles to Yosemite Point.
In another mile Snow Creek is crossed. Fishing is fair down stream. Snow Flat, two and a half miles further, is an especially good place to camp. It is the usual base camp for the ascent of Mount Hoffman (Alt. 10,921), three miles to the northwest.
May Lake (Alt. 9400) is about one mile north of the road by a plainly blazed but rough trail which climbs about 500 feet en route. Beautifully set in the rugged glacial amphitheatre at the east shoulder of Mount Hoffman, which towers imposingly above, it offers one of the most attractive side trips of the region. As a campsite it is unsurpassed. In the days when troops were guardians of the park this was the officers’ private fishing lake—and fishing is most excellent. It was stocked with Loch Leven trout in 1908, with eastern brook in 1908 and 1917, and with rainbow in 1908 and 1913.
From Snow Flat the road rises abruptly for a short distance, then descends 800 feet in the next three miles to Lake Tenaya. Near a sharp bend in the road about one mile from the lake, a trail to the right (Trail Trip 5) leads to Yosemite via Mirror Lake.
Tenaya Lake (Alt. 8141) is one of the gems of the High Sierra. It is a large, deep, glacial lake imposingly surrounded by granite crags and domes. Its Indian name, Py-we-ack, meant “lake of the glistening rocks,” referring to the glacier polished granite at its upper end. The lake and the pyramidal peak to the east were renamed Tenaya when the last remnant of Chief Tenaya’s Yosemite Tribe was captured here by the Mariposa Battalion on June 5, 1851. The lake is one of the best in the park for a permanent auto camp. It was stocked with Loch Leven trout in 1911 and with rainbow, eastern brook, black spotted, and steelhead in 1917, 1918, and 1919, but fishing is only fair. From the lower end of the lake the Forsyth Pass Trail (Trail Trip 6) bears eastward across the rocky meadows, and the Yosemite Trail (Trail Trip 5) takes off toward the southwest.
Our road skirts the western lake shore. At a point where Murphy Creek enters from the north are the ruins of a log cabin which was built by John L. Murphy, one of the early pioneer guides of the region. The McGee Lake Trail to Waterwheel Falls here turns off from the road. Rounding the polished base of Polly Dome (Alt. 9786) we finally halt at Tenaya Lake Lodge near the white beach at the lake’s upper extremity. Accommodations are excellent and fishing tackle and rowboats may be rented.
At the head of the long flat canyon bottom is a peculiar glacial monument often mistaken for Polly Dome. Passing this, our road continues up the stream to its source, where the great Tuolumne Glacier overflowed and sent a branch southward to help carve out the stupendous depths of Tenaya Canyon.
Tuolumne Meadows (Alt. 8594), the most superb of all high mountain pleasure grounds, lies seven and a half miles from Tenaya Lake. In the region are innumerable side trips to alpine summits, to lakes and streams teeming with trout, to thundering waterfalls, and to peaceful green pastures of the highlands. Tioga Pass (Alt. 9941) is seven miles further, and another sixteen miles takes us down Leevining Canyon to the weird semi-desert region at Mono Lake. The road then continues northward to Lake Tahoe about 118 miles distant.
(Round trip 77 miles—1 day by motor and railroad)
A new and exceptionally scenic one-day round trip between Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy has been made possible by the construction activities on the San Francisco Dam. Throughout the entire season a gasoline railroad bus runs on daily schedule between Mather (Hog Ranch) and Hetch Hetchy, stopping long enough to allow one to view the wonderful canyon and to inspect the enormous engineering project. One may motor privately from Yosemite to Mather or may ride by the auto stage, which makes one round trip daily.
From Yosemite we follow the Big Oak Flat Road (Road Trips VI and IV) to the road junction one mile north of Carl Inn, a resort on the South Fork of the Tuolumne River. At this junction (23.4 miles from Yosemite) we turn to the left on the old Hog Ranch Road, which bears to the northwest thru the pines of the Stanislaus National Forest.
The following six-mile drive to Mather is entirely thru delightful woods and meadows—a country quite attractive but with no startling scenic effects. At Mather is the Hog Ranch Ranger Station, which is connected by telephone with Yosemite and outside points. Here we again enter Yosemite National Park.
In the nine-mile rail-motor excursion to Hetch Hetchy we first traverse a dense pine forest for one mile and then, emerging at the rim of Tuolumne Canyon, have a wonderfully scenic ride to our destination.
Hetch Hetchy is a deeply sculptured Yosemite-like valley with the broad meadows of its level floor flanked by dominating castellated cliffs. Its most impressive feature is Kolana Rock, a massive promontory buttressing the precipitous south wall. The two great waterfalls—Tueeulala, the spirit of gracefulness, and Wapama, the very soul of power—tumble over the north ramparts at the upper end of the valley. Fortunate, indeed, will be the visitors of the next few seasons, for the great gorge will be as yet unflooded.
(15 miles—1 1/2 hours by stage)
The final hour in Yosemite National Park—that generally spent in the ride from the valley to El Portal—is one of interest, but it must be admitted, of anti-climax. Facing westward we lose the wonderful views which burst upon us in entering, but the trip, for all of that, is attractive. From Yosemite Village either the Bridalveil or the El Capitan Road may he followed. The former is the more scenic and is described as Road Trip VI-A. The latter is set forth in the following text.
Crossing Sentinel Bridge our poplar-bordered road bears northward across a wide meadow from which are magnificent views of Yosemite Falls and the Lost Arrow straight ahead, and North Dome, Royal Arches and Half Dome to the right. At the Grizzly Hotel site a road forks eastward to Mirror Lake (Road Trip II). Turning westward beneath the giant black oaks of the meadow border, we soon pass the old Hutchings Orchard. The memorial bench at the left marks the spot from which Galen Clarke so loved to contemplate the beauty of “Cholook,” the fall of falls. A little further are the wild azalia gardens of Yosemite Creek. Just west of the rustic bridge a short branch road turns to the right to the foot of Yosemite Falls. We continue straight ahead, passing Yosemite Hospital at the right and then running beneath the arcade of Yosemite Lodge. Just across the road is the swimming tank, the tennis courts, laundry, etc. The main buildings occupy the site of Koom-i'-ne, the largest and most important of the old Indian villages.
Bearing southward, we now round the base of Three Brothers, the Waw-haw'-kee or “falling rocks” of the Indians. At the foot of the great buttress is Rocky Point. The Yosemite tribes called the place We-ńck (the rocks) because, according to their traditions, the huge boulders in the vicinity fell upon their trail. It is among these boulders that Tenaya’s three sons were captured in 1852, and the colossal monument above was named for them.
Swinging more directly westward, our road now skirts the base of El Capitan, the Tote-ack-ah-noo-la or “rock chief” of the Indians. The image of their fanciful chief is to this day pointed out on the wall two thousand feet overhead, but he is now called “The Wandering Jew.” In a shallow niche 1189 feet above the road stands a hardy Jeffrey pine 82.4 feet high and two feet in diameter. For half a mile we pass thru El Capitan Meadows, where once were the Indian villages of Yu-a'-chah, Ha-eng'-ah, He-le'-jah and Aw'-o-koi-e. At certain times during the day the Cathedral Spires and Cathedral Rocks on the opposite side of the valley stand out in remarkable perspective, but under general light conditions this stereoscopic effect is entirely lacking.
Beyond El Capitan the Ribbon Fall may be seen, its dainty streamer gracefully descending into the rather harsh box-like recess in the canyon wall. Its Indian name was Lung-o-to-ko-ya, or “pigeon falls.” A cross road to the left passes El Capitan Checking Station and crosses El Capitan Bridge to the Bridalveil Road south of the Merced (Road Trips 1-A and VI-A). A few steps further along our route the Big Oak Flat Road turns to the right and ascends thru the shattered granite talus of the north canyon side. At this junction was the old Indian village of Hep-hep'-oo-ma.
Paralleling the Merced, we now and then are treated to glimpses of Bridalveil Fall dropping gracefully from its hanging valley and guarded at the left by Cathedral Rocks and at the right by the Leaning Tower. Where our route traverses a small meadow is the site of another vanished village, We'-tum-taw. A short distance beyond is Black Spring, which is but a few steps to the right of the road. The Yosemites called it Poot-poo-toon, and among the rocks surrounding it was a small community of the same name. Our road now bends gradually southward following the banks of the Merced. Across the stream is Bridalveil Meadow and an especially fine view of the Gates of the Valley. A short distance further is Pohono Bridge, where our road is joined by the Bridalveil Road (Road Trips I-A and VI-A) from the south side of the valley.
About a quarter of a mile westward is the old Mail Carrier’s Cabin, the site of the ancient village of Ah-wah'-ma. Across the canyon the rugged ramparts of the south rim rise imposingly above and Meadow Brook pours over the edge to leap 1170 feet as Widow’s Tears Fall. A small dam in the Merced diverts water for the intake of the two thousand-watt generators of the new government power house just below the road. South of the river is a grotesque promontory which is well named Pulpit Rock.
At the two small bridges about one and a half miles further down the canyon we pass the foot of Cascade Falls which, during the flood waters of early spring, is one of the most attractive scenic features of the El Portal Highway. From these bridges is also the best view of Elephant Rock, down the canyon. Less than a quarter of a mile further, Wildcat Falls pour over the cliff at the right. A short distance beyond, stage drivers often point out the image of a white Persian cat on the wall above the road. The old Coulterville Road now branches to the right and steeply ascends the canyon wall. This was the first road into Yosemite and was completed in 1874. Just below Elephant Rock is Battleship Harbor, a placid reach of the Merced in which fancied granite dreadnaughts ride anchor.
A little more than a mile further down the canyon Grouse Creek tumbles over the south wall in a series of cascades. We now pass beneath Arch Rock, a natural tunnel formed by two huge granite talus blocks. The trail bridge across the Merced, a short distance westward, is the crossing of the Sunset Trail, which passes the midwinter ranger station opposite and ascends pas’ the foot of Avalanche Falls to the Wawona Road 2500 feet above.
Two miles further down the canyon we pass out of the park and into the Stanislaus National Forest thru a region of gnarled oaks and silver-gray digger pines. During the early season Indian Creek, across the canyon, forms the picturesque Chinquapin Falls.
One mile below the park line is El Portal, the terminus of the Yosemite Valley Railroad. There is here a hotel and a small store. On the opposite slope is the incline of the Yosemite Lumber Company down which flat cars loaded with logs are lowered. From El Portal a four-hour ride by railroad takes us to Merced.
(5 miles—20 minutes by stage)
The Bridalveil Road parallels the south bank of the Merced from Yosemite to Pohono Bridge, five miles westward. This route is more attractive and more scenic than the northern, or El Capitan Road, which is often taken by the stages.
From Yosemite Village we bear westward across the meadows. The Sentinel towers above at the left and in the distance are the portals of the valley. About one mile takes us past a Park Ranger’s cabin near the spot where Galen Clarke’s house stood until 1919. Just northward, at the edge of a big meadow, was once the Indian village of Hoo'-koo-me'-ko-tah.
A little further and directly under the Sentinel stand the remaining buildings of old Camp Awahnee, occupying the site of the large and important Indian community of Loi'-ah. The name, which means “a long water basket,” was also the Yosemites’ appellation for the great rock tower above. The Short Trail to Glacier Point here turns to the left and begins its zigzag course up the canyon wall. The Ford Road, a subsidiary route branching to the right, leads to The Big Pine, which is the largest known specimen of western yellow pine in the park. During the flood waters of early spring, Sentinel Falls descend in a picturesque cascade at the western flank of the great obelisk.
Again continuing westward, we are treated to charming vistas across the Merced. Especially effective from this angle is the great triple pyramid of Three Brothers buttressing the north wall. Just opposite them on the banks of the river was Kis'-se, the westernmost of the large Indian villages on the south or “coyote” side of the valley. To the west a splendid profile of El Capitan is revealed and suddenly at the left of the road the Cathedral Spires, each rising 500 feet from its base, seem to tower above the south rim. The Yosemites called the latter Po-see'-na Chuck'-ah, or “mouse-proof rocks,” from a fancied resemblance to their acorn caches. A village just below them in a small meadow near the river was called We'-sum-meh.
We now skirt the powerfully outlined Cathedral Rocks. At El Capitan Bridge one may cross to the north side of the river. Directly opposite is a ranger station at the foot of the Big Oak Flat Road (Road Trip IV). From that point the El Capitan Road (Road Trips I and VI) leads both up and down the valley.
Continuing along the shaded highway, we veer to the south, passing close to the foot of Bridalveil Fall, charming glimpses of which are here and there revealed between the trees. Just below a very large rock at the east margin of Bridalveil Creek is the site of the ancient village of Lem-me'-hitch'-ke. Perhaps the unspeakable awe with which the Yosemites were supposed to look upon Pohono, “the spirit of the evil wind,” has been somewhat exaggerated in the past. A short subsidiary road turns to the left to the foot of the fall, a brief side trip which should be taken by all visitors.
A short drive now takes us to the junction with the Wawona Road (Road Trip III) which bears to the left at Bridalveil Checking Station and climbs thru the forests of the canyon-side. Turning to the right, we soon enter Bridalveil Meadow. Near the river was once the Indian village of Sap-pah'-sam-mah. At the edge of the meadow, about 100 feet north of the road, a dense grove of oaks and pines shelters the graves of two pioneers, Rose and Shurban, who were massacred here by the Indians in 1852. The view back across the meadows towards the Gates of the Valley is one of the best from this elevation. At the left is the great shoulder of El Capitan, with the Ribbon Fall almost hidden in a deep recess at its west. At the right of the portal the beautiful Bridalveil leaps gracefully from its hanging valley between Cathedral Rocks and the Leaning Tower.
Plunging again into the deep woods, we stop for a draught of ice-cold water at Fern Spring, and a short distance beyond emerge at the beautiful border of the Merced. Crossing Pohono Bridge we join the El Portal Road. El Portal is ten miles westward via Road Trip VI, and Yosemite five miles eastward via Road Trip I.
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