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For an ideal vacation-land, Yosemite could scarcely be surpassed. Of the 600 miles of trails in the park probably half are within two days walking distance of the valley. It is this portion of the park which is described in the following trail trips—the region which may be seen on walking tours from the valley as a base camp.
For the person whose days in Yosemite are limited, Glacier Point undoubtedly offers the most attractive one-day excursion. It is reached by a number of trails, chief of which are the beautiful Vernal and Nevada Falls Trail, the steep but thrilling climb up the narrow Ledge Trail, and the dusty, toilsome ascent of the Short Trail. Most thrilling of all Yosemite Trails is the ascent of Half Dome, made possible by the recent construction of a cable-guarded route up its north shoulder. Further northeastward is the commanding summit of Clouds Rest, a long one-day round trip, but well repaid by a magnificent panorama of the High Sierra. North of the Yosemite walls the most comprehensive views may be had from Eagle Peak. The top of North Dome is also a vantage point of the first order, but the round trip is a long one-day climb. The summit of El Capitan, although exceedingly lofty, is rather disappointing except for the view over its rim into the abyss below. Sierra Point is but one hour’s climb above the valley and offers an especially good panorama.
Many ideal two-day walking trips from Yosemite are made possible by accommodations at the lodges in the High Sierra. Chief among these excursions are the trips to Lake Tenaya, Tuolumne Meadows and Merced Lake. Other charming trails are described in the following text.
(16 miles—8 hours)
If one were so time-poor as to have but one day in Yosemite, he should by all means climb to Glacier Point via Vernal and Nevada Falls and return via the Short Trail. This most scenic trip is easily made afoot in one day and should be taken as follows rather than in the opposite direction because (a) one faces the falls in ascending, and (b) the gradual ascent is less tiring. Early in the season it is a good plan to carry a sack or newspaper for protection while passing thru the mist of Vernal Falls.
The Vernal and Nevada Falls Trail starts near Happy Isles Bridge, 2.3 miles from Yosemite Village. The trail leaves the road at the right just beyond the bridge, or we may take the footpath through Happy Isles, crossing the river on a foot-log and joining the main trail a quarter mile above. Ascending the canyon, the trail climbs 200 feet above the roaring Merced, which was here called by the Indians the “Yanopah” or “water cloud,” referring to the mist of Vernal Falls. A quarter of a mile from the bridge is a fine spring. Here the Sierra Point Trail (Trail Trip 12) turns left. Rounding the base of Grizzly Peak we pass opposite the mouth of Illilouette Canyon and see Illilouette Falls (Drop 350 feet) at its head. The name is a corruption of the Indian name, Too-tool-a-we-ack. The small dam in the river below diverts water to the Happy Isles Power House. To the left of Illilouette Canyon is Panorama Cliff, along the rim of which our trail runs after a three-hour climb by the Mist Trail (one hour longer by horse trail).
Descending 100 feet the trail crosses Vernal Bridge, from which is a fine view of Vernal Falls, a half mile distant. Near this point was the old Indian Camp of Ap'-poo-meh. Straight ahead the horse trail climbs 1600 feet and then descends to the top of Vernal Falls. Pedestrians should take the much more scenic Mist Trail, which turns left just beyond the bridge, saving thereby one hour and several hundred feet climb. Paralleling the river we pass Lady Franklin Rock, from whence may be obtained excellent photographs of Vernal Falls. The trail mounts thru the boulder-strewn forest and finally rounds a rocky point on a narrow ledge. Use extreme caution on slippery wet rocks! We now enter the mist, traversing the luxuriant garden of flowers and grasses which gives the fall its name. Between 10 and 12 a. m. beautiful circular rainbows may be seen in the mist. Climbing the steep slope at the right we obtain fine profiles of the fall. The trail then swings beneath an overhanging cliff and mounts a steep narrow ledge to the top of Vernal Falls (Alt. 5049, Drop 317 feet). The Indians called the fall “Yan-o-pah,” or “water cloud,” which was also the name for the canyon below. Over the rim of the natural granite parapet we have an excellent outlook down the canyon. By climbing along the rim southeast of the falls we find a ladder and hanging trail descending to a grotto, from which a good view of Glacier Point is obtained.
Above Vernal Falls we pass a glacial tarn called Emerald Pool, at the upper end of which the Merced rushes down over smooth granite, forming the beautiful Silver Apron and Waterwheel. Just above is the Diamond Cascade and bridge. Our trail now joins the horse trail, which descends from the slope above. Crossing the river at Diamond Cascade, the trail ascends to Snow Flat below Liberty Cap (Alt. 7072), which towers above to the left. This granite dome, the Mah'-ta, or “Martyr Mountain” of the Indians, can be ascended by a difficult climb up its eastern flank. Good rock-climbers will find an interesting scramble up the deep defile between this dome and Mt. Broderick (Alt. 6705) just northward. At the left of the trail is the site of the old La Casa Nevada Hotel (The Snow House), which was built in the early days and burned down in 1897. The old register is in the Yosemite Museum. The rockslide to the left fell from the face of Liberty Cap in 1918. Fishing is fair from Diamond Cascade to Nevada Falls. The trail turns left and mounts 500 feet by the famous Nevada Falls Zigzags. When white men first visited Yosemite, part of the Merced descended in a cascade where the trail is now built. At the top of the switchbacks the trail to Little Yosemite, Clouds Rest, Tuolumne Meadows and Merced Lake (Trail Trips 13, 5, 8 and 7) continues up the canyon. There is here a government telephone (Central 1 ring). The new location of a refreshment stand and rest house in the vicinity is indicated by a sign.
Our trail turns right and crosses a small bridge, thence turning southwest to the top of Nevada Falls (Alt. 5910, Height 594 ft.). Nevada is “snow” in Spanish and replaces the old Indian name Yo-wy-we. Note especially the shooting spray rockets. These are most wonderful when painted by first rays of sunshine at 7.30 to 8 a. m. Many claim that, looking down from the rim, the Nevada is the valley’s most fascinating and beautiful fall. Above this point the river was called by the Yosemite Tribe “Yo-wy-we-ack,” or the “twisting rock” branch.
Crossing the river just above the falls, the trail climbs abruptly 700 feet by switchbacks. At the summit the Mono Meadow and Merced Pass Trail up Illilouette Creek turns left (Trail Trip 23). Our trail turns right and follows the rim of Panorama Cliff almost level for about one mile to Panorama Point (Alt. 6224). From here is a fine view of Royal Arches, Washington Column and North Dome across the head of Yosemite Valley, and of Half Dome and Grizzly Peak to the right. The trail descends 400 feet to the top of Illilouette Falls (Alt. 5850, Fall 370 ft.). Good fishing is reported in upper lllilouette Creek. Exploration up this canyon will well repay those interested in glacial phenomena.
Climbing out of the Illilouette Canyon, the trail runs north thru open forest. The fallen trees and prostrate bushes are caused by snow-slides from Illilouette Ridge above (Alt. 8250. Fine view from summit). As the trail climbs, the view of Mt. Starr King, Mt. Clark and the High Sierra gradually unfolds. The trail joining from the south leads to Buena Vista Lake and Royal Arch Lake (Trail Trip 22). From one point in the ascent is an especially good profile of Half Dome across the canyon. Following along granite ledges the trail passes Glacier Point Hotel (Alt. 7200), from which is a most comprehensive panorama of the High Sierra. Accommodations are excellent and one should remain here over night if possible to see the sunrise. Glacier Point and the overhanging rock are about 200 yards beyond the hotel. This lookout point was called Patill'ima by the Yosemite Tribe. From here we obtain what is without doubt the vastest and most awe-inspiring view readily accessible to tourists. The valley floor is 3250 feet below. An inclined shaft elevator thru solid granite from the foot of the cliff is being planned. For trips from Glacier Point see Trail Trips 16 to 23.
The descent from Glacier Point to Yosemite is generally made by the Short Trail (5 miles, 1 1/2-hour walk). From the hotel the trail follows westward along the canyon wall. Rounding a point we get an excellent profile view of the Gates of the Valley with Sentinel Rock at the left and El Capitan at the right. Descending 900 feet by switchbacks thru a forest of fir, sugar pine, yellow pine, Douglas fir and incense cedar, we reach Union Point (Alt. 6314—2350 feet above the valley floor). There is here a refreshment stand where cooling drinks and light lunches may be obtained. A short distance from the point is a shelter cabin and a government telephone (Central 1 ring).
Descending past Agassiz Column, a huge balancing shaft of granite, the trail zigzags down the mountain side, emerging at several vantage points from which are obtained especially fine views of Half Dome and the north end of the valley. The character of the forest now changes, oaks and laurel entering to replace the diminishing fir. The trail terminates at the foot of Sentinel Rock at the site of the old Camp Awahnee and the more ancient Indian village of Loi'-ah. Yosemite is 1.3 miles distant by road to the right. During the season a regular auto-bus service is maintained between this and other valley points.
(16 miles—8 hours)
The Glacier Point excursion is a most scenic one-day trip and this is the most widely used of Yosemite trails. Parties are advised to take the reverse of this trip (Trail Trip 1) thereby obtaining views of the falls which are unnoticed on the down trip. The ascent is also more gradual and therefore less tiring.
The Short Trail to Glacier Point starts from the Bridalveil Road 1.3 miles west of Yosemite at the site of old Camp Awahnee and of the more ancient Indian village of Loi'-ah. Turning southward we ascend abruptly thru a dense forest of oak, mountain laurel, scattered pines, cedar and Douglas fir. As the trail climbs rapidly by switchbacks, broad-leaved trees disappear, their places being taken by sugar pines and true firs from above. Frequently the trail emerges at vantage points from which are obtained especially fine views of Half Dome and the north end of the valley. A climb of 2350 feet takes us past a balancing shaft of granite, Agassiz Column, to Union Point (Alt. 6314). At this fine viewpoint are a government shelter cabin and telephone (Central 1 ring.)
The remaining 900-foot climb to Glacier Point is thru a dense forest with some vast views to the northeast. A short level stretch near the end leads to Glacier Point (Alt. 7214). The view from the vicinity of the overhanging rock is without doubt the vastest and most awe-inspiring sight readily accessible to tourists. The Yosemite Tribe called this lookout point Patill'ima. Yosemite is 3250 feet below. An inclined shaft elevator thru solid granite from the foot of the cliff is being planned. For trips from Glacier Point see Trail Trips 16 to 23.
The Glacier Point Hotel and cottages are but 200 yards distant. The panorama of the High Sierra from the hotel balcony is especially fine. Accommodations are excellent and it is recommended that the tourist remain over night if possible to see the sunrise.
Passing the hotel the trail descends gradually along granite ledges revealing a most impressive profile of Half Dome across the canyon. During the descent into the canyon of the Illilouette several patches of fallen trees and prostrate brush are passed. These are caused by the frequent snow slides from the Illilouette Ridge above (Alt. 8250. Fine view). At a trail forks, the Buena Vista Trail (Trail Trip 22) branches south up the Illilouette Canyon. An abrupt descent by zigzags takes us to a point from which is obtained a good view of the lace-like Illilouette Fall. The name is a corruption of the old Indian name Too-tool-a-we-ack. A few feet below we stop at the lip of the fall (Alt. 5850). The canyon above abounds in glacial phenomena and will well repay a side trip for those interested in geology. Fishing is good up the canyon.
A climb of 375 feet takes us to Panorama Point (Alt. 6224), from which is an imposing view of the upper end of the valley and the mouth of Tenaya Canyon. To the right is the sheer edge of Panorama Cliff, along which our trail now follows almost level for about a mile. In the canyon below can be seen our route of about two hours hence. At a trail forks the Mono Meadow and Merced Pass Trail (Trail Trip 23) turns right into the Illilouette Creek Basin.
Now begins an abrupt descent of 700 feet by switchbacks to the Merced River which, above this point, was called by the Yosemite Tribe the Yo-wy-we-ack or “twisting rock” branch. A few steps from the bridge is the top of Nevada Falls (Alt. 5910, Drop 594 ft.). Nevada is Spanish for snow and replaces the old Indian name Yo-wy-we. Many claim that the view from the overhanging ledge is the most fascinating water-vista of Yosemite. Note especially the shooting spray rockets. These are most wonderful when painted by the first rays of sunshine at 7:30 to 8 a. m.
About a quarter of a mile upstream the trail crosses a small bridge and is joined by the Clouds Rest, Sunrise, Lake Merced and Little Yosemite Trail (Trail Trips 5, 8, 7 and 13). Here is a government telephone (Central 1 ring). Fishing is good about two miles upstream in Little Yosemite. In the following abrupt 500-foot descent by zigzags some fine profile views of Nevada Falls are obtained. When white men first visited Yosemite part of the Merced cascaded down the steep slope where the trail is now built. As the trail crosses Snow Flat at the foot of Nevada Falls, the ruins of the old “La Casa Nevada,” or “Snow House,” are seen at the right of the trail. The old register, which dates back to 1871, is in the Yosemite Museum. Liberty Cap (Alt. 7072), which the Indians called Mah'ta or “Martyr Mountain,” towers above to the right. It may be ascended from the east and good rock climbers will find an interesting scramble up the deep defile between this dome and Mount Broderick (Alt. 6705) just northward. The talus of huge rocks above the trail fell from the face of Liberty Cap in 1918.
A bridge across the Merced takes us directly over the Diamond Cascade. Below is the Silver Apron. From the bridge upstream is fair fishing. A short distance beyond the crossing is a forks where the main or “horse trail” turns to the left and climbs 350 feet up the canyon wall in order to pass Vernal Falls. Pedestrians should turn to the right and take the far more scenic Mist Trail, thereby saving a half hour and several hundred feet climb. Following down the river we pass the Silver Apron and Waterwheel, below which is a perfect glacial tarn called Emerald Pool. Near its mouth is the rim of Vernal Falls (Alt. 5049, Drop 317 ft.). From behind the natural breast-high granite parapet we have another excellent outlook. The fall was called by the Indians Yan-o-pah, or “water cloud,” which term was also applied to the canyon below. By climbing along the rim southeast of the falls we find a ladder and hanging trail descending to a grotto, from which is a good view of Glacier Point.
Nearer the fall the Mist Trail suddenly drops over the edge of the cliff and follows down a steep, narrow ledge which is well guarded by chains and iron posts. From here and from the zigzags just below we obtain excellent profiles of the fall. We now enter the mist, passing down thru a luxurious growth of grasses and flowers, which caused the fall to be given its present name. Between 10 and 12 a. m. the beautiful circular rainbows may here be seen. Use extreme caution on slippery wet rocks! Following around the base of a cliff on a narrow ledge, the trail again enters a forest and parallels the river. We stop at Lady Franklin Rock, where is obtained one of the best vistas of the falls (good photograph). A short distance downstream the two trails reunite just before crossing Vernal Bridge, from which is a good distant view of the falls. In the canyon below was the old Indian camp of Ap'-poo-meh.
The trail now mounts about 200 feet above the riotous Merced and in rounding the base of Grizzly Peak offers a clear perception of the deep recess below Illilouette Falls.
Again approaching the river we pass a spring and water trough where the Sierra Point Trail (Trail Trip 12) joins from the right. The Happy Isles Bridge on the main road is a quarter of a mile distant. We have the choice of descending by the main trail or crossing the foot-log to Happy Isles, and thence by several bridges and footpaths to the main road.
The road to the right leads to Mirror Lake. We turn left. Camp Curry is one mile distant and Yosemite Village 2.3 miles.
(19.5 miles—10 hours)
The North Dome trip is a strenuous one-day climb and should be taken as follows rather than Trail Trip 4, thus avoiding the hot ascent of the Mirror Lake zigzags. One should start early, reaching the top of the falls before the heat becomes excessive.
The Yosemite Falls Trail was built in the early days and operated as a toll trail. It leaves the road a short distance west of Yosemite Lodge. In the first mile we ascend by sharp zig-zags thru a shady grove of golden oak and laurel, emerging above into the open and climbing granite ledges to Columbia Point (Alt. 5031). From here is a splendid view, especially of the upper end of the valley. Turning north, the trail ascends a few feet and then follows along a granite ledge beautifully shaded by oaks, laurel, Douglas fir and pines. At the left of the trail about a quarter of a mile above Columbia Point is a spring. A short, rather steep descent takes us to Valley View, a lookout point a short distance to the right of the trail, from which is an excellent view of the valley and the Upper Yosemite Fall. Skirting the base of an almost perpendicular cliff at the left, the trail approaches the foot of the upper fall and bears to the left. From this point it is possible to leave the trail and climb to the foot of the upper fall, entering the cave under its base except during high water. The climb is dangerous because of slippery rocks.
By switchbacks the trail ascends the steep slope west of the falls, crossing a small stream after a quarter-mile climb. During the hour ascent of the zigzags, Mount Clark (Alt. 11,506), Gray Peak (Alt. 11,581) and other High Sierra summits may be seen to the southeast. Across the canyon are Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome. At a trail junction 100 feet beyond the canyon rim is a government telephone (Central 1 ring). Here the Eagle Peak and Yosemite Creek Trails continue straight ahead (Trail Trips 9, 10 and 11). Our trail turns to the right and crosses a small stream. Just beyond, the main trail passes over a low rise. A branch to the left follows south along the open ridge for a short distance to the top of the falls. From the railed lookout point, peering into the chasm below we see what Muir describes as one of the most impressive phenomena of the valley. Retracing our route to the main trail and turning left, we cross Yosemite Creek and climb 300 feet on the further side, thence turning southward. A short trail to the rim takes us to Yosemite Point (Alt. 6935), from which is a vast view of the valley and the High Sierra. The granite spire at the right and just below is “Le Hammo,” the Lost Arrow of one of the most beautiful Yosemite Indian legends.
Returning to the main trail we climb parallel to the eastern rim of the cliff. To the right are Castle Cliffs and the flat summit of North Dome beyond. After a climb of 400 feet the trail crosses a ridge and traverses a dense forest of fir and pine, descending 400 feet and crossing Indian Creek. Directly south is Indian Canyon, called by the Yosemite Tribe “Le Hamite,” because of the arrowwood which grew there. Their main trail into Yosemite followed along the precipitous east side of the canyon.
The Little Winkle Branch of Indian Creek is crossed a half mile beyond the main stream, and here the Snow Flat Trail continues upstream. Turning to the right, our trail passes thru a fir forest about one mile to Indian Ridge, which it follows south over disintegrating granite and thru stunted forest to the rounded summit of North Dome (Alt. 7531). The view is most comprehensive and the sheer vertical wall of Half Dome gives an impression of massiveness nowhere else obtained. To the north of the trail near the summit is Slipper Rock.
In returning to Yosemite we take all main trails to the right. Retracing our path up Indian Ridge it is possible to follow the trail back to the East or Little Winkle Fork of Indian Creek, and turn right on the Snow Flat Trail, but the better and the shorter way is to follow the plain blazes which turn to the right about a half mile from the North Dome summit and just west of the crest of Indian Ridge. Running thru a beautiful forest this trail joins the main Snow Flat Trail at the Little Winkle Branch of Indian Creek just west of Indian Rock.
It is also possible to leave the trail and follow up Indian Ridge from North Dome, gradually bearing to the right of Indian Rock and intersecting the main Mirror Lake Trail near the top of the zigzags.
Our trail follows up the East or Little Winkle Branch of Indian Creek, at the source of which the Porcupine Flat Trail branches to the left. The Mirror Lake Trail swings north of Indian Rock, and descends east to a branch of Snow Creek, passing Snow Creek Falls. Further down Snow Creek is the junction with the Lake Tenaya Trail (Trail Trips 5 and 6). Turning right we further descend Snow Creek and pass over the rim of the canyon between Basket Dome (Alt. 7602) at the right and Mt. Watkins (Alt. 8235) at the left. In the next one and a half miles a descent of 2500 feet is made by 108 switchbacks, to the floor of Tenaya Canyon. Following down the canyon one mile, the trail joins the road at Mirror Lake. Yosemite is three miles distant by road.
(19.5 miles—10 hours)
This is a strenuous one-day climb. The advantage of taking the trip as follows and seeing the sunrise at Mirror Lake is more than offset by physical penalty of climbing the hot and steep Tenaya Trail zigzags. The trip is better taken in the reverse direction (Trail Trip 3). If the following route is adhered to, it is best to leave Yosemite as early as possible, carrying a canteen which should be filled about three-quarters of a mile above Mirror Lake.
Mirror Lake is three miles distant by road from Yosemite. Here our trail leaves the end of the road and skirts the west shore. Following up the canyon beneath the dense forest about one mile we suddenly turn left and start the 2500-foot ascent. From the 108 switchbacks are many fine views. After a long, tiresome climb the trail passes over the canyon rim between Mt. Watkins (Alt. 8235) at the right and Basket Dome (Alt. 7602) at the left. A short distance takes us to Snow Creek, which cascades beautifully further down its rough canyon. Turning upstream we soon arrive at a trail fork where the Tenaya Lake Trail (Trail Trip 6) turns right. We turn left, following up the west branch about a mile further. In high water Snow Creek Falls is especially attractive. The trail now makes a wide detour to the north of Indian Rock (Alt. 8526). If desirable, pedestrains may leave the trail and climb to its summit, from which are good views, thence following south down the long open ridge to the summit of North Dome.
The trail keeps at a lower elevation, passing thru almost level fir forests and meadows with a charming diversity of wild flowers and trees. Gradually bearing southward our trail follows down the East or Little Winkle Branch of Indian Creek from its source. The main Snow Flat Trail continues down this stream, but we turn left on the plainly blazed cut-off trail to North Dome. Passing thru the dense forests on the west flank of Indian Ridge, we finally emerge on the open disintegrated granite at the crest of the long slope leading southward to North Dome. Here the Yosemite Falls Trail joins from the west. The rounded summit of North Dome (Alt. 7531) is now easily reached by a walk thru the open forest and over granite pavements, which here exhibit very well the geological phenomenon of exfoliation or weathering in concentric shells. Near the summit and to the north of the trail is Slipper Rock. From the top is a vast outlook, especially westward toward the Gates of the Valley and eastward where the great wall of Half Dome dominates the entire landscape. The floor of Yosemite Valley is partly hidden by the projecting Royal Arch Cliff. Daring rock climbers who have made the descent to the edge describe this dizzy precipice as one of the most impressive in the park.
In returning to Yosemite we take all main trails to the left. Retracing our path for about half a mile up Indian Ridge, we turn westward. One mile more thru dense forest takes us past a small stream and to the Little Winkle Branch of Indian Creek, where the main Snow Flat Trail joins from upstream. The steep canyon below was called “Le Hamite” by the Yosemite Indians because of the arrowwood which grew there. Their main trail into Yosemite followed along the precipitous east wall of the canyon.
A climb of 400 feet thru the forest now takes us to the summit of a long ridge which we follow southward, finally paralleling the edge of a deep precipice just westward from Castle Cliffs and emerging abruptly at Yosemite Point (Alt. 6935). This is one of the justly famous viewpoints of Yosemite and offers a remarkable combination of depths and distances. The granite spire just below and at the right is the Lost Arrow, the “Le Hammel” of the Yosemite Tribe, the story of which is one of their most charming legends.
Returning a short distance to the main trail we descend to Yosemite Creek. On the open ridge just beyond the crossing is a secondary trail which leads to the rim of the Upper Yosemite Fall, a few hundred feet distant. The wonderful view from this point is most thrillingly described by Muir.
Returning to the main trail we cross a small stream where is the junction with the Yosemite Creek, Eagle Peak and Ten Lakes Trails (Trail Trips 11, 9 and 10). There is here a government telephone (Central 1 ring). Turning left we descend abruptly 1600 feet by sharp, dusty switchbacks, finally skirting the bottom of the almost vertical cliff west of the falls. At this point one can leave the trail and climb to the foot of the upper fall, in times of low water even entering the cave beneath its base. The climb is dangerous because of the slippery rocks.
The trail now passes southward along a granite ledge beneath the shade of oaks and laurel. A short steep descent at the left of the trail takes us to Valley View, an excellent lookout point. Less than one-half mile further is Columbia Point (Alt. 5031) from which is a particularly wide and effective panorama. The following 2000-foot descent to the floor of Yosemite Valley is first along granite ledges among scattered Douglas firs and golden oaks, and finally beneath the dense laurel and oak forests of the lower talus slopes. At the foot of the trail is the El Capitan Road. Auto busses run between this and other valley points on half-hour service. Yosemite Lodge is a short distance eastward and Yosemite Village is about three-quarters of a mile distant via Yosemite Lodge and the foot-bridge.
(32.25 miles—2-day trip)
Owing to the stupendous mountain scenery and the charming diversity of meadows and forests thru which this trail passes, it deserves to be ranked among the most scenic of Yosemite Trails. Two days should be taken for the trip. Excellent accommodations will be found at Tenaya Lake Lodge, but reservations should be made in advance from Yosemite.
From Yosemite we take the road past Camp Curry to Happy Isles Bridge. Here we turn to the right on the main Glacier Point Trail and follow Trail Trip 1 as far as the trail junction at the top of the Nevada Falls zigzags. At this point we turn left, rising rather abruptly about 200 feet and then following up the north bank of the Merced river. About a half mile takes us to a junction where the Little Yosemite Trail (Trail Trip 13) continues on up the Little Yosemite Valley. Our trail turns to the left uphill and mounts by switchbacks thru a dense stand of pine, fir and cedar. A climb of 1000 feet in one and a half miles takes us to the junction where the Half Dome Trail (Trail Trip 14) turns to the left. Our trail turns right along a gently inclined bench and in one-half mile again branches. To the right is the Sunrise Trail (Trail Trip 8). By taking this trail and branching north on the cut-off route about two miles further, some distance can be saved by those who do not wish to visit Clouds Rest.
The main trail, which turns to the left, should be followed. It continues the climb towards the northeast. About half a mile westward are the two Quarter Domes (Alt. 8160 and 8276). At an altitude of 8200 we pass a spring. Above this the trail rises sharply by zigzags to the base of the Pinnacles (Alt. 9451). A climb of a few hundred feet along their east flank takes us near the summit of Clouds Rest (Alt. 9924). A short branch trail up the steep and rocky slope leads to the crest, from which is a vast view in all directions. This is the highest of the Yosemite Valley summits.
We descend again to the trail, which turns northeast and follows along the canyon rim, keeping generally just east of the crest. In two miles the cut-off trail from Little Yosemite joins from the right. After gradually bearing to the left, now on the Tenaya Canyon slope, we pass a small lake at the right of the trail. The lake contains no fish, but upstream one mile is Mildred Lake (Alt. 9600), in which are some very large trout.
Traversing Forsyth Pass, the picturesque trail now descends 1000 feet in the next two and a half miles over rough granite to the rocky meadows just below Lake Tenaya (Alt. 8141). This large, deep glacial lake is beautifully 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 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. There is here good camping, and pasturage seems abundant, but horses do not like it and should therefore be hobbled to prevent straying. The lake 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. Crossing the meadows at the outlet our trail joins the Tioga Road, which follows the western margin of the lake to the Tenaya Lake Lodge, about one and a half miles distant, where good accommodations will be found. The road continues up the canyon to Tuolumne Meadows seven and a half miles distant, and to Mono Lake.
From Tenaya Lake to Mirror Lake are two trails, which unite after about two and a half miles. The first of these starts from the road just beyond the sharp bend about one and a quarter miles from the lake and bears southwest thru the forest. The other, which is far more scenic, crosses the meadow and park-like forest below the lake, passing a beautiful little unnamed lake where good campsites and horse-feed will be found, but no fishing. Beyond this is a gradual 300-foot ascent along an open ridge. Below is the deep chasm of the inaccessible and little known Tenaya Canyon. The unbroken granite abutments of Clouds Rest sweep down almost 4000 feet. After each snowstorm these cliffs shed avalanche after avalanche. At about two and a half miles from Tenaya Lake the less scenic trail from the Tioga Road joins from the right. Descending southwest thru timber the trail passes Hidden Lake (Alt. 8400—picturesque but no fishing) which is to the left of the trail but invisible without making a detour. About two miles further is Tenmile Meadow (Alt. 8400) on a small tributary of Tenaya Creek. This is a good place to noon. There is here fine horse-feed, also good campsites, but no fishing.
An abrupt climb of 650 feet now takes us over a spur ridge and to the source of the east branch of Snow Creek. There is here a small meadow at the left of the trail, where good horse-feed and campsites will be found. A 1500-foot descent by zigzags thru scattered timber takes us down a side canyon to Snow Creek, across which is a foot-log. About 300 yards beyond the crossing, the North Dome Trail (Trail Trip 4) turns northwest and follows up the west branch of Snow Creek. We turn left, passing thru a beautiful forest of Jeffrey pine, lodgepole pine and fir. Fishing is fair, but the trout are small. About one mile below the crossing we suddenly emerge at the rim of the canyon between Mt. Watkins (Alt. 8235) at the left and Basket Dome (Alt. 7602) at the right. The following abrupt descent of 2500 feet by 108 switchbacks takes us to the bottom of Tenaya Canyon. Turning downstream our trail enters a dense forest of oaks, laurel, pine and cedar. One mile of almost level path takes us to Mirror Lake, where we skirt the west shore to the end of the road. Yosemite is three miles distant by road.
(32.25 miles—2-day trip)
Tenaya Lake is one of the gems of the High Sierra. The very scenic two-day round trip from Yosemite is too long and strenuous to be attempted in one day. Excellent accommodations will be found at Tenaya Lake Lodge, but reservations should be made in advance by telephone. If the trip is to be taken in the following direction one should start early to avoid the intense heat of the zigzags above Mirror Lake. Water should be carried.
The trail starts at Mirror Lake, three miles from Yosemite. One should plan to see sunrise there (about 8 a. m. in summer). Skirting the west shore the trail follows up the canyon about one mile, thru a dense forest of oak, laurel, yellow pine, Douglas fir and incense cedar. Then begins a long, hard climb of 2500 feet up 108 switchbacks (one and a half miles—two hours).
Above the rim of the canyon the trail follows the west bank of Snow Creek. Fishing is fair but the trout small. Further down stream are picturesque cascades. After passing thru a forest of Jeffrey pine, lodgepole pine and fir for about one mile the trail to North Dome and Tioga Road (Trail Trip 4) branches to the left. Our trail turns right and crosses Snow Creek (foot-log) about 300 yards beyond. We then climb 1500 feet by zigzags up an east branch of Snow Creek thru scattered timber. At the headwaters of this creek is a small meadow at the right of the trail, a good campsite with forage fairly abundant.
Rising over a spur ridge, the trail drops abruptly about 650 feet to Tenmile Meadow (Alt. 8400) on a small tributary of Tenaya Creek. This is a good place to noon. It is a fine camp and horse-feed is abundant, but there is no fishing. Climbing to the northeast thru timber the trail passes Hidden Lake (Alt. 8400-picturesque, but no fishing), which is a short distance to the right of the trail but not visible from it. About two and a half miles beyond Tenmile Meadow the trail forks. The left branch leads to the Tioga Road, about one mile distant, which may then be followed to Lake Tenaya. The trail to the right is far more scenic. It follows an open granite ridge revealing the wonderfully glaciated canyon below and Clouds Rest opposite. Down the canyon are Half Dome and the head of Yosemite Valley. Descending about 300 feet the trail passes a beautiful little unnamed lake, where are good campsites and abundant pasturage, but no fishing. From here the trail traverses almost level meadows and a scattered forest of lodgepole pine one mile to Lake Tenaya (Alt. 8141). This large, deep glacial lake is beautifully surrounded by granite crags and domes and is a splendid place for a permanent camp. Its Indian name was Py-we-ack, or “lake of the glistening rocks,” because of the glacier-polished granite pavements near the north end. On June 5, 1851, when the last remnant of old Chief Tenaya’s Yosemite Tribe was captured here by the Mariposa Battalion, the lake and the dominant pyramidal peak at the east were renamed “Tenaya.” Forage is abundant in the vicinity but it is not liked by horses, so stock should be hobbled. The lake 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. The Tioga Road follows around the western margin of the lake to Tenaya Lake Lodge, about one and a half miles distant, where good accommodations will be found. The road continues up the canyon to Tuolumne Meadows, seven and a half miles distant, and to Mono Lake.
Our return trail starts just below the lake. Crossing the meadow it mounts the east slope steadily climbing 1000 feet up the rough granite to Forsyth Pass, two and a half miles distant. Fine views are obtained all along the trail. Near the summit a small shallow lake can be seen east of the trail. By leaving the trail and following up the small stream about one mile, Mildred Lake (Alt. 9600) can be reached. This little lake contains some very large trout. From Forsyth Pass the trail follows southwest along the rim of Tenaya Canyon about two miles and then forks. The trail to the left descends thru timber about three miles and joins the Sunrise Trail, making the shortest route to Yosemite. The trail to the right leads to Clouds Rest and is far more scenic than the cut-off. It follows just east of the canyon rim for about two miles and joins the Clouds Rest Trail. A short, steep ascent by foot over rough granite takes us to Clouds Rest (Alt. 9925), the highest point near Yosemite. From here is a vast panorama to all sides. Returning to the trail we descend thru stunted forest and rough granite. To the right are The Pinnacles (Alt. 9451). The trail descends about 1000 feet by switchbacks to a spring. Quarter Domes (Alt. 8160 and 8276) are half a mile west on the canyon rim. The trail descends thru denser and denser forest. A short distance below, the Sunrise Trail joins from the east. After trending westward along a bench the trail is joined from the northwest by the Half Dome Trail. Descending thru the pine forest, we now and then are treated to glimpses of Mt. Starr King across Little Yosemite. About one-third of a mile takes us to another junction where a branch trail turns left descending 400 feet into Little Yosemite. The main trail passes to the right of a granite knob and reaches the floor of Little Yosemite Valley near the lower end, where it is joined by a trail from up the canyon. Turning right we pass Liberty Cap and after a 200-foot descent join the main Glacier Point Trail at the top of Nevada Falls. There is here a government telephone (Central 1 ring). We turn right. Yosemite is six miles distant via Trail Trip 2.
(16.5 miles—6 hours)
The round trip from Yosemite to Merced Lake is an exceedingly scenic two-day excursion. One should telephone in advance for accommodations at the Merced Lake Lodge. Pedestrians may save an hour’s hard climb by taking the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls. An excellent three-day trip may be made by combining Trail Trips 7 and 6. First day: Lake Merced. Second day: Clouds Rest and Lake Tenaya via Forsyth Pass. Third day: Yosemite via the summit of North Dome and Yosemite Falls Trail.
From Yosemite we take the road on the south side of the valley past Camp Curry to Happy Isles Bridge. Here we turn right on the main Glacier Point Trail and follow Trail Trip 1 to the junction at the top of the Nevada Falls switchbacks. The Glacier Point Trail (Trail Trip 1) turns right and crosses a small bridge. We take the left-hand trail, which rises about 200 feet and follows up the Merced River. About half a mile beyond, the Little Yosemite Trail (Trail Trip 13) continues up the canyon. The main trail turns to the left and zigzags upward thru a dense stand of pine, fir and cedar. A climb of about 800 feet in one and a half miles takes us to the junction with the Half Dome Trail (Trail Trip 14), which branches left. Our trail turns eastward along a gently sloping bench. After a quarter of a mile the Clouds Rest Trail (Trail Trip 5) continues to climb to the left. The Merced Lake Trail turns right, fording a small creek and thence following up the west bank of Sunrise Creek, crossing about a mile above to the east bank. About half a mile above the crossing is Hopkins Meadow, where the Sunrise Trail to Tuolumne Meadows (Trail Trip 8) branches to the left.
We turn right, passing thru almost level open granite country for the next two miles where we obtain grand views of Little Yosemite, of the deep canyon of the Merced, and of Mt. Clark and Mt. Starr King toward the south. Descending some short, steep switchbacks the trail again becomes almost level and passes the picturesque little Duck Lake at the right of the trail. Rising a few feet we now descend abruptly into Echo Creek Canyon, crossing Echo Creek about a quarter of a mile from the Merced River. Here at Echo Valley are good campsites, excellent feed and fine fishing. Echo Creek was stocked in 1905 with eastern brook trout. Steelhead and German brown trout will also be found in the river. The old “Merced Lake Trail,” which is shown on the U. S. G. S. map as ascending Echo Creek is in very poor condition and is no longer used. From Echo Valley the trail climbs about 100 feet over a granite spur, in the ascent passing thru a beautiful forest of western yellow pine. Following for one mile along the glaciated granite slope, the trail parallels the river, which here descends in a series of rapids, cascades and low falls.
We arrive finally at Lake Merced (Alt. 7300). This is one of the most accessible and well known of the lakes in Yosemite’s High Sierra. At its shores and along the entire seven-mile canyon above are ideal camping places. Horse-feed is abundant above the lake. Fishing is excellent in both lake and river. The lake contains Loch Leven, German brown and rainbow trout. Rowboats may be hired at fifty cents per hour or $2.50 per day. Merced Lake is undoubtedly the best base-camp for trips thruout the entire upper watershed of the Merced River.
The trail skirts the north edge of the lake, passing into a beautiful forest of sugar pine and western yellow pine at the upper end. Just above the lake is Merced Lake Lodge, with excellent accommodations. One may here rent a fishing outfit and some supplies may be obtained. Washburn Lake is three miles further up the canyon.
(28 miles—12 hours)
The Sunrise Trail has long been famous as one of the most scenic routes between Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows. The walk is almost too long to be enjoyed in one day and is better taken in two.
From Yosemite Village we follow the road south of the river, past Camp Curry to Happy Isles Bridge. There we turn left on the Glacier Point Trail and follow Trail Trip 1 to the junction at the top of Nevada Falls. Again turning left we skirt the south base of Liberty Cap and climb 200 feet to the Little Yosemite Valley. After following along the margin of the placid Merced we veer abruptly to the left at the first trail junction. Straight ahead is Little Yosemite (Trail Trip 13). Our route mounts the timbered slope to the northward and we now and then catch glimpses of the round dome of Mt. Starr King across Little Yosemite. A climb of 800 feet takes us to the junction where the Half Dome Trail (Trail Trip 14) turns northwest. We take the right-hand trail, which trends eastward along a gently sloping bench. The Clouds Rest Trail (Trail Trip 5) now branches northward directly up the slope.
Our trail bears eastward and shortly crosses a small branch of Sunrise Creek. The trail now follows up the north bank of Sunrise Creek, crossing about a mile above to the south side. One-half mile further is Hopkins Meadow and a junction where the Merced Lake Trail (Trail Trip 7) turns right. Horse-feed is here moderately abundant and campsites fair. The Sunrise Trail continues up the canyon and is shortly joined by the Forsyth Pass Trail from the north (Trail Trip 5). Reaching the head of Sunrise Creek and ascending the east flank of Sunrise Mountain by long sandy zigzags, the trail emerges at several vantage points from which Mt. Clark is most advantageously seen to the south. The trail now leads almost level through lodgepole pine and fir forests, emerging suddenly at the foot of Long Meadow. To the north is the sharp spire of Columbia Finger (Alt. 10,700) and Tenaya Peak (Alt. 10,300) at the left. Horse-feed is abundant here late in the season but the meadow is generally cold. There is no fishing in the creek. Just beyond the 400-foot ridge to the west is Mildred Lake, in which are some very large trout.
After following up Long Meadow, the trail rounds the eastern base of Columbia Finger, passing over glaciated granite and thru stunted forests. The serrate crest of Echo Peak (Alt. 11,100) towers imposingly at the right across the canyon. A rise of a few feet takes us over Cathedral Pass (Alt. 9850). Just beyond is a beautiful unnamed lake above which the spires of Cathedral Peak rise impressively at the north. Skirting the east shore of this little lake at about timber line, the trail bears northward across a sandy plateau where white bark pine grows abundantly. To the west, down the canyon, can be seen the upper end of Cathedral Lake (Alt. 9250) about one mile distant. Here camping and fishing are good. The lake was stocked long ago and re-stocked in 1915 by fish from Tuolumne Meadows. Continuing around the west flank of Cathedral Peak the trail gradually bears northeast, descending into denser forests of lodgepole pine, fir and hemlock. To the left can be seen the summit of Fairview Dome (Alt. 9250) about one mile distant. A gradual descent through the dense forest, which is especially noted for its many beautiful mountain hemlocks, takes us finally to the south edge of Tuolumne Meadows, where the trail joins the Tioga Road. The ranger camp and Sierra Club Lodge are about one mile east.
(14 miles. Eagle Peak and return, 13 miles—8 hours)
The round trip to the summit of Eagle Peak via Yosemite Falls Trail is one of the most attractive of one-day Yosemite excursions. From the valley to the crest of El Capitan via the Yosemite Falls Trail, returning via Gentry and the Big Oak Flat Road, is too long and hard a trip to be attempted in one day except by the most hardened walkers. The trail to Eagle Peak is excellent, but from that point to the summit of El Capitan it is in poor condition. From this point along the north rim to Gentry the route is so overgrown by brush as to be almost impassable.
From Yosemite we follow Trail Trip 3 as far as the trail junction above the zigzags west of the Upper Yosemite Fall. Here we continue straight ahead, paralleling Yosemite Creek, to another junction a quarter of a mile above. The trail to the north leads to Ten Lakes and Hetch Hetchy (Trail Trips 10 and 11). We turn to the left, climbing westward near the north bank of Eagle Creek over an old terminal moraine. One mile from the junction is Eagle Peak Meadow (Alt. 7200), where are good campsites and forage. Ascending the creek to its source, the trail continues south along the ridge, climbing abruptly the last half mile to Eagle Peak (Alt. 7333), one of Yosemite’s finest lookout points. To the east the 3800-foot precipice gives a vast impression of depth.
About one-third mile from the summit the little-used El Capitan Trail branches to the west. Descending by sharp switchbacks to the head of a small draw, the trail follows the rim westward thru a brushy forest, undulating over the flat divides between several brooklets. Swinging southward our trail emerges on an open transverse ridge, which it follows a short distance to the summit of El Capitan (Alt. 7564), from which is a commanding outlook both up and down the valley. It is possible to carefully descend towards the southeast to the rim, where a slightly extending ledge allows one to peer over the sheer wall of the 3000-foot cliff. The old El Capitan Trail to Gentry branches to the west about one-third of a mile north from the summit and continues thru very brushy country along the north rim to Ribbon Creek, about one mile distant. From this point if one is a good woodsman and brush-fighter, the old blazes may be followed thru a three-mile tangle to the Gentry Checking Station on the Big Oak Flat Road. Yosemite is then 8.1 miles distant by road.
(One way 17 miles—7 hours)
The recently constructed Ten Lakes Trail makes the exceptionally beautiful Ten Lakes Basin and Grant Lakes easily accessible from Yosemite. The round trip is too long to be attempted in one day. The lakes offer most attractive sites for a permanent camp, and several of them are well stocked with trout.
We follow the Yosemite Falls Trail (Trail Trip 3) from its beginning just west of Yosemite Lodge to the trail junction at the top of the upper zigzags. Here the Yosemite Point and North Dome Trail turns right and crosses a small creek. Those who have not visited the top of the upper fall should by all means turn aside, for it is but a short distance—less than five minutes’ walk. Our main trail continues straight ahead paralleling without crossing Yosemite Creek thru a beautiful mixed forest where the tree-lover will find a few specimens of western white pine. At about one-quarter mile (4.0 miles from Yosemite) the Eagle Peak Trail (Trail Trip 9) branches to the left. We follow up the west margin of the creek, generally thru dense forests, but emerging at times to clatter over polished and striated granite pavements where monster mountain junipers grotesquely spread their gnarled branches. Great “potholes” have been formed by the stream where it rushes over the smoothly planed bedrock. At a point 3.7 miles above the Eagle Peak Trail junction the main trail continues to the left up the west fork (Trail Trip 11). Our trail, which turns right and keeps on up the main fork canyon, is considerably less traveled. In the next 2.3 miles we pass over rough granite up the west bank of the main stream to the Yosemite Creek Ranger Station on the Tioga Road. There is here a government telephone. Good campsites will be found at the crossing a quarter of a mile east of the cabin and fair feed upstream. Fishing is fair to poor. There are better camps, feed and fishing about three miles upstream.
At the Tioga Road the trail is indistinct. We cross the bridge and follow up the east bank of Yosemite Creek on the main road until the blazes are sighted. The first third of a mile is easily traversed, but the following one and a quarter miles are rough. About three miles above the bridge is a meadow with abundant pasturage. This is a good campsite and fishing is fair upstream. In the next three miles the trail gradually ascends to an elevation of 9200 feet, leaving Yosemite Creek and passing over the flat divide into the Tuolumne River drainage. At the summit one can leave the trail and walk southeast 1.5 miles to Grant Lakes (Alt. 9500). These are two beautiful mountain lakes, the upper one being in a rugged cirque with sheer walls rising above at the east. Both were stocked in 1917 with rainbow and eastern brook trout.
The Ten Lakes Trail continues north over the tableland and descends 600 feet by switchbacks into the Ten Lakes Basin (Alt. about 9400), seven miles from the Tioga Road. Here are many ideal campsites and good forage except early in the season. The lakes were stocked with eastern brook trout in 1908, 1913, 1915 and 1918 with Loch Leven in 1908, and with steelhead in 1918. Fishing is reported excellent. A walk of one and a half miles due north takes us without climbing to the summit of Grand Mountain (Alt. 9350), from which is obtained a most impressive view of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and Muir Gorge just below. A still finer and more comprehensive panorama may be had from the summit of Colby Mountain (Alt. 9700) on the canyon rim 2.5 miles northeast from Ten Lakes. For this short side trip one should leave the trail just before its descent into the basin and follow northward on the ridge that juts out into the main Tuolumne Canyon.
(31 miles—12 hours)
From Yosemite to Hetch Hetchy is a long one-day trail trip. The following route is not especially scenic, traversing as it does the rather flat forested plateau west of Yosemite Creek. The country north of the Tioga Road is heavily grazed. Feed is sometimes scarce on this account, and the numerous cattle trails are often confusing. Near Hetch Hetchy the railroad has obliterated about three miles of trail, making it necessary to follow the railroad grade. Further changes may be expected as the work in Hetch Hetchy advances.
From Yosemite we follow Trail Trip 3 to the trail junction near the top of Yosemite Falls zigzags. Here we continue straight ahead up the west bank of Yosemite Creek, passing beneath a beautiful forest of Jeffrey pine, white and red fir, lodgepole pine and scattered western white pine. At about a quarter mile (four miles from Yosemite) a trail branches left to Eagle Peak (Trail Trip 9). In tracing the following few miles up Yosemite Creek we often cross pavements of glaciated granite where will be found some magnificent specimens of mountain juniper. Note also the potholes in the creek bed. At three and three-quarters miles from the Eagle Peak Trail Junction the Ten Lakes Trail (Trail Trip 10) turns northeast, following up the main stream. Our trail turns left and parallels the west branch of Yosemite Creek, two and a half miles to the Tioga Road, which we now follow northwestward for five miles, passing several meadows in which are good horse-feed and campsites. One of the largest of these meadows is White Wolf. The small stream south of the road is the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Tuolumne River. There is here fair fishing but the trout are small.
At a point where the road curves to the southwest, the Harden Lake Trail branches to the right. About one mile northward is a trail junction where the Hetch Hetchy Trail turns westward and the Harden Lake and Pate Valley Trail turns eastward. Harden Lake (Alt. 7575) is but a few steps distant but invisible from the Hetch Hetchy Trail. It is small and contains no trout, but offers an attractive campsite among the meadows and park-like forests.
From Harden Lake we turn westward and for six miles ride thru unbroken forest to Smith Meadow on Cottonwood Creek. Here the Smith Peak Trail turns northeast. The 1200 foot climb in two miles to Smith Peak (Alt. 7835) is well worth a side trip, as it offers a superb panorama. The north slope drops precipitously 4200 feet to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. At Smith Meadow another trail follows down Cottonwood Creek and leads to Hog Ranch, seven miles distant. Our trail turns northeast and in five miles descends to the San Francisco Railroad grade, which it intersects about halfway between Hog Ranch and Hetch Hetchy. Since the trail has here been obliterated it is necessary to follow the railroad grade which, with pack animals, is rather dangerous on account of the possible meeting with a train. Two miles northward at the end of the railroad is the city camp and offices, and a short distance beyond, the damsite. From here a good road descends to the floor of Hetch Hetchy, about one mile distant.
(4 miles—3 hours—Round trip 1/2 day)
For years there was a search for a point in Yosemite from which the five great waterfalls— Upper and Lower Yosemite, Vernal, Nevada and Illilouette—might be seen. The quest was finally ended when in 1897 Mr. Charles A. Bailey and a friend computed the location of such a point by triangulation. To their surprise it was not one of the dominating summits, but occurred rather low on the west flank of Grizzly Peak. The first ascent on June 14, 1897, proved the calculation to be correct and the crag was named Sierra Point in honor of the Sierra Club.
The trail starts from Happy Isles, which are 2.3 miles distant from Yosemite. Here we turn south on the main Vernal and Nevada Falls Trail or cross Happy Isles by the footpath. A quarter mile takes us to a spring and water-trough, where the Sierra Point Trail branches to the left and ascends the flank of Grizzly Peak by switchbacks. A leisurely ascent may be made in forty-five minutes. From the point is not only a good view of the falls but an impressive panorama. The depths and distances are accentuated by the promontories being above the observer and the canyons far below.
(Round trip, 14 to 20 miles—6 to 12 hours)
Little Yosemite, although quite accessible and most charming in its diversity of scenery, beauty and absolute restfulness, remains unknown to most tourists. It deserves at least one day in one’s Yosemite itinerary. Fishing is reported good and those interested in geology or botany will be well repaid by the trip.
Above Nevada Falls the canyon of the Merced expands to broad level meadows walled in by precipitous cliffs 1500 to 2000 feet high. Here in Little Yosemite are exhibited all of the Yosemite features—dome structure, exfoliation, glacial phenomena, “royal arches,” etc., but on a somewhat smaller scale. Even the forests and flowers are similar, for the altitude is here only 6000 feet— two thousand feet higher than Yosemite. The level floor, which has also resulted from the filling in of an ancient lake, is broken in but three places by the crests of terminal moraines, which extend across the valley and cause the Merced to cascade beautifully in “silver aprons.” In three miles the polished granite walls again converge to form a narrow canyon from which the river emerges, plunging over a beautiful cascade and into a picturesque glacial tarn. The most outstanding scenic feature of the valley is the perfectly formed Sugarbowl Dome (lately renamed Bunnell Point) at its head. Lost Lake, near the south base of Half Dome, is a swamp part of the season and later a boggy meadow. It is interesting only as being in the transition stage between mountain lake and mountain meadow.
Kah-win'-na-bah' was the Indian name for the valley as well as the large summer camp located there. The river was known as the Yanopah.
Little Yosemite is reached by following Trail Trip 1 to the top of the Nevada Falls zigzags, thence turning left and following Trail Trip 5 to the first junction, from which we continue up the canyon. The head of the canyon is three miles eastward. The region is an excellent place for a permanent camp away from the overcrowded valley and one may easily arrange at Yosemite for the delivery here of a camp outfit and supplies.
(Round trip, 20 miles—12 hours)
From the time Yosemite was discovered, the mile-high summit of Half Dome was regarded as unattainable. The few mountaineers who attempted its ascent returned saying it would never be climbed. Finally there came a young Scotchman, Captain George C. Anderson, with an irrepressible determination to accomplish the feat. After all methods of clinging to the smooth, steeply inclined granite had failed he procured drills, hammer and eye-bolts, and set out to reach the summit by rising from peg to peg. Slowly his ladder grew and finally his goal was reached on October 12, 1875. Anderson was so enthused over the wonderful dome and the sublime views from the summit that he constructed a trail to “The Saddle,” from whence his pegs led to the top. Here he determined to build a hotel, but his untimely death in a lonely cabin in Little Yosemite prevented its completion.
In 1883 the pegs were swept away by a great avalanche. Some were later replaced by daring climbers, but the ascent remained so dangerous that it was seldom attempted. From 1899 no ascents were made until 1912, when two adventurous youths fastened ropes to the few remaining pegs and attained the summit. Following this, the dome was frequently climbed. In 1919 a public-spirited citizen of San Francisco donated the money to build a first-class trail to the summit. This was constructed under the auspices of the Sierra Club, and the once perilous ascent finally made safe to all.
The round trip to the summit is one of the most thrilling and scenic one-day Yosemite excursions. Parties should start early and carry canteens. From Happy Isles the main Glacier Point Trail (Trail Trip 1) should be followed (take the Mist Trail if walking) to the top of the Nevada Falls zigzags. Here we turn left and follow the Clouds Rest Trail (Trail Trip 5). A climb of 800 feet above the Little Yosemite Valley takes us to a small stream. About 200 yards further, in a fine grove of Jeffrey pine and incense cedar, the Clouds Rest Trail bears to the right along a bench, while our trail climbs the long switchbacks to the left. The remaining 500-foot climb is thru dense forest. Anderson’s old trail crosses our route in one place and zigzags up the hillside about a quarter mile eastward. Just below the ridge and about 200 yards to the right of the trail is a spring near the big pile of stones, which are the only relics of Captain Anderson’s camp. Canteens should be filled here, as no water will be found higher. A short climb takes us to the crest of the ridge at the lowest point between Quarter Domes (Alt. 8276 and 8160) at the northeast and Half Dome at the southwest.
At the ridge top is a forest of lodgepole pine and a sudden transition to pure fir as we cross to the northwestern slope where the climate is more severe. Climbing beneath these firs we suddenly emerge at the crest and obtain a wide view of the High Sierra on one side and the depths of Tenaya Canyon on the other. A few minutes’ walk along the open ridge takes us to the rustic entrance which marks the beginning of the foot trail. The pile of timbers and boards nearby were hewn and split by Captain Anderson to be used for his Half Dome Hotel. The foot-trail now climbs abruptly 250 feet by short zigzags and stairs to “The Saddle,” along the crest of which we continue to the base of the final ascent.
If tennis shoes are to be used they should be put on at this point. The tool-box nearby contains ropes and safety belts for the use of the public, but the ascent is perfectly safe without them.
From here an 800-foot double cable railing with iron posts every ten feet leads to the top. On the steep slopes are footholds, and at one place a fifty-foot ladder carries us over the most dangerous part of the ascent. Turning to the right at the top of the cableway we follow the monuments across the surprisingly flat summit to the brink of the great northeast face, where we find an overhanging shelf of granite. The panorama at all sides is inexpressibly grand, but some of the valley features suffer by being dwarfed in the great distances below.
The descent should be started not later than 3 to 4 p. m. in order to reach Yosemite before dark.
(2.5 miles. Average 4 hours climb)
Next to Half Dome, the Ledge Trail is the most thrilling of Yosemite climbs. The ascent was formerly quite dangerous, but in 1918 a safe foot-trail was constructed. The record ascent is fifty-three minutes, but this is a steep, hard, 3200-foot climb and will take the average individual three to five hours.
The trail starts from the Happy Isles Road, turning southward just east of the new Le Conte Lodge. It climbs the talus slope above Camp Curry and turns westward up a steep ledge. As the trail mounts to view-commanding heights there are many unusual and impressive glimpses into the depths below. Reaching a steep canyon, the trail turns sharply to the left and climbs beside a small creek. The water is polluted and to drink it is dangerous. Near the top, the trail gradually becomes less and less steep and finally crosses the canyon rim only a few feet distant from Glacier Point and the Overhanging Rock. Glacier Point Hotel is about 200 yards southward.
(Round trip, 2 miles in 2 hours)
The short excursion from Glacier Point to the summit of Sentinel Dome is well worth while. The round trip can easily be made afoot in two hours and many hikers include it in their “Glacier Point” day.
From the hotel we follow the Chinquapin Road about a quarter of a mile. Just beyond a spring at the left of the road, the trail turns to the right and climbs abruptly beneath the firs and pines. Gradually the forest becomes more open and park-like, and the firs are replaced by hardy Jeffrey pines. During the last quarter mile of the ascent we pass over weathered granite which has exfoliated in slabs near the top. At the rounded summit is a gnarled and wind-blown Jeffrey pine—probably the most photographed tree in the park. To the east is an exceptionally fine panorama of the High Sierra.
In returning to Glacier Point we follow the trail to the south, intersecting the road about 300 yards away. Here we turn left, noting the soft decomposing granite which seems particularly susceptible to weather conditions. The distance beyond to the hotel is one and a half miles.
(11.7 miles—5 hours. Round trip from Yosemite, 21 miles—13 hours)
This is one of the most beautiful Yosemite trails. With very little climbing the trail parallels the south rim thru delightfully attractive forests and wild-flower gardens, emerging from time to time to reveal vast views across and into the valley. The round trip from Yosemite to Glacier Point and thence to Fort Monroe via the Pohono Trail, returning to the valley via the Wawona Road is too long a trip to be attempted by the average walker in one day. It is best to stay over night at the Glacier Point Hotel, starting early the next morning.
Leaving the Glacier Point Hotel we follow the road southwestward about two miles, turning to the right at the Pohono Trail sign. We now follow thru a dense fir forest for one mile, emerging at the canyon rim at The Fissures. These are great cracks only a few feet wide and hundreds of feet deep. Just beyond is Taft Point (Alt. 7503). From here is a wonderful view. especially of the sheer 3500-foot precipices of El Capitan and Three Brothers rising as massive buttresses of the great north wall.
Swinging south along the rim for a short distance, the trail again turns westward thru the fir forests passing beautiful small meadows and wildflower gardens and descending to Bridalveil Creek. The bridge has been destroyed but a foot-log is in place. There is fair fishing in this stream but the fish are small. Bearing west and north and climbing slightly, the trail emerges at Dewey Point (Alt. 7316), another of the promontories of the south rim. From here the Cathedral Rocks and Leaning Tower are viewed from an unusual angle, and El Capitan and Ribbon Falls dominate the opposite wall. Following the rim westward about half a mile we reach Crocker Point (Alt. 7090), from which is obtained another vast outlook. Descending 430 feet thru the forest we cross a small stream and emerge at Stanford Point (Alt. 6659), another prominent lookout on the southern ramparts. About half a mile westward one sees Old Inspiration Point, from which Yosemite was first seen by white men on March 21, 1851. Retracing our path a short distance, we turn to the right and cross Meadow Brook. which flows over Widow’s Tears a quarter mile below. The vicinity is a Mecca for flower lovers. The trail continues westward, dropping 1400 feet in the next one and a half miles to Fort Monroe (Alt. 5540), an old stage relay station on the Wawona Road. Yosemite is eight miles eastward by this road.
(11.7 miles—5 hours. Round trip from Yosemite, 24 miles—13 hours)
The Pohono Trail trip is one of the most beautiful of Yosemite excursions. Striking eastward from Fort Monroe on the Wawona Road, it traverses a delightful wooded country in which are some of the finest wild-flower gardens of the park. From time to time it emerges at the rugged ramparts of the south wall and affords many vast panoramas. The round trip from Yosemite to Fort Monroe via Pohono Trail and return to the valley via the Short Trail is too long to be attempted by the average walker in one day. Even the trip to Glacier Point by this route is a long one, and it is suggested that the itinerary outlined in Trail Trip 17 be followed in preference. At Fort Monroe, an old stage relay station on the Wawona Road, is a fairly good auto camp. From here one may visit all the lookout points on the south rim by an easy one-day walk, or may continue to the Glacier Point Hotel (11.7 miles), returning the next day.
The Pohono Trail turns eastward from the Wawona Road at Fort Monroe, eight miles distant from Yosemite. In the long steady climb of 1400 feet in the first two miles we cross two small mountain streams and near the top of the ascent pass about a quarter mile south of Old Inspiration Point (Alt. 6603), from which Yosemite was first seen by white men on March 21, 1851. The gently sloping trail now winds beneath the firs thru most luxurious gardens of wild flowers. Shortly we cross Meadow Brook which, a quarter mile below, plunges over Widow’s Tears. Trending northward about half a mile we now emerge at Stanford Point (Alt. 6659), one of the promontories of the south rim. From here, as from all other lookouts along the top of the great south wall, is a vast panorama. Retracing our path a short distance we turn to the left, cross another small brook, and climb 350 feet in the next half mile to Crocker Point (Alt. 7090). Closely paralleling the rim for another half mile we halt at Dewey Point (Alt. 7316), the imposing apex of one of the great granite buttresses. Cathedral Rocks and the Leaning Tower are here viewed from an unusual angle. To the northward El Capitan dominates the north wall and Ribbon Falls is most advantageously seen.
A long detour to the southeast now takes us into the Bridalveil Creek Basin. The trail bridge has been destroyed, but a foot-log is in place. Fishing is fair, but the trout are small. Turning again eastward we continue thru the fir forests, passing beautiful small meadows and wild-flower gardens until we again approach the canyon rim, which we follow northward for a short distance to The Fissures. These are great cracks only a few feet wide and hundreds of feet deep. Just beyond is Taft Point (Alt. 7503). From here is a wonderfully vast view, especially of the sheer 3500-foot precipices of El Capitan and Three Brothers on the north wall. Following eastward along Profile Cliff, our trail again enters the fir and lodgepole pine forest and leads across the gently sloping plateau about one mile to the Glacier Point Road. We here turn left and an easy walk of two miles takes us to the Glacier Point Hotel, where excellent accommodations will be found. The lookout point and overhanging rock are about 200 yards northward. For trail trips from Glacier Point consult Trail Trips 16 to 23.
(20.5 miles—7 hours)
This is one of the oldest trails in the region and was the main thorofare to Yosemite prior to the construction of roads. The “old timers” like to tell of the famous hostelries along the route—Clark’s, Westfall’s, Peregoy’s and McCauley’s—which have long since ceased to be. The trail is not of great importance from the scenic standpoint, but offers a shortcut between its termini. Throughout most of its course it is maintained in good condition.
From Glacier Point we follow the road southwestward about two and a half miles. A short distance beyond the Pohono Trail turn-off, our trail branches to the right and enters the fir and pine forest. In the next four miles we first climb over a low spur and then descend into the basin of Bridalveil Creek, where we cross the Glacier Point Road at Peregoy Meadow. This is a good camping place and forage is abundant. Fishing in Bridalveil Creek is rather poor near the road. Bearing southward, our trail emerges in one mile at Westfall Meadow, another good campsite. Passing across an almost imperceptible divide we cross the headwaters of Alder Creek and follow along the west side of its canyon thru a beautiful forest of western yellow pine, sugar pine, fir and cedar, part of which has lately been logged. About three and a half miles below Westfall Meadow is Empire Meadows, where feed is abundant and campsites good. Fishing is fair but the trout are small. The nearest campsite downstream is at the creek crossing three miles further. Here there is a fair camping place but forage is scarce.
From this crossing Wawona is about six and a half miles distant. Rising a short distance above the stream, the trail follows the 5500-foot level detouring around the west flank of a well-wooded mountain. About three miles from the crossing, a trail to the right descends to Alder Creek Ranger Station on the Wawona Road about one mile distant. We now continue around the mountain, gradually bearing to the southeast. The trail in the last two miles is rather rough and zigzags abruptly down to the main road, which it intersects a short distance from Wawona Bridge. The hotel, store and postoffice are just beyond.
(13.5 miles—5 hours)
At the very source of Bridalveil Creek and only five hours’ easy walk from Glacier Point lies the picturesque Ostrander Lake, famous since the early days for its splendid fishing. The round trip from Glacier Point Hotel (twenty-seven miles) may be made in one day by good hikers, but it is far better to camp at the lake at least one night in order to be there for the best fishing. Motorists, by parking machines at the trail junction six miles southwest of Glacier Point on the Chinquapin Road, can easily make the round trip (fifteen miles) in one day.
From Glacier Point we follow the Chinquapin Road about six miles to the point where a sign indicates the Buck Camp and Ostrander Lake Trail turning to the left. This trail bears south, crossing a small tributary to Bridalveil Creek, then continues through the open lodgepole pine forest and crosses the main stream about two miles from the road. A short distance beyond, the Buck Camp Trail (Trail Trip 21) continues up the south branch of the creek. Our trail turns abruptly to the east (left) and again crosses the main stream, following up the northeast bank. In the first two miles the trail is good, but the remaining three miles are somewhat rough and steep.
Ostrander Lake (Alt. 8600) is beautifully set in a glacial amphitheater on the north side of Horse Ridge (Alt. 9600), which towers 1000 feet above. It is shallow on the north and west sides but deep under the bluffs, where are generally deep snowbanks. The lake was stocked with rainbow trout in 1892, 1893, 1899 and 1911, and with eastern brook trout in 1893 and 1899. Fishing is excellent.
Buena Vista Lake (see Trail Trip 22) is about four miles distant and may be reached by walking southeast about two miles through open forest (no trail) on the north slope of Horse Ridge and joining the Buena Vista Trail in Buena Vista Canyon. Here we may turn south up the canyon, at the head of which is Buena Vista Lake.
(15.5 miles—6 hours)
The old Buck Camp Trail connects Yosemite with the favorite hunting grounds of the Chowchilla Tribe. It traverses a beautifully wooded country but offers no startling scenic effects.
From Glacier Point we follow the road southwestward about six miles to a junction, where our trail branches to the left. Bearing southward we cross a small stream and traverse a rather flat lodgepole pine forest, finally fording Bridalveil Creek. Just beyond, and at a distance of about two miles from the road, the Ostrander Lake Trail (Trail Trip 20) turns to the left. We continue southward, crossing a tributary of Bridalveil Creek and gradually mounting the slope beyond. As the trail turns southeast along the flat ridge, the wooded canyon of Alder Creek is seen to the west. Two miles further on an almost imperceptible pass is traversed. Just beyond is the source of one of the northern tributaries to Chilnualna Creek. This we follow for about two miles to the main stream, where are good campsites and abundant forage. Fishing is fair but the trout are small. One mile further is the main Chilnualna Falls Trail. Westward one and a half miles is the Chilnualna Ranger Station, with good campsites in the vicinity, and a half mile further is the top of Chilnualna Falls. The trail eastward leads to Grouse Lake (two miles), Crescent Lake (three and a half miles) and Johnson Lake (four and a half miles).
(16 miles—7 hours)
This is a good new trail and is the most direct route between Glacier Point and the excellent fishing lakes of the southern part of the park. The one-way trip is an easy day’s journey from Glacier Point. For those walking from Yosemite there are good campsites and excellent fishing en route at Buena Vista and Royal Arch Lakes.
From Glacier Point we follow the main Vernal-Nevada Falls Trail about two miles. Just east of Illilouette Ridge we take the right branch and continue southeastward up the canyon of the Illilouette. About three miles takes us to another trail junction. To the west is Mono Meadow, about one and a half miles distant, and to the northeast, crossing Illilouette Creek, are the Merced Pass Trail (Trail Trip 23) and the cut-off trail to the rim of Panorama Cliff.
Our trail continues up Illilouette Creek, finally crossing a low “hog back” and turning south up Buena Vista Creek. In a glacial cirque at its head is Buena Vista Lake (Alt. 9200). The south, or upper side is backed by a rugged rock bluff from which huge boulders have fallen into the water, making an excellent place from which to fish. The lake was stocked with eastern brook trout in 1892, 1908 and 1919, and with rainbow trout in 1892. It is one of the park’s best and most accessible fishing lakes. Surrounded by open parks of timber, it offers many beautiful campsites, especially near the outlet. Forage is fair downstream from the lake but is rather scarce early in the season. Ostrander Lake is four miles northeast and can be reached by foot. There are no blazes or monuments to mark the route.
Our trail now mounts abruptly 400 feet to Buena Vista Pass (Alt. 9600). To the right about half a mile is Buena Vista Peak (Alt. 9600), and to the left and running east is Buena Vista Crest. Excellent views are obtained from the trail as it crosses the open ridge. Near the summit the granite has fractured perpendicularly, forming regular rectangular slabs.
An 800-foot descent thru the open forest in the next two miles takes us to the picturesque little Royal Arch Lake (Alt. 8800). This is a small lake, deep on the north and east sides, and shallow near the southwest margin. It is named from the arches in the steep northeast granite wall, which are similar to the Royal Arches of Yosemite Valley but on a smaller scale. The lake was well stocked with eastern brook trout in 1897 and fishing is excellent, especially in the deep water along the rocky northwest shore. There are fine campsites here and good horse-feed.
Skirting the west margin of the lake our trail follows the small stream about one mile to the main Chilnualna Trail. Eastward is Buck Camp (two miles), Moraine Meadows (seven miles), and Fernandez Pass (eleven miles). We turn westward to Johnson Lake (Alt. 8550), about a quarter mile distant. This is a small, round, deep lake beautifully set in meadows and forest. It is bountifully stocked with eastern brook trout and rainbow trout. The locality is ideal for camping. Further westward are Crescent Lake (one mile), Grouse Lake (two and a half miles), and Chilnualna Falls (six and a half miles).
(From Yosemite, 22 miles—10 hours. From Glacier Point, 18 miles—7 hours)
The Merced Pass Trail has been replaced to a large extent by the more scenic and better built Buena Vista Trail, which offers a short-cut to the splendid fishing lakes in the upper basin of the South Fork of the Merced. For those whose destination is the wild country at the headwaters of the San Joaquin River, the Merced Pass Trail is still the preferable route. The upper basin of Illilouette Creek abounds in glacial phenomena and fishing is reported good.
From Yosemite we follow the Vernal and Nevada Falls Trail (Trail Trip 1) as far as the rim of Panorama Cliff just above Nevada Falls. Here we turn to the right on the Mono Meadow Trail, which bears due south four miles to the main stream of Illilouette Creek. To reach this point from Glacier Point one should follow the Vernal-Nevada Falls Trail (Trail Trip 2) for two miles, turn to the right on the Buena Vista Trail (Trail Trip 22), and after three miles more turn to the left on the Mono Meadow Trail. A short distance will take one to the banks of Illilouette Creek.
At this point—twelve miles from Yosemite and five and a half miles from Glacier Point—the Merced Pass Trail turns eastward, following for ten miles up the main stream of the Illilouette and keeping always within a short distance of its north bank. Gradually ascending to an elevation of 9295 feet, we traverse Merced Pass. To the right is the long ridge of Buena Vista Crest (Alt. 9712). A descent of 600 feet in the next two miles takes us to Moraine Meadows. This is a splendid camping region with abundant horse-feed and good fishing. Nearby will be found a summer ranger outpost. A trail to the east leads to Fernandez Pass and the headwaters of the San Joaquin; one to the southeast to Chain o’ Lakes, where is most excellent fishing; and one to the west to Royal Arch, Johnson, Crescent and Grouse Lakes and Chilnualna Falls.
(4 miles—1 1/2 hours)
This is a cut-off trail widely used by the Park Rangers in their winter patrols but seldom used by the public.
Starting from the Wawona Road one and a half miles northwest of Chinquapin, the trail runs down the ridge on the north side of Indian Creek. Swinging to the north, the trail passes just west of Lookout Point, from which is a fine view down the canyon of the Merced. Bearing to the right, it descends to Avalanche Creek, where it passes just below Cougar Falls. The trail then zigzags down the canyon wall to the midwinter ranger station and trail bridge across the Merced River, joining the El Portal Road, about three miles above El Portal.
(10 miles—4 hours)
The Hennessy Trail is no longer used by the public since the bridge across the Merced at its lower end was washed away in 1917. Use the Sunset Trail (Trail Trip 24).
SUNSET PUBLISHING HOUSE, SAN FRANCISCO
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