After Monterey, our next destination was a 3 hour detour from our coastal roadtrip inland, to the Yosemite National Park. When we were planning our trip we weren’t sure if we would have the time, but wow, we are so glad we managed to fit it in!
We arrived at the Yosemite Bug Youth Hostel on Sunday evening, which is about 30 miles from the park itself (and so about half the price), and in a beautiful spot in the woods. Monterey had been a bit chilly, so when we stepped out of the car into the 32 degree heat, it really hit us!
We hadn’t made any firm plans for what we wanted to see, but Sam kept mentioning an awesome 15 mile hike he had read about. I really wasn’t convinced until I read some of the reviews on the yosemitehikes website, and I had to agree that it sounded brilliant. One guy described it as ‘after you do the Panorama Trail your life will be broken into two parts; before the hike and after it’.
So, we made up our minds to do it straight away and got up at 5am the next day to try and avoid some of the heat.
The first part was a trail called ‘The Four Mile Trail‘ which is actually nearly 5 miles and is all uphill. Starting at the valley floor, we walked steadily for about 3 hours, through beech and then alpine forests, on switchback after switchback. Once we got into the rhythm of it, it felt really good, and we only saw one other group of people the whole way up.
As we got higher and higher new vistas would appear around the corner, like Sentinal Dome and El Capitan, and our first look at the famous Half Dome was just incredible.
The end of our first trail was at the top of the peak, at Glacier Point, one of the famous look outs that you can also drive to. After stocking up on Gatorade and gummy bears at the shop, we looked at more spectacular views of the whole valley. The walk was definitely worth the payoff!
We then started on the next Trail, The Panorama Trail, which took us down to Illouette Falls and then up a ridge which had a detour to a fantastic view point of the valley, but no railings and a terrifyingly sheer drop, so I couldn’t spend too long there.
We climbed some more before dropping down to Nevada Falls for some sausage sandwiches and a paddle in the stream to cool off.
The Trail then took us down a really steep path on the Mist Trail to descend a seemingly endless steep stone staircase right next to the Vernal Falls, before finally, we hit the valley floor again.
I think the whole walk was about 15 miles and took us about 8 hours. We were pretty hot and sweaty by the end, but it was such a brilliant introduction to the park. We celebrated with a pint and a chicken burrito back at our hostel.
The next day my legs were a bit like jelly so we had a bit more of a leisurely start, before heading into the park via the south entrance in order to visit the giant sequoia trees.
The Mariposa Grove is home to some of the largest and oldest trees in the world and they are so gorgeous to walk around in. We did a nice loop around the grove to see some of the star attractions and after a few miles it got nice and crowd-free, and the Forest became wonderfully peaceful.
On the drive back to the valley we stopped at the tunnel viewpoint for some more pictures (I think we managed nearly 300 in two days here!) and then the Bridalveil Falls, which, along with Yosemite Falls, aren’t at their best in the summer as they are nearly completely dry. Never mind, we’ll just have to come back in the spring when the snow melt makes them a spectacular sight.
After visiting the museum and gift shop in the village we headed out of the park, via a completely isolated bit of the river for a swim!
Yosemite has been one of our absolutely top favourite things we have done this year. And it’s been a pretty awesome year! It is so stunning, and even with the summer-time crowds we could easily get away into the seeming wilderness with a few lovely walks. I’d definitely love to visit Yosemite again.