McGurk Meadow, accessed along Glacier Point Road in Yosemite National Park, is awash in colorful wildflower blooms. Lupine, Indian paintbrush, asters, scarlet columbine, and larkspur all contribute to the riot of color.
The carpet of color is easily accessed via the meadow’s trailhead, and this 1.6-mile round trip hike can be extended another 6.2 miles by hiking out to and back from Dewey Point with views of El Capitan, Half Dome and Sentinel Dome.
Adding to the profusion of color along the trail are penstemon, alpine lilies (also known as the Sierra tiger lily), monkshood and geraniums. There are snow plants still brilliant red peeking from protected places rooted in rich soil. In contrast, purple and white pussy paws and scarlet gilia, now a vivid pink, grow in poor, sandy, sunbaked soil.
The trail crosses some small tributaries of Bridalveil Creek where the air is fragrant from the azaleas towering head high.
The corn lily leaves give testament to the fact that caterpillars have dined here in the past and have now metamorphosed into the butterflies and moths seen in abundance.
At the base of several of the corn lily leaves what looks like a little ball of spit is actually a frothy excrement mixed with air that provides a hiding place for the spittlebug, which goes through a number of molts before reaching maturity.
While this hike only gains some 300 feet in elevation and is rated as moderate, it is a good workout because of its length and the fact that you gain 100 feet in elevation climbing out of McGurk Meadow back to your vehicle on Glacier Point Road at 6,900 feet.
Be sure to note the stabilized remnants of an old cabin to the left of the trail as you begin the hike. The cabin belonged to John J. McGurk, a cattleman who occupied it from 1895-97 when he was removed from the property by U.S. troops, the custodians of the area at the time. It seems that there was a discrepancy in the description of the claim for the land where the cabin was built.
The hike is mostly shaded following the fringe of trees lining the meadow. The elevation of Dewey Point, the turnaround point for us, is about 7,200 feet. The panorama visible from Dewey Point includes Cloud’s Rest and the path of Ribbon Falls (now dry) where it plunges from El Capitan when Ribbon Creek ends abruptly.
Other sights visible are the Gunsight (which from this perspective really does look like its namesake) and Cathredral Rocks and Spires.
A persistent squirrel kept trying to sneak up behind the 11 and 9-year-old hikers in our group for bits of dropped lunch, and a lizard skittered over the rocks. A hawk screeched at our group from a distance and a tanager was spotted along the trail as we returned to McGurk Meadow.
If this hike is not quite long enough, Dewey Point is along the Pohono Trail and if you have coordinated vehicles, you could continue culminating your hike at Tunnel View or Glacier Point.
For a description of these other destination points visit: http://www.yosemitehikes.com/glacier-point-road/glacier-point-road.htm.
Note: The downloadable National Park Service Glacier Point Area Hiking Map shows Dewey Point at 7,385 feet. The round trip from the McGurk Meadow trailhead to Dewey Point is listed as eight miles, while the above website has slightly different numbers.