During the last few weeks I’ve been approached by many individuals stating that Yosemite Valley’s waterfalls are at their peak and are spectacular to see.
With the largest snowfall in many years, and with the warmer temperatures in early spring, all the Valley falls are showing off their splendor.
I recently joined the Sierra Mountain Senior Hiking group for their annual spring loop at Yosemite Valley’s west end. The weather was ideal with 60 degree temperatures and clear blue skies. We arrived at Bridalveil Fall around 10:30 a.m. to a flooded parking lot. The runoff from the fall was much too great for the streams to divert the water.
As we followed the trail that passed in front of the fall, timing was crucial. The falls created their own weather pattern and if one’s timing was off, your evening shower would come early.
Looking up from the trail that follows the south side of the Valley are the towering centennials of Cathedral Rocks and the Cathedral Spires. The indigenous people called these formations “Poosenachucha,” which means “large acorn cache.”
There is a Cathedral Rock Trail that is called The Spires Gulley Trail. This steep path is a Class 3 (strenuous) trail with boulder hopping. Calibrate an all-day hike to the summit and back. Fred Cochran, Clem Bingham and I mastered this trail four years ago. The rewards are the views from the summit of the tallest Cathedral Peak.
One can still enjoy the trail but just follow its path to the base of the two spires to admire their unusual shape. The two spires were first climbed by Jules Eichorn, Bestor Robinson and Dick Leonard in 1934. The tallest narrow spire elevation is 6,689 feet followed by 6,579 feet of the lowest spire. Subtract the elevation of the Valley floor of 4,000 feet, and that will total the climbing elevation.
On the opposite side of this Valley is Ribbon Fall, El Capitan, Sierra Point and further east are the Yosemite Falls.
Now we’ll cross to the north side of this enormous Valley by crossing one of a few stone bridges spanning the Merced River. Each bridge crossing opens views extending the full length of the Valley floor.
Once on the west side we experienced all that water runoff that is searching for its place at the Merced River. Now this runoff has become part of our trail. The difficulty was obvious when the choice of boulders and fallen branches were not available for foot placement, which means our shoes got a little wet - or maybe I should say they were submerged. Finally after carefully maneuvering through the low lying area we finally arrived at the main road and another historic stone bridge.
After again crossing the Merced River we stopped at a large meadow for our lunch break located directly below the towering rock called El Capitan. We are probably too early in the season to preview mountain climbers, but the view from this location was simply breathtaking.
We’ll follow the main road along the Merced River which offers unique views of those rock formations along the south wall of the Valley. For an added bonus along the river; the Dogwood trees are starting to bloom.
Next we arrived at another stone bridge which is the junction of highways 140 and 41. This is our final bridge crossing the Merced River before following the trail on the river’s opposite side to our starting point at Bridalveil Fall parking lot.
This adventure lasted 3.5 hours which includes taking advantage of photo opportunities and a lunch break. I would classify it as easy to moderate with only a 300 foot elevation gain.
If you’re seeking a memorable hike within Yosemite Valley with plenty of photo opportunities and coupled with a non-strenuous trek, this hike will provide some of the highlights of this natural world wonder - Yosemite National Park.