vernal fall in yosemite

Day 161 – Yosemite and Beyond – Part 2

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Day 161 of Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

Yosemite Valley has so much to offer.  It is definitely the place that all visitors should stay when visiting the park.  May I also suggest that tourists visit the park with their bike in tow during the week and during off peak times if possible, or at least not during the summer.  I can’t imagine what the mobs of people or traffic would be like on a summer weekend.  This weekend the weather was beautiful, but due to the heavy snow, many of the campgrounds were still closed, and the park was packed.  I’m so glad I began my day early.

I was on the trail by 8:30.  Given it takes an hour to get to the valley from the Wawona Campground, I felt like I got a good jump on the day.  On our way to the trailhead, we made a short stop at Tunnel View which provides a panoramic picture of the valley including three of its famous landmarks:  El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall.  After admiring the view, I drove VANilla a few more miles into the valley, parked beneath some tall trees, pulled the shades, and left Petey to fend for himself for a few hours while I took a four mile roundtrip hike to the top of Vernal Fall.

Hike to Vernal Fall

Generally, it is only a three mile hike, but I had to make up some distance from my parking spot and my curiosity led me further up the trail toward Nevada Fall.  I had read about the trails and recalled that the walk to Nevada Fall was long, but that the walk to Vernal Fall was only about a mile and not too strenuous.  What I had forgotten was that the walk to Vernal Fall Footbridge was short and simple while the walk to the top of the waterfall was strenuous!  Yes, I certainly missed the memo suggesting goulashes, a raincoat, and the ability to climb what seemed like 500, 12 inch stairs!

The hike was definitely exhilarating, and I’m thankful I brought both my cameras with me.  The trail that led above the waterfall was aptly named, Mist Trail.  I walked for a quarter of a mile, straight up through mist which required me to protect my good camera inside my jacket.  I had to wipe the lens of my point and shoot each time I lifted it to snap a photo.  The river was raging – whitewater everywhere.  It’s hard to believe it was the same river in which I snapped the reflection of Yosemite Fall yesterday.  The sun shined on the spray which produced a double rainbow over the river and trail.

With my legs burning and my breath rapid, it was evident I hadn’t been on the revolving stairs at the gym recently.  I pressed forward up the wet, stone path as tourists stopped to pull on raincoats or looked for dry areas to rest their tired legs and racing heart beat.  Just above the top of the waterfall was an emerald pool.  It reminded me of rafting down the Grand Canyon.  Our river guide always warned, “There is always ‘calm’ before the storm”.

Nevada Fall

Vernal Fall was so incredible, my curiosity got the best of me, so I had to at least get a glimpse of Nevada Fall that was still 1.2 miles away.  Even at that distance, it looked magnificent.  As much as I would have liked to continue, I knew the next mile gained another 1,000 feet in elevation, and I just didn’t feel like I had the time to make it up there with Petey in VANilla.  Some other time I will have to make a day of it and continue this hike all the way to Half Dome.


As I returned down the trail, I met the masses of people.  Half way down through the mist a young boy and his parents were talking about taking a picture with the rainbow which at that angle only half of one rainbow was visible.  I said, “If you go up a little farther, you can see the whole thing, and it is a double rainbow.”  The young boy’s dad thanked me, and then the boy, as he watched me turn down the steps, exclaims, “Dad, it makes you go down?!?”  (Kids are so funny)

His dad responds, “Well, what did you think you had to do.”

“Well let’s go then,” he said impatiently, not the least bit amused that he had to turn around at some point.

As I continued further down the path, visor damp, hair wet, beads of mist on my face and hands, a few surprised tourists commented, “Looks like you got wet”.  Yes I did I thought, thus the name “Mist Trail”.  One lady, dressed in a white, short sleeved top was about to enter a wet T-shirt contest.

Hiking Yosemite Valley

While I have been focusing on the well known falls in Yosemite, I should say there were waterfalls everywhere, from small trickles of water that slide down sheer granite rock to torrents that crash down into violent waters.  In many places, the emerald river was simply whitewater leaving no trace of its actual color.

After my two hour walk, I met up with Petey and took him for a stroll around the valley floor.  Dogs were allowed on the paved areas in the Valley which provided us a lovely four mile walk.  The hike from the Upper Pines Campground area to Yosemite Village takes visitors past the post office, past the Ansel Adams Gallery, around the Yosemite Cemetery, beneath Yosemite Fall, through the meadow, across Sentinel Bridge to the chapel, and back to the campground past Curry Village.  We shared the path with other walkers and cyclists as cars cruised by looking for places to park.

Taking in the sights, from all different angles is a must.  I have driven the valley loop twice, pulled off in several turnouts, and have walked a decent amount of it, and I feel like each time I make a turn, I see something new…generally another waterfall.  Perhaps they are the same few waterfalls, but they just look different, just like Half Dome presents numerous faces depending on the angle in which it is viewed.

History of Yosemite Valley

While I found myself most intrigued by the natural beauty, Yosemite Valley possesses history.  Yosemite Chapel is the only building remaining from the Old Village and is the oldest structure in Yosemite Valley.  Built in 1879 near the foot of Four Mile Trail, it was moved to its current location in 1901.  Other buildings that used to stand with it were the Wells Fargo station, the jail, guest cottages, photo studios, a hotel, a bathhouse, and a saloon.

The photo studio was started by Harry and Ann Best in 1902 whose only daughter, Virginia, married aspiring photographer Ansel Adams!  The family continues to run the business in what is now known as the Ansel Adams Gallery which we passed by earlier in our walk.

Yosemite Valley has been subject to a handful of floods over the years.  The most recent, in 1997, is also the largest flood on record where flood water levels appear to have stood well above the cars currently parked in the lot nearby the river.

Campground Near Yosemite

After our long day of walking, I was relieved to find a campground outside the park off of 140.  Having been on three different roads coming from entrances into the park, I believe 140 offers the best views.  Indian Flats RV Park, while outside the Yosemite Park, is actually closer to the valley than the other two campgrounds.  Privately run and thus a bit pricey, it has full hook-ups for campers with 30 amp needs as opposed to 20 amp (bummer) and showers that do not require quarters to operate (Yippee).  It is affiliated with a lodge 1,000 feet down the road that offers a restaurant and lounge, but with a bit of a headache, I just turned in for the night.  Frankly, I’m just thankful to be clean!  ETB.

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

5 thoughts on “Day 161 – Yosemite and Beyond – Part 2

  1. Your pictures are MAGNIFICANT! You bring back fond memories from our summer visit. High five for making it up Vernal Falls, it was quite a trek. I loved all the chipmunks at the top. Nicole and I went white water rafting, that was fun. We saw where they had to build a new bridge after the flood and how the engineers math didn’t work calcluating the turn so a 2nd bridge was rebulit right next to the first one. Your weather is glorious, hope you see the red flowers! Mary

  2. You can get a 30-amp plug to 20-amp socket converter for from places like CamperWorld. We paid less than $30 for ours a year or so ago. Probably cheaper from, say, WalMart.

    Your descriptions of the waterfalls delight me! We’ve had so much rain this winter that there will be ephemeral waterfalls all over the Sierras.

  3. etb….your photos are so great ! sounds like a beautiful part of your adventure.
    hugs to you ‘n mr. p.

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