Narrowing down the “must-see” sights in Yosemite is tantamount to asking John Muir to name his favorite plant.
However, Muir didn’t have much of a schedule, he just wandered the wilderness for weeks on end, sketching flowers and free-climbing deadly waterfalls.
Today, we have jobs and families and pets and commitments to get back to, so our travel time isn’t as unlimited as Mr. Muir’s. Thus, here are a few “must-see” sights in Yosemite that you can check off in a few days.
1. YOSEMITE FALLS
Come early spring and through the first half of summer, this is a sight to behold. Yosemite Falls consists of three falls and usually peaks in May, when it throws unfathomable amounts of flowing snowmelt over its crest to eventually meet the valley floor more than 2,400 feet below.
2. HORSETAIL FALL – “THE FIREFALL”
When it comes to can’t miss sights in this national park, few are as coveted as the “firefall.”
When the sunset is just right in mid- to late February, and the flow is ample enough, the 1,000-foot Horsetail Fall explodes into a flowing band of searing water as the dark orange rays of dusk land a direct hit. The flaming water cuts like a torch down the face of its canyon wall, attracting photographers from all over the world.
3. THE VIEW FROM CLOUD’S REST
First, no peak anywhere has a better name.
Part of our Classic Peaks of Yosemite trip, Cloud’s Rest looms above the valley at 9,931 feet. The hike up is a bit challenging, but plenty safe and do-able. And worth every huff and puff. From up on Cloud’s Rest, you’ll look down on Half Dome, over to Mt. Conness, Hoffman, Tenaya, and take in just about every other mountain in the park. Open your lunch, have a seat, and breathe.
4. VERNAL & NEVADA FALLS
Accessed by the paved and natural stepped Mist Trail starting just beyond Half Dome Village, these two falls, Vernal first from bottom, carry the Merced River from its high-sierra source into and across Yosemite Valley.
The cliff-side trail offers several great places to rest and take in the often thundering experience, especially along the fenced natural granite ramp at the precipice of Vernal. Bring a poncho.
5. mariposa grove
Giant sequoias are kind of scary. Sure, they’re just trees. Until you stand among them, this is a hard concept to grasp.
These incredible feats of nature are true giants; their size belies the quiet awe they inspire in visitors. Mariposa Grove will re-open in the spring of 2017 after a multi-year restoration effort.
6. tenaya lake
This serene alpine lake sits on the edge of Tioga Road. It’s a busy lake as a result of its location, but Tenaya Lake is nonetheless a must-see Yosemite sight.
7. may lake / mt. hoffman
Like Tenaya, May Lake is nestled in a granite basin three miles up a dirt road, and a mile up a boulder strewn trail. Thus: fewer people.
Beyond May Lake is Mt. Hoffman, another spectacular place from which to scan the many high points of this wondrous national park. A challenging hike, sure, but once up top, you won’t care.
What did we miss? Share your thoughts below because we love the dialogue.
Craig Rowe – Wildland Trekking Guide