As part of a three week road trip in California, we spent two nights in Yosemite National Park, the most awe-inspiring and overwhelming place that I’ve ever visited. Nowhere has ever made me feel as small or insignificant as Yosemite, whether I was stood under the shadow of the towering Glacier Point, or overlooking the giants of Half Dome and El Capitan, which make the huge trees on the valley floor look like tiny dots. National parks in the UK definitely don’t compare!
We entered the park through the Tioga Pass entrance and drove straight to Tenaya Lake, located between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. After entering the park, the road winds steeply up through the hills along Tioga Road to reach the picture perfect lake, 8150 feet above sea level. For the most part, the road is lined by mountains on one side and a sheer drop on the other. Make sure you admire the scenery if you take this drive, but don’t look down if you’re scared of heights!
Tenaya Lake is absolutely beautiful. The calm, crystal clear water surrounded by the mountains which dominate Yosemite is probably the most photogenic and peaceful place that I’ve ever visited. There are plenty of places to pull in along Tioga road to park up near the lake and walk down to the sandy shores. We only spent a couple of hours there, but could easily have spent the whole day if we’d arrived earlier. We relaxed for a bit on the sandy beach at the east end of the lake, before walking the trail which runs around the perimeter of the lake, admiring the surroundings from both ends. Then it was time to head to Yosemite Valley Lodge, our home for the next two nights. The lodge, located in Yosemite Valley and dominated by the towering formation of Glacier Point, was an ideal place for exploring Yosemite. Although it would have been cheaper to stay just outside the park, we didn’t want to waste time driving into the park in the morning and trying to find somewhere to park.
As we only had one full day in Yosemite, we were quite limited as to how much we could see. I decided that I couldn’t leave Yosemite without seeing the view from Glacier Point, so planned to follow the trail from Glacier Point to Sentinel Dome, which overlooks El Capitan and then on to Taft Point. What we didn’t realise was that the bus which takes you from the valley floor to the top of Glacier Point needs to be booked in advance and it was already fully booked. Our other options were to drive and park at the top, or take the four mile trail which climbs 3200 feet from the valley floor to the top. As we didn’t really fancy another drive on the narrow mountain top roads, or fighting for a space in the parking lot, we opted for the hike. The views on the way up are absolutely incredible, but don’t be fooled by the gradual way in which the path begins – that initial gentle slope soon turns into pretty steep terrain for the majority of the way up. But there are plenty of great photo opportunities to use as an excuse to take a rest.
In all honesty, I found the trail itself pretty difficult. Not because of the physical difficulty, but because I was terrified of being so close to the edge. I hadn’t even realised that this was something which would bother me, and it wasn’t the most ideal place to find out! My husband did not appreciate being told to ‘be careful’ every few minutes, neither did I enjoy him repeatedly tripping over tree routes whilst trying to walk and read his map at the same time! However, the views on the way up (& down) were so amazing, something which we wouldn’t have experienced from either the bus or the car. Several hours later and a pretty strenuous climb up the side of the rock face, we reached the Glacier Point lookout.
The view, which overlooks Half Dome, was out of this world. You literally feel like you are on top of the world looking out at the vast expanse that surrounds Glacier Point. We ate our lunch perched on a rock admiring the view before taking the trail from the parking lot to Sentinel Dome. This was a fairly easy hike, with just a small scramble at the end to get to the top of the dome. Again, this was another incredible view point, overlooking the giant that is El Capitan from one direction and back towards Half Dome in the other.
Although the original plan was to carry on to Taft Point, we were pretty tired and still needed to make the journey back down before dark. The walk back down was much easier than going up, but I was still glad to be back on the valley floor with no edges to fall off! At the time it did feel like a tough day, but it feels like such an achievement looking back at it. I would love to visit Yosemite again and carry on exploring this amazing place. As we visited in September, unfortunately all of the waterfalls were dry. If I was lucky enough to visit again, I would definitely want to see the thunderous waterfalls which I’ve seen so many amazing photos of.
Yosemite over and time to move on to Monterey!