Yosemite Instameet

Yosemite Instameet Social Media Graphic.jpg

What are you doing Saturday, January 30, 2016? We’d love to have you join us at an Instameet here in Yosemite.

If you’re on Instagram, you’ll immediately recognize a great chance to meet new friends, including Yosemite NPS rangers, a great bunch of Yosemite locals, and some super fun Instagramers like Carlos Luna (@CarrlosLuna), Grace Cortez (@m.gracecortez) Karen Grubb (@MrsGrubby), Mike Greggory (@mike_pgregory), Caleb Diaz (@hellohiccups), Elisabeth Brentano (@elisabethontheroad) and Katie Goldie (@goldiehawn_), plus Tenaya Lodge’s very own Trevor Lee (@trevlee).

If you’re not on Instagram, come up and join us anyway and see what all the fuss is about.

We’ve teamed up with NPS and Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite on this event to celebrate the NPS Centennial, the 100th birthday of the National Park Service this year. What better way than to kick of the year than with some winter exploration in Yosemite?

We’ll meet at the Nordic Center at Badger Pass Ski Area for a snowshoe walk at 11am. Bring your snowshoes! If you need to rent, we’ve arranged a great deal for Instameet participants. Check in at our table to get your snowshoes for $10, and we’ll have some additional activities goodies for you as well.

Let us know if you think you will be able to make it! Hope to see you there.

#YosemiteSnowDay #TenayaWinter #FindYourPark

Top 6 Insider’s Tips for a Cheap Yosemite Vacation This Winter

Winter is a peaceful and mesmerizing time to explore Yosemite. It’s hard to beat freshly fallen snow and sweeping granite cliffs for a quiet walk around the valley. A visit to Yosemite doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, visiting in winter will bring you some of the best deals of the year.

Winter in Yosemite

Winter in Yosemite | View from Valley View

  1. Stay two nights and get FREE lift tickets*. When you make a reservation for two consecutive nights midweek, you’ll get two free lift tickets to use during your stay. Even at regular rates, Badger Pass is an affordable family vacation, but the Stay 2 Ski FREE program makes it even more of a steal.

    Riding the Eagle Chair at Badger Pass

    Riding the Eagle Chair at Badger Pass

  2. Free shuttle bus service to Badger Pass. Save gas, let someone else deal with snowy road conditions, and gain some flexibility for your family by taking advantage of the free Badger Pass Ski Area shuttle bus. Buses depart Yosemite Valley early morning and mid-morning for Badger Pass, and then return early afternoon and late afternoon.

    Skiing at Badger Pass

    Skiing at Badger Pass

  3. Every kid in a park. In honor of the National Park Service’s Every Kid in a Park program, current 4th graders can get a free Badger Pass lift ticket when they complete the NPS program, plus 25% off lessons and rentals. The whole immediate family is also included with 25% discounts on lift tickets, rentals and lessons.

    Skiing with the family at Badger Pass

    Skiing with the family at Badger Pass

  4. Military Discounts. Active military personnel and veterans ski free at Badger Pass. During non-peak season dates, they also receive free equipment rentals and group lessons. Plus, they are eligible for great discounts to pass along to immediate family members.

    Ice Skating at Curry Village

    Ice Skating at Curry Village

  5. Ice Skating Rink. Gliding across the ice rink below Half Dome is a traditional Yosemite winter activity that can’t be missed, and it doesn’t cost much. Skate rentals are available, and remember to bring a few marshmallows to roast over the fire pit for the ultimate winter experience.

    Ranger-led snowshoe walk

    Explore with a ranger on a snowshoe walk

  6. Ranger-led walks and snowshoe hikes. Ranger-led walks provide a great way to connect and understand parks any time of year. In the winter, NPS rangers also lead daily snowshoe walks from the A-frame at Badger Pass to help people discover the amazing world of winter. Snowshoes are provided for the walk, and if that taste only whets your appetite for more snowshoe exploration, snowshoe rentals are available around the corner at the Nordic Shop. No experience is necessary. Donation requested.

*Limitations apply. Please visit the website for more details.


Explore Yosemite in Winter by Cross Country Ski

Theresa Ho, Online Marketing Manager for Delaware North at Yosemite, has been living and exploring in Yosemite for 12 years. In the winter, she loves cross country skiing in the park. Read on to find out more about her skiing experiences and suggestions.

I don’t have the right words to describe the feeling of gliding over the ground on cross country skis. In my mind it’s the sound of skis on snow and my breath in the silence. The air is sharp and clear, and even the squirrels and birds are muted by the blanket of snow. If anything, the cliffs and waterfalls seem even bigger and more majestic. Exploring in winter is everything you could want from exploring – quiet, world-class scenery, and in some ways it’s more free than the summer months.

XC skiing at Sentinel Dome

Looking across at Upper Yosemite Fall on a XC ski tour. Photo: Theresa Ho

Badger Pass Ski Area is my default base of winter exploration. The base lodge provides a relaxed place to begin the day. The deck is a popular place to just lounge and soak up the sunshine if that’s what you are in the mood for. Lines are basically non-existent outside of the holiday periods. The slopes provide a perfect place for some easy turns and family fun. Snowshoe and XC ski rentals are available at the Nordic Center, and NPS rangers lead a daily snowshoe walk close to the ski area. But my favorite activity by far is cross country (XC) skiing.

The cross country skiing in Yosemite is epic.

In the winter, the Glacier Point Road past Badger Pass closes to cars. Instead groomers lay cross country and skate skiing tracks all the way to Glacier Point, making this a great corridor to get into the outdoors quickly and easily.

XC Skiing in Yosemite

XC Skiing in Yosemite

If you stay on the road, you can explore Summit Meadow after a mile of skiing, at the top of the first hill. Beyond that, the road gets quieter and heads downhill with cool views of Merced Peak framed by the trees (just remember that you’ll have to ski back up). If you have more energy, Clark Range View is 5.7 miles one way. This sunny slope overlooks the Clark Range and is a great spot to relax and soak in the scenery. I usually carry a small backpack with extra layers, snacks, and water, and sit on that for a quick break. Others will carry a small pad to keep them off the snow. After that, you can head back or continue to Glacier Point.

Glacier Point Ski Hut at night

Spending the night Glacier Point Ski Hut. Photo: Steve Bumgardner

In the winter, the store transforms into the spacious Glacier Point Ski Hut. The t-shirts and souvenirs are replaced by bunk beds and a dining area. If you have reservations (available through the Nordic Center – call 209-372-8444), the hut keeper will greet you and have a fire going in the wood stove. If that sounds nice, think about some of the other benefits of spending the night at Glacier Point.

I have great memories of being perfectly alone with my friends at Glacier Point looking across at a Half Dome covered with snow going orange and pink in the light of the setting sun. Once, I managed to snag a bunk next to the window and woke to a beautiful sunrise over Half Dome from my sleeping bag. Plus, if you have the energy, side trips to Sentinel Dome or other nearby places provide great skiing against a backdrop of iconic Yosemite scenery.

Dewey Point

At the end of the world at Dewey Point in the Winter. Photo: Chris Falkenstein

Even if you don’t make it all the way to Glacier Point, a network of ungroomed trails branch off from the main Glacier Point Road artery. Some of the most popular are the trails that take you to Dewey Point and incredible views overlooking the valley. Most people take the better part of a day to ski (or snowshoe) the 7-8 miles to Dewey Point and back. But I know of at least one Badger Pass employee who would dash out and back during his lunch break. It’s hard to tire of scenery like that.

Another thing I love about exploring the park in the winter is that the snow protects fragile plants and ecosystems. Unlike the summer months when leaving the trail can mean trampling plants and creating erosion or soil compaction issues, on-snow exploration leaves little lasting impact. One of the Leave No Trace principles, “Camp and travel on durable surfaces,” actually extends to snow travel. In a good snow year, many of the bushes that can make off-travel difficult are also covered in snow, making this the perfect season to find out what was around that corner that you were always curious about.

If you’re looking for a fun way to get out and enjoy the winter months or explore the park, check out the cross country skiing in Yosemite and let me know what you think.

By _simplytheresa_ Posted in Misc.

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Wawona

As part of an ongoing series, we’re featuring the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. The Wawona Hotel grounds are a favorite place for Jessica Kennedy, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley.

“Like many Yosemite visitors, I drove past Wawona often without giving it much thought. Yosemite is full of incredible vistas, huge waterfalls, and jagged peaks, and I didn’t see how Wawona’s forests and rolling hills fit into that. It’s not the Yosemite that first comes to mind, but Wawona has its own special charm.

Summer in Yosemite is marked by hot, sunny days and crowds of tourists. But tucked away on the southern end of the park, the Wawona area reminds me of a peaceful visit to my southern grandmother’s home. The hotel’s façade is wooden and painted white, just as it was in the hotel’s early days when guests arrived by stagecoach. When I last visited on an afternoon in June, a cool breeze was blowing through the old sequoia trees on the property and groups of families and friends were sitting outside in lawn chairs reading or reminiscing together.

My favorite hidden treasure in Wawona is the golf course. I’m not a golfer and never plan to be, but this is the first golf course I’d ever spend an afternoon visiting. The atmosphere is so casual and welcoming that I’d even consider giving golf a shot. The edge of the course is lined with wildflowers, and the thick forest of trees along each hole makes it feel like your own private retreat. And then there’s the chorus of ever-chirping birds. I don’t need to be homesick for the South — the bright, warm afternoon, the tall pine trees, and the cold iced tea are all right here.

There’s no internet, not much phone signal, and no television, so Wawona is the perfect place to be fully present in Yosemite. The hotel prides itself on allowing guests to step back in time, and it really feels that way. I watch the YARTS bus pull up and can almost hear the stomping hooves and jingling rig of the stagecoach pulling up in the same spot in the early 1900s. With no phone or computer to distract myself, when the sun sets, my only option is to head inside, find a cozy seat in the parlor, and listen to Tom Bopp welcome the evening on the piano as he has for many, many years. As it turns out, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.”

On your way into the park, stop by Wawona to look around, sip on an iced tea, or grab a meal. You don’t need a reservation to check out the golf course or admire the giant sequoias. If you want to know more about the Wawona area, sign up for our mailing list and look out for our August Yosemite in Focus newsletter all about Wawona.

By jrskennedy Posted in Misc.

Mules: A Key Part of Yosemite’s Past and Present


Mules have a long history in Yosemite National Park. In Yosemite’s early days, mules were responsible for getting people and supplies into the park and were crucial in early road building efforts in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks. In 1864, James Hutching brought in a pack train of 100 horses and mules, starting the tradition of tourist stables in Yosemite Valley. In the late 1800s, Wawona was developed and became the largest stage stop in Yosemite. Stagecoaches would often stop at Wawona Hotel for the night before the final eight-hour push to Yosemite Valley the next day.


With their reputation as sure-footed, reliable animals, mules have long reigned supreme to horses for packing and riding on Yosemite’s rocky terrain and steep trails. Compared to horses, they also endure heat better, eat less, more rarely have hoof problems, do better in groups, and tend to have a higher sense of self-preservation.

Mules are used in a variety of ways in the park today. On a trail ride from the stables in Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne, or Wawona, you’ll probably be assigned a mule instead of a horse. Mules are great animals for riders of all levels. Because mules stick with their horse mothers when they’re young, they naturally follow horses, the preferred animal for guides to ride. When you take a trail ride, you’ll see that the mules are quite good at following each other in a line.

C_KK_Merced River Canyon Trail 3

Mules are responsible for getting all five of Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps running. Every part of each High Sierra Camp – the tent canvas and frames, wood stoves, mattresses, and more – was originally brought in by mules. Pack mule trains deliver food and supplies to each camp twice a week on a set schedule in the summer. If you’re hiking on trails near the high camps, you may cross paths with pack trains. If you do, say hello, step to the side of the trail, and wait for the mules to pass.

C_KK_John Muir Trail SM_09-05-06

If you’re dying to ditch your heavy backpack or skip the hiking, consider a custom or standard saddle trip. Most trips allow you to spend a few days with a professional guide packer learning about Yosemite and traveling from one High Sierra Camp to another. Custom pack trips are available from all three of our stables. These trips book up far in advance, but you can call the stable at (209) 372-8348 and check for availability.


In Yosemite and other parks across the country, mules are essential tools for trail crews, wilderness rangers, backcountry utilities, fire suppression, and search and rescue efforts. To top it all off, mules are spunky, mohawked animals full of lovable personality.

This is the last year to take a trail ride at the stables in Tuolumne and Yosemite Valley, but there are no planned changes to trail rides at Wawona Stable. If you’d like to go on a trail ride, find more information online.

*Black and white photos are from Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America books about Yosemite Valley and Yosemite National Park and Vicinity.

By jrskennedy Posted in Misc.

Ranger Ned’s Big Adventure in Yosemite

ranger ned website shot

On a sunny summer day, tucked back in the little amphitheater in Curry Village, there’s a good chance you’ll find a quirky “ranger” captivating an audience of wide-eyed kids with stories of Yosemite.

Ranger Ned is no ordinary ranger – he’s a time traveler, an educator, and a passionate Yosemite guest. Played by different actors over the years, Ranger Ned weaves together Yosemite history, campsite rules, bear safety, and environmental conservation alongside another actor who plays a handful of supporting characters – John Muir, Ansel Adams, and Bob the Bear, to name a few.

“The kids learn so much in such a fun and energetic way,” said KB Mercer, co-owner of Traveling Lantern Theater Company, who created and still runs Ranger Ned’s Big Adventure with her husband, Doren Elias. “It really contributes to their understanding and appreciation of what they see around them in the park during their visit.”

ned tent

Mercer and Elias visited in 2007 and noticed the park didn’t have any plays specifically for children. After meeting with park staff and partners, they developed a script that has stayed the same since then. Over the years, the play has been performed at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and the amphitheater near Housekeeping Camp, but Curry Village is its primary home. According to Renee Santiago, administrative assistant at Curry Village, it’s a cherished and helpful part of Curry Village’s summer programs.

“I’ve often heard a child reprimanding their parent after the show for improper food storage, saying something like, ‘Mom! We have to get the cooler out of the car so the bears don’t break in,” Santiago said. With over 500 tents and cabins, proper food storage is extremely important at Curry Village.

The program is almost always held outside, which makes the script feel more applicable.

“When ‘John Muir’ is describing a ‘puzzle-piece Ponderosa Pine,’ he can actually run up to a giant Ponderosa and show the audience what it looks like,” Santiago said.

ned beard

But it’s not all education – it’s fun and engaging and a “labor of love,” Mercer said. “Doren and I want young people to learn to care for the park on a personal level. We do, and we want to pass that magic along.”

Although the script doesn’t change, some guests return year after year. Tricia Guyot and her family visit Yosemite from Southern California each year, and they always attend a Ranger Ned show.

“It has become a huge part of our family’s yearly tradition,” Guyot said. “We’ve come to know and love the fabulous actors who have worked so hard to bring the characters to life.”

The interactive nature of the show gets kids involved – “demonstrating sounds of thunder, galloping onto the stage riding a ‘pony,’ or prancing around like one of the parks’ many mule deer,” Guyot described.

“Theatre is a unique tool for teaching children,” Mercer said. “There is nothing else like it for impacting a young mind.”

In addition to Ranger Ned’s Big Adventure, young visitors to Yosemite can check out our other programs for kids and families. What are your favorite family programs in Yosemite?

By jrskennedy Posted in Misc.

Little Known Facts About the History of Curry Village in Yosemite

Curry Village after a spring snowstorm 2015

Curry Village after a spring snowstorm 2015. Photo by Marta Czajkowska.

Did you know that Curry Village in Yosemite National Park is a National Historic District? Designated on the National Historic Landmark register as Camp Curry Historic District, Curry Village was originally established as Camp Curry by the Curry family in 1899. Over one hundred years later, this rustic resort in Yosemite Valley is still serving thousands of park visitors each year with a mix of lodging consisting of hotel rooms, cabins and tent cabins set at the east end of the valley just under Glacier Point with a commanding view of Half Dome. Curry Village is by far the largest lodging property in the park with 503 accommodations. With restaurants, stores, a swimming pool and a guest lounge, Curry Village maintains the legacy of Camp Curry with comforts established by the Curry family and their passion for Yosemite.

1.  The original rate was $1.50 per day. This rate included lodging and meals.

2. The camp once housed a bowling alley and dance hall.

3. Early refrigeration consisted of carving blocks of ice from Mirror Lake in winter and storing them in sawdust for summer.

4. There was one heck of a toboggan run at Curry Village from 1927 to 1952.

5. After Camp Curry, the Curry family built The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley and became the Yosemite Park & Curry Company.

6. A children’s park at Camp Curry was known as Kiddie Kamp, and housed a petting zoo.  It also included a mini train ride.

7. At Camp Curry, the song “Indian Love Call” was sung during the Firefall, which took place every summer night at 9:00 pm.

8. The Curry Village Ice Rink once hosted a Winter Carnival where a King and Queen were crowned during an elaborate pageant.

Yosemite National Park turns 125!

2015 marks the 125 anniversary of Yosemite National Park. 2014 marked the 150 anniversary of the Yosemite Grant. One year later we claim to be 25 years younger?  Yes. Well, not exactly. Yosemite has a long and interesting story and sometimes it takes a couple tries to get things right.


Lets try to get the story figured out. In 2014 we commemorated the 150 anniversary of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Groove of Big Trees protected as California’s first State Park. Not only was it California’s first state park, it was the World’s first state park. This, ladies and gentleman, was the seed planted that would sprout into America’s best idea, the National Park idea. Although Yellowstone can take credit as the nation’s first National Park in 1872, Yosemite can take credit as providing the first glimpse of this idea, protection for future generations.


Yosemite’s first form of protection was created under a grant that transferred land from the federal government to the state of California. This ground-breaking piece of legislation was signed by Abraham Lincoln on June 30th 1864, during the heat of the civil war.  However, the Yosemite Grant’s protection was limited. Very little beyond the stretches of Yosemite Valley’s granite cliffs would have the same protection.


This map shows the arbitrary lines drawn to “protect” Yosemite Valley . These lines left the Yosemite Valley vulnerable.  Not long after, alarms were sounded and  work started to protect the lands found beyond the stretches of Yosemite Valley. What happened outside the walls of Yosemite Valley would undoubtedly shape what flowed into it.

John Muir below Royal Arches and Washington Column

Although it took 26 years and public outcry by people like John Muir and the Sierra Club, further protection was eventually secured. On October 1, 1890 the third national park was created, Yosemite National Park. President, Benjamin Harris, signed legislation protecting 1500 square miles of land surrounding Yosemite Valley. This newly formed National Park would help protect the watersheds from being polluted, the high meadows from being grazed, and from other threats, such as mining prospects.


The boundaries drawn did not include Yosemite Valley or the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, those places would remain protected as a State Park until 1906. The boundaries drawn in yellow were the ones created in 1890, boundaries that are actually larger than Yosemite’s current park boundaries, which are drawn in red. Yosemite National Park protected Tuolumne Meadows, the Tuolumne and Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, Hetch Hetchy Valley and countless streams, granitic domes and peaks. The 1890 park boundaries even included the Devil’s Postpile, which is now a National Monument on the Eastern side of the Sierra. If you are wondering where Teddy Roosevelt fits in this picture, that is a later part of the story. In 1906 Teddy Roosevelt transferred Yosemite Valley as a State Park into Yosemite National Park, helping to make all the pieces fit together. This was also the time Yosemite’s boundaries were redrawn once again. The red boundaries were created in 1906, which follows the spine of the Sierra Nevada.

Cathedral Peak. Yosemite National Park Photo by David Jefferson

150 years ago, we tried our best to protect Yosemite. 125 years ago we were still trying to figure out how to better protect Yosemite’s landscapes. This is something that continues today and into our future. Next year, Yosemite and the entire National Park Service will commemorate a different anniversary, the centennial of the National Park Service! To learn more about Yosemite’s anniversaries, visit http://www.nps.gov/featurecontent/yose/anniversary/events/index.html

The Four Seasons of Yosemite in Stained Glass

Tissiack Stained Glass at Yosemite Lodge 2014

“Tissiack” stained glass mural by Bill Poulson at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls

Guests at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls this summer may have noticed Yosemite’s autumn splendor well before the season began. Taking the form of a large stained glass mural, “Tissiack” is a work of art created by stained glass artist Bill Poulson. Featuring Half Dome surrounded by the flora and fauna of fall in Yosemite, the mural measures 8 feet high by 14 feet long. Displayed in the windows of the Cliff Room at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, “Tissiack” (the Native American name for Half Dome), was replaced this week by “The Chief” featuring El Capitan and the full moon on a winter night in Yosemite Valley.


Artist Bill Poulson installing the “Tissiack” mural.

Stained Galss Mural Yosemite Lodge 2014

The transition from fall to winter as the new mural is installed

Artist Bill Poulson, a California native, maintains a studio in the town of Arnold. Inspired by a trip to Yosemite in 1985, Poulson opened a studio the next year and the plans for the Yosemite Mural Project as the “4 Seasons of Yosemite” began to take shape. Two murals have been completed – fall and winter – and the design for spring is complete. Once the design and composition is completed, it can take up to two years to perfect the full-scale drawings along with the actual glass cutting and assembly.  There are over 2200 pieces of glass in “Tissiack”.  The murals are created in the traditional method of creating stained glass with leaded glass and copperfoil, reinforced with steel. “Tissiack” was completed in 1989 and the winter mural, “The Chief”, was completed in 2008. Poulson hopes to complete the spring mural in 2015. Until then, visitors can view “The Chief” for a view of winter in Yosemite that continues throughout the season. Look for the display in the courtyard of Yosemite Lodge at the Falls next to the gift shop.

Winter Bill Poulson

“The Chief” stained glass mural by Bill Poulson

For more information about artist Bill Poulson and the Yosemite Mural Project, visit his website: www.williampoulson.com


Top 5 Spring Hikes

Mist Trail Hiking

Hiking through the mist of Vernal Fall on the Mist Trail    Photo: DNC P&R at Yosemite

Mist Trail

One of the most popular trails in the park, the Mist Trail passes two of Yosemite’s famous waterfalls, Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. In the spring this trail earns its name when it comes close enough to the waterfall to douse hikers with spray. Bring a rain-coat and prepare to get wet! Also, keep your eyes open for rainbows (spraybows) when the sun hits the mist at just the right angle. If the water seems chilly, the open granite slope at the top of Vernal Fall is a great place to soak in the sun and dry out a little.

The round-trip hike to the top of Nevada Fall is 7 miles with roughly 2000 feet of elevation gain, but the great thing about this hike is that there are so many ‘destination’ views on the way that there is an out-and-back hike along this trail for almost anyone. By the time you’ve reached the first views of Vernal Fall from the footbridge (~0.8 miles from the trail head), you’ll have already passed views of Illillouette Fall and Yosemite Falls. Continuing on, the top of Vernal Fall is 1.5 miles in, with spectacular misty views of the waterfall in between. Plus, of course, those with permits, might continue on to the summit of Half Dome.

A note of caution: all too often this trail is the scene of accidents involving wet rocks and slopes leading down to the river. In high-water years, the water polishes the granite banks of the river, making them unexpectedly slippery, and the power of the water catches many by surprise. Be safe. Stay on the trail, and out of the water.

Lower Yosemite Fall and Upper Yosemite Fall

Upper and Lower Yosemite Fall

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls from the Lower Falls Trail    Photo: Chris Falkenstein|DNC P&R at Yosemite


Lower Yosemite Fall is a 1.1 mile loop across from Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. It follows a paved trail, perfect for strollers, to a bridge at the base of lower Yosemite Fall. In spring, when the water fall is at its largest, mist from the Lower Fall blows out over the bridge, leaving hikers feeling like they are on the bow of the Maid of the Mist. (Another favorite for those looking for a quick, and relatively easy walk is Bridalveil Fall. A short, paved half-mile walk from the parking area brings you to the base of this waterfall. Again, expect spray in the spring.)

Upper Yosemite Fall Trail is not a continuation of the Lower Fall loop. Instead, this (7.2 mile round-trip) trail starts behind the Camp 4 Campground, and climbs steadily to Columbia Point which provides a birds-eye view of Yosemite Valley. Then, the trail contours around to reveal incredible views of the upper fall, and middle cascade. Continue up to the rim, and keep your eyes open for a steep, exposed stair that leads down to a viewing area. If you’re still feeling adventurous, continue a short distance on to Yosemite Point for even better views of Half Dome and the valley below.

Mirror Lake/Meadow – Snow Creek Trail

Mount Watkins reflected in Mirror Lake

Mount Watkins reflected in Mirror Lake    Photo Kenny Karst|DNC P&R at Yosemite

A relatively flat one-mile hike from bus stop #17, Mirror Lake packs a lot of scenery into a short walk. Not only is it located below the iconic Half Dome, but during the spring months, the meadow fills with water to form a shallow lake reflecting the near-by cliffs, including Mount Watkins. When the dogwoods bloom in late April and May, their showy white blossoms decorate the banks of the river as well.

Those interested in a longer adventure might be interested in continuing up the Snow Creek Trail, which is one of the quietest trails leading up out of Yosemite Valley. The trail is steep – like all trails that climb up out of Yosemite Valley – and is bathed in sunshine. That makes it warm going during the summer months, and a perfect early-season hike when the temperatures are still cooler. Enjoy the hike as an out-and-back after finding a scenic sunny spot for lunch. The super-fit might consider extending their trip to Indian Rock (5.8 miles past Mirror Lake), or North Dome (9.3 miles past Mirror Lake). A 14+ mile loop descending the Upper Yosemite Valley Fall trail to the Valley floor is also an option.

Chilnualna Falls

Cascades on the Chilnualna Falls Trail

Cascades on the Chilnualna Falls Trail    Photo: Theresa Ho

Yosemite Valley doesn’t hold the monopoly on great spring hiking. The Chilnualna Falls trail in Wawona is 8.2 miles round-trip, and relatively steep, but rewards hikers early on with views of roaring cascades, and a variety of wildflowers along the trail.

With a starting elevation of about 4000 feet, this trail warms up early in the year, and can provide great hiking even when there is still snow at higher elevations. It begins by following Chilnualna Creek for about a half mile, and then cuts back and forth through the forest allowing scenic glimpses of the Wawona area.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Hiking in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Hiking in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias     Photo: DNC P&R at Yosemite

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is a must-visit destination in any season. A visit to the most massive trees on Earth, trees that were already ancient when the Roman Empire fell just shouldn’t be missed.

There is an interpretive sign that says that Giant Sequoias need a lot of water. You may not be able to see that evidence if you visit in summer or autumn, but a spring hike through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias quickly illustrates that point. Sequoias seem to thrive in low places where water collects or runs.

The Mariposa Grove Road opened early this year, giving those of us who can visit in the spring a larger window to explore in relative quiet. From the Mariposa Grove Parking Lot, you can visit the Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel tree in the Lower Grove in just over a mile (2.2 miles round trip) of walking, passing many other notable trees along the way. However, if you have the energy, be sure to visit the Upper Grove as well. The collection of sequoias close to the nature center, although un-named, is simply incomparable. The walk to the upper grove is about 5-6 miles round trip.

Bonus: Hite Cove

Poppies and Goldfields on the trail to Hite Cove.

Poppies and Goldfields on the trail to Hite Cove    Photo: Theresa Ho

Hite Cove isn’t really in Yosemite National Park, but the wildflower display there is so spectacular in the spring time, that we’re going to include it here anyway. The trailhead is located off of Hwy 140 near Savage’s Trading post, and the hike is about 8.4 miles round trip to Hite Cove, which was once a mining town and where you can still see old mining equipment and foundations. However, the fields of wildflowers that the area is famous for, begin within the first few hundred feet.