It’s only been a few weeks since we’ve been to Yosemite, but I want/need to go back already.
One of my Australian friends visited a little while after we did and saw two things I’d been dying to see, but we missed out on: bears and bobcats.
We only spent a day in Yosemite, in fairness. To get up close with the wildlife like my Aussie buddies did, you’d probably need at least a few days camping in the grounds. We had a small hire car and a day in Yosemite, so huge hikes and wildlife weren’t on the agenda this time.
So what do you do when you have only one day in Yosemite?
North Nomad had planned out a very distinct route of sights for us. We knew we wanted to get in early and out just before dark. The park doesn’t close early, but I was the driver for our rental car, and my deteriorating eyesight is not doing so well with night-time driving.
Bridalvale Falls & Lower Yosemite Falls
The water at these falls was so clear and fresh looking that I was really tempted to go for a dip. We tried to get to the top of Bridalvale Falls, where we could see a queue of people climbing over the rocks and lining up around the falls.
It wasn’t the crowds that foiled us in the end, but the slipperiness of the rocks. Even with good, solid sneakers, they were too smooth. So smooth that when my height prevented me climbing down a big one, I just slid back down on my backside like it was a slide! This is why women shouldn’t buy $100 Lululemon yoga pants…
Happy Isles was a much more solitary experience than either of the falls. It was a beautiful walk along the Merced River, and at less than a kilometre from the trailhead – one of the easiest walks you can do in the park. If you start from the Curry Village, it’s almost 4 kilometres.
The rocks were impressive. They were enormous, and looked like a giant had just chucked these huge, granite boulders down onto the path.
The toilets here were some of the cleanest, and definitely the most civilised I saw at Yosemite (the significance of this will become apparent towards the end of this post!), so I’d recommend using these washrooms, whether you need to or not.
This stop also has a pretty cool food truck, with hot dogs, sandwiches, salads and chips – and you can use your credit card.
Mirror Lake and Half Dome
North Nomad was specifically interested in looking at Half Dome.
I got lucky that Mirror Lake was right in front of the vantage point for viewing Half Dome. The heat was sweltering, and I had my bikini in my backpack.
Only small children were in the water, which is always a good indicator that it’s bloody cold. I decided to suck it up and jump in for a swim. Doing a couple of laps, I noticed people doing double takes. And apparently some little girls exclaimed in front of North Nomad when I got in “She just jumped RIGHT IN!”.
Mirror Lake is a seasonal lake, made of snow melt. At its fullest in the colder months, it freezes over. When the snow melts in Spring, it’s fuller and reflects Half Dome, like a mirror. And if you get there any later in the summer than we did, it may be completely dry and you’ll be a little disappointed if the lake was one of the sights you wanted to see.
Half Dome was cool, but a little less spectacular than what we were expecting. It’s huge, but you don’t get a great sense of perspective at this viewpoint. It’s much better checking it all out from Glacier Point.
Glacier Point is a good hour drive from the valley, and a good 10 degrees (Celsius) colder! So while I was happily swimming in a bikini at Mirror Lake and drying myself off on a huge rock in the sun, up at Glacier Point we had winter hoodies on.
This was definitely the most spectacular of all the views, and worth the time it takes to get there. Even in the middle of a stinking hot summer, the granite mountain peaks are still covered in lush green and capped with snow. And at 3,214 feet, you have a bird’s eye view of the entire Yosemite Valley.
The toilets also deserve a special mention. They are nasty down in the valley, but the manner of horrors I saw in there… I didn’t quite think humans were capable of. Make sure you go before you get up to the point!!!
On a practical note – you can drive around Yosemite, but it’s best to park up in its enormous car park and take the advantage of the free shuttles around the park. We did a lot of the sights walking, and used the shuttles between longer stretches. The shuttles are clean, plentiful, and the air conditioning is lovely on a stinking hot day like the day we visited!
On our drive back to Merced County, we stopped in at Gold Coin Bar for dinner. North Nomad had buffalo wings, and they made a Mexican style vegan bean salad for me. They were lovely and accommodating of my pain in the ass ways, and the food was delicious. So much so, there won’t be a review of it because I ate everything before I could take photos!
Cost: $20 entry to the park (per car $10 per person if arriving by foot).
Website: http://www.nps.gov/yose or for campground reservations http://recreation.gov
Location: Yosemite National Park, CA 95389-0577
Contact Details: 209-372-0200 or for campground reservations 877-444-6777
You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica, over at Google+.