There are so many hikes to choose from in Yosemite National Park, but there were two great Yosemite hikes that we absolutely couldn’t miss on this trip. One we’d done before, the other a new one for us.
Both are very popular trails and rightly so.
First we took the Upper Yosemite Trail to Columbia Rock. An outcropping with great views of the valley and Half Dome.
The trail to Columbia Rock is rated moderate or strenuous depending on the publication, but it gains 1,000-feet in elevation with sixty switchbacks in one mile.
We planned to go about a half mile further to the first overlook of Upper Yosemite Falls along the longer trail that goes to the top. Three miles roundtrip, no problem.
It was a hot day – high 80’s – and we got a late (mid-day) start. Not smart. The trailhead is a little over half mile from the parking lot, which although easy and flat, adds another mile to the hike.
At the trailhead you go pretty directly up. We were so, so hot and there were lots of mosquitoes, not a good start. But a few people coming down assured us that the overlooks were beautiful and that helped motivate us.
At this point the trail became a bit less steep with a few downhill portions mixed in. And a half-mile later we came to the overlook of Upper Yosemite Falls. This waterfall has a total drop of 1,430 feet. Truly awesome.
The trail then got very steep once again and after several switchbacks I decided to turn back.
As it turns out, we ran out of water – something that’s never happened to us before, but it was so hot we drank a lot more than normal.
Back on the bottom half of the hike, we found the mosquitoes again. Ay, ay, ay. This hike was tougher than we expected. But we were really glad we did it and got a closer look at this beautiful waterfall.
And for those that are in better shape than us, I’d recommend going up to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls, that view sounds even more fabulous. It’s a tough hike, 3.5 miles up with a total of 2,700-foot elevation gain but it’s now on our list for our next visit.
The other hike that we highly recommend is the Vernal Falls Trail. This trail connects to the Nevada Falls Trail. We’d hiked both of them on our first trip to Yosemite and Hector hiked to Nevada Falls again a few years ago.
The mist trail is a huge granite staircase (600 steps) that goes up the last half-mile to the top of the impressive Vernal Falls. Much of the staircase goes right by the waterfall, can be very wet, and it has loose rocks, decomposed granite and steep steps, so it’s best to proceed with some caution.
We’d met a couple who’d hiked this trail a few days prior and they said it wasn’t too wet, but we still took our rain jackets. Good thing we did, since we did get drenched. It was a hoot! Apparently the direction and strength of the wind has a big role in how wet you get.
Since the mist trail gets icy in the winter, there is an alternate trail to the falls. That trail, part of the John Muir trail is also available for those that don’t want to get wet. But what’s the fun in that?
And having the waterfall, with a total drop of 317 feet, so close to you as you climb up is awesome.
Heading down the steps past Vernal Falls, we returned to the Mist Trail and another absolute drenching. However, the afternoon sun was just right and we were rewarded by a beautiful double rainbow in the waterfall. It seemed as if the rainbows were following us.
Although we didn’t complete it this time, the Nevada Falls hike is really doable as a day hike, and I highly recommend it as well.
But the mist trail was tons of fun.
Two great hikes and five rainbows, WOW!