Two Great Yosemite Hikes

Yosemite hikes  003Yosemite hikes  002There 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.Yosemite hikes  001Yosemite hikes  010

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.Yosemite hikes  004Yosemite hikes  009Yosemite hikes  007Yosemite hikes  019Yosemite hikes  006

Just before reaching Columbia Rock we spotted a sun halo, actually a double sun halo. These rainbow rings around the sun are caused by ice crystals in cirrus clouds. Wild.Yosemite hikes  005

We pointed out the sun halos to two ladies that were headed down the trail and one of them said “that’s very auspicious”.Yosemite hikes  018

Shortly after we reached Columbia Rock and the view was fabulous.Yosemite hikes  021Yosemite hikes  017Yosemite hikes  015

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.Yosemite hikes  011

Yosemite hikes  014And for some reason I got it into my head that there was another overlook and told Hector I wanted to go a little further. He decided to wait.

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.

Fortunately for us, the rest of our hike was now downhill, it had cooled off a bit and we had some fruit.Yosemite hikes  013

Yosemite hikes  012Back 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.

Yosemite hikes  059Yosemite hikes  024The 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.Yosemite hikes  025

Yosemite hikes  023Yosemite hikes  027We went on this hike on our next to last day at the park. We had our hearts set on going to Vernal Falls (1.5 miles up) and then continuing up to Nevada Falls (about one mile further).Yosemite hikes  026Yosemite hikes  028

This was not as steep as the trail to Columbia Rock, although it’s also rated strenuous by the park service.Yosemite hikes  029

But an interesting twist is that after the first mile, you reach the part of the trail that’s called the mist trail. Hint!Yosemite hikes  031

Yosemite hikes  030The 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.  Yosemite hikes  032

Yosemite hikes  036Since 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.

Yosemite hikes  037We continued past the top of Vernal Falls where there was an area with huge flat rocks that was a great spot for lunch.Yosemite hikes  038

A couple of squirrels were waiting for some of us tourists and literally tried to steal our lunch.  One actually got his little paws on our bag of nuts and made a run for it!   Yosemite hikes  039Yosemite hikes  040Yosemite hikes  043Yosemite hikes  042

Above Vernal Falls is a large emerald pool and above that pool is a smooth apron of rock with a large set of fast rapids and a cascade at the top. A huge rush of a lot of water.Yosemite hikes  044

Yosemite hikes  041At this point this hike felt like a piece of cake compared to Columbia Rock. Of course, we brought lots more water and food along.Yosemite hikes  047

We hiked a little further to a bridge that looked down on the smooth apron and rapids where we had lunch and up towards Nevada Falls.Yosemite hikes  048

Even though we felt really up for continuing to Nevada Falls, we decided it was too late in the day and we needed to get back to Angel.Yosemite hikes  045

Yosemite hikes  049Yosemite hikes  052Yosemite hikes  050Yosemite hikes  053Heading 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.Yosemite hikes  057

Yosemite hikes  054There was even a little rainbow inside this rock archway in the trail. Really a fantastic sight.Yosemite hikes  055

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!

~ BrendaYosemite hikes  056

12 thoughts on “Two Great Yosemite Hikes

  1. We hiked both these trails when we were in Yosemite but I can’t imagine doing them in such warm weather. Kudos to the two of you. As always your photos are stunning, particularly loved those sun halos. 🙂

  2. Your photography is such a great reminder for us to look at both the macro and the micro, both up and down… And what a view it all is!!!! Lovely. Thank you! xo

    • See you in September, can’t wait to hear all about the happenings at Chez Solis. Yosemite was so mind blowing … fun fun fun 🙂 Glad your liking the reports … more to come still


  3. What’s there to say but absolutely gorgeous!! What stunning hikes and the photographs are so beautiful. We weren’t into hiking yet when we visited Yosemite so I am really looking forward to returning. Thanks for taking me along. Those rainbows and sun halos really rock!

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