Place: Yosemite National Park, California
Coordinates: Bridalveil Fall: 37.716700, -119.650960, Lower Yosemite Falls Trail: 37.746135, -119.592792
Length: Bridalveil Fall: 0.5 mile in and out, Lower Yosemite Fall Loop: 1 mile
Level: easy (wear chain crampons when icy)
Yosemite is high on the 'must see' list of California visitors and winter is no hindrance. Usually. Rock slides that block access to El Portal entrance to Yosemite Valley are not all too uncommon, and such a slide happened at the time we had planned to go there. We arrived at Mariposa after an afternoon birding hike at the San Joaquin NWR and we were very happy to find out that the rock slide has been cleared, thanks to the round the clock effort of the CalTrans road crew.
The Valley is the only accessible part of Yosemite NP that is open throughout the year. While it can be accessed also via Groveland on the north and Oakhurst on the south (chains required), all other parts of the park are effectively closed from the first major snowfall until late spring snowmelt.
We didn't plan any major hikes in the Valley, just a round of sight seeing. Normally I wouldn't have posted such a trip here, but Yosemite in the snow has a special appeal and, under snow even the shortest trails can be hikes :-)
Whenever we bring first timers to Yosemite, our first stop is the Tunnel Viewpoint. From that spot the entire Valley spreads before the eye. That breathtaking view that awed every generation of humans to have seen it, from the native Miwok to the first western settlers until today's visitors, amny of which travel thousands of miles around the globe to admire the place.
And it is breathtaking each and every time I go there. Any time of day, any day of the year.
|Yosemite Valley, view from the Tunnel Viewpoint|
|Fog over Merced River|
As expected at any time of year in Yosemite, we were hardly alone. But it wasn't as crowded as in other times of year. There is a short, 1/4 trail from the parking lot to the waterfall and it was entirely covered with snow.
|The trail to Bridalveil Falls|
We walked slowly but steadily, until the trail started sloping up. Now, it's not much of a slope, that trail. But at that point the trampled snow had also turned icy and our pace slowed considerably.
|Snowed Bridalveil Creek|
I brought up the rear. After watching everyone struggle up the icy trail I jumped the rail and stepped on the snowy rocks on the side. Not necessarily a recommended maneuver but favorable under the circumstances.
The view of the falls, of course is spectacular.
The Bridalveil Falls run year-round, the flow intensity changes with the seasons. It drops down a height of 188 meters and diffuses into mist at the bottom, hence the name bridal veil.
On sunny afternoons the sun is just at the right angle and the mist displays a solid, gorgeous rainbow that looks almost tangible.
The chikas saved the day when they figured that sliding down on their bottom was the best and most fun way to go about it. So Papa Quail, our friend and myself quickly shed off the years and went down on our behinds. We even stayed until the elder chika scampered back up the trail to slide down one more time. By then, however, more and more people were attempting to go up to the viewpoint so we cleared the trail for them and continued on.
A little before the parking lot the chikas stopped to build a little snowman and suddenly Papa Quail turns to me and asked, "Didn't we pack the crampons?"
My answer was a face palm.
Our next destination was Yosemite Falls. We stopped briefly on the road to get a view of the falls from the south side of the Valley.
|Yosemite Falls, view from the Valley's south side|
|Brewer's Blackbird, male|
Still, there were plenty of ice cover on the trail and this time we were wearing our crampons. Not the big, spiky ones, but the flat chains ones.
And while even in winder one is never alone in Yosemite, it wasn't overcrowded and I didn't feel overwhelmed by the noise and the pushing. We walked slowly, taking the time to enjoy the snowy forest and the relative stillness to the fullest.
The arms of the U go on both sides of Yosemite Creek and tat the curve there is a bridge across the creek with an observation deck and a spectacular view of the lower falls.
My first visit to Yosemite was in the months of August, 15 years ago. The shortest trail arm was crammed with people going in and out, just to see the falls. When we got there we saw a tourist sitting with the back to the falls and complaining loudly about all these waterfalls the tour guide was dragging them to, and here's just another such waterfall ...
Yosemite falls total height (upper and lower combined ) is about 740 meters, making this waterfall the highest in Yosemite NP and one of the highest in the world. It is a seasonal waterfall and will run dry by the end of summer. The best time to see it is late spring, at the height of the snowmelt. It is pretty impressive even in winter and a nit to be missed sight to see. It's definitely not just 'yet another waterfall'.
The upper fall isn't visible from the bridge but it can be seen from other points of the trail. It's hard to tell from that distance and angle that the upper fall is twice as high as the lower. There is a trail ascending all the way to theta of the upper fall. I hiked that trail once, 13 years ago. It is a worthy hike and definitely one to do again, hopefully in the near future (after the snow melts).
Near the main trailhead there is a view of the entire Yosemite Falls, upper and lower. Magnificent and impressive. A certain must see.
The meadow was already littered with many such snow figures. It seems that every artist had tried to make a unique monument. My chikas were no different. They made a snowman with a statement.
(Later when we drove past the place it was toppled down. I believe someone had kicked it.)
|Dress me up! I'm Freezing!|