YOSEMITE: A HIKER’S PARADISE
By Crystal Nay & Megan Anderson
There are a number of special places here on Earth that have the ability to leave you in awe. We are fortunate to have one of the globe’s most majestic locales right here.
Yosemite National park draws over 4 million visitors every year. Thousands of families make their greatest summer vacation memories visiting the Yosemite Valley, staring up at the world-renowned Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls waterfalls that cascade down the granite mountains that tower above.
But what surrounds the Yosemite Valley floor? The valley may be the park’s main attraction, but this 7.5-mile stretch is dwarfed by the remaining nearly 1,169 square miles—or about 748,000 acres—of the park.
There are roughly 800 miles of hiking trails in Yosemite National Park, winding through the dense forest, crossing through chilly creeks, passing by lush meadows, and climbing up lofty granite peaks.
One of those that encompasses just about everything the park can offer is Clouds Rest. While there are a few shorter mileage routes, the most notorious for hikers is the 14.5-mile route from Tenaya Lake or the 21-mile route from the valley floor. According to the National Geodetic Survey, Clouds Rest stands at 9,930 feet elevation, which puts it more than 1,000 feet above Half Dome, and offers a breathtaking view of the Yosemite Valley below.
But hiking doesn’t need to be extreme in Yosemite.
There are much gentler hikes that offer equally lovely vistas, such as Tuolumne Meadows. Venturing to Tuolumne Meadows, accessible by the Tioga Road entrance, helps to avoid the traffic that can occur in the Yosemite Valley. These meadows offer visitors of all hiking experiences and skill levels the opportunity to take in lush wildlife, surrounded with picturesque views of the Sierra Nevada. All without the buses, bustle, and busyness often found at the valley floor.
While Yosemite’s general hiking reputation is truly built by serious enthusiasts and diehards of the outdoor activity, there are places that cater to those looking more for a relaxed stroll through some of the most beautiful landscapes.
One of these easy selections is the Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge hike, which provides visitors with a unique opportunity to see a carbonated river along a gravel path. There’s an abundance of water and has a special history that will appeal to John Muir fans. It’s a much flatter, mellower option of a mild 1.6 miles with fantastic scenery that captures the essence of the park. Whether a challenging all-day hike or an easy-paced meandering through the woods, it’s always important to practice hiking safety. The wilderness of Yosemite can make for a wonderful hiking experience if you are well prepared.
Even in Yosemite, surrounded by asphalt roads, sometimes seemingly endless construction, ice cream stands, and the promise of an ice cold drink at the end of the day, it is easy to forget you are in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. Therefore, outdoor safety should always be considered. In order to make your visit a memorable one, be sure to bring along plenty of water, sunscreen, and insect repellent to keep yourself and your family safe. The National Park Service uses an acronym for hiking safety: H.I.K.E. S.A.F.E. Have a plan, Inform someone of where you’re going and when you plan to return, Keep a flashlight and whistle with you, Eat well and stay hydrated (carry plenty of water), Stay on the trail, Ask for HELP!, Familiarize yourself with the area, use a map, Expect changes in the weather. Happy trails!