The temperature is soaring, mid-90′s most days, but hope is on the horizon with 80′s now showing up on the radar for this weekend. Even with the hotter weather, the hiking is fine if you head up into the higher elevations, which is definitely not tough to do in this park, given the 800 miles of hiking trails.
We have not been as aggressive about our hikes in Yosemite, which is ok with both of us as we are taking more time to wrap ourselves in the heart-stirring views along the way. A hiker whom we crossed paths with in Kings Canyon NP told us a must was Yosemite’s Glacier Point at sunset, to watch the changing hues reflected from Half Dome. This was to be our destination, with a couple of short side hikes along the way.
At the trailhead, which splits off left to Taft Point and right to Sentinel Dome, we veered to the left, to the “Glacier Point without the guard rails”. Unlike Glacier Point, which can be driven to, this overlook must be hiked so you have to earn the view.
As you approach Taft Point, you will see five fissures, giving the appearance of some mythical monster having attempted to claw his way to the top from the valley 3000 feet below. Be careful here as one false move and you can kick your butt goodbye!
Once you gingerly hop around the gaping holes in the ground and make it to the lookout point (which does have a guard rail thankfully), you are rewarded with the more prominent views of the Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. We arrived early afternoon, not the best time to take photos of the valley, as it was a little washed out and hazy. Even with haze this hike proved to offer some of the more spellbinding views we had seen yet.
When you tire of all the raw beauty, you can connect up with the Sentinel Dome trail or the Pohono Trail, the latter of which we opted for to add a couple more miles and some uphill to our day (thank you honey!). If you are really feeling great or just plain crazed, you can tackle all 13 miles of the Pohono Trail, for an elevation gain of ~3700 feet!
Spectacular views of the valley awaited us as we wandered along the bluffs and into the forests. As we continued to switchback up and the forest opened, Sentinel Dome made her appearance, as promised. From here, we head back to the trailhead; hop in the car; and drive to Glacier Point for a picnic dinner and a cool sunset. Our total hike for the day was roughly 6 yummy miles of views, views and more views.
Just a mere 1/4 mile hike will bless you with panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and all her surrounding peaks, including Mt. Lyell, highest peak in the park, standin’ tall at 13,120 feet, proudly sporting a small glacier. Half Dome stands in the forefront ready to dazzle you with her changing lights. She taunts extreme hikers with her sheer cliffs, as well she should, as she can claim the bragging rights for the toughest hike in the park. On a scale of 1 – 10, I have read she is an extreme 11. A 4800 foot elevation gain should speak for itself! The last 400 feet of this sheer vertical granite wall must be done with cables, pulling yourself along as you contemplate your mortality! Without these it would be impossible and is not permitted when there is any sign of precipitation.
Another area for exploring is that of the Mariposa Grove, the forest of giant sequoia. To walk among the giants here is pretty special but once you have been to Sequoia and Kings Canyon, we had to agree that these at Yosemite may have to take a back seat. We decided to make this an exercise hike, opting to traipse through the forest to Wawona Point, a moderate 6-mile hike. Probably the most charming character we met at Wawona was a raven, who was determined to befriend Terry. He just was not taking no for an answer, coming back time and again, each time alighting just a little closer, showing us he had no fear. We both suspect he was desperate for a handout!
In this magical place where the hiking is fine, it is time to call it a day. As we head out of the park, darkness envelopes the mountains and creeps down into the valley.
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