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  • Writer's pictureMick McMurray

Adventures in Yosemite National Park

Updated: Jul 17

El cap at sunset
El Capitan

One to Three Days Complete Yosemite

in Yosemite Trail Guide

We've visited Yosemite National Park multiple times, and it's only a 7-hour drive from our home when we're not pulling a trailer. Our favorite place to stay is the Evergreen Lodge, where we've stayed in both cabins and custom camping tents. The lodge has a great atmosphere and offers opportunities to meet people from all over the world. If you stay in the custom camping tents, you can also enjoy a group campfire at night. The lodge is only 8 miles away from the Big Oak Flats Entrance to the park. Our favorite trip to Yosemite was with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids when we stayed here at the Evergreen Lodge.

We've also stayed at the Yosemite View Lodge, located right next to the Merced River on Highway 140. It's incredibly convenient, as it's only 2.4 miles away from the Arch Rock Entrance Station to the park.

We've also camped with our trailer at the Indian Flats Campground/RV Park, which is located on Highway 140 just 8.5 miles from the entrance station. The RV sites have water and electric hookups; some even have sewer hook-ups for added convenience.

Our small trailer at the campground
Indian Flats Campground
Lorna sitting on a bench by the river
Lorna and her bear buddy at the river next to the campground

No trip to Yosemite is complete without a stop at the Tunnel View Overlook. There is a large parking lot with a walkway along the viewpoint and a stone wall to sit on and admire the view. Here again, in my opinion, sunrise and sunset are the best times for photography with sunrise being the least crowded for your adventures in Yosemite.

The valley with clouds and mist
Tunnel View

The salute Valley with Bridalveil Falls, and a cloudy blue sky
Tunnel View

The Tunnel entrance to the park
The Tunnel

There are a lot of beautiful views in the valley along the river and in the Cook and Sentinel meadows.

Cook's Meadow Loop is a popular trail, especially during the peak tourist season from June to September. We are early risers and like to start our hikes and exploring early which is a great way to beat the crowds. The trail is relatively flat and well-maintained, making it an accessible option for hikers is a 1-mile loop starting from the visitors center and an additional section over the foot bridges can be added over to the lodge making it 2.2 miles overall. The meadow can be flooded in the spring and is accessed by the boardwalk. It can be closed in the winter due to snow.

The Chapel in the Valley has Protestant Services and AA meetings.

Yosemite meadow with wild flowers and a cloudy blue sky
Yosemite meadow

El Capitan reflected in the Merced river
El Capitan

Lower Yosemite falls, reflected in the flooded meadow
Lower Yosemite Falls and the flooded meadow

In recent years the number of dying trees has been unprecedented as a result of ongoing drought, warming temperatures, poor forest health, and native bark beetles.

The tunnel view with healthy trees
The valley as seen from the Tunnel View 2011 with healthy trees
They tunnel view with dying trees
Dead trees a few years later

The hike to Lower Yosemite Falls is a popular and accessible trail that offers visitors the chance to experience the beauty and power of one of the world's tallest waterfalls up close and personal. The hike to Lower Yosemite Falls is a relatively easy one, making it a great choice for families, beginners, and anyone looking to experience the natural beauty of Yosemite. The trail to Lower Yosemite Falls begins at the Yosemite Falls trailhead, located near the Yosemite Valley Lodge. From there, the trail is a well-maintained and well-signed 1.5-mile round-trip hike, with an elevation gain of only 400 feet. The trail is relatively flat, with a few gentle inclines. Along the way, you will be treated to stunning views of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding mountains, as well as up-close views of Lower Yosemite Falls. The waterfall is particularly impressive in the spring and early summer months when it is at its peak flow, but it can be slippery and icy during the spring and early summer months when the waterfall is at its peak flow. Also, prepare to get wet in the spring as Lorna and I found out, and you may need to protect your camera with a rain cover. At the end of the trail, you will reach a viewing platform that offers breathtaking views of the waterfall and the surrounding landscape. From this vantage point, you can watch the water cascading down the mountainside and feel the spray of the waterfall on your face. It's a truly awe-inspiring sight.

Mick and Lorna at the Trailhead to the Lower Falls
Trailhead to the Lower Falls

Lower Falls view point with many people
Lower Falls view point

Yosemite National Park Embroidered Washed Cap

The trail to Bridalveil Fall is a well-maintained and well-signed 0.5-mile round-trip hike, with an elevation gain of only 80 feet. The trail is relatively flat and easy to follow. Bridalveil Fall is a stunning waterfall located in Yosemite National Park, California. The fall is one of the most popular attractions in the park and is easily accessible via a short and easy hike from the Bridalveil Fall trailhead. At the end of the trail, you will reach a viewing platform that offers breathtaking views of the waterfall and the surrounding landscape. In the spring and early summer be prepared to get wet from the mist.

Bridalveil Falls cascading over the cliff with a rainbow
Bridalveil Falls

Bridalveil Falls cascading over the cliff into the pine forest
Bridalveil Falls

Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park is a popular destination for those looking for a scenic hike and a peaceful escape from the busy crowds. When we hiked it in March we only saw 6 other people. The hike to Mirror Lake is a moderate, 2.2-mile round-trip trail that takes about 1-2 hours to complete. The trail to Mirror Lake starts at Shuttle Stop #17, near the Ahwahnee Hotel. From the shuttle stop, the trail winds through meadows and forests, and along the Merced River. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to see stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. When we got to the lake it was beautiful with ice on the lake and snow on the peaks.

Lorna on the path to mirror Lake
On the Mirror Lake Hike

Mirror Lake in the winter with ice
Mirror Lake in the winter

Frozen Mirror Lake with ice
Frozen Mirror Lake

Glacier Point is another spot for great views and photos. The viewpoint is especially stunning during sunrise and sunset when the light casts a warm glow over the landscape. You can also explore the area, picnic, and take part in ranger-led programs. I had fun with my grandson Ben photographing the sunrise.

Glacier View with half dome and Bernal Falls, and Nevada Falls
Glacier View

Half. Dome Sunrise with a Sunburst at the top of the dome
Half. Dome Sunrise

Vernal Falls and the Mist Trail with people on the trail
Vernal Falls and the Mist Trail as seen from Glacier Point

We have never seen it snowing at Yosemite but we have made a couple of trips there in the winter. Once to see the Firefall at Horsetail Falls and once when there was a possibility of snow that didn't pan out. The Firefall that year wasn't very spectacular due to the low amount of water going over the falls but we had a great time with all the other photographers and did get a couple of images. The Firefall happens when the sun sets at just the right angle to light the falls and turn them bright orange.

People in the meadow Waiting for the Firefall
Waiting for the Firefall

Horsetail Falls Firefall with the water, a bright orange color from the setting sun
Horsetail Falls Firefall

Yosemite National Park is beautiful and photogenic any season but winter can be a special time in the park with ice in the river and on the falls, frost on El Capitan, and snow on Half Dome. The photo opportunities are endless and with fewer people in the park you will be by yourself many times finding solitude as you move through the the park.

Half dome at sunset with snow on it and mist around it
Half dome at sunset

El Capitan with frost on it, and a cloudy blue sky
El Capitan

Upper Yosemite Falls with frost and ice
Upper Yosemite Falls

Upper Yosemite Falls add ice flowing down the Merced river
Upper Yosemite Falls and the Merced River with ice.

Yosemite NP Hat Yosemite NP Hoodie


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