January 17, 2014
Upper Yosemite Falls Trail
Total distance: 4 miles
Since I began hiking in Yosemite National Park, I have steered clear of the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. I feared it. In my mind it was an extremely hard trail to traverse, crowded and unpleasantly hot. It’s amazing how our minds can blow things out of proportion. In reality, there was nothing to fear.
Mid-morning, Mary Elizabeth and I headed out on the trail that climbs 2700 feet to the top of Yosemite Falls. The sky above was such a bright blue “happy sky”, I thought as I gazed upward. The air was still, the weather great for hiking: in the low 30’s when we began then rising to the low 60’s by afternoon. Unusual for January.
We took our time climbing up the rocky steps. We walked under fragrant California Laurel trees, and around steep switchbacks that offered amazing views of the valley below.
We paused at Columbia Point, elevation 5036.
We met many people along the way: a group of six men and women from New Zealand dressed in shorts and tank tops; a man from China touring the United States who warned us that the trail was slippery up ahead; and a couple with loaded backpacks walking a 24-mile loop during the holiday weekend.
We caught our first glimpse of the upper fall from a flat section of trail. It appeared that the fall was dry save for a trickle.
We continued walking until noon when we found a flat boulder and sat for lunch. We were above the snow cone as we looked across at the water spilling over the edge of the fall. John Muir described the snow cone as such: “In winter the thin outer folds and whirling spray of the great Yosemite Fall are frozen while passing through the air freely exposed, and are deposited around the base of the fall in the form of a hollow, truncated cone, which sometimes attains a height of 400 feet.”
It appeared that we could make our way easily to the fall from our lunch spot, but we still had over a mile and another thousand feet to climb to reach the top. We were satisfied with what we had accomplished for the day, and after the brief respite headed back to the car.
In retrospect, there was nothing to fear in hiking the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. Thanks to our mild winter the trail was comfortable and a much easier climb than I had anticipated, however, we didn’t make it to the top.