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.
10 thoughts on “Nothing to Fear”
That third picture, the one of the switchback, looks like you were walking on the edge of the earth. Beautiful pictures and I’m glad you were finally able to make that hike.
When I first saw the switchback from the trail, I got a little nervous. It wasn’t so bad. What you don’t see from the trail is that it turns and goes inland up the mountain. It made for a good photo though. 🙂
Yes, our minds can certainly blow things out of proportion and create fear when none should exist. However, perhaps caution is a good thing. I have a question. Have you always lived in this area?
Hi Kathy, We’ve lived in the foothills for a little over seven years now.
That is such a great hike, though it does get really busy in the summertime. Good call going now when it’s quiet. It’s so exhilarating to physically challenge yourself and then be rewarded by the amazing views in the Valley!
Yes, I’d like to do it again sometime. Thanks for the comment. 🙂
Hello! I found your blog while searching for the Sierra Hiking Seniors group. My dad recently moved to the Oakhurst area and does several hikes in the park and surrounding areas per week. Can you tell me how I might put him in contact with this group, or other active seniors?
Here’s the e-mail address of the group’s contact. Her name is Franny. You can ask her questions about the group and get your dad on the e-mail list. They hike twice a week: Monday & Friday, all year long. email@example.com –Janet
This was my absolute favorite trail I did in my limited time in Yosemite. The extreme steepness sped up the change from the valley to upper Yosemite. I went in September and it was bone dry. Need to make it there in the winter when there’s fewer people there 😉
Fewer people is always better. 🙂