As a native Californian, it is strange that I waited this long to journey to Yosemite. The timing never seemed right: I was always in school or working and I had this wild notion that spending any length of time in the famous national park would lead to a broken bone or at least a broken wallet. Until I was invited on a single day excursion, it never occured to me that a person could get the full Yosemite experience without camping for a week or risking injury to claim the badass status of climbing Half Dome. Well, I didn’t camp. I didn’t climb Half Dome. Yet I still spent a full day getting in a good workout and taking in some of the best views California has to offer. So if you only have one day to spend in this stunning park and aren’t ready to commit to an extreme trek like Half Dome, that’s okay! Taking a hike up to Vernal Fall and down the John Muir Trail is a great option for your day trip itinerary.
In order to be in Yosemite early in the morning, we drove to a hotel in Merced the night before and drove about another hour and a half to the park. This way we were able to finish our bucket list for the day before it got too late.
We spent the majority of our day hiking up to Vernal Fall and back.
You can find a few different ways to hike to Vernal Fall, but we went the route that started at the Mist Trail head. Once you hike this you will understand just how appropriate that name is. The mist from Vernal Fall is so dense as you approach the top that you feel as though you have just taken a shower. Don’t worry, this feels amazing after a mile uphill in the sun.
The first part of the trail is paved and heavily populated with tourists. Some folks are disturbed to find a paved trail in such a natural haven, but I didn’t mind because it made the trail accessible. While I trudged along a few paces behind my group, mothers with strollers zipped past me like the incline was nothing. This was a normal day of resistance training with an infant for them. I allowed myself a few moments to let my jaw drop before moving on.
By this point in the climb, my legs were burning, so I stopped and took many needed photography breaks. In my opinion, the best photo opportunities of the day were on the stairs leading up to Vernal Fall. I must have taken dozens of shots of that glorious rainbow while my sweet friends patiently waited. However, my hair as well as my camera got pretty soaked, so I recommend that if you are worried about either of those things to bring a hat, hair tie, and plastic bag to protect your camera (you can just cut a hole out for the lens). Read more: 5 Changes to Make to Your Travel Photo Gear
Although, a little water on a lens never hurt anybody. In fact, I think it made for an interesting bokeh effect in my waterfall pictures.
STILL OBSESSED WITH THIS RAINBOW.
Once we got to the top of Vernal Falls, we ate lunch on a shady rock by the Emerald Pool. Besides having to fight off squirrels to save our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, our meal with a view was peaceful. If you stop to rest here you might notice some folks getting close to the water. It indeed is very inviting after a sweaty hike, but the currents are sneaky and have led to close call drowning incidences and even death for some tourists.
So be smart and take caution so you can keep enjoying the company of cute squirrels like this little guy!
After lunch we had two options: continue the hike by ascending Nevada Fall or go back down via the John Muir trail. We chose the latter, mostly because I thought my legs were going to give out after months of skipping the gym. This trail is the longer route back, but it is mostly downhill so we got to use the opposite set of muscles. The nice thing about the John Muir trial is you still get to see Nevada Fall from a distance. The view was equally as majestic and the trail was less populated with tourists. However, it was a little more populated with horse droppings so keep an eye on your shoes. If you chose to hike up to the top of Nevada Fall, prepare to climb a rocky 1.2 miles more. You can also take the John Muir Trail back from Nevada Fall.
I took the time on this trail to really play with the range of my 16-300mm lens. The last photo here and the second to last photo were shot at the same point, but with different focal lengths.
Once we completed the hike, we browsed the air conditioned art galleries and visited the Indian Village of the Ahwahnee to get a taste of Yosemite history.
We ended our day with one last hike along the Cook’s Meadow Loop which is a flat scenic 1 mile loop with views of landmarks like Half Dome and Yosemite Fall that are must-sees before you depart.
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Rocking my Parks Make Life Better shirt from @cprs_ca. Because let’s be honest, California parks like Yosemite really do make life better. ☺️ . . . . . #yosemitenationalpark #supportcaliforniaparks #california #parks #parksandrecreation #travel #travelblogger #thedamselindiscovery #californiaparksandrecreation