Our pick up is in Fresno on the morning of Day 1, then we head directly into the National Park and across the high Tioga Rd. We gain much elevation on the road, but there is still a good uphill at the start of the trail to get you warmed up. Soon you’re rewarded with sweeping views back to Dana Meadows and to the mountains beyond it. We approach a small valley of lakes, all picturesque, with views that bring to mind prehistoric times. Back in the van we continue our trip east to the unassuming community of Lee Vining where we will spend our first two nights.
On Day 2 we will be walking with the spirit of John Muir as we follow a part of the John Muir trail to Cathedral Lakes to view these High Sierra Lakes that are wrapped by Yosemite’s granite peaks. The trail undulates through meadows, across streams, and through lodgepole pine forests along the Cathedral Range to the beautiful lakes. We’ll have time to soak in the beauty of the surrounding granite domes and pinnacles.
We venture farther west on the Tioga Road on Day 3 to the North Dome trial. This trail often gets overlooked as the first few miles are unassuming as they meander downhill through meadows and forests. But our destination is a spot with breathtaking, unobstructed 360-degree views of Yosemite. From the point of North Dome you can look straight down into the Yosemite Valley and then across the valley to Half Dome, along with Clouds Rest and Yosemite Point. You’ll want to linger for hours, soaking in the views, but the return trip has more uphill than down so we’ll have to tear ourselves away. Back at the van we continue west on Tioga Rd. back to the Yosemite Valley for our final three nights at the Yosemite Lodge, right in the center of the village.
Our hike on Day 4 starts from the valley floor and takes us on a gorgeous loop past numerous waterfalls and viewpoints. We follow parts of the John Muir Trail, the Mist Trail, and the Half Dome Trail, along the Merced River. This trail is popular for a reason, as the views continue to awe us.
Day 5 will start early for us as we are headed to the difficult but rewarding trail to El Capitan. We hike this trail one way to take us from Tioga Rd. eastward across the upper heights above Yosemite Valley. We start with a gentle descent to Cascade Creek, then climb back among the tree covered domes until we reach the precipitous drop off the El Capitan Dome itself. It’s a great place to enjoy lunch, and the view, but we are only half way there. Our hike continues on the upper plateau until we reach the depression of Yosemite Creek, just before the creek plummets down Yosemite Falls. We follow this narrow gorge down amid more switchbacks than we can count, all the way to the Yosemite Valley floor, and the celebratory dinner we have all earned.
A last hike on Day 6 will take us to the south edge of the valley for a hike around Sentinel Dome and out to Taft point for more jaw dropping views of the valley and surrounding domes. We can see nearly all of our hike from this last vantage point. An apt end to a stunning week of hiking in Yosemite National Park.