One Hundred Hikes in Yosemite

Trails of the Yosemite Valley Area

Introduction: Rightly called"The Incomparable Valley," Yosemite Valley is a magnet that attracts visitors from all over the world. As John Muir noted long ago, the Sierra Nevada has several "Yosemites," though none of them matches Yosemite Valley in grandeur. Hetch Hetchy, to the north, is the foremost example of such a Yosemite. Though some of these "Yosemites" rival or exceed Yosemite Valley in the depth of their canyons and the steepness of their walls, none has the prize-winning combination of its wide, spacious floor, its world-famous waterfalls, and its unforgettable monoliths-El Capitan and Half Dome.

This section is actually composed of four parts. Hikes 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, and 67 acquaint you with the views and natural history seen along the Valley floor. Hikes 68, 69, and 70 guide you up to and along the Valley's north rim, while Hikes 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, and 76 guide you along its south rim. Finally, Hikes 77, 78, 79, 80, and 81 direct you up a multi-stepped climb east from the Valley to thundering Vernal and Nevada falls, forested Little Yosemite Valley, intimidating Half Dome, and popular Merced Lake.

Supplies and Services: Yosemite Village is a small-scale urban center-and like one, it is all too crowded. Parking space is at a premium, so I recommend you reach it by taking a free shuttle bus or by walking or bicycling. At the "Village" are the Visitor Center and Museum plus a general store, eating establishments, medical clinic, post office, and other services. The services are expected to undergo some changes in the early 2000s. The only service you'll find lacking at the Village is lodging, which is available-along with meals-at Yosemite Lodge to the west, the Ahwahnee Hotel to the east, and Curry Village to the southeast. West of Curry Village is its Housekeeping Camp, which currently has a laundromat next to its showers. Showers are also available at Camp Curry proper and at Yosemite Lodge. These two operations each have a swimming pool, a bike rental, and a post office. The prestigious Ahwahnee Hotel formerly had tennis courts and a 9-hole golf course, but now offers only (besides elegant ambiance) a guest-only swimming pool. At Glacier Point, high above the Valley's southeast end, you can buy snacks, film and a few other items. The same is true at the foot of the Glacier Point cliff-Happy Isles.

Wilderness Permits: Most of the hikes in this section are day hikes. For multiday hikes, get your permit at the Wilderness Center, located in Yosemite Village. If you want to reserve a permit in advance, which I recommend you do for Hikes 79, 80, and 81, see the "Wilderness permits" section.

Campgrounds: Back in the early days, when visitation was light by today's standards, there were up to 14 campgrounds in the Valley. Today there are only three regular campgrounds-North, Upper, and Lower Pines-plus two smaller, walk-in campgrounds-Sunnyside and Backpackers. The former is heavily dominated by rock climbers, and the latter is for backpackers who have a wilderness permit and need a place to stay the night before they start their hike. For most visitors, camping in the Valley will remain an unfulfilled dream. For south-rim trails, you should stay at Bridalveil Creek Campground, south of the Valley, whose entrance is midway along the Glacier Point Road.

Click here to go to the complete trail listing for the Yosemite Valley Area (Hikes 62-81)

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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