Yosemite Falls

In the 14 years I’d lived in Reno Nevada, I had never made the five hour drive to Yosemite National Park. Now that Sissy was visiting, we decided to head down there and spend some time checking it out. We had heard that it wasn’t overly crowded in the winter, and with it being January we figured we could hike around without a lot of other visitors along the way. We left early in the morning, paid our $20 for a 7 day pass when we showed up, and drove into the valley for the first time. We had seen big trees and big rocks on the earlier parts of our road trip along the west coast, and didn’t know exactly what to expect from Yosemite.

Yosemite Drive
A cool part of the drive into the park

As we drove into the valley we saw deer all around, and a nice looking waterfall kept our attention on the right. We turned our attention back to the road to find a place to park, and there was El Capitan, staring us right in the face. El Cap was much larger and very different than I had expected, and had a majestic air to it. Only a week earlier the hardest free climb of El Capitan, and the first up the Dawn Wall, had been completed by two famous climbers. Seeing the rock in real life made their accomplishment seem nearly impossible and extremely impressive.

El Capitan Yosemite
Our first glimpse of El Capitan

After walking around for a bit to check out some deer, the waterfall, and El Capitan, we drove onward into the valley. Yosemite falls caught our eye from a ways off, and for most of the rest of our time in the valley we would be able to look over and see the falls, which is considered the highest waterfall in North America at 2,425 feet.

Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls from the road through the valley

We parked a little ways from information center and read about our day hike options for the next day. After deciding on the Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall trails, we walked down to the bottom of Yosemite Falls, which was a short half mile away.

Yosemite Falls Bottom
The bottom bit of the incredibly tall Yosemite Falls

We headed over to the store just past the information center after leaving the bottom of the falls and stocked up on lunch for our hike the next day. The food prices were reasonable, which was a pleasant surprise. We drove 15 minutes west of the valley to Cedar Lodge, our relatively inexpensive hotel choice for the night. For our $80 or so we got an older hotel which was farther than most other options from the park, but still not far. There was no WiFi included in the price, and the $10 per day convinced us to remain unplugged for the rest of the evening, which was a nice change of pace. Most of the hotel amenities were closed as we were there in January, however there was a restaurant that, although empty, was open.

There were some really cool Yosemite pictures up around the diner, which distracted me from the so-so food. After dinner we grabbed some drinks and played a few games of pool, which neither of us are very good at! The bartender told us in the summer you need to book the hotel a month or more in advance and the restaurant gets packed to capacity, so we imagined it being a much different scene than we were experiencing. On the walk back to our room we debated on jumping in the indoor pool, however neither of us brought swim suits and the building had a big glass wall that people could walk past. We retired to the room for some sleep instead.

The next day we headed back to the valley over to the start of the Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall trail, which is bus stop 16, Happy Isles. As we parked we noticed a coyote prowling around a short distance away.

Coyote Yosemite
A coyote about 30 yards away looking unimpressed by us

We passed a group of school kids on a field trip on our way toward our first stop, Vernal Fall. It is a short 1.3 mile hike via the mist trail to the top of Vernal Fall, which had some great scenery along the way. Sissy made a new friend on the path up too! This little chipmunk was interested in her and she ended up befriending it and spending some time with it.

Chipmunk Yosemite
Sissy’s friend wanted her banana. They’d share a short conversation and maybe a tiny bit of banana

The final bit going up to the fall was a cool path, cutting into the rock and getting a little bit of spray from the fall.

Vernal Fall Yosemite
A view of Vernal Fall from above. It was the low point of it’s flow for the year, in summer it looks very different

We continued up toward Nevada Fall for a bit before seeing part of the trail was closed, which ended up leaving us with the option of trying to find another route up, or turning back. Normally I’d choose to push on at the risk of getting lost, however we decided this time to play it safe and head back without any incident.

Although we only spent a short time in Yosemite, it was a very special place for us that we’d love to spend more time in later on. Camping in the summer we agreed looked like the way to do it, as the trails would all be open and we may get to spot a bear, hopefully from a safe distance. Going in winter was great since we avoided any crowds and still got to see a good amount, plus the clouds and fog added a cool effect for us the first day. If you do decide to go in the summer, make sure to book your accommodations far in advance as everyone we talked to said it gets incredibly packed. If you like hiking and the outdoors make sure to check out Lake Tahoe as well!

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