August 25 marks the 100th year of US National Park Service. Therefore, a lot of events will be taking place in celebration of their Centennial anniversary.
While I was in California, I took a trip to Yosemite National Park. Yosemite holds the largest waterfall in North America standing at 2,425 feet. We only spent about eight hours in the park, but that is enough time to make you feel tired against the beating sun, and just enough time to see the main highlights. I would recommend staying longer if you wish to attend events such as ranger talks, tours of the park, or photography classes.
First stop – Sentinel Dome. Driving here, we came across the southwest entrance. From this entrance it takes you through a town called Wawona and Yosemite West. In all honesty, we had no idea where we were going to start, but we made it up as we went which made the park feel easier and simpler.
Hours One to Four: Sentinel Dome and Glacier Point
Sentinel Dome is off of Glacier Point Road which visitors take to get to Glacier Point. Glacier Point’s parking lot fills up fast so Yosemite National Park offers free shuttles from their Ski area up to Glacier Point. This same road is also closed from March to November each year. Since the parking lot was already full, we ended up having to take the shuttle to Sentinel Dome.
I recommend starting at Sentinel Dome because it’s a moderate hike up that takes about an hour to an hour and a half, and it’s about the same amount of time to hike downhill to Glacier Point. You are able to see Sentinel Dome the entire way, and you can also free climb it to the top.
Please climb up the dome! It has an absolutely fantastic view of the entire valley including other highlights like Half Dome. Not to mention it is a lot less crowded than at Glacier Point. Standing at an elevation of 8,123 feet/2,470 meters you’re higher than Glacier Point as well.
When hiking down to Glacier Point, there are plenty of signs that direct you to other hikes that you can go on that are a bit longer or harder. At Glacier Point, there are places for you to sit including a place to purchase snacks, hot food, souvenirs, and ice cream. There are also events held there such as stargazing and theatre performances. Standing 3,000 feet above the valley you can see Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. After getting some ice cream and postcards we took the shuttle (last shuttle is at 5:30 p.m.), and headed back to our car.
We sat down for a bit, watched the view, and even saw a marriage proposal.
Hours Four to Eight: Tunnel View, Lower Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite Valley.
Since we started at Glacier Point Road, we continued on to Yosemite Valley. Along the way we stopped at Tunnel View. This is a short stop. It gives you a lower view of the park as well as a new view to see El Capitan, Clouds Rest, Horsetail Falls, Half Dome, and Sentinel Dome.
The best part aside from Sentinel was Yosemite Falls. The falls isn’t as large in late summer because it dries up from the heat. There are two hikes you can take to see the falls; Lower Yosemite Falls hike which is easy and only takes about 30 minutes, or Upper Yosemite Falls which is a strenuous hike that takes around six to eight hours.
The Lower Yosemite Falls leads you to a boardwalk trail through little streams and tall sequoia trees. Once you reach a bridge, the falls sits in the back corner surrounded by a long wall of rocks. While we were there a lot of people were climbing on them and making their way closer to the falls, and like any adventurous person we followed.
It was absolutely beautiful and fun as we got closer basically free rock climbing and testing ourselves. Once we reached as close as we could, we saw that there was a small pool of water that was hidden from view of the bridge.
If the water had been warmer and not freezing I might have taken a dip.
After, crossing back through the valley, we viewed some galleries and shops, and headed out of the park just as sunset was hitting.
Yosemite is a huge park with nearly 12,000 square miles of land. I wish we had more time to do things such as camp, rafting, stargazing, and exploring, but just because you’ve been there once doesn’t mean you can’t always come back.
About the Author: The EM, Inc. Travel “Guru” Kayla Brock grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Ill. She chose to go to an international university in London for her bachelor’s degree because it offered her an opportunity to study journalism and communications in ways that she felt she would not experience in the United States. Being overseas was an easy decision for her because she had the freedom to travel and explore different cultures from her own. So far, she has been to 20 countries and also has traveled to 24 out of 50 states in the U.S. Kayla enjoys travel writing, photography (digital and film), video editing, hiking, and adventure sports.
Photo Credit: Kayla Brock