Entering the Park

When entering the park, you are in a wonderful forest of tall pines and redwood trees.  But beware of the monster (weekend traffic) that lurks near the entrance between 8 and 12 in the morning.  However, after some small forested parts, you come to a broad open valley home to the Chilnualna River (Chill-new-all-na) and where one glorious hike is.  The Chilnualna Falls hike is a moderate 8 mile hike (there and back) to the top of the waterfall.  The Falls itself is a series of cascades along the full extent of the trail.  Some parts of the trail are home to beautiful Manzaninta  shrubs and others are forested with the Sierra Nevada trees.  The upper extent of the cascades is simply marvelous, and well worth the effort.  After completing that long hike, you meander allong the Chilnualna valley until Chilnualna creek and the Merced River come together.  Shortly, you can start to see the wonderful Cascades of Cascade and Tamarack creek falling down the north side of the Merced River.  Very soon, the magnificence of the monolith El Capitan comes into view.  after driving through the tunnel, you come out and view something that seems larger than anything can be.

The Valley

Tunnel View, one of the most breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley, is at the perfect angle to see all of the great granite structures that make up Yosemite Valley.  From right to left, there is El Capitan, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Sentinel Dome, Sentinel Rock, and the Cathedral Rocks.  From the viewpoint, you can see Bridal Fall, and if you look carefully, to the southeast, the glimmering cascade of Silver Strand Falls.  Going through the west end of the valley, you can get great views of El Capitan, Bridal Veil Fall, and Ribbon Fall just to the west of El Capitan.  The Cathedral Rocks seem to be miles in the air, and the sheer grandeur of the valley makes you feel as though you are the size of an ant.  Eventually, Sentinal Fall comes into view. This splendid 2000 foot cascade is quite something to behold, and in the right time of year, tumbles over the cliffs in a spectacular display of white. 

The Next Day

After one exhausting day of driving, it was time for a hike.  One of the most hard-to-reach waterfalls, Illilouette Falls (Il-il-yu-et) is such a spectacle that it just has to be seen.  But the journey up there in the spring is a rough, 14-mile loop that snakes its way around the northern rim of the valley.  Starting at the Happy Isles trailhead, the walk up to the footbridge halfway to Vernal Fall is a trudge within itself.  The trail is very steep, but gives you views of Illilouette Falls along the way.  Then, the Mist Trail leads you up to the top of the 300-foot waterfall which is Vernal Fall. Then, walking along the Merced River, you eventually reach a viewpoint of Nevada Fall, one of the most breathtaking falls in the Park.  After climbing an eternal (it seems) number of switchbacks, the top of Nevada Fall is finally in front of you.  From there, you can see a large extent of the Merced River, as well as up into the High Country.  After eating lunch, the journey to Illilouette begins.  After a while of hiking around the Panorama Cliffs, you finally reach Panorama Point, where you can see the Royal Arches, Basket Dome, and North Dome.  Finally, Illilouette Falls comes into view.  This waterfall has the third-most amount of water flowing from it, only after Vernal and Nevada.  The waterfall is truly worth the hike.  Its top branches out beautifully, and comes down in one strong pillar of water.  Then, the journey back to the valley begins.  Continuing up to Glacier Point, and stopping for the beautiful views it gives, continue down the four-mile trail to the valley floor, and to a nice warm bed.  During the hike down, you get continuous views of Yosemite Falls and Royal Arch Cascade seeming to urge you along.

The Trip to the Top

Even all that hiking just cannot contain one's excitement of staying in such a beautiful park, and soon another hike ensues.  The trail to Yosemite Point is only 8 miles, but the elevation gain is tremendous.  What started out as a few switchbacks seems to turn into a few thousand switchbacks, until a blessed period of flat comes.  Then, you go up the remaining 97 switchbacks (yes, I did count them) scrambling over rocks, until you reach the top of the grand Yosemite Falls.  Continuing to Yosemite Point is not very far, and the payoff is tremendous.  From there, you can see Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Nevada Fall, Glacier Point, Sentinal Rock, the Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, and the high country stretching into the distance.  Yes, this place seems to be a heaven on earth.  Down the 97 switchbacks, you have more time to look at the scenery, instead of stumbling dumbly over your toes. The beauty of Yosemite Falls can be seen all the way down the trail, until a bend in the path, which is when the fall is obscured from view.  Sentinal Fall comes into view, as does Sentinal Rock.  Finally, the journey down is complete, and icing your feet in the frigid waters of the Merced seems like a great idea.

This is goodbye...

Even the most magnificent of journies must come to an end sometime, no mater how elated one is to be there.  Such is the case with this trip.  The drive out of the valley is somewhat sad, and saying goodbye to Wawona just cannot be happening.  As you drive down the rolling expanse of the western Sierra Nevada, you know all of the wonders of this magical place will never leave your head.  Soon it is time to come back.

Level 43
Apr 10, 2021
Nice... but are you copying Kesuko?
Level 43
Apr 10, 2021
Oh, you really traveled to Yose (I invented the nick lol), so, no problem. Sorry if it was rude 😐
Level 66
Apr 11, 2021
A nice little overview :)
Level 36
Aug 18, 2022
love it