Driving south past Yosemite Village on Route 41, we came to the overlook of the iconic view of Yosemite Valley called Tunnel View. It is located on the right just east of the Wawona Tunnel. Many photographs, postcards, and even Yosemite brochures feature this view of the valley.
Three well-known features of Yosemite Valley can be seen from here: El Capitan (the largest granite monolith in the world) on the left; Half Dome (granite monolith with sheer cliff on one side); and beautiful Bridalveil Fall (right) that flows year round.
We continued south on Route 41 for about 13 miles to Glacier Point Road on the left. To reach Glacier Point (total of 30 miles) takes about an hour from Yosemite Valley or Wawona, and it is oh-so worth it! When the parking lots fill up May to November, a free shuttle provides transportation to the point. The road closes during the winter months.
We stopped at a lookout along Glacier Point Road before you reaching the Point. There are spectacular and expansive viewpoints at an elevation of 7,214' (3,200' above the Yosemite Valley floor).
Half Dome, Nevada (upper) and Vernal (lower) Falls, and the high country of the Sierra Nevada are the backdrop from this point.
The snow-capped peaks in the background are the Clark Mountains.
Continuing on Glacier Point Road we reached the point that is one of the most popular destinations in the park. There is a .5 mile round trip paved loop trail from the parking lot.
The view of Half Dome is spectacular from here. Sadie was enjoying the view as well!
The road to Glacier Point was first built in 1883 (with improvements made over the years). The Four Mile Trail is a 4.6 mile hike from the floor of Yosemite Valley to the point. The Geology Hut was built as an observatory to educate visitors about the amazing geologic features seen from this point.
Below Half Dome is the Tenaya Valley where we had been hiking the day before to Mirror Lake. Overhang Rock has been featured in photos since the late 1800s. Today, visitors are not allowed to climb on it, but as you can see, lots of folks ignore the signs. (This is how deaths occur in National Parks!) The largest falls in North America, Yosemite Falls, can also be seen from Glacier Point.
We made one more stop in Yosemite today, Tuolumne Grove to see some more giant sequoias. The largest grove is at Mariposa, but it has been closed since July, 2015, for a restoration project that is expected to be completed in July of 2017. Larger groves of giant sequoias can be seen at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, but we wanted to see these majestic trees one more time before leaving the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
It is a 2-mile round-trip hike that is all downhill to the grove making the return trip pretty strenuous, but well worth it. On the way down, we were delighted to see these mule deer.
The trail follows the Big Oak Flat Road which was an early tourist route to the grove in the mid 1800s. This is one of the giant sequoia monarchs near the entrance to the grove.
In 1878, a hole was augured through this dead trunk named, Dead Giant, as a tourist attraction. There are photos of stagecoaches and, then, autos driving through it. Today the road is a trail and no vehicles are permitted.
The root systems of giant sequoias grow only about 10 feet deep but can spread 100 feet. They can survive continued fire damage every three to nine years over two to three thousand years, but what usually causes one to topple is heavy winds and/or large snow loads. Humans have also damaged the close-to-the surface root systems as well.
It is always a humbling and spiritual experience to be among these majestic giants, although I can never seem to get an entire sequoia in a photo!
After the strenuous hike up to the parking lot (it's only one mile, but I had to stop a few times to catch my breath!), we had the good fortune to observe this large black bear foraging in a meadow (near the intersection of Tioga Road and Big Oak Road).
For additional information about Yosemite National Park, check it out online.
On CA 120 west from Yosemite to Groveland, CA (where we were staying), we stopped to admire this scenic view. The Stanislaus National Forest has many camping grounds and is close to the Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park is as amazing as I always imagined it would be...even better. If you ever get the chance, fly into San Francisco and make your way east to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to experience this beautiful wilderness.