A month or two ago, before the California wildfires closed the park, I spent two days traveling through Yosemite National Park. I was well into California on my road trip from Oregon to New Jersey when my partner and I decided that we'd be close enough to Yosemite to take a detour and spend a few days in the park. This last minute decision turned out to be the perfect way to spend two days.
Yosemite runs along the central western border of the state and offers views of rugged mountains and dry forests. This landscape greatly contrasts the sun-bleached oceanside towns that come to mind at the mention of California and helps convey the geological variation throughout the state.
I hadn't seen too many pictures of Yosemite before we arrived so I was immediately struck by the vastness of the terrain. When driving through the mountains to enter the park, the elevation gain is so intense that signs recommend drivers turn off their air conditioning during their accent so their car won't overheat. Once atop these mountains though, the view is spectacular. The mountain range stretches for miles in every direction and the sharp edges of the cliffs create a beautiful sense of desolation.
The picture above was taken just on a pull off along the road and conveys just how submersed in nature you feel while driving through the park.
The main hike my partner and I did was a few miles up a mountain to a lake. We prioritized driving through the park to see the main attractions (The Half Dome, El Capitan, etc.) so we weren't left with too much extra time for our hike. Thus, we ended up take about two or three hours to see this lake which was recommended to us by a park ranger.
The hike started in a parking lot mid way up the mountain and required driving on a secluded dirt road, which could easily be missed if you didn't know it was there. This meant the trail had far fewer hikers and made for a more isolated hiking experience.
Just outside the parking lot we came across a pond, which reflected the surrounding area beautifully.
This was a really nice start to the hike and the rest did not disappoint. The trail snaked up the side of the mountain with moderate tree cover, which was really nice since the heat from the sun is pretty intense in this part of the country. Eventually though, we broke tree cover and had some fantastic views of the surrounding mountains.
All along the trails are these lovely mountain flowers, which add nice spots of color to the predominantly grey landscape.
Eventually, we made it to the top of the mountain where the trail ends and you can explore the lake.
From here you are welcome to wonder around the lake (although you're asked not to swim). We walked along the water's edge for a little while and took some more pictures along the way.
I felt this photo captured the scale of the mountain's peak which towers above you as you circle the lake.
I love the way the dead wood looks in this part of the country. The dryness of the air has warped and twisted the wood and the sun has bleached it white.
After some time at the lake we heard thunder in the distance and decided to head back to our car. The route was an out and back and it was threatening to rain so I stopped taking pictures on the return journey.
The way back
We were staying in Mammoth Lakes, which is about 40 minutes outside the park, so we planned to leave around sun down. In the late afternoon we pulled off the road and walked through a meadow. We hadn't seen very much wildlife at this point but in the meadow we came across a friendly elk. It seemed pretty accustom to humans and I was able to follow it and get a fairly good picture despite not having a zoom lens on me.
We hung out in the meadow for a little while and decided to leave as the sun was getting low in the sky. The drive out of the park requires you to go over some mountains, which meant we ended up with a spectacular view of the sunset. We pulled over and took a few more pictures and watched the sun set over the mountains.
We had an excellent time here and I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone in the area. It's the kind of place were you can spend a day or month and have a great time. There are tons of hikes and lots to see.
Thanks for reading.