Today we headed back into Yosemite National Park, and this time we explored Yosemite Valley. The Valley is easy to drive around, has lots of trailheads for short hikes and hosts some of the most popular views of the park.
We drove in at the Big Oak Flat entrance again, passed the Tuolumne Sequoia Grove that we explore yesterday and continued down towards the valley. On the way we stopped at the first viewpoint overlooking Yosemite Valley. Immediately we were struck with the amazing views we had been hopping for.
After sitting along the wall taking it all in, we hopped back in the car. As we drove towards the valley floor the temperature slowly climbed back up until we were pulling off our layers.
As soon as we got down into Yosemite Valley, we stopped off at Bridalveil Fall. The waterfall is a short walk from the parking lot but with all the rain we had this winter which has created gushing falls, the path from the parking lot to the falls had flooded.
We hiked up our pants, grabbed our rain jackets and ran for the the falls. This waterfall has a huge spray and we were shocked how quickly it soaked us. When researching Yosemite Valley, I found on the Local Adventurer that the Ahwahneechee Native American tribe believed inhaling the mist would improve your chances of getting married.
From Bridalveil Fall, we followed Southside Drive to the chapel where we parked and sat in the sun, drying ourselves off from the mist.
We meandered along Cook’s Meadow taking in the views of Yosemite Falls and then enjoyed a picnic lunch using the bread, meat and cheese we had picked up at Kevin and Randi’s deli on our drive to Yosemite.
We continued the drive and eventually found a parking spot near the trailhead for Mirror Lake. You can walk along the road (the route that the Yosemite bus takes) or follow a one mile path through the woods.
When we reached Mirror Lake we realized we were on the same side as Half Dome, so we didn’t have the views we were hoping for. After a few beats, we decided to just take off our shoes and wade into the shallow water for views of Half Dome. It was the best decision ever, and possibly the most fun adventure of the day. While the shallow water was warmed by the sun, if we waded past our ankles the glacial water got chilly fast.
After we returned back from Mirror Lake we drove back past Yosemite Falls and on towards the Cathedral Rocks on the Northside Drive. Eventually we crossed the Pohono Bridge, heading for Tunnel View.
Tunnel View was the most perfect end of our drive around Yosemite Valley. It has an amazing views of all the popular sites we got to see from the valley floor. El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the back middle and Bridalveil Fall on the right.
We sat for a few minutes, and then a rainbow started coming off Bridalveil Fall, like a magical ending to the day. If you are planning your own trip to the loop, try to go early an avoid driving on peak summer hours. It can get really crowded. For a less crowded alternative, try exploring Hetch Hetchy reservoir. The park rangers call it a mini Yosemite Valley, but unlike the loop, we had the place almost entirely to ourselves.