After exploring the Tuolumne Sequoia Grove and Yosemite Valley, we spent our third day exploring Hetch Hetchy, a reservoir and the locals’ top recommendation when we asked them about things to do in Yosemite.
Hetch Hetchy, sometimes called a mini Yosemite Valley, provides water and hydroelectric power for San Francisco and much of the bay area. The water is pristine and it has far fewer crowds than the other spots we visited in Yosemite National Park.
In the morning, we drove north of the Big Oak Flat entrance to the Hatch Hetchy entrance of the park. From there it was a direct – albeit very windy – shot down to the reservoir where we parked and hopped on the trail that winds along the water.
We walked 2.5 miles past 3 waterfalls until we finally reached Wawona Fall which is so big this year that it has flooded the bridge, causing the path to be closed beyond that point.
At the start of the hike, the path crosses over a huge dam, the O’Shaughnessy Dam. The dam bridge offers stunning views and there was a big rainbow above the water passing through the dam.
While Hetch Hetchy is described as a mini version of the popular Yosemite Valley, there are no crowds like there are down in the valley. We had the place almost entirely to ourselves.
All along the path there are incredible views of the reservoir, Hetchy Hetchy Dome and Tueeulala Fall. My favorite part may have been the bright pink, purple and yellow wildflowers that were growing beside the path.
When we finally reached Wawona Fall, we were so hot that we snuck past the path closed sign to get a little closer and get doused in the mist blowing off of the falls. Seeing the water rush past the bridge was insane.
My top tips for enjoying the hike are to:
Bring lots of water. Dan and I were expecting to fill up our water bottle at the trailhead but never found a spout. We had to do the 5-mile roundtrip hike, sipping water from Karen and Zach, who were generous but ran out of water after the first half despite each bringing a 2-liter camelbak.
Wear sunscreen. Although there are a few shady spots, and a good breeze at the viewpoints, most of the hike is exposed and we got a lot of sun.
Prepare for rocky terrain. We were told by the park ranger at the park entrance that the hike was a nice, easy walk because there isn’t much elevation gain. The part about the elevation was true, but the path was very rocky and at times slippery from the waterfalls. There was also poison oak growing around the path.
Overall Hetch Hetchy is an amazing spot, free of crowds with stunning views. If you spend a few days in Yosemite, it’s definitely worth taking some time to explore.