Yosemite: Upper Yosemite Falls Hike

Yosemite Falls
08:46. At the foot of Yosemite Falls.

We have a good breakfast before setting out. The road to Yosemite Valley has reopened after yesterday’s snow storm. Our timing with the weather has been extraordinarily good this trip. Today, although we don’t run into any bad weather, the skies are mostly gray.

I don’t think I’ve agreed to climb to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall. The sign at the bottom of the trail says it’s 3.4 miles to the top. I do agree to walk a mile up to Columbia Rock. The 1000 foot ascent takes us an hour and a very boring hour it is. We wind up seemingly endless switchbacks on one of the oldest trails built in Yosemite. Imagine a giant 1000 foot StairMaster. We are in the trees, which is pleasant, but we can’t see the falls.

Yosemite Valley
10:00. View of Yosemite Valley from Columbia Rock.

At Columbia Rock we have a little rest, a little snack, and admire views of Yosemite Valley. AJM studies the map and I agree to press on especially as we are approaching a downhill bit. Within half an hour we start having incredible views of Upper Yosemite Fall. The way the water undulates down the drop is mesmerizing.

Upper Yosemite Falls, detail.

I could sit here all day watching it but we keep wanting to get closer and closer. As we have nothing else planned for today and we’re here, we decide to go ahead and hike to the top. The trail goes through another steep set up switchbacks. By 12:40, we’ve made it to the top. Yes, that means we’re walking less than a mile an hour. The trail is pretty crowded, so I take lots of breaks by pulling over and letting faster people pass me.

Yosemite Falls
12:48. AJM starts down to the overlook point.

We are above fall and have to climb down a steep, narrow path (with sturdy hand rail) to get to the overlook point. I’ve discovered that falls are not very interesting from above. Three young men decide to prove how cool they are by sitting on the ledge closest to the falls on the wrong side of the railing.

I lie on my stomach and hold the camera out over the edge. This is looking straight down Upper Yosemite Fall and the bit of river before it goes over the edge to Lower Yosemite Fall.

Yosemite Falls
12:52. Looking straight down from Upper Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Falls
15:44. Upper Yosemite Fall.

At about 3PM, as we are in the middle section of the descent, the clouds finally start breaking up. Now that there’s some blue sky, I retake all the photos that I took this morning.

Half Dome
15:45. Half Dome from Columbia Rock.

Yosemite Valley
16:19. Yosemite Valley. Now the sun brings the color up. The black splotch is a bird.

We arrive at the bottom of the endless switchbacks about 5PM. All thought of going to have drinks are forgotten. We are both so exhausted and frazzled that we just want to go back to the lodge and eat and not deal with anyone. This ended up being a much longer (in time) hike than we had prepared for and we didn’t have enough trail snacks to keep our energy level up. It wasn’t a difficult hike (in terms of climbing anything); it was just tedious. The view of the Upper Yosemite Falls from the section past Columbia Rock was wonderful. I’d do that section again.

We do make the effort to do the short Lower Falls trail.

Yosemite Falls

The next morning as we are leaving Yosemite, we take one last drive around the valley. Now the skies are blue. The falls are still in shadow. I wonder if there is a time of year or a time of day when the sun is on them.