4th day in the Sierra: Exploring Yosemite Valley

June 17, 2008 at 1:09 pm 2 comments

Yosemite Falls from Cook’s Meadow

Exploring Yosemite at the Valley Floor was not in our plan at all, having the impression that it is too crowded in the summer. Gladly, we were wrong. Except probably for the Lower Yosemite Fall trail, the other parts of the valley floor are very peaceful and has that inspiring beauty really worth exploring. Anyway, what changed our mind to drop what was in our itinerary and explore the valley floor instead? My husband’s diligent reading of the Yosemite Guide’s June- July issue. On page 9 of Yosemite Guide was Yosemite Secrets, it is about the park ranger’s favorite Yosemite spot. One of those spots is Cook’s Meadow. The paper described that many people make pilgrimages to Lower Yosemite Fall, yet only a few crosses the street to take a stroll around the lush meadow. Since we could not find the Cook’s Meadow in the map, we all decided to take a walk to the Lower Yosemite Falls first, then after that, check out the Valley Visitor Center for directions to Cook’s Meadow and what else not to miss in the valley floor, and before the clock ticks at 5:00 pm, we should be at the horse stable to check out the availability of rides.

From Curry Village, we took the free shuttle bus to Lower Yosemite Fall trail head, which is at stop 6. The trail is through the woods and adorned by alpine wildflowers. One can either go back in same direction after reaching the base of Lower Yosemite Fall or they can continue on the trail to complete the one mile loop.

Alpine Wildflower Along the Trail to Lower Yosemite Falls

I am so glad for the presence of these wildflowers and woods, they provide a touch of serenity to the place since this is a trail with a lot of people! After all, who does not want to experience the 2,425 ft tall Yosemite Falls? It is the tallest waterfall in North America and the 5th tallest in the world.

Yosemite Fall from the Lower Yosemite Fall trail

I am just glad that most of those people had their eyes focused on the waterfalls only, thus, whenever we see wildflowers, birds, butterflies, nice wood and rock formation, we had them to ourselves. When we reached the base of Lower Yosemite Fall, the mist was very strong and again blowing in all direction. If we stayed longer at the base, probably, it would be like taking a shower. After enjoying the Lower Yosemite Fall at the base, we proceeded to walk back to the trail head by completing the loop. On our way to the trail head, we saw a sign “picnic”, thus we decided to follow the sign for our much needed lunch break. Surprisingly, the picnic place was not at all crowded, and we have the roaring Yosemite Falls for our view. Nice to feel that with all those people walking to Lower Yosemite Fall, there we were, having the Yosemite Falls all to ourselves, with the cute blue birds, Steller’s Jay.

Steller’s Jay Spotted at Picnic Area

But maybe our presence in the picnic area invited others to come, that slowly it gained quite a number of people. Thankfully, we were done with our lunch and on our way to explore the other parts of the valley.

After lunch, we proceeded to the Valley Visitor Center, and asked a park ranger for directions to Cook’s Meadow, which surprisingly for us, Cook’s meadow was just across the street of the Valley Visitor Center. But the park ranger did not only give us direction to Cook’s Meadow, but to the other parts of the valley he believed worth for us to explore. According to him, if we are up to a much longer walk, after Cook’s Meadow, we can continue walking South and then West of the valley, for it is “B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L”!

Half Dome from Cook’s Meadow

I was a little skeptical at first about the valley floor walk for I had this impression that the walk will be like the walk to Lower Yosemite Falls, crowded. Maybe, I read too much while preparing for the trip. But to my surprise, walking at the meadows of Yosemite Valley actually was very quiet, it seemed that most of the people may not be aware about this piece of beauty.

What more can be rewarding in a walk but the presence of swaying wildflowers,

Wildflower at Yosemite Valley (Visitor Center to Cook’s Meadow)

bees and butterflies surrounded by tall granite cliffs?


Wildflower, Insects and Butterfly, Visitor Center to Cook’s Meadow

From here, I will let the pictures speak of the beauty and serenity we found in our Yosemite Valley Floor walk.

At Sentinel Bridge

Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge

At Cook’s Meadow

 Cook’s Meadow (1)


Cook’s Meadow (2)


Cook’s Meadow (3)


Cook’s Meadow (4)


Wildflower and the Loving Bees, Cook’s Meadow

At Sentinel Meadow and Beach


Sentinel Meadow


Enjoying the Meadows




Yosemite Falls


Enjoying the Crisp Clear Water of Merced River, Sentinel Beach


Rafting on Merced River


Yosemite Falls and Merced River


Tranquility at the Bank of Merced River

At El Capitan Meadow

El Capitan, standing at 3,000 ft, the largest granite monolith in the world


Cathedral Rocks from El Capitan Meadow

This walk is quite long, actually, very long according to one of us, but then, because the valley is flat and with all those rewarding views, the walk is not that much tiring. The complete valley floor hike is 13 miles, but we did not really complete the entire loop. The peacefulness of the place and the tranquil beauty are very rewarding and truly inspiring. I am really glad that we did not go anywhere this day but just walked in the Valley Floor. Contrary to what the popular notion about Yosemite Valley being too crowded in the summer, again, there were only a few lucky people who chose to experience Yosemite’s beauty and tranquility here at the meadows of the valley floor. If I may add, while I was browsing the National Geographic website on National Parks just now, the Valley Floor Loop Trail is a must do secret ( http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/national-parks/yosemite.html ) in Yosemite. I have not really been to a lot of the hiking trails in Yosemite to agree or disagree, but to me, the Yosemite Valley Floor is a very beautiful natural garden must see. Where else can you find a garden so beautifully adorned with green grasses and wildflowers inviting a lot of wildlife, surrounded by lush green trees, naturally adorned by majestic granite rocks with North America’s tallest waterfall and the crystal clear waters of Merced River running through it? Only here, at Yosemite Valley. I am very glad we found and experience this exquisite beauty.


As planned, before the clock ticked at 5:00 pm, we were at the Horse Stable. From the Valley, we took the free shuttle to bring us to stop 18. We were able to book for a 2-hr ride for the next day. From the Horse Stable, we decided we still have energy left to take another walk to Mirror Lake, and maybe get a dip into the water. Mirror Lake is about 1.25 miles from the Horse Stable. On our way to Mirror Lake, we were greeted by the cute Steller’s Jay again.


Steller’s Jay, trail to Mirror Lake

When we reached Mirror Lake, we could not get nice reflections because there were several people swimming that were making ripples on the water. Also, it was not the best time of day probably to catch reflections at the lake. We were told that nice reflections there is in early morning. But anyway, to reward us of our walk to Mirror Lake, we still took some pictures of Mirror Lake and the nearby mountains, and reflections of Half Dome which graces the Lake.


Mirror Lake and Mountain


Half Dome Reflected at Mirror Lake


Swimming Hole Below Mirror Lake and Half Dome

Before leaving Mirror Lake, we took a half- dip in the water as we promised to ourselves. The water at first felt cold, really cold. But after our long walk almost the entire day at the Valley Floor, taking a dip in the water was so relaxing. The cold water seemed to relax our feet, that later we did not complain about being cold anymore. There were a group of kids who would climb up that rock where we were sitting, and then jump down to the water. When we had enough playful moments at the water, we started heading back to the Shuttle Stop, and on our way, we were greeted by another deer.


Deer Relaxing at Mirror Lake Trail

We ended our day watching moonbow at Yosemite Falls, however, since we (or I) forgot to bring tripod, taking picture at night was so much challenge. We could not hold the camera long enough without shaking. I tried finding a post or a bench to help me with support, but I could not find any. Bringing a tripod always is one area of taking pictures that I have to develop. Anyway, here is one picture I managed to take without a tripod that somehow has a little bit of definition, I do not know if you can find the moonbow 🙂 , it is very small, but that was all I managed to take 😦 .


Yosemite Falls at Night

Instead of getting frustrated about our inability to take pictures at night without a tripod, we happily munched on the Potato Chips we brought with us and continued enjoying that priceless gift of family togetherness under the full moon and the stars, with the moonbow, the Yosemite Falls and the tall granite cliffs. Love it, but now, I can only look at the pictures and dream about being there again! I love Yosemite, am sure you will too, so come, take a hike at Yosemite National Park!


Entry filed under: hiking, nature, rocks, travel, waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife, Yosemite. Tags: , , , .

2nd Day in the CA Sierra 5th Day in the CA Sierra: Hiking Vernal and Nevada Falls

2 Comments Add your own

  • […] "kayak" – Google News wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt… adorned with wildflowers inviting a lot of wildlife, surrounded by lush green trees, naturally adorned by majestic granite rocks with North America’s tallest waterfall and the crystal clear waters of Merced River running through it? … […]

  • 2. Ben  |  July 12, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    I’m really glad you enjoyed Yosemite. It’s one of my favorite spots. Also, thanks for the info about the valley loop trail. I’ve only ever hiked small portions of this trail and had no idea it could be so rewarding.

    Regarding Antelope Canyon, the fees breakdown like this:
    $6 per car for parking
    $25 per person for an hour long tour of Upper Antelope Canyon (more if you want a longer stay)
    $20 per person for Lower Antelope Canyon. In the lower Canyon you can pretty much stay for as long as you want.


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