by Nicha Jones
Yosemite isn’t always the easiest place to access in California, but one fall day (while living in San Francisco) my friends and I decided to embark on a little adventure. We woke up at an unreasonable hour (I believe it was sometime around 4 AM) in attempt to hit the road by 6 AM to get there in about 4 hours. It was an impulsive trip, but absolutely worth it if you have the ambition and time!
The early AM drive was perfectly poetic as we drove through the most remote parts of Central California at sunrise, watching the day awake up from its slumber. As we entered high country, the air became crisp, and we rolled down the windows to inhale all of its goodness. We arrived in Tuolumne Meadows around 10:30 AM, unsure if it was closed, since it was beginning of November (around the time when the park starts closing up shop). We noticed the fresh batch of snow on our way up the mountains, but didn’t let that deter us from hitting up any trails. We parked right outside of the John Muir Trail and immediately began our hike.
I’ve hiked this trail countless times with my father growing up, so despite the fresh snow concealing the actual trail, I was able to lead us along the parts I remembered. The trail runs alongside a rushing river, which during the summer is great for lounging on rocks while dipping your feet into the glacier water.
We hadn’t seen a single person on the trail, and started to get a tad concerned for our safety, despite having this glorious space to ourselves in its complete stillness. If, for whatever reason, we lost our way, there would be no one to find us (and nothing good can come of getting trapped in the high country). After a couple of hours of trekking through the snow in our sneakers, we decided to turn around and enjoy an alternate, more scenic route.
After the John Muir Hike, which mind you takes 3 days to complete, we headed to the Valley floor (which my father used to describe as Yosemite Disneyland since it’s always overrun by civilians). We checked out some main sites like half dome, and even saw our first bears!
TRIPPER TIP: If you ever see a bear in the wild and he starts to make his way down a tree towards you, walk or run in the other direction! They make look cute, but these guys can wreck total havoc on not only campsites, but humans!
On our way home, we decided to stop at Tenaya Lake to stuff our faces with snacks. The view is truly magical and makes you feel so small in comparison. A guy on the beach ran into the frosty water, which maybe during the summer may seem like a good idea, but considering it had just snowed it was absolutely crazy. It seemed like the perfect rest stop for our long journey back to The Bay.
While it’s preferable to visit this majestic place when you have a bit more time, if you’re in the area and/or know it well, you absolutely can visit in just one day. The views are unparalleled and the vibe is pure magic. A breathtaking place you must see for yourself.
To get to the trailhead: Start at CA 120 E to Big Oak Flat Road. Follow to Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station for parking and wilderness permits.