So for those of my readers that didn't know already, I'm actually an engineer when I'm not out hiking and exploring! I work as an automotive engineer for a company called Daimler, designing components for semi trucks that you see on the road everyday. This past week, I was invited to speak at a conference in Yosemite National Park for about 150 people, discussing my experiences as a woman in the automotive field, my views on our industry as a whole, and also starting That Hiking Girl as a business! It was a weekend chalk full of hiking, drinking, exploring, and I guess a little professional business as well :)
Yosemite National Park has approximately 800 miles of trails, waterfalls as high as 200 story buildings, and is nearly the size of Rhode Island! So the first day of the trip was definitely spent just exploring the Yosemite Valley Floor and planning out which hikes we actually wanted to do. With absolutely no incline and paved or boardwalk roads leading everywhere, it's the perfect trail to bring along any kids or family members who made need sights that are ADA accessible. The park has a free shuttle service that will drop off hikers at almost all main trailheads. Below is the most updated version of the shuttle map that I could find on the National Park's website.
I was super lucky for this trip, having a room paid for because I was a speaker at this conference, so no camping in the snow for me this time around! I stayed in the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls with an incredible view of the Lower Yosemite Falls right off my balcony. The "hike" around Lower Yosemite Falls is much more of a walk, but has incredible views nonetheless! The trailhead is at the Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead (shuttle stop #6) and is an easy 1 mile loop that provides spectacular views of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls and even Middle Cascade.
Like all of the waterfalls in Yosemite, the Lower and Upper Falls are often dry from late July through October but in early January the winter snow is melting and the upper lakes are full, significantly increasing the flow of the water over the edge.
Lower Yosemite Falls:
Although I didn't get to do it, the Upper Falls hike is an intense 6 mile out and back with over 3000 ft in elevation gain! From what I've read on multiple sites, it generally takes 6 - 8 hours for average hikers to complete the round trip hike. The trail is generally open for the whole year, but can be difficult to hike in winter due to ice and snow, especially beyond Columbia Rock. Thankfully, doing just the Lower Falls was a great end to the first day in the park and just relaxing enough that I was able to rest up for the intense hike up to Nevada Falls the next morning!
Vernal & Nevada Falls via The Mist Trail:
So to start out, this hike is rated as moderate on tons of different hiking site, including the Yosemite National Park site... but on a scale of a walk across the park to climbing Everest, it may have actually been closer to Everest! Of course not really, but the 7 mile roundtrip does include about 180 flights of stairs getting to the top, so if you're hiking with anyone who has asthma or bad knees... this may be more difficult than moderate!
The only unfortunate part about doing this hike in the winter is that you have to do an out and back rather than a loop, the only way open while I was there was the Mist Trail, but it was such gorgeous views all the way up and back that i really couldn't complain! You will hike so close to 2 massive waterfalls that it will be very difficult to avoid the mist from the falls.
The Mist Trail starts at Happy Isles trailhead (YARTS shuttle stop #16). After a brief stroll along the river, you climb a pretty steep initial accent until you reach the footbridge, which offers the first glimpse of Vernal Fall in the distance (and a water-fountain and restrooms). You will then continue up to Vernal Fall, past Emerald Pool, and alongside Nevada Fall until you reach the high-point for this hike [alltrails.com].
The bridge on the left is past Emerald Pool and on the way up to Nevada Falls, if you've had enough of a workout by this point, it's a perfect place to stop for a snack and just take in the view around you! The unfortunately grainy photo of the stairs on the right is the final ascent up to the top of Vernal Falls with a view of 2,000 ft straight down, it's not meant for people with any type of fear of heights, but I thought it was AWESOME!
The 1 mile loop around Bridalveil Fall is an easy paved walk to a stunning waterfall, believed to be the home to the protector of Yosemite Valley. The Ahwahneechee tribe believed the fall to be the home of a spirit which protected the valley, and that inhaling the mist would increase ones chance of marriage (oh la la)...
For Yosemite waterfall standards, this 620ft drop doesn't quite compared to Yosemite Falls, but it is definitely worth taking the time to see this stunning waterfall as well! The "hike" to the fall only takes a couple of minutes along a paved path if you parked at the nearby parking lot. It will take a little longer if you parked further down Hwy 140, but the walk is nice and flat.
Because the walk to Bridalveil Falls is so short, simply crossing the street afterwards to walk along the river is a great way to stay outside and exploring! There weren't any fish when I was there, but I'd imagine it's an extremely calming place to fly fish during the warmer seasons!
The Gorgeous Ride into the park:
I want to take this as a short opportunity to thank EVERYONE who read this article and has supported this site since the beginning! That Hiking Girl has been a passion of mine for the last two years and I couldn't have imagined it coming as far as it has! Please help by sharing the site with your friends, subscribe to our email list, and follow the page on social media! Please reach out by email or on Instagram for any collaboration opportunities, have an amazing day and keep exploring! :)