Yosemite National Park

Anna and her sons tell of their experience of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park
El Capitan next to the Bridalveil Waterfall in the U shaped Yosemite Valley, from the Tunnel View

After we spent a day in Sequoia National Park, we set out the next day to visit Yosemite National Park and exit Yosemite by Tioga Pass to our next stop, somewhere close to Death Valley National Park.

We have been to Yosemite before, in 2015, in September. I remember being in awe, back then, with the tall cliffs like the Half Dome or El Capitan and the ice-cold glacier lakes close to Tioga Pass. At that time,  the waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley were all dried up, but that didn't bother us, as we all found it was fun to climb the boulders in their dried up beds. We figured at that time that the waterfalls must be so beautiful when there was water in them, they looked so tall and impressive.

When we visited Yosemite in 2022, we were there at the beginning of May. We were able to see what the waterfalls looked like in all their beauty, and we realized that we were right back then to think that they must be quite impressive when full of water.

The empty parking lot of Bridalveil Waterfall is the best spot to watch this waterfall. If you go too close to it, all you see is the mist it turns into as it hits the bottom of the cliff. 

The only downside to our visit to Yosemite this time around was that the part of the park we had to go through for us to get to Tioga Pass was closed due to the lingering snow of last winter. We couldn't go through the Tioga Pass as we planned. Instead of three hours through the park and then through the pass, the next best route the GPS gave us to our next stop for the night would have taken us seven hours. Faced with this challenge, we had to cut short our visit to Yosemite, cancel our reservation to our next hotel and make entirely different plans to get to our next destination.

Towards Tioga Pass, in 2015

In the Yosemite valley, the parking lot at the Bridalveil waterfall, was closed, too, for repair work. We managed to find a spot on the street. People were parking in places where they weren't supposed to, but it looked as if the Park administration was not doing anything about it. Must be that there were too many visitors and not enough parking lots, plus the park wasn't fully open to give enough space for people to spread out.

With all the shortcomings, we still managed to have a wonderful time in Yosemite. We were able to see only a bit of it, the bit that we missed seeing last time when we went there, the waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley.

The Horse Tail Waterfall

Not far from Bridalveil Waterfall, we went to see the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, the most famous ones in the park. The place was packed, it was hard to find a parking spot close to these falls, so we took whatever we could get, not caring to find something closer there. In the end, we were happy that we could hike a bit and see other pretty sights on the way.

Paul tried out the icy water of the Merced River. 

The hike to the Yosemite falls took us across Merced River, the river that crosses the Yosemite Valley. It was freezing at the beginning of May, but beautiful to behold, making its way among gigantic cliffs.

Closer to the falls, we had to cross Cook's Meadow which at this time of the year was very wet. At one point we could see a beautiful reflection of the Upper Yosemite falls in the still ponds in the meadow.

Reflection of the Upper Yosemite Falls in Cook's Meadow. 

Other than Upper Yosemite Falls, we could see from the meadow the Half Dome in the distance and other giant granite walls guarding the valley.

The walk through the Meadow was easy, wooden boardwalks were built across the wet parts. It is also a very enjoyable walk with all the tall cliffs surrounding it.

Half Dome view from Cook's Meadow. 

Across the Meadow, we entered the grounds of the Yosemite Falls, a wide and long, paved path is going towards it in a straight line . From this paved path you can see both the upper and the lower part of the falls in the distance. It is a marvelous thing to watch the waterfall from the distance but as you advance towards it and becomes loud and tall it is just overwhelming and magnificent.

The Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls selfie.

We did not have time to explore the waterfall thoroughly as we would have liked. When we were here last time there was no water coming down from the cliff and now there was so much. It is an overwhelming feeling getting close to it, seeing all that water turn into a mist as it falls down fast and furiously on the bottom of the cliff,  hearing its roar, feeling the mist enveloping you in a cool embrace, breathing in that air heavy with water. Nothing can stop that water rushing down, not even the humongous boulders in its path.

The Upper Yosemite Falls. Can you see the people that are closer to the falls being covered in mist and so small.

We reluctantly left the waterfalls to make our way towards the Tioga Pass. The road to the pass, as we found out at the spot, was closed and so we had to come up with a plan B to get to our next stop.

Mihai, 14

Yosemite National Park is 1,187 square miles (just slightly smaller than Rhode Island) and was a national park since 1890. This area is visited by roughly 4 million people a year, making it one of the most popular national parks.

By the Merced River. 

My favorite stop at the National Park was the Yosemite Falls. We had to park farther along the road and not at the parking lot because it was crowded. After getting out of the car, we walked along the side of the road and eventually came to the bridge that cars were inching across.

Later on, we came to Cook's meadow, which was full of long, green grass. A plaque nearby told of how farmers used to let their cows graze in the field, but that was now prohibited inside the national park. A boardwalk was connecting one side of the meadow to the other, and I wondered why this was necessary, when I noticed that the ground under the bridge was inundated. A duck was even swimming around in the water!

Cook's Meadow

Next, we got to the other side of the meadow, where we crossed the road and came into a forest with more bridges over streams running through it. After this, we came to a long paved path that took us straight to the waterfall.

The path to the Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in the continental USA, and even in North America. This massive waterfall is a grand total of 2,435 feet (742.19 m), almost twice as tall as the Empire State Building, from top to base. We visited this waterfall right after the ice melted in spring, so it was even more majestic than usual. We even walked to an overlook of the base and saw the spray of the water flying everywhere.

The spray of the falls flying everywhere. 

My next favorite stop was Bridalveil Falls. Here, we walked around the base of the waterfall and even went to the very bottom. At the base of the waterfall, we were splashed by the spray of the falling water. We couldn't see the rest of the waterfall from there because of all the mist.

The mist covering the Bridalveil waterfall. 

However, the parking lot servicing the waterfall was closed for repairs, and we had to park farther along the road and walk to the waterfall. Bulldozers and other building equipment were strewn about, and I even saw a small bulldozer with an expired government plate (it was supposed to be replaced in 2018, four years ago).

We visited the Merced River, where we ate at some picnic tables nearby. The beans weren't such a good idea… After eating, we went to the river, where we got some views of the surroundings. I tried to take a vertical panorama of the mountains with my dad's camera, but I almost fell flat on my back because I had to lift the camera over my head to take the photo.

Tall cliff by Merced River

Yosemite is:

The water rushing down the cliffs with great velocity;
The rustling of the pine needles as the wind blew against them;
El Capitan standing proudly in the distance;
The cold water of the Merced River;
The cold beans I ate for lunch.

I would go again to hike up El Capitan.

Paul, 11

One of my most favorite stops at Yosemite National Park was the Bridal Veil Falls. This massive waterfall was one of the main attractions, but at the time of our visit the parking lot there was closed. We parked on the side of the road and went on a path towards a small overlook of the Waterfall. It was hitting the ground so hard that it turned into a fine mist. When I went there, I was soaked and was dripping with water.

The Bridalveil falls.

I used to take off my shoes in Romania when we went to a river and I would dunk my feet in it. I had a wonderful idea. There was a small beach on the bank of the Merced river in Yosemite National Park. I was going to put my feet in and… FREEZE THEM OFF! This made my feet so numb that I could not feel them touching sand.

On the bank of Merced river with the Yosemite falls behind.

Another of my favorite places to visit were Yosemite Falls which are named after the park itself. The path to the Falls was a wooden walkway through a flooded meadow. In the water I could spot the reflection of the falls, along with the giant cliff they were falling from. When we arrived at the overview, we could also see a fine mist floating away from the waterfall.  

Yosemite falls zoomed in. 

Yosemite National Park is for me:

The swaying of trees in the wind;
The giant Half Dome looming above us petty humans;
The Veil Falls' gentle mist soaking me;
The meadow's water glinting in the sunlight;  
The numbing coldness of the Merced river.

I would go again to Yosemite National Park to hike and camp in the wilderness.