As I sit here quarantined from the Coronavirus, I am day dreaming of my time last summer spent vacationing in Yosemite National Park. Yosemite, one of the most beautiful and captivating places I have ever traveled. My heart yearns to return sooner than later. If Yosemite is not on your bucket list, you should add this magnificent national park.
While our visit to Yosemite was only a few days due to the fact we were trying to hit several national parks on our road trip last June, we were able to squeeze in a hike to Vernal Falls. I tried watching some YouTube videos the night before our hike to get an idea of what we were in for the following day. Going in late June meant that the snow melt had just occurred and the rivers and waterfalls were roaring. The videos I found to watch were of hikers in late July and August and gave no justice to the monster we were about to encounter. The people in these videos climbed up the rocks and along the path like they were just out taking a Sunday stroll. Well let me inform you that if you go during or after the snow melt, it will not be an easy hike.
I use my Fitbit Versa daily and laughed out loud when I saw in the Fitbit app you can do a solo adventure of Vernal Falls and get in 15,000 steps. I showed my spouse and he too laughed. Trust me the 15,000 steps I am taking here today are are a far cry from the incline stepping, can't breathe, wet from overspray steps I took back in June.
We had to drive to the back of the valley and park in a parking lot half a mile from the beginning of the trail. So basically we had to hike through a small forested area to even get to the hiking trail. If you are able to stay in the park campgrounds then you would be able to take a park shuttle or walk from your campsite to the trail. We were park commuters, as we did not plan a year in advance and reserve a campsite. I advise planning ahead and trying to stay in the park. We wasted tons of time driving in and out of the park each day. I say tons as in several hours each way.
After our small hike to the trailhead we were greeted with individuals running towards us. After you begin the hike you quickly realize why those coming down the trail are choosing to run rather than walk down. The trail is basically straight up. I mean leg burning, you can't catch your breathe, hands on knees straight up. It is a very intense half mile to the bridge. There were several families choosing to turn around because of the high demand of the trail. There are a few flat landing points that you can stop and try to catch your breathe. The trail is not very wide and shares traffic going up and down. It can be hard to even pass someone going slower in front of you.
Next on the trail comes the bridge. The bridge was packed when we finally reached it. For some this is where they decided to turn around and head back down. On the bridge you will have a beautiful view of Vernal Falls and the river flowing down stream. If seeing the waterfall is enough, then the bridge is a perfect spot to turn around. If you want to challenge yourself the cross the bridge and begin another ascend to travel up along side the river, to the bottom of the waterfall, then to the top where you can view the waterfall next to the falling over point.
The path turns from a concrete pathway to a dirt trail with rocks laid to form steps. There is no handrail to assist. You will literally be climbing at this point. The steps require you to almost climb up them instead of stepping. Some steps are close together while others are far apart. The overspray will make the steps slippery. An enormous amount of energy and time will be spent making sure your footing is accurate and safe. The steps were extremely slippery and filled with overspray. Hiking boots would have been a smarter choice than the tennis shoes we packed. Tennis shoes slipped on the rock steps and filled with water on the steps under water from the overspray. I was shocked to see some choose to go bare foot. I remember not even being able to get my phone out for pictures because I was drenched from the overspray. If I had planned better a waterproof case would have be beneficial for this hike.
As much as I want to say we reached the top, I regret to say we decided to turn around upon reaching the side of the waterfall. The hike continues up a stairway to the top of the waterfall. When we visited the stairway was packed with other hikers going both directions sharing the stairs. We decided we were done trying to share the trail with so many. We were finished and began our desend. If you visit in the summer months plan on sharing the park with thousands of other visitors. There were times we had to wait and take turns walking sections of the trail because it is so narrow.
As you desend it is easier to jog back to the bottom rather than hold yourself back on the steep incline to the bottom of the trail. The desend takes half the time as the ascend. We strolled our way back through the small forrested area to the parking lot.