The Upper Yosemite Falls trail is the quintessential Yosemite trail. It’s got steep gradients, big waterfalls, cliff overlooks, and views of the high country. It’s also one of the most crowded trails in the park, but if you get up early enough in the Winter or Spring, you can usually get some alone time near the top. Early morning is also the best way to avoid an overbearing sun on the last few switchbacks.
Luis and Jon decided to sleep in, but Bryan and I hit the trail around 8:00, a little later than I’d usually prefer. We got to Columbia Rock in good time, took a break, then continued on. From here the trail turns toward the waterfall, and we were treated to our first views. As we hiked closer, I expected us to start getting misted, but the hike was surprisingly dry. The sky was cloudy as we hit the final switchbacks, and so the entire hike turned out to be quite pleasant.
About fifteen minutes from the top Bryan had to stop. His knees were getting too tired. I soldiered on, though, and twenty minutes later, crossed the bridge over Yosemite Creek. Usually, at this point, I find myself knee deep in snow, not sure whether to put on snowshoes or not. This year, though, there were only a few patches of snow here or there, and for the most part, I never had to hike on any of it.
A few people were already at Yosemite Point, so I kept going a bit further up the hill. I found a nice spot with a view of Half Dome, the Valley, and the high country further out. I stopped here, pulled out my lunch, and had my moment of zen. The clouds were coming in thicker, now, and began to hide some of the peaks up near Tuolumne Meadows. After a half hour of milling about, I turned back downhill to try and catch up to Bryan.
The way down was much hairier than the way up. Hundreds of people in groups as big as twenty or thirty crowded the trail. I had to pull to the side almost as often as I hiked. I caught up to Bryan about half-way down the trail, and from there we hiked down together. A few times it sprinkled on us, but not enough to warrant taking out our rain shells. We got back down to camp around 2:00 and unpacked our gear. We took the shuttle around the Valley, checked out the Awahnee Hotel, then milled about camp until Jon and Luis got back from their study session.
I’ve done this hike every spring for the past five years or so. It’s a great hike in terms of the views and the workouts. I think, though, that next year I’ll be doing some other less popular hikes instead. I’m getting tired of all the people out there, especially when the ground is dry.