Hiking Upper Yosemite Falls
If you make it to Yosemite, I highly recommend that you do the Upper Yosemite Falls hike. It may be the equivalent of climbing the Empire State Building multiple times, but it’s beautiful and entirely worth the sweat. Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America, and this hike gets you up close and personal with it at multiple elevations. Some hikes are kind of boring until you get to the top, but the Yosemite Falls hike shows you different perspectives of other landmark attractions all along the way.
It takes about 6-8 hours to do the 7.2 mile hike — it took us about 6.5. (I somehow forgot to mention that to my mother before I signed her and my brother Trent up to do the hike with me…) National Park Services recommends that you bring 4 liters of water with you — don’t skimp on this. We went in mid July, and the sun was scorching all throughout the hike. We left around 9:45 to do the hike, but I wish we had left a little earlier to avoid the sun. Theres no clean drinking water along the way, even though you’re by a waterfall. We saw a lot of poor-planners drinking from running water along the way, and I had a moment of silence for their intestines.
Also, make sure you bring food. It’s not always easy to eat when you’re sweating and moving up quickly in elevation, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Along the way I ate two protein bars, half an apple, and a bag of almonds. (Trent and my mom had similar food and a few Gatorades.)
Eating a good breakfast is also a smart move — my stomach was churning when I woke up from a difficult day in gluten-land the day before, so I only ate a bar and a couple egg whites, which was definitely not enough for this.
Once you hike for about a mile (about an hour and a half or so), you hit Columbia Rock, which is literally the best spot ever to see Half Dome from. After that, the switchbacks really get cranking as you climb closer to the top. The trail then dips down to the base of the waterfall (sounds counterproductive, I know) which is a surreal experience. The climb takes you away from the falls as you start up towards the top, but compensates with awesome views of the valley floor.
Finally getting to the top rewards you with panoramic views of the valley floor and the snow capped Sierras in the distance, as well as an insider-view of the source of the falls. Theres a picturesque wooden bridge that lets you walk out over the falls and catch your breath. Hiking reminds me of all of the things that I love about my life, and this hike was no exception. Something about hitting the top of a mountain makes me optimistic, and it’s nice to get physically up away from routine. I’m not gonna lie — I felt my breakfast turn in my stomach a view times on the way up, and my calves were literally shaking by the end, but I would still hike it every day if I could. Okay – maybe every other day.
If you’re still feeling strong, you can hike an extra mile to Yosemite Point, which gives you direct views of Half Dome – but I wouldn’t know. We were out of water and ATP and although we had planned on the extra mile, we didn’t end up doing it. I regret not going, but I know it was the right call given our supplies.
Theres only so long you’re allowed to be up there unless you’re planning on becoming a bearded mountain hermit, so eventually you have to take one last look…. Aaaaand then you have to go back down 🙂 We booked it down the mountain towards out car and our food. I definitely recommend bringing lots of food on the hike, and having something ready for when you’re all done. I know I’m a ravenous beast, but even people who say thing like “I forgot to eat” will be hungry after this stairmaster workout of a lifetime.
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