Trip Report - Dayhiking Yosemite

Abstract Sky (Jody Pritchard) More photos below.

By Matt Pritchard

With as much traveling as we do, I think we still take for granted what a remarkable place we live. With the Pacific Coast in our front yard and the great Sierra Nevada out back, our local choices are almost embarrassing in their breadth and beauty. But like everyone else, the demands of work and life relegate most of our travels to weekend warrior status. We’ve developed keen systems for packing our gear, schlepping it to the car, and escaping from the city without hitting traffic. Not to brag, but we can pull together a Yosemite camping trip in under an hour. Our highly tuned sense of “Let’s get the fuck outta here” has led us down some interesting roads and trails.

In 2007, we planned four weekend trips to Yosemite, each one focused around a different day hike. In the end, two trips got cancelled due to life, but the others satisfied our craving for big granite and blue skies.

Four Mile Trail, Panorama Trail, John Muir Trail

The Four Mile Trail is a Yosemite Valley classic. From the valley floor, it climbs 3,000 vertical feet in just over four miles to Glacier Point, the classic overlook along the south rim of the valley. With a free shuttle and large visitor center at Glacier Point, the Four Mile Trail sees a fair amount of traffic. Most people opt to hike down the trail which is easier on the lungs, but far worse on the knees in my opinion.

We used the Four Mile Trail as a starting point for a half-loop of the valley. After the long, slow grind up to Glacier Point, we took the requisite ice cream break at the visitor center and continued along the Panorama Trail, skirting along the south rim of the Yosemite Valley. Views of Half Dome filled the skyline, and a few well-placed stream crossings afforded us the chance to dunk our hats and fill our water bottles. The trail eventually descended to Vernal Falls, where we met up with the JMT and the haggard hoards descending the last few miles from Half Dome. Weighing in at 13 miles with plenty of climbing, our little hike wasn’t easy, but it’s nothing compared to the slogfest that is a Half Dome day hike. Unlike those poor folks, we were fortunate enough to feel the rejuvenating powers of a mid-hike Häagen Dazs break. Every hike should taste so sweet.

Our highly tuned sense of 'Let’s get the fuck outta here' has led us down some interesting roads and trails.

Mono Pass & Parker Pass

Time and again, the high country of Yosemite is our venue of choice for quick weekend getaways. It’s not a short drive (about 10 hours round trip), but we can always find a campsite, and hiking choices abound. Last year, we were cheated out of our plans to hike to Mono Pass and Parker Pass. The reason why escapes me now, but it was near the top of our list in 2007.

After employing our patented alpine start, we reached Tuolumne Meadows in the early morning and grabbed a nice campsite. Saturday was spent resting at our site and touring a few of our favorite spots near Mono Lake. We grabbed dinner at the Whoa Nelli Deli and went to bed on the early side.

We got an early start on Sunday to avoid any late afternoon thunderstorms. From the Mono Pass trailhead, the trail passes through Dana Meadows before starting a slow climb through a wide valley. Flanked on either side by Mount Gibbs and the mountains of the Kuna Crest, the hike wasn’t short on views. We had lunch at Mono Pass and contemplated the trips we could launch from this spot on the edge of Yosemite National Park and the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

A few clouds were starting to appear, and we decided it was time to move onto our next objective: Parker Pass. Sitting less than two miles to the south, Parker Pass looks very different from Mono. The high windswept valley leading to the pass is rimmed on one side by the steep faces of Kuna and Koip Peaks. This was the first time, I had seen the mountains of the Kuna Crest up close, and I was blown away. It’s always a treat to find something new in a place that is so familiar.

By the time we reached Parker Pass, the clouds were starting to look pretty serious. As soon as we arrived, we were headed back down the trail. The hike out was fast and deliberate, with thunder crashes behind us and a cooler full of beer ahead of us. Much of the trip home was spent planning imaginary trips in this “new” area. We’ll see what 2008 brings.

Questions or comments about this trip report? Let us know.