Thursday March 25th 2021 was my first time seeing Yosemite in person, and the valley contained within the park. It is amazing that such a beautiful valley has remained mostly wild, with vast amounts of minimally commercialized land surrounding it. There is a village in the center of the valley, along with a road leading to it, but the man-made structures are kept to a minimum and hide away within the trees so that they are hardly seen when hiking or sight-seeing within the valley. The roads themselves are rather minimal in design. They are 1-2 lanes at most with a one-way main loop going in and out of the valley from the same entrance. This is a nice design as it prevents any through-traffic and leaves a good amount of the valley unpaved. When a road cuts through the mountains, such as I-93 does through New Hampshire’s White Mountains, it will disrupt the wilderness and make it more difficult for both people and animals to cross.

What pleasantly surprised me the most about the park was the docile animals. I saw multiple families of deer and even a coyote completely fearless of the cars traveling through the park. The strict ban on hunting within the park and the vast number of tourists that visit in the summer appear to have desensitized the wildlife in the valley to the presence of humans. I imagine that the animals have learned that behaving well and approaching the cars often leads to rewards of food from visitors. This was definitely the case with the large birds I saw in the parking lot near Yosemite Falls. With folded up wings they would hop around the parking lot and get very close to any vehicles and visitors in the park. One child I saw wanted to get close and pet a particularly “friendly” bird, but was scolded not to by her father. The birds know that visiting humans to the park will often drop food, if not throw it out to the birds willingly.

Weather in the park that day was perfect, sitting around 50 to 60 degrees in the valley and slightly cooler at higher elevations. Yet there was still snow on the highest peaks and in spots with more daily shade than sun. The hike up to the peak, then back down took just under 3 hours in total, from 11:06am to 2:03pm. The distance of the trail was around 3.1 miles, so 7.2 miles of total hiking. Consisting of mostly switchbacks, the trail was tiring yet consistent, and had few flat sections or uphill sections similar to the trails I’m used to from New Hampshire. The best view of the trail was about halfway up, looking up to the middle falls of the Yosemite falls. Rather than water, it was snow pouring out of the lip in the granite, being blown about by the wind, until slowly falling onto a pile gathering at the base of the cliff. Never had I seen anything quite like it.

picture of snowfall

The hike was absolutely worthwhile, as most hikes are. Late March, and most likely early April, are the perfect times of year to visit Yosemite and drive through the valley since there are fewer people than during the peak of the season. I recommend getting there early, and to enter the park by at least 8:00am, though the earlier the better. I purchased an “America the Beautiful” pass that will last until March of next year for $80 that allows me unlimited entry and exit to Yosemite and numerous other national parks throughout the country. Purchasing this pass is the best option even if one plans on only visiting just Yosemite multiple times throughout the year, as the entry fee for Yosemite alone is $35. While I’d rather there be no entry fee, as long as the money is being put to use by protecting these lands from private development, and the fee is kept affordable, then it is worth paying.