As part of my summer road trip, I spent 24 hours in Yosemite National Park. Although I’ve lived in California pretty much all of my life, this was just my second visit to the park. It’s a shame really. Yosemite is easily one of the most beautiful places on earth. There is nothing quite like coming into Yosemite Valley. You emerge from a long tunnel cut into the mountain to see one of the grandest views on earth. The valley is laid out before you with three of the most iconic landmarks standing tall: Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan and Half Dome.
When I take longer road trips, I keep costs down by camping on some nights. Can you think of a better place to camp than Yosemite? I was lucky enough to find a campsite for one night at Hodgdon Meadow. After taking in the Tunnel view, I head to the campground to check in and set up camp. It is SO much easier to do that stuff in daylight! With the tent set up and supplies dropped off, I head out towards Glacier Point Road.
Glacier Point Road is 16 miles of pure visual bliss! There are multiple hiking trails along this road that all offer spectacular views. I’m burning daylight, so I hightail it to the top where I stop at Washburn Point for spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. You get a good view of Half Dome from here as well. This is my first time being up at the top of Yosemite and it just takes my breath away.
With sunset quickly approaching I catch my breath, pack up my gear and head up the road to Glacier Point. Glacier Point is hands down THE best place to watch a sunset in Yosemite National Park. The line up of cars waiting for a spot in the parking lot will attest to the popularity of this awesome place. From the parking lot it’s an easy half mile hike up a very nice paved walkway to the viewing area. I grab a snack at the Glacier Point snack stand and park myself along the wall of the viewing area and wait for the magic to happen.
As sunset approaches, many of us who have been chatting up on the mountain wonder if there will actually be a “sunset” tonight. The weather has been a little bit all over the place and the cloud cover is pretty thick. Some of us contemplate leaving and heading back down the mountain ahead of the crowds. However, every time one of us starts to leave… the sun tries to peek out providing us with some hope of seeing what we came here for. Sunset at Glacier Point is so special that a ranger arrives a few minutes prior, she provides us all with assurances that it WILL HAPPEN. She chats with everyone and tells a story about the face carved into the side of Half Dome and the Indian legend behind it. Then, it happens! As the sun starts to dip behind the mountains, the sun finds a break in the clouds. Half Dome and the cliffs below begin to light up. The light moves up the mountain until, at last, just Half Dome is lit up like a light house in the night! I am in complete awe at the beauty of this day and this special sunset witnessed from the top of the world!
What a completely Amazing Day! Exhausted, I head down the mountain and back to my camp site to get some shut eye. When morning comes, I pack up the car for a quick ride through Yosemite Valley before heading out of the park. As you exit Yosemite Valley, you’ll find a popular vista point known as Valley View. Be careful when you visit that you don’t miss this awesome turnout as you leave, I missed it on my first trip here. A small parking area along the Merced River provides an awesome view of the valley floor.
I’m sad to leave Yosemite National Park, it’s such an awesome place. I’ll be back again soon to discover more of what Yosemite has to offer, but it’s time to head on down the road. We’ll see if the next destination can compete with Yosemite, a hard act to follow for sure.
Plan a Visit to Yosemite National Park!
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