Hike to North Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite Valley – 14.8 miles
I woke up around 730 or so and made some oatmeal and coffee. There were tons of hikers breaking down their camp getting ready to set off for the day. A lady was eating breakfast at the picnic table near me. Her name was Dana and she was hiking to Mt. Whitney on the John Muir Trail. She said she planned on getting there on July 29 the same day that I hope to be hiking Mt. Whitney. Perhaps I’ll see her on the summit!
I left camp at around 9 and took a free shuttle bus from Tuolumne Meadows to Olmsted Point which was the last stop for the free shuttle. The shuttle wasn’t necessarily equipped to take bikes, but the driver was nice enough to let me try to finagle it on through the isle to the back of the bus. Along the way I saw loads of climbers getting ready to charge up their various routes for the day. Also got to see some of the first large granite hills, cliffs, and peaks. Truly different from any other mountains I have ever seen.
I got off at the end of the line at Olmsted Point and then biked to Porcupine Creek Trailhead. The plan was to hike out to North Dome and back about 8.8 mile. Ann and Walt recommended the hike and said that it provides spectacular views of Half Dome.
The hike was amazing. It started out in a forest of huge red fir and lodgepole pine trees. The tall trees provided plenty of shade and there was little vegetation on the ground. The temperature and weather were perfect. Not cold or hot with the occasional cloud. Low humidity meant no sweat and zero bugs. As I hiked I couldn’t help but think that this was the most comfortable climate I may have ever experienced.
Since I started out above the valley most of the route was downhill toward North Dome. I took a short spur to Indian Rock, a granite rock arch formation on top of a hill that provided some good views of Half Dome as well.
As I approached North Dome the forest thinned out and turned into large granite rock slabs. Since I figured I would just be hiking out and back I dropped my bag at the top and continued walking out to the point. At the valley between the first large granite dome and North Dome there was sign indicating that Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Valley were only 4.2 and 7.3 miles further, respectively. I considered continuing my hike down to the valley and trying to get a bus back up to Tuolumne Meadows and was suddenly regretting dropping my bag at the top of the first peak.
North Dome (to the left in the picture above) was a giant, gently sloped granite peak that provided amazing views of Half Dome to one side and the valley to the other.
After checking out the views provided by North Dome I decided to head back up to the first peak, grab my bag, and make the trek down to the valley. Since I didn’t have my bag I was able to jog portions of the route. It was a bit of a risk since I wasn’t fully aware of which bus, if any, I would be able to take back up to Tuolumne Meadows, and if I would be able to stop at Porcupine Creek and get my bike. The bus and shuttle information was difficult to come by, so I decided to wing it and figured worst case scenario I could probably hitchhike back up to Porcupine and then ride my bike back to Tuolumne Meadows.
The hike descended into more forest and provided some good views of the valley until I came across Yosemite Creek which flowed over a granite cliff and created Upper Yosemite Falls.
When I got to Yosemite Creek there were a bunch of people swimming and wading in the water. I took my shoes off and joined them. It was really refreshing because my feet were killing me by now.
From the top of Upper Yosemite Falls there were a ton of steep, sandy, granite switchbacks. The sand on top of the granite made for a slippery walk down that was hard on the knees and legs. There were some impressive views of the falls along the way that made for good rest stops. It was already 330 or so and I was getting nervous that I would miss any buses that were heading back up to Tuolumne Meadows, so I was really trying to push it even though I was exhausted.
I made it to the valley at around 430 and went straight to a campground check-in station that was near the trailhead to ask about buses. The ranger there said the last YART bus left from the Visitor Center at 5. She said it was about a 30 minute walk, so I would have to run if I wanted to catch it or I could try to grab a free shuttle there. Luckily there was a free shuttle at the stop as I got there so I grabbed it.
The valley was an absolute zoo and for awhile I thought the shuttle might have been a bad idea. A huge tour bus had just let out in front of us. It was one of those where the guy walks in front of the group with a flag and everyone follows him like lemmings. They were taking up the entire road and the bus driver wasn’t especially aggressive, so people who were walking were passing us. Eventually we got out to the main road and started going faster and I was at the Visitor Center just before 5.
I caught the last YART bus up, and the driver even agreed to stop at Porcupine Creek to grab my bike as along as she didn’t pick up a bunch of backpackers and there was room for it in the bay under the bus. It worked out perfect and there was plenty of room for my bike under the bus when we got to Porcupine. I was dropped off at the camp store at Tuolumne Meadows.
It was still open and I was famished, so I went in to grab some food for dinner then headed back up to the Hiker camping area. When I got back to campsite Meric was there with a german couple and another girl who was cycling around the Sierras as well. I made some dinner and we sat around and talked for awhile. Went to bed exhausted and was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow (stuff sack with my rain gear crammed in it :)).