Monday, August 3, 2015

Tenaya Canyon Top to Bottom - Yosemite

What goes down, must ride up! This day hike had been many years in the making - asking questions of friends who had done it and getting the guts to try. The premise: hike from the Tioga Pass road down to Yosemite Valley and ride the YARTS bus back to the trailhead. There is only one bus at 5 PM that can get a hiker back up the Tioga road, miss it and you will have trouble in the valley... We chose the Snow Creek trailhead, one of several choices for hiking from the north rim of Tenaya Canyon to the valley. This was also one of the shorter routes down and would have spectacular views of the face of Half Dome for much of the way.  

The trail starts at 8,400 feet elevation and actually climbs for a short distance before starting the rambling descent down to Snow Creek and the edge of the canyon. Indian Ridge, dividing Snow Creek from Lehamite Creek was evident through the trees as we cruised down the forested trail.

Indian Ridge
Bridge over Snow Creek
The first views of Half Dome through the trees came well before we got to the canyon edge. No matter how you see this mountain it's always amazing.

Half Dome through beyond the forest
A short distance after crossing Snow Creek on a nice bridge we came to the edge of the canyon at an elevation of 6,700 feet.  Next came the knee busting, quad pounding drop of 2,500 feet in less than a crow-fly mile on the face of Tenaya Canyon.  Actually, it wasn't too bad - the trail was cut in a notch in the canyon wall and was beautifully graded with many switchbacks all the way down.  There were some late season flowers in a few wet spots to help take your mind off the drop.

Canyon wall trail

Indian Paintbrush and Chinese Lantern
The star of the show for the entire way down was Half Dome, always in your face and forcing numerous stops to ooh and ahh.  Views up and down the canyon were also pretty spectacular.

Half Dome
Half Dome
South Wall Tenaya Canyon
Half Dome and Yosemite Valley
Reaching the bottom we had an easy cruise down the Tenaya Creek trail past Mirror Lake and on to civilization that is Yosemite Valley in the middle of summer. In reality, we'd all rather walk there than attempt to drive a car into that madness...

Valley trail
One last look at Half Dome from the valley floor

We got to Curry Village on foot well before 2 PM and had to kill three hours before our bus ride back up.  Ice Cream!!  

We managed to fill the time eating, drinking, and watching a movie at the Visitor Center. We had our good luck charm "Hikin' Bill" with us so the rain didn't fall until we were under cover at the V.C. The bus was right on time and 90 minutes, and 45 road miles later, the kind driver dropped us right next to the car at the trailhead. The easiest 5000+ foot elevation change hike we've ever done!

Distance: 10+ miles
Elevation change: Up - 1,250 feet, Down - 5,800 feet


Bird Lists:

Snow Creek - Upper
Snow Creek - Middle
Snow Creek - Lower
Mirror Lake

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