There was a time when I harboured ambitions of hiking in the Himalayas or taking on the Inca Trail in Peru. Sadly my advancing years and poor fitness levels make conquering those heights an unlikely prospect. However, if there is one thing I have learnt about hiking, apart from the need to dress appropriately, it is that many wondrous sights can be found without the need for an oxygen tank.
There are many great walks which are within the compass of even a couch potato which makes it all the more curious that most people simply don’t bother taking them on.
Escaping the Crowds
Yosemite national park is a good case in point. The valley floor is always teeming with people and you have to queue to get a good view of the Lower Yosemite Falls which are just a few yards from the main drag. On the other hand if you wander a short distance from the valley in an upwards direction the people simply disappear. Not only can you find yourself away from the crowds you will find the most wondrous sights which sadly most visitors miss.
For me the greatest walk in the park is the Mist Trail. This one does attract more walkers than any of the others but many people only bother with the lower section and then turn back. The further you go the less visitors you will see and if you set out early you could be left wondering why you are alone in such a magnificent place.
The trail begins will a shallow climb to a small bridge over the river from where you get your first sight of the magnificent Vernal Falls. This is where most visitors grab their photo opportunity and then turn around. This is such a shame as the next portion of the trail to the foot of the falls really isn’t that demanding. The views are spectacular and there are plenty of spots to stop for a breather.
Many of those who didn’t turn back at the bridge terminate their journey at the falls because the next section of the walk takes you a steep incline via a stair case hewn into the rock face alongside the cascade.
The climb here is a little steep but it is short and the rewards are great. Here you discover why the route is called the Mist Trail as you are enveloped in the spray from Vernal Falls which thunder down alongside the trail. From the top of the falls there are spectacular views down the valley and this is a stunning place to rest up for a while to enjoy the serenity of the location.
You now have a decision to make. The area above the falls is spectacular and you could spend the day right there but the trail continues on to the equally wonderful Nevada Falls. You do face a reasonably steep ascent but if you have left early enough you can take your time and there is something wondrous around every turn. Yosemite offers an embarrassment of riches with incredible vistas and plenty of wildlife and this is never more evident than on the climb to Nevada Falls.
At The Top
Above the falls is some of the most spectacular terrain in the park. It is tempting to linger here for far too long but you must remember that you have a lengthy hike to return to the valley. If you make the effort to reach this point you will be eternally grateful that you made the effort and the walk truly isn’t that bad!
The Mist Trail should be well within the capabilities of most holiday makers. All you need is enough liquids on board, a good pair of boots and the sense to take a few breaks along the way and the best of Yosemite is all yours!
Sally Stacey is a keen writer and frquent traveller who loves Yosemite National Park.