Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Day 1. We hiked to Happy Isles Nature Center with the intent of taking the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. Surprise! The 0.5 mile Mist Trail was closed, and we had to take the 1.3 mile Muir Trail to Clark Point. Also, there's no bathrooms or potable drinking water beyond the Happy Isles Nature Center. There typically is in the high-season, but not in "winter". This hike was rather brutal. It was mostly uphill and involved some unexpected challenging snowy bits that made us wish we'd brought trekking poles at the very least. We saw a group of Boy Scouts turn around at one of the trickier snow-climbing bits, which is a shame because the view from Clark Point was gooooooorgeous. Getting back down the trail was less tricky, but all the downhill could wear on the joints.
We were happy for the showers at Camp Curry / Half Dome Village, and the nearby Pizza Deck for dinner. Though exhausted, we headed to the Yosemite Lodge Lounge for a night cap (the free Valley shuttles run until 10pm).
Day 2. We took the free Valley Shuttle from Camp Curry / Half Dome Village where we were staying over to Yosemite Falls. The Lower Yosemite Fall can be reached from a rather short paved path, but it's a bit covered in snow at the end this time of year. Definitely more people about than on the Muir Trail the day before, but it like ~1 mile long with a 50ft elevation gain, compared to the insanity of the Muir Trail to Clark Point (and back) approach. We cooked some dehydrated backpacker lunch at the picnic tables, then walked the 1.7 miles to the Ahwahnee Hotel gift shop. Come for the fancy gift shop, stay for the fancy cocktails.
On our way back to Yosemite Lodge for a tasty dinner, we encountered a meadow full of deer with Half Dome as a back drop. The trail around Ahwahnee - Yosemite Village - Yosemite Lodge is paved, generally follows the main road, but has a bit of nature to entertain you. Such as giant boulders, impromptu waterfalls, and a meadow full of deer. We finished our second night at the Yosemite Lodge's lounge/bar in the hopes of them starting up their fire and toasting some marshmallows, but they did not.
Day 3. Checkout was 11am, so we loaded up the car and headed to breakfast at Yosemite Lodge's Cafeteria (it was super barren on a Monday early afternoon, very few food options). We stopped for a nice view of Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls then headed over to Bridalveil Falls. It is very misty, and best viewed from afar. The trails around Bridalveil can also take you to a good view of El Capitain, which was accompanied by a small waterfall this time of year. From Bridalveil Fall we drove up to Tunnel View for the quintessential Valley photo, and then backtracked and headed back to the Bay Area.
The highway views headed home were super lovely, something we missed on our drive in by leaving after dinner.