Don’t Miss a Yosemite Detour in Northern California
We were on our way back to Vancouver after a tour of the U.S. National Parks. We plotted a route home from Las Vegas that would give us about 8 hours driving per day. Our first top after Vegas was Fresno, CA. When David booked our Fresno accommodations, we ended up at a location up Hwy 41 and not really that close to I-5. The hotel was great with lots to eat close by and we figured it would only take us a few minutes to get back to I-5 to continue our journey. But as we went up Hwy 41, every sign pointed to Yosemite. Of course we had to check out whether a Yosemite detour might add another National Park to this trip!
A short time on the computer helped us to assess the detour route, time impacts of a detour and the time we might need to see key things in the park. We figured if we were ok with a very long travel day, we could fit a Yosemite detour in. With our National Park Pass in hand, our entry cost was covered so it really was just about our time.
See Yosemite From On High at Glacier Point
Hitting the road just as the sun was rising, we headed up Hwy 41 which would head right into the south entrance of Yosemite. The roads were narrow and twisty but several times we got behind slow moving trucks using this as a transport route.
Having looked at the park plan, I knew we should start with the scenic detour up to Glacier Point on our way north. Leaving Hwy 41 we headed higher and higher up yet more twisty mountain roads. The view we were looking for teased us on the turns.
Yosemite offers several different shuttle routes and we followed the Yosemite bus up to the high point and parked quickly to get ahead of two busloads of visitors. Bypassing the Four Mile Trail hiking path that would take us down to the valley, we walked up to catch the sight of the Half Dome from various outlooks at this point.
We had sorta thought we would see a glacier given we were at Glacier Point but all we saw was the vast valley that had been carved out by an ancient glacier. The signs said that the glacier had been 700 feet higher than where we were standing at that point.
If we looked far down into the valley we could see the Yosemite Valley and the road we would later take to meander to the visitor centre. Off in the distance on the far side of the Half Dome you could just make out the two vertical waterfalls (sometimes referred to as The Staircase), running with much less volume at this time of year in the fall (the upper Nevada Falls at a 597 feet drop and the lower Vernal Falls at a 317 feet drop).
Heading Into The Valley
The drive back down was fast and we soon found ourselves on the twisty road that led into the valley along the Merced River. At regular intervals there were pullout locations where you could get different views of the peaks towering above us.
Driving through the tunnel in the rock, we entered the village and parked to got a quick snack. Given how much travelling we are doing these days, we rarely pick up souvenirs. But we couldn’t miss a chance to memorialize the unique ones we found in the market store.
Despite the bear souvenirs, the most wildlife we found were the chipmunks gathered around the picnic tables! It was quiet and peaceful as we wandered around enjoying the view in the valley.
Off in the distance, Yosemite Falls with a 2425 foot drop looked far less impressive at this time of year with a low flow. I am sure it would be quite dramatic to see them when the spring melt was at its peak.
Heading out of the park, we passed through the single car tunnel before heading into the broad valley around the trickling Merced River. While the hills were much lower here, you could clearly see the moraine and sharp angles left behind as the glacier retreated
If we come back and do a Yosemite detour again, we would definitely park in the valley and take the Yosemite shuttle around to the various spots.
Start with Glacier Point to get a great high view before heading to the various spots around the valley. If you are in good shape, you can even hike instead of using the shuttle. Being mid-October the park was pretty quiet and we could not imagine trying to drive with the summer crowds.
A Great Yosemite Detour
Yosemite is worth a stop on your U.S. National Parks tour! It was not on our original plans. But we were glad to see this iconic park in California.
Did you do a Yosemite detour when you were in California? Was Yosemite on your National Parks tour agenda?
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