Yosemite features soaring granite cliffs that surround a lush green valley with domes, waterfalls, and spires. Yosemite boasts world-class big wall climbs, through-hiking trails, picturesque lookouts and a vibrant history of people testing the limits of humankind. People can spend years exploring the huge expanse of land and still not experience everything.

Allyse and I originally planned on hiking Half Dome and staying a couple nights in Little Yosemite Valley back country camp while making our attempt on the summit. Because of planning and how we were feeling, we decided a couple days before we left to stay in the valley and go on little adventures each day. This meant we had to search for lodging, which we found in Camp 4 (see my post on Yosemite Accommodations). We secured a campsite in Camp 4 for 3 nights.

We drove out Monday morning, picked up our tent tag from the ranger, set up camp, and ate dinner and s’mores while hanging out at our camp for the night.

Tuesday morning, we got up and got ready for a day of adventures. We had reservations to go horseback riding at Big Trees Stables close to the Southern entrance of the park. Fun and easy experience while riding for 2 hours around the meadow that sits close to the stables. The ride features brilliant views of the meadow with its lush grass, the forest, and some of the wildlife. On the trail, we passed by a black bear cub posing on a log off to one side of the trail. After finishing up with the horseback riding, we drove back up to the valley for food and to walk around Yosemite Village. Mariposa Grove, Giant Sequoia grove, is only another 6 minute drive further South from the stables. We walked around the visitor center and got our national parks passport book stamped. After dinner, we drove up past the Tunnel View outlook and setup my GoPro for a timelapse of the sunset against Half Dome and El Captian.

Wednesday morning, we got up and headed over to Happy Isles trailhead to hike the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls. Mist Trial is about a 2 mile hike from the trailhead to the top of Vernal Falls. The trail begins a steep, paved trail up to a bridge the crosses over the Merced River; then after a few switchbacks changes into granite steps carved into the hillside all the way up to the top of the falls. There are several places where it does narrow down a bit with handrails. While hiking the Mist Trail, you’ll definitely see that the name is appropriate when you get to granite steps because you’ll be bathed in mist coming off of Vernal Falls. Enjoy the experience of hiking through the mist and thousands of little rainbows that surround you. We sat at the top and ate our lunches, while enjoy the emerald pools and fighting off squirrels.

After coming off of the hike, we rented bikes at the Yosemite Valley Lodge for a couple hours and road around for a couple hours. The bikes are older, well-used beach cruisers with coaster brakes (pedal backward to brake), which are never super effective in stopping suddenly, so make sure you’re careful around obstacles. Right around where we rented the bikes and Yosemite Village there are thousands of tourists that aren’t paying attention because they’re on their phones or taking pictures, so be extremely careful. We stopped real quick at the Yosemite Village Grill and got ice cream before continuing out towards the Happy Isles trailhead on a bike trail away from everyone. We rode for quite a while through a calm majestic forest with the aroma of the pine trees surrounding us with little disturbance from other tourists. We then rode down the south side of the park towards Bridalveil Falls. We didn’t make it all the way to Bridalveil because we cut back into the Yosemite Valley Lodge to return the bikes.

Thursday, we packed up and drove back. I would suggest reading my posts about the food and getting reservations for permits and a campsite.

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