This hike delivers a great workout, some of the best views into Yosemite Valley plus glimpses into the high country.
Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 10.10 Miles
Elevation Range: 4,374′ – 7,401
Date: January 8, 2014
Maps: El Capitan
Highlights: You will get in a good workout with the almost 3,400′ elevational gain on this hike and you can also see Yosemite from 5 viewpoints. Inspiration Point, Old Inspiration Point, Stanford Point, Crocker Point and Dewey Point are all do-able on this trail.
We chose to spend some quality time at the upper 3 of these points. The trails were quite icy in spots, far icier than the Four Mile Trail hike that we had taken a month ago. It took some careful walking on or around these parts in order to not slip and fall and even then. . .well, accidents happen.
We parked our vehicle at the upper parking lot at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel and stashed our goodies in the bear box. We then headed up the trail that starts to the east of this parking lot.
The trail crosses the old Wawona Stage Road after about a half of a mile and it can be a bit confusing which way to go but the signs were very good at this location on this trip. On a previous trip, we were talking and not paying the attention that we should have and headed down the wrong way for a bit until we realized we had done. Just a heads up.
The old Wawona Road was constructed around 1875 and was a toll road that took passengers from the Wawona Hotel to the Yosemite Valley. After a huge project that took twenty nine months, blasting through over 4,200 feet of granite, the Wawona Tunnel opened in 1933. The Wawona Road was then shortened and redirected through the new tunnel. As I crossed this portion of the old road, I couldn’t help but imagine myself on one of those old stagecoaches heading down this steep road with straight drop-offs.
As we headed up the trail, we started encountering icy spots on the trail. The icy spots weren’t continuous so we did not put on our ice traction devices (more on this later). We took our time and tried to stay on the crusty snow part.
But accidents did happen.
On one portion of the trail, I headed higher up, paralleling the trail, then chose this butt sliding technique to get back down to the trail. It worked.
Photo by Gail Gilbert.
The trail crossed a few partially frozen creeks that were very pretty. Ice lining the creek and the quiet sound of gurgling water moving over the rocks were beautiful sights and sounds.
There wasn’t much snow for this time of the year, which is very sad, but we did come across a few patches in the shaded areas.
We arrived at the rim near Stanford Point, the official elevation stated as 5,246. Yosemite Valley Place Names by Richard J. Hartesveld said that it was probably named for Leland Stanford of the Central Pacific Railroad fame and later the governor of California. A place called “Standpoint of Silence” is shown on early maps in the same locality and may be the same point.
We took in the view, picking out El Capitan and Half Dome of course. We tried to pick out some of the high country peaks that we were familiar with such as the Cathedral and Tenaya.
Next stop was Crocker Point, official elevation at 7090′. Yosemite Valley Place Names by Richard J. Hartesveld says that although there are two Crockers for whom the point could have been named, it is probably for Charles Crocker of the Central Railroad, since the point west of it is named Stanford Point, after Crocker’s associate, Leland Stanford.
After a little snack, we headed on up another 7/10th of a mile or so to Dewey Point, detouring a bit along the rim.
I took a look back toward Turtleback Dome to the west to see the clouds rolling in from a weak low pressure system.
We could start to see those wonderful views as we approached Dewey Point at 7,200′ elevation, named for a Spanish American War hero named Admiral George Dewey. He is best known for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.
After lunch, the temperature started dropping a bit and a breeze made Dewey Point a little chilly so we decided it was time to head back down. The trail was just as icy as when we headed up but the light had changed to help us capture the bright red color of willows in a patch that contrasted so beautifully with the white snow. A few of them were even beginning to open up their leaves. Seems a little too early to me for this.
We had another great hike in Yosemite, having our time at Stanford, Crocker and Dewey Points all to ourselves.
We elected to not wear ice traction devices on this hike because we would have been taking them on and off, but could have easily used them. I want to share with you what I use in case it might be helpful for your travels in icy areas. My favorites are Kahtoola Microspikes, which I have been using for a few years. They are easy to slip on and really bite into the ice. Along with using poles, it helps keep you upright better than if you didn’t have them on. One of the downsides of them is you don’t want to wear them on rocks or dirt as they will wear down the pointy teeth. There are also other types of traction devices out there that may work well for you. They don’t weigh much and are easy to keep in your pack.
Schaffer, Jeffrey P. Yosemite National Park, A Complete Hiker’s Guide. Berkeley, CA: Wilderness Press, May 2008. Pages 290-292.
Hartesveldt, Richard J. Yosemite Valley Place Names. 1955