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Dogwoods, Waterfalls and Reflections along Yosemite’s Valley Loop

The Merced River had reached flood stage, gently spilling its banks into areas within Yosemite Valley. Waterfalls were reacting from our recent heat with a display that we hadn’t seen in years. And, on top of that, the dogwoods were blooming. How could I resist a trip to Yosemite Valley to check it all out?

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 10.66 miles but you can drive, park and see much of this adventure with very little walking
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Range: 3,888 to 4,129′
Date: May 3, 2017
Map: El Capitan Topographic Quad
Dog Hike? No, but other nearby paths allow dogs

We were in search of dogwoods and after we drove by the Pohono Bridge, we saw a chance to park at Fern Springs and checked out the beautiful display of dogwood blooms in that area.

The Merced River was anticipated to reach flood stage on the day of our visit, which is 10 feet and it was already darn close in the morning.


Photo by Gail Gilbert







We drove up to the Swinging Bridge to check out the flooding and reflections. Have you ever wondered why the Swinging Bridge in Yosemite Valley isn’t actually a swinging bridge? The current bridge replaced the old swinging bridge in 1965 after the old swinging bridges were repeatedly damaged in floods. The current Swinging Bridge survived the 1997 flood.

The Old Swinging Bridge (Photo Courtesy Yosemite National Park)

And those reflections were beyond words!! Yosemite Falls was really showing off to us.

The Merced River had flooded into the adjacent meadows. The below picture of the Swinging Bridge shows how high the water was.

Looking Downstream From the Swinging Bridge

The Swinging Bridge

And we had to have our picture taken with Yosemite Falls.

Gail, me and Deb

I wandered across the bridge where reflections in the flooded meadow created beautiful views.

It was time for us to get some exercise and we drove the short distance to the Chapel and started south along the Valley Loop Trail. We didn’t do the entire loop but did hike 10.66 miles.

We followed the path to Bridalveil Fall and boy oh boy did that mist feel good on the warm day.


Bridalveil Fall (Photo by Debra Sutherland)

We continued on that path, looping back to its parking lot, then we crossed the road and followed a dirt trail that led down to the river, then downstream to a large boulder with a commemorative plaque placed in 1925 by the California Medical Association. The plaque said that it “Commemorates Dr. Lafayette Houghton Bunnell, one of the first party of white men to enter the Yosemite Valley in March 1851 — He proposed the name Yosemite and was the first to proclaim its beauty and wonders to the world.”


Photo by Gail gilbert

Photo From “Discovery of the Yosemite” (1892) by Lafayette H. Bunnell

Lafayette Houghton Bunnell (1824-1903) was 27 when he became a member of the Mariposa Battalion that became the white discoverers of the Yosemite Valley in 1851 when they rode out in search of Native American tribal leaders involved in recent raids on American settlements. Discovery of the Yosemite, and The Indian War of 1851 (originally published 1880) contained his account of that event, beginning with the history of the battalion and the tribal unrest that inspired its creation.

He went on to chronicle the unit’s march from its camp near Agua Fria into the mountains down the South Fork of the Merced River. Bunnell recalled his comrades’ reactions to the beauty they encountered in the Yosemite Valley as well as the trivia of camp life and encounters with the native tribes they were sent to pacify. The book concluded with chapters of the Valley’s history after 1851, discussions of the region’s flora and fauna, and a chapter on the discovery of the sequoias and their later exploitation.

Prior to his participation with the Mariposa Battalion, Bunnel had served in Mexican War and came to California in 1849. It is said that he became familiar with Indians and learned Indian languages. After the Mariposa Battalion, Bunnell remained in California, trading, mining, and surveying, for five or six years, then returned to La Crosse, Wisconsin. He enlisted in U. S. Army on April, 1861, serving throughout the Civil War. He was commissioned an assistant-surgeon in 1865, then spent the remainder of his life in Minnesota.

DebThe Merced River side of the big boulder with Bunnell’s plaque looked like a good lunch spot, so we sat down and took in the view. There were even some really nice dogwoods that were blooming nearby.

After we made it back to the Chapel, I sat in the grass under the shade of some trees while Gail and Deb walked over to the Superintendent’s Bridge to take pictures. I thought I had a pretty nice view from where I was.

When everyone regrouped, we drove up to Half Dome Village to check out the dogwoods.

The dogwood blooms were beautiful!

Many people think that the white part of the dogwood is the flower but that is actually the bracht. The center part is actually the flower where the seeds are developed.

They are still a beautiful flower.

We made several stops on our trip to Yosemite Valley and even got in a hike. Many of our prime view spots were along the road or a very short walk from the parking lot. Our 10.66 mile hike on the Valley Loop Trail got us our exercise for the day. I share this because there it was difficult to rate this trip for you because you could do it all from your vehicle, or even with a few stops and a very short walk. Or perhaps you would like to hike even farther than we did. This is one of those adventures that is very flexible.

Dogwood blooms do not last very long but there will be other places that could be possibilities to see them if you missed Yosemite Valley’s dogwood show. Nelder Grove is another beautiful place at a higher elevation that could be beautiful very soon.

Dog Hike?

Dogs are not allowed on this trail but are allowed on other nearby areas.

Map and Profile:

Yosemite Valley Loop Hike Doarama

Yosemite Valley Loop Topographic Map

Yosemite Valley Loop Profile

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Mirror Lake Loop Hike April 26, 2016

Leaf Peeping in Yosemite Valley October 23, 2014


Yosemite Valley Loop Trail

The Discovery of Yosemite PBS



Yosemite’s Historic Hotels and Camps Alice van Ommeren, 2013, Acadia Publishing

Yosemite Place Names Peter Browning, 1928


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