If you want to see an explosion of wildflower colors, this is the hike for you! Some wildflowers were taller than me and some were teeny tiny. Some were quite showy and I had to look closely at some to see their amazing detail. Some even had bugs on them. Wildflowers are putting on a tremendous show right now in the meadows off of Glacier Point Road in Yosemite National Park and if you want to see this explosion of wildflower colors, get there now!
Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 13.28 Miles (but you can go shorter)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Range: 5,813′ – 7,020′
Date: July 23, 2020
Maps: El Capitan, Merced Peak Topographic Quad Maps
Dog Hike? No
I drove up Glacier Point Road about eight miles to the sign that points to closed Bridalveil Campground and parked across the street at the McGurk Meadows Trailhead parking area. If I would have had snacks and ice chests, I would have put them in the bear box but I didn’t have any snacks or cold drinks, and that was kind of sad. It was 41 degrees when I left the car and started walking up the road toward the campground, lined with wildflowers.
In addition to wildflowers, I started seeing my first fresh bear sign on the road and there was plenty more to be seen on the trail. After about a little shy of a mile where the “Horse Camp Vehicles Only” sign was, I saw the trailhead signs and bear box. If the campground was open, you can usually drive to this small parking area, but not this year.
The trail followed Bridalveil Creek for a while, then the wildflowers started with Asters and Lupine leading the parade.
Beautiful Alpine Lilies (Lilium parvum) surprised me along the trail because they were just so unique with their bright orange color and spots. They are also known as Sierra Tiger Lily, Small Tiger Lily and Small Leopard lily.
There were several areas where I had to cross little creeks and wet spots. Strategically placed logs had been previously placed to make it easier and I had no problems keeping my feet dry.
The trail led me through a stretch where the morning light on Paintbrush looked like a pastel watercolor.
And Mountain Asters lined the trail.
I am seeing more monkshood this year than I remember, but maybe I am just more aware of it. Although very pretty, it is poisonous.
I reached my first trail junction and turned right toward Deer Camp.
So far the flowers had been fairly tall or maybe I just wasn’t looking down. The smaller ones were also pretty.
A few Crimson Columbine were mixed in with other flowers.
Lightening started the Empire Fire on August 1, 2017. It wasn’t officially contained until November 27, burning 8,094 acres. I had hiked the area the week before the fire and at that time there was a lot of dead and down trees on the trail in places. I hadn’t hiked this part of the trail since before the fire and knew there would be many changes.
Here is a incident map from the fire dated October 19, 2017 to show the progression and perimeter of the fire before it was contained. It isn’t the final map but it gives you a good idea of where it burned compared to my hike.
So, I started into the burned area with skeletons trees but lush undergrowth.
There were several wet spots on the trail along the way.
Loads of wildflowers were in that lush undergrowth.
The pink blooms of Fireweed are one of those wildflowers that you will often see after a fire.
Larkspur was very tall and healthy looking, sometimes taller than I was.
Cow Parsnip was also looking very happy.
Burned trees yield to new far away views.
I spotted a Sooty Grouse on the trail about 30 feet in front of me and it was clear that she was trying to distract me but from what? Did she have a nest nearby or chicks that she was protecting. I stopped in my tracks and watched for a bit then spotted the chicks. The next picture shows the chick so you can try and pick it out from the surrounding vegetation. You can click on the picture to make it larger. If you give up, look at the second picture where I have added an arrow to help.
Before 2006, the Sooty Grouse was considered a subspecies of the Blue Grouse. The Dusty Grouse that lives in the Rocky Mountains was also considered to a subspecies of the Blue Grouse. The Sooty Grouse blends in so well with the countryside it is hard to spot but you may have heard the “whomfing” that the male makes because it carries pretty far. The female makes cackling and whinny sounds. You can listen to both of those sounds here.
I gave the Sooty Grouse family plenty of time to mosey away then continued down the trail. The color combinations of the flowers changed every 10 feet or so. At first, whites dominated.
Then the oranges took over.
Then they shared the color stage.
A few Washington Lilies snuck their way into the wildflower show.
I reached a trail junction and turned right toward Bridalveil Camp.
I came across Coneflower patches with flowers taller than I was. I couldn’t even see the trail for short stretches because of the lushness but I had no problems knowing where it was.
I just love to watch the insects working on the flowers.
The crossing over Alder Creek has been washed out for a while but it is trickier than it has been. I was able to get across ok utilizing some logs but if you are riding a horse, not sure if this is doable for you. You might be able to swing high into or above the mucky mud or maybe lead your horse across below the culvert.
Another trail junction marker and I turned right toward Bridalveil Camp.
OK, this is the part of the hike that I was dreading because even though it was a cooler summer day, mid 60’s, this part of the trail is in the sun on a westerly slope. It is dusty, a bit steep and there weren’t wildflowers to keep me entertained. But it was part of the price I had to pay and there was a nice view as I climbed.
And a few Mariposa Lilies surprised me along the trail.
The steep part of the trail was behind me and it wasn’t long before I made it to Westfall Meadows. I had been a bit concerned about crossing the meadow because I wasn’t sure if it would be swampy. It wasn’t and there was a small log to get over the creek.
Last trail junction and I turned left, the only left turn on my hike, toward Glacier Point Road. There was a place where another trail marker should have been with that trail leading to Bridalveil Campground. The post was there but the sign was missing. This short stretch led me back to where the trail came out where the sign to McGurk Meadow parking was. Then I was back at my car with no snacks or cold drinks. Good thing it was a short drive to get home although I thought about several other options such as an ice cream cone or picking up a cold drink when I drove through Oakhurst.
I saw plenty of bear sign and most of it was very fresh. I didn’t see a bear on my hike but did see one on my drive in. It is always fun to have a bear sighting, even if it is from your car. There are several ways that you can see these gorgeous wildflowers without hiking the entire loop that I did. One suggestion is to walk up the road to the campground and take the trail that I did out a ways until you want to turn back. And there are many meadows in this area including McGurk Meadow that are a shorter hike with wildflowers. If you want to see the flowers, now is the time to go.
Dog Hike? No, dogs are not allowed on this trail in Yosemite National Park.
What is a Doarama? It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.
Map and Profile:
Prior Blogs in the Area: