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Hiking From Yosemite Valley up the Snow Creek Trail

We got a real workout on the toughest trail out of the Yosemite Valley and were rewarded with amazing views of Clouds Rest and Half Dome that you can see no other way. Not all hikes go as planned and this one definitely fell in that category.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: About 11 Miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation Range: 3,972 – 6,672′
Date: February 10, 2016
Maps: El Capitan, Hetch Hetchy

We parked at the Ahwahnee Hotel parking lot and took the high trail up towards Mirror Lake. There is a restroom just before you reach Mirror Lake and our plan was to make a quick stop there. Well, the stop wasn’t quite as quick as I had planned because I got locked in the bathroom. True story!  Luckily, my hiking buddy, Gail, could hear me yelling for help and was able to open it up from the outside. Just a heads up in case you plan on using that bathroom on the right side. . .

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After I escaped from the bathroom, we followed the icy trail.

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Most of Mirror Lake was frozen over but we could still see some amazing, early morning reflections in the small areas that were not frozen.

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Mirror Lake Reflections (Photo by Gail Gilbert)

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Mirror Lake Reflections (Photo by Gail Gilbert)

About 1 mile past Mirror Lake, the Snow Creek Trail takes off to the left, near a big rock. On this hike, there was a tree that had fallen next to the big rock. There are signs but you will need to pay attention to see them. As soon as the Snow Creek Trial forks off, we started that steep, uphill portion full of switchbacks. We had taken off a layer of clothes before heading up but it wasn’t long before we were doing that again. We also made sure that we were drinking our water. Personally, this trail is not a trail that I would want to hike in hot weather.

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Even though it is a tough climb, I can’t do justice to describing the views. As we climbed, we were across the canyon from Half Dome and Clouds Rest and it almost felt you can reach out and touch them. We heard snow breaking loose and crashing across from us as we climbed but never could spot it.

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The trail condition was a little rougher towards the bottom half. Small slides had resulted in rocks on the trail and we had to crawl under a down tree across the trail. Since there had been some warm days prior to our hike, the snow was melting on this south facing slope, creating small creeks running down the trail in spots and waterfalls.

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We had planned to make it up to Snow Creek Point for lunch, but we ran short of time. The tough climb in the warm weather, on snow and ice in places, made it slower going. Just before we reached the top, we decided to stop for lunch in the last sunny spot with a view before we would have moved under tree cover. It was a mighty fine lunch spot directly across from Half Dome.

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After devouring our lunches, it was time to head back down.

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Photo of Me Descending the Snow Creek Trail by Gail Gilbert

It probably would have been wise to have waited a little later to tackle this hike. I underestimated the amount of snow that would still be that south facing slope. We had brought our ice traction devices for the top part, figuring on ice and snow up there, just not the lower portions of the trail. Also, I hadn’t done a hike with 2,800′ of elevation gain in a while and it has motivated me to start doing more of them to get back in hiking shape for the high country.

Snow Creek Hike Google Earth

Google Earth Track

Snow Creek Hike Topog

Topographic Map

Snow Creek Hike Profile

Profile

Sources:

Prior Blogs in this Area:

Hiking from Yosemite Valley up the Snow Creek Trail and Beyond January 14, 2015

Yosemite Valley to Snow Creek Point Hike November 1, 2013

 

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