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Hiking Mirror Lake Loop Trail With Dogwood Blooms & A Bear

Checking out dogwood blooms and waterfalls in Yosemite Valley is an annual thing for me but I sure didn’t expect to meet a bear while hiking on the Mirror Lake Loop Trail.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 7.25 Miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 3,983′ – 4,285′
Date: April 30, 2021
CALTOPO: Curry Village to Mirror Lake Loop Trail
Dog Hike? Maybe

I maximized my dogwood viewing by parking at Curry Village, then hiking the Mirror Lake Loop, and walking through the Village on the return trip. But I got distracted on the drive through the valley, looking at the beautiful waterfalls along the way.

Yosemite Falls

I parked my car at the Curry Village parking lot and headed up toward Happy Isles. Again, I was distracted when I saw these waterfowl feeding right next to the trail.

 

I took the clearly marked Mirror Lake Trail just after Happy Isles, the bridge that crossed the Merced River and past the trailhead for Nevada, Vernal Falls, Half Dome, Little Yosemite Valley and beyond.



Starting up the trail, blooming dogwoods framed the trail in areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I followed the east side of the Tenaya Creek, dogwoods blooms draped over the creek in spots.

Continuing on the trail, I soon reached Mirror Lake and it was easy to see how it received its current name of Mirror Lake. Native Americans tribes such as the Paiutes lived and traveled though this area long before Yosemite National Park was created and it makes me sad that many of their names for geographical locations related to Yosemite have been lost to time. The Miwok Indians were asked what they called Mirror Lake the they said they called it A-wai’-a.

Today’s Mirror Lake far different and smaller than it used to be. It is all that remains of a large glacial lake that once filled most of Yosemite Valley at the end of the last Ice Age, and is close to disappearing due to the accumulated sediment. Today’s lake can dry up in the summer, leaving no lake at all but not today. Beautiful reflections filled the lake from every angle.

Here a little history related to Mirror Lake. Captain William James Howard was a member of the Mariposa Battalion that some credit with “discovering” Yosemite Valley in 1851. In the 1860s, he built a toll road to Mirror Lake, then a summer house on the lake’s shore. In 1870, construction was completed of the Lake House, a frame building open for public lodging and providing “fine liquors and Havana cigars.” A one-mile toll wagon-road led up to the lake from the Valley. It is said that Leonidas G. Wharton and Peter Gordon were partners in the Lake House in 1870. In 1875, Howard completed construction of his “shake shanty” cabin on the shores of Mirror Lake and at the end of the carriage road. He took over the operations of the Lake House as a saloon and added a dance floor over the lake. This dance floor measured sixty feet by forty feet, extending out over the water. The Mirror Lake House, as it became known, was a favorite night spot. In 1881 Howard’s cabin was demolished by orders of the Yosemite Commissioners as being unsightly. In 1890, the Yosemite Stage and Turnpike Company built a frame icehouse at the lake.

You can read a little more history about Mirror Lake in my April 26, 2016 Mirror Lake Blog.

As I was walking, a person was stopped ahead of me on the trail and said there was a bear up there ahead of us. I peeked down and sure enough, an American Black Bear was down there, about 75 feet away, looking for things to eat I assume. We backed off in the direction we came, out of sight, to give the bear more space.

After a few minutes, I peeked down again and here is what I saw. I was zoomed way in so the bear wasn’t as close as it may appear.

I backed up the trail again to give the bear space and probably waited about 10 minutes or so then I peeked back down and it wasn’t on the trail anymore. I slowly walked down, looking for where the bear went and soon saw it along the side of the hill about 50 feet away looking at me so I quickly headed past it and on my way.

I headed up the trail through the Ahwiyah Point Rockfall that occurred in 2009, closing this portion of the trail until 2012. Rocks fell approximately 1,800 feet to the floor of Yosemite Valley from Ahwiyah Point, knocking down hundreds of trees and burying hundreds of feet of the trail on the southern portion of the loop. The impact of the rocks hitting the ground generated a magnitude of a 2.4 earthquake. The rockfall was estimated to be approximately 43,000 cubic meters, or 115,000 tons. No injuries or structures were affected by the rockfall.

After the rockfall, the trail entered some spots that were muddy or had small pools of water with strategically placed logs to hop across them

The trail took me over the bridge over Tenaya Creek

 

Even in a drought year, it was moving fast and dangerous as the sign indicated.

The trail then led back down the northwest side of the creek and into some really nice blooming dogwoods. As I worked my way closer to the north side of Mirror Lake, dogwood booms were catching my eye (and camera).

As I reached Mirror Lake, more people were on the trail.

I took a short trip off of the main trail to check out “Field of Cairns,” an area where for some reason people have been creating stacked rocks, cairns or ducks for years. This is a controversial issue. We all agree that it would not be acceptable to leave graffiti in the Park and we have been taught to leave no trace of our visit and the rock stacking is not natural. Is this just another type of graffiti or is it art?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I left the area, I took one last look back at the picture perfect view of Mirror Lake.

How could I resist taking a swing through Curry Village before heading back to the car?

And just one more dogwood picture.

I arrived early in the morning, parking my car and not moving the car. This is the best strategy if you can swing it. I noticed many more people on bicycles and although I have not done this, it looked like a great way to get around. You can also see the dogwood blooms by driving through Yosemite Valley and stopping along the way when you see a nice grouping of them. If you do this later in the day it can be almost impossible to find another parking spot sometimes. The waterfalls are still putting on a beautiful show and it is a wonderful time to visit Yosemite National Park but you need to plan your visit. That means arriving early. Beginning Monday, May 21, print out and bring your Day-Entry Pass. If you don’t have you Day-Use Pass, they won’t let you enter.

There are other places to view beautiful dogwoods without entering Yosemite National Park. A drive around Bass Lake or up toward Fish Camp will be beautiful but don’t wait too long because these dogwood blooms don’t last long.

I rated this hike Easy because I was just walking up the road but there were muddy spots with pooling water on the south side. Trekking poles did make getting across these short wet spots a bit easier though.

Day Use Reservations are Required in Yosemite Beginning Monday, May 21, 2021.

Most visitors will need a day-use entry pass to enter Yosemite starting May 21.

Those passes aren’t required for people with overnight reservations in Yosemite, a bus ticket in, or who just want to visit Hetch Hetchy or drive through the park to the other side.

The $2 day-use entry passes are already on sale at recreation.gov for arrivals through July 31, needed in addition to normal park entrance fees. The new reservation system will be in place at least through Sept. 31, “or until local health conditions improve” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dog Hike?

Dogs are not allowed on the Mirror Lake Loop Trail. There are some areas along route where dogs are allowed:

  • In developed areas
  • On fully paved roads, sidewalks, and bicycle paths (except when signed as not allowing pets)
  • In all campgrounds except walk-in campgrounds (e.g., Camp 4) and in group campsites

Additionally,

  • pets must be restrained on a leash not more than six feet long or otherwise physically restrained
  • leashed pets may not be left unattended
  • for the courtesy of other visitors, human companions are responsible for cleaning up and depositing pet feces in trash receptacles
  • remember that pet food is also bear food: store pet food as if it were human food.

Where Pets Are Not Allowed

  • On trails, including the trail to Vernal Fall (however, pets are allowed on the Wawona Meadow Loop)
  • On unplowed roads covered in snow
  • In undeveloped and wilderness areas
  • In public buildings
  • On shuttle buses
  • In lodging areas
  • In all walk-in and group campgrounds/campsites, including Camp 4
  • In any other areas, as signed

These regulations protect both pets and wildlife from disease and each other. The National Park Service has prohibited pets on trails for many years. In particular, some pets chase wildlife, pollute water sources, and can become defensive and dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings. Pet owners have the burden to assure their pet does not damage the park values for others in those areas where pets are allowed.

Yosemite Hospitality operates a dog kennel in Yosemite Valley from approximately late May through early September. Written proof of immunizations (rabies, distemper, parvo, and Bordetella) must be provided. Dogs must be at least 20 pounds (smaller dogs may be considered if you provide a small kennel). You can get more information about the kennel by calling 209/372-8326.

Doarama:

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.

Curry Village to Mirror Lake Loop Trail Doarama

Maps and Profile:

CALTOPO has some free options for mapping and here is a link to my hike this week overlayed on the 1883 Topographic Map: CALTOPO: Curry Village to Mirror Lake Loop Trail

Hiking Mirror Lake Loop Trail Topographic Map

Hiking Mirror Lake Loop Trail Profile

 

Prior Blogs in this Area:

Snow and Clouds in Yosemite Valley: Hiking to Mirror Lake February 3, 2021

Hiking Through Dogwood Blooms at Mirror Lake April 30, 2018

Leaf Peeping in Yosemite Valley and Hiking Mirror Lake Loop October 19, 2017

Mirror Lake Loop Hike April 26, 2016

Leaf Peeping in Yosemite Valley October 23, 2014

Mirror Lake Loop Hike November 7, 2012

Sources:

Yosemite Nature Notes 46(2) (1977) Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake Loop Rockfall

Yosemite National Park Pet Regulations

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