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Leaf Peeping In Yosemite Valley

After chasing fall colors at higher elevations on the eastern side of the Sierra, I was curious how those fall colors were shaping up in Yosemite Valley. So, I hopped in the car and took a little drive.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 3,996′ – 4,184′
Date: October 30, 2018
Maps: El Capitan and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir Topographic Quad
Dog Hike? Maybe

Mid-October to mid-November is the time of the year for the best fall colors in the Yosemite Valley. This time, we made a big loop, heading up Hwy 140 through Mariposa into Yosemite Valley, circling the valley counter clockwise, then heading back via Hwy 41 via Oakhurst. We did spot some gorgeous color, especially those bright yellow big leaf maples. The dogwoods were not quite ready but we did find a few that showed off their fall beautiful red fall color to us.

Our first stop was at Fern Spring where the early morning light didn’t really work well for my pictures, but when we walked across the street, it was a whole different story.






The big leaf maples were at their peak along the Merced River near the Pohono Bridge. And those willows were also nice.

We drove up a bit and stopped, walking down to the Merced River at El Capitan. This area is always full of reflections of El Capitan and I think it is especially pretty with the fall colors.

Our next stop was at the swinging bridge, after a quick stop at their bathrooms of course. It was 31 degrees when we arrived and a little ice was on the bridge.

Quite a few reflections to pair with the fall colors.

Photo by Gail Gilbert


Our next stop was at the Yosemite Chapel where our friends were saddling up their horses for a ride through the valley. Of course we had to get a selfie of us together.

We walked across to the Superintendent’s Bridge and did a bit of exploring.

Our next stop was at Half Dome Village aka Curry Village. Those maples were just brilliant against the blue sky.

Library of Congress

Foster Curry Cabin (Courtesy Library of Congress)

We wandered around, hoping to find some fall dogwoods and our wanderings led us up to the Foster Curry Cabin, who designed the cabin that used to be here as a prototype of rental cabins that would replace the canvas tents that were being used by overnight guests in Camp Curry. The cabin was removed after the October 2008 rockfall but these old steps remain, decorated with big leaf maple leaves.


Our next stop was at the Magestic Yosemite Hotel aka the Ahwahnee Hotel where we wandered around on the grounds. This stellar jay was busy shopping for groceries when I spotted him and he or she kept busy, giving me plenty of opportunities to get blurry pictures, but this one was the better of those pictures.



We spotted some nice dogwood colors.

Nature also provided some beautiful ground art work.

We spotted some pretty yellow colors in the big leaf maples but there was a different type of maple that looked similar to me to a vine maple that stole the show with its oranges.

Our last stop in the valley was at the “Gates of the Valley”, a famous photo op location on our way out. My hiking buddy, Gail Gilbert, took this gorgeous pictures there, then we wandered across the street to check out the dogwoods.


Photo by Gail Gilbert

We didn’t do much hiking on this adventure, mostly driving and stopping when we saw some interesting color. I think this color will be nice for a few more weeks and hopefully those dogwoods will begin to turn color. We drove out Hwy 41 because there is a nice area just past Chinquapin that has dogwoods below the road, but we were very sad to see that that area had burned in the fire. We did discover some new areas as we drove out through. There is plenty of fall colors beginning to shape up a little closer to home and look forward to exploring those, including Nelder Grove so stay tuned!


Official Map For Yosemite Valley (Courtesy Yosemite National Park)

Dog Hike?

There are some areas along this leaf peeping 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


  • 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.

Prior Blogs in this Area:

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


Foster Curry Cabin

Yosemite National Park Pet Regulations

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