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Snow and Clouds in Yosemite Valley: Hiking to Mirror Lake

There was a really good reason why I headed up to Yosemite Valley when I did. A nice storm came in and the timing for it moving out would be a perfect time to be in the valley. Maybe if I was lucky, I would see clouds swirling around the high places on the rim.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: About 4 Miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 3,982′ – 4,101′
Date: February 3, 2021
CALTOPO: Curry Village to Mirror Lake
Dog Hike? Maybe

Yosemite National Park had just reopened 2 days earlier from the Mono windstorm damage and the next week they would be re-implementing the Day Pass Reservation System. Only 1 route was open into the Park, Hwy 140. Maybe people were avoiding the possibly having to put on chains. I thought the scenery might be spectacular but I also felt the crowd factor would be on the lower side. My kind of day.

I wasn’t sure how icy it would be or what shape the roads would be in but I came prepared with my chains and a shovel just in case. The roads were nice and clear but I took it easy because there could be icy spots. It was 34 degrees when I crossed over the Pohono Bridge and headed along Southside Drive. I made a stop at the restrooms at Swinging Bridge and couldn’t resist walking out to check things out.

I drove up the road a little ways, parking across from the Yosemite Chapel area, looking across Leidig Meadow and up to Yosemite Falls.

Then I continued up the road.

I headed to Curry Village, parking the car, then walked up the service road toward the Mirror Lake Trail. I had talked with the staff at the entrance gate about COVID precautions related to masks. I wasn’t sure if they had changed when President Biden required them in all Federal Buildings and property. They told me that if you were in your car or hiking alone, they weren’t required but if you passed someone on the trail or were unable to stay socially distanced, they were required. The new rules mandate that visitors, employees, and contractors wear masks in all park facilities and other areas where physical distancing isn’t possible, “including narrow or busy trails, overlooks and historic homes.” The new policy is designed to bring the agency in line with Executive Order from President Joe Biden which directed that “on-duty or on-site federal employees, on-site federal contractors, and other individuals in federal buildings and on federal lands should all wear masks.” The signs below were posted at the trailheads I visited.

The service road met up with the main road and I decided to walk up it toward Happy Isle. The Merced River was so pretty in the snow.

 

My plan was to hike the Mirror Lake Loop Trail, starting on the Happy Isle side but when I reached that point, it looked like it would mean breaking trail and I decided to just continue on up the road, which was much easier walking. You can also join this side of the trail near the bridge over Tenaya Creek and I noticed a couple of ski tracks and boot posthole marks on that part. It was a pretty walk on the road though with no vehicles or people.

 

I followed the nicely plowed road on up to Mirror Lake. There were short stretches of ice in spots but I was able to get through them all without falling.

Mirror Lake had quite a bit of snow on it.

I headed back, taking a slightly different path back below the Upper Pines Campground. As I got closer to Curry Village, I had a great view of Glacier Point and watched the clouds swirl around it for a while.

Back across the Merced river, then I was at my car.

I drove on Northside Drive and made a quick stop to check out Yosemite Falls.

Clouds were swirling around Cathedral Rocks and wanted to find a pullout where I could stop the car to watch those beautiful clouds. I did find a great spot and it turned out to be my lunch spot.

As I was driving out, I found a small pullout and checked out the view looking back toward Bridalveil Fall and Cathedral Rocks and Spire.

I just had to make a stop at Gates of Yosemite for that famous photo op that was especially beautiful with the snow, clouds and blue sky. It was kind of like dessert at the end of a wonderful meal!

I rated this hike Easy because I was just walking up the road but there were icy spots and I needed to be careful in spots. I brought my ice traction devices but they weren’t needed. Trekking poles did make getting across these short icy spots a bit easier though.

Day Use Reservations are Required in Yosemite Beginning Monday, February 8, 2021.

Beginning on Monday February 8, 2021, day use reservations will be required to enter Yosemite National Park seven days a week through February 28.

Each private vehicle entering the park for day use will need a reservation. Reservations will be valid for seven consecutive days and must be validated on the first day of the reservation. The person making the reservation needs to be in the vehicle at the time of entry and photo ID will be required. Day Use hours are 5 a.m. PT – 11 p.m. PT.  

If you have an annual or lifetime pass at the time of your reservation those are accepted as your entrance fee, however you will be required to pay for a day use reservation ($2). Valid entrance passes accepted are: Yosemite National Park Annual Pass, Interagency Annual Pass, Interagency Senior Pass, Interagency Access Pass, Interagency Volunteer Pass, Interagency Military Pass, Interagency 4th Grade Pass, Veteran’s Military Pass, Gold Star Military Pass, Golden Age, and Golden Access.    

Visitors with an overnight reservation in the park (campground, lodging or wilderness permit holders) will not need a day use reservation. Please have your campground, lodging, or wilderness permit reservation confirmation ready to show at the entrance station. Entry fee is still required for all overnight reservations.  

Day Use Entry Passes are validated at the park entrance gate on the reservation date and can be used for 7 days of entry. Reservations are required to enter Yosemite for day and overnight trips and you get them through Recreation.gov. If you have questions about changes, you can check out Yosemite’s How will COVID-19 affect my visit?

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 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

Prior Blogs in this Area:

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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