While Yosemite is known for popular landmarks and trails, some of its most interesting locations are sometimes found off the beaten path.
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One of these is the Old Big Oak Flat Road – the original toll road into Yosemite Valley, built (primarily by hand) in the 1870s. The wide and gently graded road was opened to automobile traffic in 1914. The following year, it was purchased by Tuolumne County and deeded to the state of California.
A new federal highway into Yosemite was built in 1940, and the Old Big Oak Flat Road was closed following several major rock slides. Much of this road remains intact today, however.
What’s left (following numerous additional slides over the years) is still listed as a trail on some maps. While the road/trail remains in surprisingly good condition – with pavement still present in many areas, some hikers will have difficulty climbing around the precipitous rock slides and through patches of thick overgrowth.
For those up to the challenge, a variety of different views of Valley landmarks can be found, including this 360° perspective of Bridalveil Fall from about a mile above the unmarked start of the trail in the Valley.
The truly adventurous can explore the old road all the way up to its intersection with Highway 120 just above Foresta, but be prepared for significant rock scrambling and off-trail travel as you navigate through and around the bigger rock slides.
Hiking info can be found here.
©2021 Photography by Scott Highton
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