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Yosemite Valley Waterfalls and Reflections

Early morning road trip to check out Yosemite’s waterfalls and their reflections. When I say early, I mean really early!

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: About 10 miles to drive my Yosemite Valley Loop, but you can also walk it or take the free shuttle to explore it
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 3,888 to 4,129′
Date: April 25, 2019

My friend Debbie was visiting and we got up really early with a plan to watch the sun rise from Tunnel View. We headed up Highway 41 and when we reached Tunnel View, that is exactly what we did!

My plan was to head into the valley, stopping along the way to take in the views of the valley’s waterfalls from different angles. If you aren’t familiar with the waterfalls, I found a great website with more information with a Yosemite Waterfalls Map. Since we came in from Tunnel View, we had a glimpse of Ribbon Fall but I didn’t stop to take a picture. I figured that I would stop somewhere along the line to capture a picture of it but just forgot to. Some sources say that the drop that 1,612 foot Ribbon Fall has one of the highest free-leaping waterfalls in the United States. This waterfall is usually dry by fall.

We pulled over at a turnout and worked our way down to the Merced River to see how the early morning reflections of El Capitan were shaping up and they were looking mighty nice so we took a few pictures.

Then we spotted some climbers on El Capitan and watched them for a while. See them?

We all love Yosemite Falls from different angles. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in North America, with a 2,425 foot drop. It is actually made up of three separate falls that include Upper Yosemite Fall  at 1,430 feet, the middle cascades at 675 feet, and Lower Yosemite Fall  at 320 feet. It usually is dry by summer. You can check out Yosemite Falls real time with the webcam.



And we couldn’t resist asking a fellow photographer to snap a picture of us. A favorite stop is at Yosemite Chapel with that wonderful view of Yosemite Falls.

As we were leaving, I noticed the sun coming up over the steeple.


We swung through Curry Village to see if the apple trees were blooming and if we could see a hint of a dogwood blooming but it was too early. We stopped along North Drive to watch the climbers on El Capitan for a while, then headed to the “Gates of the Valley” pullout. It is such a pretty view and always changing depending on so many variables. No amazing reflections today because the Merced River was really rolling but it was still a pretty look at Bridalveil Fall with its 617 foot drop. It flows year round although certainly not as much as it does in spring.

We had looked at several really big waterfalls but it was time to show Debbie one of Yosemite’s smaller waterfalls–Fern Springs.

We had to loop back to head down Hwy 140 to go home but not after a lunch stop at a pullout with a view of Bridalveil Falls.

I had been watching an area in the wet sand near the water where a few butterflies were puddling. If you are wondering what puddling is, from Wikipedia:

They seek out nutrients in certain moist substances such as rotting plant matter, mud and carrion and they suck up the fluid. Where the conditions are suitable, conspicuous insects such as butterflies commonly form aggregations on wet soil, dung or carrion. From the fluids they obtain salts and amino acids that play various roles in their physiology, ethology and ecology.

One last waterfall on the way out was Cascade Falls. Cascade Creek tumbles 500-foot over rocks in sets of falls and cascades but my picture doesn’t capture the entire falls..

We left early in the morning on a weekday for a few reasons. Besides checking out the star-filled skies at Tunnel View, we wanted to avoid the time of day with the most people and ensure we could get a parking spot as we stopped along the way. But there are other ways to enjoy Yosemite Valley at different times of the day such as parking in one spot and walking around the valley. You can also take the free Yosemite Valley shuttle system to many of the stops, ride or rent a bicycle or ride your horse.

Free Yosemite Valley Shuttle System Map (Courtesy Yosemite National Park)

Dog Hike?

Rules regarding dos in Yosemite National Park vary based on where you are. I recommend you check out Yosemite Pet Rules for the latest rules and information.

If you bring your pet to Yosemite, please protect your pet, other people, and park wildlife by abiding by these regulations:

Where Pets 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 Valley Waterfalls (sign located at Cascade Creek)

Yosemite Waterfall Map (TravelYosemite.com)

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Yosemite Valley Waterfalls & Dogwoods Are Revving Up! April 25, 2019

Hiking Through Dogwood Blooms at Mirror Lake April 30, 2018

Dogwoods, Waterfalls and Reflections along Yosemite’s Valley Loop May 3, 2017

Mirror Lake Loop Hike April 26, 2016

Leaf Peeping in Yosemite Valley October 23, 2014


Yosemite Waterfalls Yosemite National Park

Puddling Wikipedia

Yosemite Pet Rules



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