Even though I tried to avoid it at all cost, we ended up going to Yosemite NP on the Memorial Day weekend. The problem with Yosemite NP is that it is always very crowded, even more so on weekends, not to mention the wild crowds that you need to expect there on a three-day weekend. We thought that we were prepared for that. We were wrong. It was just insane - there were easily more than 30'000 cars in the Yosemite Valley and it was impossible to find a parking spot anywhere. There was not a single accommodation left (neither on the campground nor hotel) within 1.5h drive from the park. The lines (at least to the ladies' restrooms) were 20 minutes long. Wherever you went, you would soon meet another fellow human being. Yosemite Valley might be stunningly beautiful, but with all those hundreds of thousands of people moving around in it, it feels just like downtown San Francisco.
Things got slightly better when we started hiking up to the Upper Yosemite Falls (6.8mi/10.9km-long hike climbing up 2410ft/735m). These falls were the reason that we decided to go to Yosemite Valley despite knowing that it would mean meeting thousands of other people. Yosemite NP is full of waterfalls and majority of them are at their peak in the month of May. I thought it would be cool to see them since we are in this part of Sierras anyway. In particular, I was interested in Yosemite Falls, which is the highest free-leaping waterfall in North America. From the top of the upper falls to the base of the lower falls it drops the total of 2420ft/739m. The Upper Falls alone drop 1430ft/436m.
The trail to the Upper Yosemite Falls starts with four dozen steep switchbacks, which discourage majority of weekend hikers. After climbing 1000ft/305m the trail reaches Columbia Rock viewpoint that offers spectacular views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. Around two thirds of the hikers who made it that far, turn around and do not attempt to go farther up on another set of switchbacks. We made it all the way up, but it was not easy. After the lunch break that we had at the feet of the Upper Yosemite Falls, N. started feeling sick and was moving up at the snail speed. I almost started to have doubts that we would make it to the top of the falls, but luckily we did. He started feeling better as soon as we started going down, which would make me think that he might have an altitude sickness if we were not hiking ~4000ft/1300m higher the previous day without any problems.
Anyway, I am glad that we went for this hike. Seeing the Upper Falls from up-close was amazing, especially that we could observe the rainbow forming there for more than an hour. Also the views of Half Dome and the Valley were pretty spectacular, compensating for the lack of intimacy on the trail.
Tioga Lake, still partly frozen:
Beautiful Hwy 120 leading through Yosemite NP:
The view of Half Dome's back from Olmsted Point:
Glacial erratic boulder at the Olmsted Point:
Yosemite Valley and Merced River:
View of Half Dome from Columbia Rock viewpoint on the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls:
Rainbow at the feet of Upper Yosemite Falls:
Waterfall, Half Dome and rainbow:
The view of Yosemite Valley from the top of Upper Yosemite Fall: