The tallest peak in Yosemite National Park is Mount Lyell at 13,120 feet. Coming in a close second, is Mount Dana at 13,061 feet. Like Mount Hoffmann in the geographic center of the park, there is no “trail” to the summit of Mount Dana that is maintained by the National Park Service. Having said that, for those that are willing to route find, brave substantial elevation gain, and risk venturing off the three mile one way distance in minor ways, the payoff is a summit with great three hundred and sixty degree views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the high country of Yosemite, and Mono Lake to the east.
Without a question, the trek up Half Dome in Yosemite is one of the park’s signature hikes, and one of the park’s most popular hikes. But, for those people who want to climb one of the park’s signature granite peaks - and a dome no less with a fraction of the crowds, and almost none of the red tape (permits), Lembert Dome is the spot to visit. Similarly, for those who a sixteen mile roundtrip hike is unfeasible for due to physical concerns, or because of other limitations, such as small children, Lembert Dome is also the spot to visit. Finally, for those who appreciate a fantastic three hundred and sixty degree view of northeastern Yosemite, just off the Tioga Pass, Lembert Dome is also the spot to visit. Named for Jean Baptiste Lembert, who homesteaded in Tuolomne Meadows in the nineteenth century, the dome today is a great hike in the region, and the park as a whole.
One of the more historic and unknown mountains in Yosemite is Clouds Rest. The mountain’s current name comes from Lafayette H. Bunnell, who was the doctor of the Mariposa Battalion which explored Yosemite Valley and Yosemite in the nineteenth century before it became a National Park. Bunnell (whose name now graces the Bunnell Cascade along the Merced River in Little Yosemite Valley) named the mountain such because when he viewed it after a snowstorm, the clouds appeared to “rest” upon the mountain. At 9,930 feet of elevation, and with a distinctive knife-like arete ridge, Clouds Rest can be viewed easily from Yosemite Valley and various other peaks in the park, particularly as it towers above nearby Tenaya Canyon.
One of the great things about California is that it is a state with rich pre-European history and post-European history. With respect to the latter, California has a number of state parks and monuments dedicated to the Gold Rush of the Nineteenth Century, along with a number of museums that do an excellent job of preserving the history of the state. While all of these locations are fantastic, most of these locations prefer that visitors do not touch or handle the relics of the past. However, California also has an area where visitors can experience what some of the amenities of the nineteenth century were like at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad (“YMSPRR”).
One of Yosemite’s most iconic hikes in the hike country is the Cathedral Lakes hike. Whether it is the start of a high country backpacking loop, a day hike, a through hike from Tuolumne Meadows to the valley, or a jaunt up to the peak itself for some climbing, the trail has challenges for just about every skill level. In addition to providing something for every skill level, the hike has some stellar views, no matter what season it is. Because of all of these things, and because Tuolumne Meadows is in itself one of the more popular regions of the park, over the years, the Cathedral Lake trail has become very popular for day and overnight use. Normally, this type of popularity – and higher traffic would lead me to shy away to other, more remote areas of the park that are just as spectacular.
To me, Halloween is the best time to celebrate this danger – and risk with stories that deal with any of the topics above – or any wilderness danger topic that I failed to mention. For the last two years, I’ve covered some of the dangers I’ve seen in the wild with Tales of Terror from the Yosemite Backcountry in 2012, which is a story about me facing an unknown problem on a trail patrol in 1998; and Freedom of the Open Road in 2013, which is a story about me facing problems from my fellow man while camping in Colorado. I’ve also been lucky enough to get a story from Melissa Avery about her experiences with the unknown in Peru (More Than Myth), and will have a great post from Missouri Howell later this month about the unknown in Missouri.
The Tuolomne Meadows portion of the park is commonly known as “the high country” of Yosemite, and the reason for this is that this area is above 6,000 feet of elevation. During the winter months, this area is also inaccessible to visitors, unless they have skis or snowshoes, as the main access route – the Tioga Pass Road – becomes snowed in, and is not plowed by the National Park Service. It is also an area that is chock-full of beauty. There are high alpine lakes; there are high mountains that are part of the Sierra Nevada range; there are waterfalls; there are wildflowers; and there is wildlife. It is a stunning portion of the park, and one that every visitor should take the opportunity to visit; and it is also an area that is far from the crowds of Yosemite Valley. While there are many great hikes in the region, one of my favorites is the Cathedral Lakes hike.