Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Four Mile Trail

The yellow line represents the Four Mile Trail on this 3D model on display at the visitor center.
On Thursday we did the hardest, longest hike of the trip.  Of any of our trips for that matter. It is called the Four Mile Trail and goes from the valley floor to the top of Glacier Point.  It is actually 4.6 miles one way, starting at 3980 feet elevation and going up to 7240 feet.  An elevation gain of 3260 feet!

The day started out much cooler than those before it, and for once we got on our way a bit earlier.  Unfortunately we lost the early start advantage because I got mixed up and we drove at least a half hour out of the way. But the morning remained slightly overcast instead of blazing hot.

We parked at the trailhead on the valley floor and started our hike thru a forested area.  There were many large rocks that had either been left by the glacier or fell from the granite walls above.

After the first mile or so, only a few tall trees blocked the view of the walls of El Capitan across the valley.

The higher we went, the more spectacular the views.

We lost count of the number of switchbacks and rock stairs.  As I rested many, many times on boulders along the path, I thought about the men who built and maintain the trails in our National Parks.  Parts of the trail had been coated with asphalt in the past.  It was pretty broken up in places and in others the sand over it made it a bit slippery.  I was very glad I had hiking poles.

I think this was about half way up. Glacier Point is the highest place in the park, higher than the Cathedral Spires. The wonderful clouds kept the day a little cooler.  

Eventually we could see the valley floor.  The cars looked like tiny ants.

The trail was not crowded, but there were other hikers. Many people take a bus up and walk down. Some walk up, and take a bus down.  Some just drive up, or take the bus both ways and don't hike the trail at all.

This is part of the panoramic view from Glacier Point, with Half Dome in the middle.  The last time we were here we drove up and it was a memorable experience. We were "wowed." But that had been like eating the whole box of chocolate all at once. Hiking up and stopping to look and rest a hundred times, was more like savoring the most exquisite treat bite by bite. Each bite better than the last.

As we approached the top, we met a ranger on the trail.  He encouraged us and told us we were almost there.  Great words to hear. We knew about the bus, but hadn't bought tickets. We had heard they were available at the top. The ranger told us the last bus left at 3:30, so we still had a little time to see the view and eat our lunch. 

We asked at the visitors center about tickets, and   learned they cost $25 each, and had to be bought from the bus driver.  The park employee I spoke with said we had to pay cash.  Oh dear, we didn't have $50 in cash along.  Then another employee told us we could talk to the driver and ask if we could pay at the other end with a credit card.  The problem with this was the end was at the Yosemite Lodge which was a long way from where our car was parked.  I was concerned we would get there too late for a shuttle ride back to the trailhead.

We took a deep breath, sat down in the amphitheater, enjoyed the view, and ate our lunch. 

What to do?  We were both pretty tired, but the day was not hot and the return trip was all down hill.  

We wandered over to the observation area and took it all in.  By this time we had both gotten a second wind and decided to hike back down.

The first couple of miles down weren't too bad.  I enjoyed seeing  the views I had seen before from a different angle and with different light.

The next two miles got harder and harder.  The parts of the trail that were the hardest going up were also the hardest going down.  

Craig said I did the last mile or so in slow motion.  One step at a time.  

From Craig: watching Merikay come down at one point, I was inspired to hum Lohengrin's wedding march as loud as I could.  You know, the slow, stately "here comes the bride, all dressed in white...".

But we made it.  We figure that with walking around the top and walking to and from the car, the total hike was 10 miles.  I was exhausted, but proud. 

As we left the valley the Cathedral Spires were glowing in the late afternoon sun. We saw many people waiting in the meadow for sunset, but we didn't have the energy or desire to join them.  

Another time, another trip.  We will catch the sunset in Yosemite then.  Something to come back for.


  1. Congratulations! What a monstrous hike and you did it. Wow, so cool.

    The photos are simply amazing, but probably nothing like being there in person.

    That was one hard hike. I am so proud of you both.

  2. A wonderful and interesting post, nicely done! I know you're enjoying this great adventure.

  3. Wow, what a great hike. I, too, enjoy seeing things differently on the way back down on a hike.

  4. Wow, terrific hike! I did that hike when I was much younger :) I can't wait until we are taking in that beautiful place again.

  5. Merci pour les photos... tu m'as fait voyager grace à ton article. Je t'écris de France et j'habite au coeur des montagnes : les Alpes.
    Thanks for the photos... you make me travel.
    I write from France, and I live in Alpes, so I like the mountains.

  6. Wow, Merikay! That was some hike you both did. Congrats!

  7. Amazing Merikay! What a grand hike and a grander accomplishment. The photos are beautiful. See, you are getting to do all those hikes in the National Parks that you dreamed of. :)

  8. Merikay: Beautiful, and so impressive!

    Craig: I had an ex-husband like you. He's dead now.

  9. Merikay! What an amazing hike - the views are what must have kept you going. My legs are shaking just thinking about it. Hopefully you had lots of water and snacks with you.

  10. enjoyed the trail hike description. I did the four mile trail some years ago but started at Camp Curry: hiked from there to the trail head then up to Glacier Point - then hiked that in reverse to arrive back at Camp Curry. Had to run back as the sun was already beginning to set when I left Glacier Point. Great hike, great views. Next time I'll take snacks as there was nothing open at Glacier Point. I was pretty hungry by the time I got back to the tent cabin!


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