Yosemite Upper Falls (Epic Trip Day 3)

We are currently in Weed, CA near Mt. Shasta, enjoying a couple nights in a hotel (first real bed since we left San Diego over a week ago!). We finally have reliable internet, so we can post some of our previous stops including Yosemite.

Day 3: Yosemite National Park, Upper Falls Day Hike (8/6)

We arrived in Yosemite in the early evening after a pretty long drive from Pinnacles and were glad to set up camp in the daylight and get organized for a couple of days of day-hiking. The first thing we noticed besides the beautiful granite cliffs was the number of people in Yosemite Valley. It was definitely more crowded than when we were there a couple years ago in the snow and we definitely saw a lot of families with kids. But we’ve always heard how crowded Yosemite is in the summer, so we expected it, and really, it was pretty similar to any popular place in LA so it wasn’t that bad to us.

On our first morning in Yosemite, we woke up and made a hearty breakfast of eggs/omelette/scramble and packed lunches for the trail. We decided to do the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls since at ~7 miles with 2700′ gain, it would be a decently challenging hike to get us in shape for our backpacking trip in a couple days. The first few miles went well and we enjoyed some views of Half Dome and the Valley below.


But as we got our first view of the falls, we were disappointed to see it was barely a trickle.

Can you see the very small stream of water?


We probably should have known that ahead of time given the very low snowfall this year, and it almost made us just head back and try another hike, but luckily we continued on because it was worth it.

When we finally got to the top of the falls after what seemed like a never-ending climb in the heat, we were treated to some amazing views of the valley.


We had our lunch and were considering heading back when a couple came up some steep stairs near the edge and told us that there were some really nice swimming pools below. We had seen people who had clearly been swimming and a couple people had mentioned them, but it wasn’t exactly clear where they were (or if we’d have time to hike to them). But with this new info, we quickly decided to check it out, and it turned out to be a highlight of the hike.

There were two beautiful deep pools in the small valley where the river would typically be rushing through just before going over the cliffs.


Since the water was so low, we could actually enjoy them safely. The water was shockingly freezing, but we each jumped in, immediately climbed out, then dried off on the warm granite rocks. I think we agreed getting to go swimming here was worth not seeing the waterfall.


After sufficiently cooling off in the water, we started the hike back down to the valley floor. Even though it was only 3.5 miles, the downhill took a toll on our knees and feet and we were completely exhausted at the end. That made us a little nervous since the first day of our backpacking trip would be 10 miles with similar up and downhill, while carrying a heavy pack, but we figured we’d deal with that when we got there a couple days later.

We had to rush to get back and shower at a nearby campground because we had dinner reservations at the Ahwahnee Restaurant to celebrate our 2 year anniversary. It’s a pretty fancy place (especially for a lodge in a national park, it even has a dress code for dinner), so we were excited for some good food after our tough hike. Unfortunately it was kind of a disappointing experience. The dining room was freezing cold, the service was very slow and not particularly friendly, and the food was only decent. At >$150 for dinner, we definitely were expecting something better. But oh well, we were just glad to be celebrating our 2nd anniversary in Yosemite.

Happy Anniversary to us! (our wedding cake topper)


Later that night Nathan did some star photography on our way back to the campground. The moon was nearly new, so we were able to get a silhouette of Half Dome with all the stars over head.

Click on the photo to enlarge. Half Dome is on the right


Trip Stats:

  • Days: 3
  • Nights in a tent: 2
  • Miles driven: 578
  • Miles hiked: 9
  • Waterfalls: 0


  1. victor’s avatar

    Awesome photos. Suitable for framing. Love the cannon ball into the clear mountain lake but I guessing the water must have been pretty cold. How come we don’t see any photos of Katharine jumping in?


  2. Chuck’s avatar

    What a great trip thus far and a grand way to spend your anniversary. Godspeed to you both and looking forward to your next entry!


  3. victor’s avatar

    I LOVE that you guys brought your wedding cake topper along to celebrate your anniversary! Very fun photo!
    Happy 2nd Anniversary!
    Mom (Linda)



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