Upper Yosemite Falls (Yosemite Nat’l Park)

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For Mother’s Day, we did our research and had a plan…with managed expectations, of course! With a six year-old and a medically fragile 3 year-old, we try to keep ourselves from setting the bar too high. That’s why when everything goes well, it makes for one AMAZING day! We had an amazing Mother’s Day at Yosemite National Park!

DSC_3773We started our day early, leaving home around the time we’d usually get up on a Saturday. There was a line to enter the park by 10AM, but it didn’t take long to get through. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that since our 3 year-old is permanently disabled, he gets a lifelong Access pass, getting us in for free!

I’ve written before on how to make a day trip to Yosemite, but this day trip was focused on one goal – getting to just past Columbia Rock on the (Upper) Yosemite Falls trail.

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Why we love it: This was certainly a trail requiring many breaks on the way up the 1000 ft. gain in elevation! The beginning is nothing but switchbacks but one you start getting higher, the views are unbelievable! In just 3 miles roundtrip we felt extremely accomplished and rewarded.

For the Young Ones (0-10): You must have children who will listen to your direction, as this can be a very dangerous trail for young ones if not in carriers. Our six year-old did a great job, but we were constantly reminding him to “hug the mountain” and watch his steps. (He actually pointed out more than one adult making dangerous decisions; one going off trail and one doing a handstand on a rocky ledge.) He was incredibly proud to look down at the valley floor and see just how far up he hiked all on his own.

For the Big Kids (10+): The NPS rates the section of the trail we did moderate-strenuous, with a completion of the hike all the way to the top as strenuous. With big kids, you might consider hiking all the way to the top! Just keep in mind that it’s a looonnng hike back down!

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We used this pole (on right) to gauge the approximate point at which we should turn around and head back

Keep in Mind:

  • Elevation makes any hike more difficult.
  • To get the best views without doing the entire trail, go past Columbia Rock (you’ll know you’re at the rock by the railing everyone is taking photos from) until you can see both Yosemite Falls and Half Dome in your view.
  • The trail’s sand-like terrain can make it very easy to slip and fall. Be very careful, especially with young ones.
  • Park at Camp 4 to be closest to the trailhead. There are trash cans and bathrooms close by.

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Around the Area: We cannot resist a stop at Bridalveil Falls! The parking spaces turn over relatively quickly, and it’s a short walk to get to the falls. This season you’ll get drenched if you go all the way! (Last year we enjoyed a nice mist.) Keep those kiddos close. The water is freezing and standing on the rocks (for anyone) could lead to a life-threatening situation in a blink of an eye.

Difficulty Level: Moderate to Strenuous.

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