Friday, September 27, 2013

Cook's Meadow Loop offers Yosemite views

Upper Yosemite Falls as seen
from Cook's Meadow Loop.
Stunning views of six major geological landmarks await day hikers on the Cook’s Meadow Loop at Yosemite National Park.

A short, 1-mile trail, spring and early summer mark the best time to hike it as the meadows run green with a number of blooming wildflowers. During that time, tackle the trail on weekdays and early mornings when it will be far less crowded.

Located in Yosemite Valley, the trail is flat and easy, though in winter snow and ice can cover it. Once you’ve driven to Yosemite Valley, take the Valley Shuttle to stop No. 11. At the stop, you can access the trail from its southeast side. Go clockwise/west from the shuttle stop.

The Merced River runs to the trail’s left. The 145-mile river runs swift on its steep course through Yosemite. At the first junction, head south to the bridge over the river for a good look at the waterway.

Turning back, rejoin the main trial and head north. Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls will soon come into view. If going in spring and early summer, the 2,425-foot set of falls should be roaring. Yosemite Falls is the North America’s highest waterfall and the world’s sixth tallest.

Just before reaching Northside Road, the trail veers right/east, paralleling the highway. As you turn to the east, you’ll soon spot Half Dome in distance. The granite crest was formed underground millions of years ago then thrust upward and exposed as mountains in Yosemite were built. Half Dome rises 4,737 feet above the valley.

To the northeast and closer than Half Dome are the Royal Arches. This cliff below North Dome is made of granite that has eroded in concentric layers, as if a peeled onion.

Just past Village Drive, the trail loops back to the shuttle stop. The bare summit of Glacier Point will come into view to the southeast. The mountain is on the valley’s south wall and peaks out at 7,214 feet.

Another granite dome, Sentinel Dome, also can be seen to south. It is less than a mile west of Glacier Point and famous as the location for the well-known Ansel Adams photograph of a Jeffrey Pine on its peak. The tree died in 1976 and no longer stands.

The trail then returns to the trailhead. While waiting for shuttle, take a quick walk south to Sentinel Bridge for an incredible view of Half Dome over the Merced River.

The trail is wheelchair accessible. Leashed pets also are allowed.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.