Friday, February 7, 2014

Enjoy quiet walk along mountain creek

Meadow trail
makes for nice
break from crowds

Families can enjoy a day hike along a scenic creek through green meadows and evergreen woods on the Bridalveil Creek Trail at Yosemite National Park.

The 5.5-mile loop is particularly good for those staying at the nearby Bridalveil Creek Campground. Campers can pick it up from where they’re staying (though this entry describes how to hike it from Glacier Point Road), shortening it as needed by just doing segments and treating them as out-and-back trails.

Summer and early autumn mark the best time to visit the trail. Usually Glacier Point Road is closed during winter due to heavy snow at the high elevations.

To reach the trailhead, from Wawona Road/Calif. Hwy. 41, turn east onto Glacier Point Road. Drive for about nine miles, passing the Bridalveil Creek Campground, and park in the lot for the Ostrander Lake Trail on the road’s right/south side.

Fording Bridalveil Creek
Start the hike at the trailhead for the Ostrander Lake Trail; it’s on the lot’s southeast corner. You’re at about 7000 feet elevation.

The fairly flat trail circles an 80-foot high knoll. While perhaps not the most dramatic of trails by Yosemite standards, it is lightly traveled, making for a nice break from the Yosemite Valley crowds.

The first segment of the trail crosses a tributary to Bridalveil Creek. At about 1.4, miles, turn right/southwest at the first fork. This takes you off the Ostrander Lake Trail, which heads into the Sierra backcountry.

In about 0.3 miles, you’ll have to ford Bridalveil Creek, so bring an extra pair of shoes and socks or be prepared to take off what you’re wearing. The creek rarely is more than knee-deep here, but its levels do fluctuate, depending on how much snow fell in the mountains that winter and on the time of the year (Spring and early summer sport higher levels than mid-summer, which in turn is higher than early fall.).

Bridalveil Creek ultimately flows over Yosemite Valley’s southern rim. Several other tributaries join it before then and form the water you see rushing down Bridalveil Falls.

Campground and road
At the next Y intersection, go right/northwest. From there, the trail parallels Bridalveil Creek for about 1.6 miles to the campground. Once there, enter the campground and walk Yosemite National Park Road back to Glacier Point Road.

To return to the parking lot, go right/east along Glacier Point Road. There are barely any shoulders on the road, so watch for traffic. This is a shorter route (by about a mile) than doing the hike as an out-and-back trail. In all, you’ll walk for just a little over a mile on the road before reaching the parking lot.

As some of this trail is not shaded, you’ll definitely want to wear sunscreen and a sunhat. During spring, early summer, or at dusk, be sure to bring mosquito repellant.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.