Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day hike to quiet wildflower-filled meadow

Wooden cabin at McGurk Meadow.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia.
While Yosemite Valley bustles with activity, deep atop its south wall lay several quiet places for enjoying the area’s natural beauty. One of those easy day hikes is the McGurk Meadow Trail.

The 1.8-mile round trip trail can be accessed from Glacier Point Road. Unlike some Yosemite Valley trails that head up mountainsides, the smooth McGurk offers a mere elevation change of no more than 100 feet.

July marks the best time to hike the McGurk as meadow wildflowers are in bloom and the brook near trail’s end is full. Because of the high altitude, Glacier Point Road generally is only open from June through October.

Evergreen forest crossing
To reach the trail, from Yosemite’s southern entrance drive State Hwy. 41 north for 17 miles. Turn right/east on the well-marked Glacier Point turnoff. The trail is about 7.5 miles from the junction, about a mile past Summit Meadow. Watch for the McGurk Meadow sign on the road’s north/left side. The Bridalveil Creek Campground is 0.2 miles past it.

There’s no parking lot at the trailhead. However, about 100 yards to the east on the road’s left side is a wide shoulder that accommodates about 10 vehicles. Don’t leave any food or other scented items (such as sunscreen or gum) in the vehicle; instead, place them in the nearby bear boxes. If you fail to do this, don’t be surprised upon returning to your vehicle to find that a black bear has broken in.

From the parking lot, walk along the roadside, going right at the McGurk Meadow sign. The trailhead starts at 6900 feet elevation.

The sun-dappled trail heads through an evergreen forest. In about 10 minutes, the trail begins its descent to the meadow.

After 0.7 miles, a wooden cabin sits just off the trail to the left. Many years ago, cattle ranchers built and used the shelter during bad weather. Children will enjoy going inside, as the door is just right for them at about four feet high.

McGurk Meadow
In another 0.1 miles, the trail reaches McGurk Meadow. Wildflowers in an array of red, blue, violet and yellow blossoms almost always are in bloom here.

A brook runs through the meadow’s center. Take the trail to the wooden bridge that crosses it.

Keep walking for about five minutes to an opening that yields an even larger meadow. If you’ve brought a snack with you, enjoy it atop a large log on the trail’s right side. After the snack, return the way you came.

If you have some extra energy and the day is young, extend the hike by a half-mile to the Pohono Trail junction. The Pohono heads west to Dewey Point and east to Bridalveil Creek.

If rain has recently fallen or if the meadow grass is vibrant green – meaning it’s wet – you'll want mosquito repellent for the hike.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.