Dear friends of mine will leave the Bay Area soon and they told me that they want to visit Yosemite National Park one last time. So they asked me what part of Yosemite is worth visiting to get the ultimate Yosemite experience. My quick and clear answer was: the High Country.
The High Country is basically the area along Tioga Pass Road that leads to Tuolumne Meadows, Tioga Pass, and eventually to Mono Lake. Well, one might say I’m biased as we camped, hiked and drove through Yosemite so many times but there are some good reasons to skip Yosemite Valley and stay on HW 120.
1. This part of Yosemite is less crowded. Of course, in summer there are heaps of tourists but compared to the Valley it is still bearable. One reason might be that Tioga Road goes through the Park and is not a dead end street like the Valley Road. People have the chance to disperse more evenly.
2. Every visitor who comes spontaneously to Yosemite on a weekend will face the same problem. As soon as they enter the Park, they will see the most unwanted sign “Campgrounds full”. Along Tioga Road you’ll find several campgrounds on a first-come-first-served base. So there might be a chance to find a campsite on one of these campgrounds. We really like White Wolf although this campground can get really chilly at night even during summer.
3. The High Country also offers plenty of hiking trails. Easy trails like going up Lembert Dome, moderate trails like exploring the Gaylor Lakes and the Sierra Mine and more strenuous trails like hiking Clouds Rest. I highly recommend the Clouds Rest hike. The trailhead is at Tenaya Lake. You have an amazing view of the entire National Park and you can watch people lining up at the Half Dome cables while enjoying the calm on top of Clouds Rest. By the way, Clouds Rest (9,930 feet) is higher than Half Dome (8,840 feet).
4. While the Valley can get really hot in summer, the temperatures in the High Country are more bearable. On the other hand, you also have to be prepared for freezing temperatures in late spring and early fall.
So if you just want to get a glimpse of Yosemite National Park because you are short of time, visiting Yosemite Valley is perfectly fine. There you get all the perfect shots you’d expect from Yosemite. But if you want to see Yosemite from a more individual perspective, you cannot skip the High Country. You won’t regret it. I promise.
Thanks for reading.