Updated: Jul 11, 2022
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Sir Isaac Newton
This is the only quote that comes to mind when thinking of Yosemite. Let’s jump right in!
If you plan on going between May and September, you’ll need to make a reservation online. If you plan on camping you will also need a lodging reservation. I didn’t know about this reservation rule, and it ended up working out to my benefit.
The exemption to this rule is to enter the park before 6 AM or after 4 PM. Not only do you not need a reservation, but it’s also free to enter! No one is working the gates at that time so you can drive right in.
I got up at 3 AM to pass the entry gate around 4 AM, and no one was there. Just be careful driving in at this time, animals might be on the road. By the time I got to the hike, it was 5 AM. I was the only car there and the sky was a dull baby blue.
I choose to do the Four Mile Trail hike to Glacier Point. I knew this was a 10-mile round trip journey, however, I did not know this entire trail is uphill. Be aware that you will climb over 3,000 ft in elevation.
Side note: Download the All Trails App. It will track your movement, elevation, calories burned, pace, and more even while you’re in airplane mode.
I recommend starting the hike between 5 and 6 AM. You’ll have the benefit of dusk on your side, it’s cool out, it’s there aren’t many other people around, and it almost as if the landscape changed with the rise of the sun.
The hike: you will zig-zag a lot. You’ll start off doing this zig-zag pattern for the first half-mile. Then you’ll stay straight for another half mile. Then you will zig-zag your butt off for about 2 miles. Then you get a short break (still uphill though).
You’ve made it to the last section! This consists of another mile of zig-zags and a mile-long stroll through the woods, now 3000ft above where you started!
I spent an hour at the top just sitting and taking in the view. It is something that you simply need the time to be able to appreciate. This is the biggest benefit of arriving early. You get to witness this majesty however you feel.
Now you get to go downhill!
Don’t be so focused on doing downhill that you miss all of the views from the opposite direction. Enjoy your stroll down 3000 ft and go ice those legs :)