Yosemite’s natural icons are ever-changing according to various weather and seasonal conditions, which is why I never tire of seeing Half Dome or Yosemite Falls each and every time I go to the park. If you want a relaxing stroll under the shadow of Yosemite’s famous wonders, this hike will take you through lush meadows, thundering waterfalls, and peaceful trails within a few easy miles.
To avoid the crowds, plan either an early morning jaunt or an evening stroll. Start at the Visitor Center (shuttle stop #5 or #9) and walk west along the bike path. At shuttle stop #6, cross the street (watch for traffic!) and follow the boardwalk into Cook’s Meadow where the vista opens up into stunning views of Half Dome, Sentinel Rock and Yosemite Falls. Continue following the Cook’s Meadow boardwalk, a project funded by the Conservancy to protect sensitive meadow habitat, until you reach the road again. Cross the road and walk along the path to Lower Yosemite Falls. Cross the bridge and follow signs for the East Valley Loop Trail which will take you into Church Bowl at the northern end of Ahwahnee Meadow. If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can continue following the trail east, or you can turn west and head back to the Visitors Center, perhaps in time to attend an art workshop or catch a theater show!
Tips for the Trail
The beauty of this hike is that you can tailor it to your interests, whether it is a short family walk or even a jog through the Valley. This hike is especially nice at dawn or dusk when there are fewer people on the trails and you feel as though the Valley is your own private wonderland. Some parts of the Valley Loop Trail can be slippery, especially after rain, so always exercise caution.