Yosemite Up High

Yosemite Up High

Yosemite National Park as seen from Glacier Point


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Traveling to Yosemite

Travel:  Yosemite is a drive-there, stay-there National Park. It's too far from real towns for a one-day or commuter trip. 
Vehicle: Any. If you have an RV, you can park it and take shuttle buses to all the major attractions in the park, including high-up Glacier Point and all major trailheads.


Lodging in the Park: The park has a lot of options and a lot of capacity, from tent sites to platform tents to RV parks to motels and high-end hotels. See your options here.
Lodging outside the Park: The closest options are at El Portal or Incline outside the west entrance. Motels there are pretty pricey. You can go farther to save money, but that entails a daily drive up the winding canyon road. I stayed in Mariposa for more reasonable rates (still not low) and made the drive.
Food: The park has a remarkable number of places to eat, especially around the Valley Visitor Center and Half Dome Village.
Hiking: Wow!  See trail info here.
Activities: See the park's website. You certainly won't be bored!
Other Facilities: The Valley Visitor Center and Half Dome Village areas have grocery stores, restaurants, museums, gift shops, showers, swimming pools, and a medical clinic.
Crowds: Yosemite gets as many visitors as Yellowstone (4+ million every year), but puts them into a small fraction of the area. Be prepared to be patient. Go off-season if you can (before June or after August), and avoid holiday weekends.
Seasons: You can visit the valley any time of the year. The Glacier Point and Tioga roads are closed in winter.
Drought: California has undergone an extended drought since 1998, but not every year is equally dry. The valley's waterfalls are of course major attractions, so to make sure you see them go in April to June or in a wet year.
Park Roads: The Park Service is talented at making confusing roads with confusing and vague signs. Keep a map with you, and go only one short stretch of road at a time if you are having trouble finding anything. Or use the shuttles. And note that Half Dome Village is called Curry Village on the map you receive when you enter the park, but NOT ONE SIGN in the park says Curry Village! Perhaps they'll update the pamphlet one day, but I wonder -- is there an evil genius working in Park Service management who gets jollies watching lost tourists?


Yosemite National Park valley geology field trip glacier granite Sierra Nevada California


This perspective map from the Visitor Center will help orient you. I have separate posts about Yosemite Valley and the Tioga Pass road.

The Glacier Point Road

Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
The Glacier Point road leaves the valley via a long ramp and this tunnel. Be sure to stop here at "Tunnel View" for amazing views up the valley!


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
View of The Sentinel from Tunnel View.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
View of El Capitan (far left) and Half Dome (in the distance) from Tunnel View. This gives a good sense of the U-shape of the valley created by glaciers. River-carved valleys have V-shapes.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
From a bit higher up the Glacier Point road, you get this look across at the Tioga Pass road, which passes through tunnels to get up and out of the valley.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Right along the road, you'll see the iconic exfoliation planes Yosemite is famous for. These are joints, or fractures that formed because the granite was uplifted from miles deep to high elevation, causing the granite to expand and break.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
The high country around Yosemite has that distinctive look of exfoliated granite.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
This exfoliation is right along the high point of the road. Water and ice have invaded the joints to break down the granite into a coarse sand of quartz and feldspar grains.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
This cute little erosional remnant of jointed granite sheets is above the road near its highest point.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Sentinel Dome is an exfoliation dome. It's an easy walk from the Glacier Point road.

Washburn Point

Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Little Yosemite Valley from Washburn Point. 


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
The waterfalls are Vernal Falls (the lower one) and Nevada Falls (the upper one).


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
From Washburn Point you look right along Half Dome's north face. Half Dome is an erosional remnant of granite between two vigorous glaciers. Joints caused by regional (tectonic) stresses broke the granite into this long fin, and exfoliation joints caused by uplift rounded off the top. Glaciers carried away the more fractured bedrock on either side of this solid piece, and voila! Half Dome!

Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Another view from Washburn Point.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Just to prove I was really there...

Glacier Point

Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
From Glacier Point, the view is a little better of upper Yosemite Valley and Half Dome's cliff face.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point
An informative sign explains the view.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point
So now you can point authoritatively at the various peaks and impress your friends by naming them! Or not!


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
That is supposed to be the spectacular Yosemite Falls, but it was dry in the 2016 drought - amazing!


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
From Glacier Point you look so dizzyingly straight down on Yosemite Valley that it's disorienting! The visitor center village is at upper center, and Half Dome village is at lower center. Royal arches is at upper right, with the Hotel Formerly Known As Ahwahnee just below it.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Okay, these days it's called the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. One thing this national park does well is hide the roads and even some of the parking lots. There are probably 200 cars tucked away in the trees around the hotel.

Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
The parking lot at the Happy Isles trailhead is the most obvious unnatural feature you'll see from Glacier Point. That light-colored area to the right is a thousand foot-tall granite slope! The viewpoint is so straight up from the valley floor, it felt like I could have thrown a rock out to that parking lot!


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
The low sun angle really brought out the exfoliation fractures at North Dome and the Royal Arches below.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Here are more pictures of North Dome and Royal Arches as the sun set.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Of course, the main feature you'll want to see from Glacier Point is Half Dome. It's just a phenomenal sight! It's so abruptly tall and forbiddingly steep that you'll find your eyes sweeping all over it in wonder. This view shows the fracture network that is parallel to Half Dome's big cliff face. See the cracks in shadow on the valley walls? The cliff face is simply one of that family of fractures that the glacier ice got into, broke off massive amounts of rock, and carried it all away.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
To the right (south) of Half Dome you'll see Little Yosemite Valley heading back up into the high Sierra. The prominent rock in the center is Liberty Cap, with Nevada Falls to its right.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com

Sunset at Glacier Point

The next photos show the view from Glacier Point as the sun sets. I must add that I was standing by two professional photographers that evening, one from Italy and another making a documentary film using time-lapse photography. I felt like a rank amateur, until we started talking about the geology we could see, and then they got really interested.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Half Dome casts a shadow in the sunset.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
As the valley becomes shadowed, the peaks light up.


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park California geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Shadows creep over Little Yosemite Valley.


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Liberty Cap and Little Yosemite Valley succumb to evening shadows.


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com



Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Half Dome comes briefly alive in the setting sun.


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
After sunset, lights began to twinkle on in the valley below. The flat light lent the valley a soft, serene feel.


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
You can find a hundred pictures of people sitting on this rock, but you're really not supposed to go out there for obvious safety reasons. Still, it was tempting!


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Below Glacier Point was this recent fall of a detached exfoliation slab. It happens frequently in Yosemite.


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
Twilight glow.


Yosemite National Park geology travel field trip Glacier Point copyright RocDocTravel.com
After a day like this in spectacular Yosemite, your mind and heart will have more to process than they can handle. It will take a while for it all to sink in.

Related Posts:  Yosemite Valley, Tioga Pass Road
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