Swinging Bridge is our next stop. From here you will have one of the greatest views of the Yosemite Falls. The Falls reflect in the river, of which the current is not to slow, and you can take epic pictures. It is a great spot for lunch or a short break.
The next stop on our list is Yosemite Chapel. The Chapel was built in 1879 and is the oldest structure in Yosemite. Originally it was erected a mile from its current spot, but it was moved in 1901. The New England style building is exceptionally beautiful in its simplicity. There is a mass held here every Sunday. It is just a perfect spot for a wedding. The chapel has a pastor who invites people of all religions to visit. From the chapel you can set out onto the Sentinel/Cook’s Meadows trail.
Sentinel/Cook’s Meadow Loop
Sentinel/Cooks’s Medows Loop is one of the easiest and the most beautiful trails in Yosemite. During a 1.9 miles walk you will pass through meadows while having the Yosemite Falls constantly in sight. After reaching the river, you will reach the famous Sentinel Bridge, from which you will have a great view of the Half Dome. Crowds of photographers come here at sunset to photograph Half Dome with the river. Sentinel/Cook’s Meadows Loop is a great trail for kids. You can also enter the trail on the other side from the Yosemite Lodge.
Lower Yosemite Falls
Now it is finally time for Yosemite’s renowned landmark – Yosemite Falls. The trail to Lower Yosemite Falls is about half a mile and leads to the lower section of the falls. When Yosemite Falls is not intensively flowing you can reach the rocks surrounding it. You can even enter the cold water. The Rangers, however, advise not to do so, as it is easy to slip on the wet stones. In spring, on the other hand, you will need waterproof clothing to see the waterfalls, as the splashing water will make you wet from head to toes in a matter of seconds. Even in the summer it is noticeably cooler around the waterfall, so consider taking clothing with longer sleeves. The trail is completely paved and you cannot count on having even a brief moment of solitude here.
To reach Upper Yosemite Falls you will need to take a hard and long trail, which I will cover in the section Trails from the Yosemite Valley.
El Capitan and El Capitan Meadow
Now we are entering the North Drive, El Capitan being our next objective. This is the largest stone monolith in the world, measuring 3000 feet. This is also a favorite spot for rock climbers. Even captain Kirk was climbing here, until Spock came flying and interrupted him, leading to him falling. But as things are in Star Trek, if you are not wearing a red shirt, you should not die. Kirk did not, thus he lived.
The El Capitan itself is not too visible here, it is covered by trees, but the meadow in front of it on the other side of the road is a great spot for a rest. There are picnic tables in front of the El Capitan itself.
Bridalveil Fall from the riverside
The next spot we approach very carefully, with tightly locked doors, as this is where all the photographers whose shots we ruined with our presence on the other side of the river were.
The view on the Bridalveil Fall from here is amazing. It is worth a stop, even for a brief moment.
Gates of the Valley
Our trip through the valley is slowly coming to an end. However, the Valley View, also known as the Gates of the Valley is the cherry on the top. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful view in the Yosemite. I prefer it even to Tunnel View. During our first visit here I unfortunately missed it, becaue it is barely visible from the road. On the left there is a small pullout with a dozen of parking spots. After you pass the Bridalveil Fall you need to look out for it carefully. The view from there is picturesque. On the right you will see the Bridalveil Fall, on the left the El Capitan and the Merced River flowing below. You will fall in love with it for sure!