Yosemite National Park is not just about Half Dome, spectacular as it is. There’s so much beauty and bounty to check out in its northern reaches, where the crowds are sparse and the sights spectacular. So we asked park ranger Jamie Richards about some of her favorite spots. She’s particularly fond of Tuolumne Meadows and the points along Tioga Road, she says, and now is the perfect time to go.

“Summer’s at an end. Fall is here,” she says. “It’s just a beautiful time to explore the high country.”

Here are her favorite spots.

Take a scenic hike around Tuolumne Meadows and along the Tuolumne River: “The water is still flowing pretty high in the river right now,” Richards says. “There are some great trails. You can go fly-fishing or picnic on the riverbanks.”

Go paddling or kayaking on Tenaya Lake: “It’s easily accessible from Tioga Road or Highway 120. Bring a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard — we don’t have anything you can rent up there, so you have to bring your own. But fishing is permitted in Tenaya Lake. Watersports are allowed. You can have a picnic, you can enjoy a leisurely afternoon on the shores looking up at Cathedral Peak, (which) towers over the lake. Pretty impressive.”

Take a hike in the giant sequoia groves: “There are two groves in the northern region. The Merced Grove and the Tuolumne Grove are both along the 120 corridor. Park your vehicle and follow the trails from the parking area. They’re great hikes for families and there are benches along the trails. Find a nice quiet spot to enjoy a picnic. But, remember, if you bring food, it’s pack it in, pack it out!”

Stop at scenic Olmsted Point: “It provides a great view of Half Dome and is one of the highest vistas inside the park. It’s right along Tioga Road, on your way to Tuolumne Meadows. It’s a spectacular view of the northern half of Half Dome and a great panoramic view. You’re looking at the backside of the dome from how most people see it. Tioga Road closes when the major (winter) storms roll in, so if you don’t get up there in the spring or the fall, you’ll miss it.”

Check out Lembert Dome: “It’s a granite rock formation located on the east end of Tuolumne Meadows. Enjoy a picnic at the base of the dome or hike up. The trailhead starts at an elevation of 8,500 feet. You ascend to over 9,000 feet at the summit. It’s a short trail — 2.8 miles round trip that takes about one to two hours – but very strenuous. Once you’re there, though, it’s a spectacular view of Tuolumne Meadows and the entire mountain range of the high country.”


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