Yosemite in Summer

One of my favorite National Parks so far. Either in Summer or in Winter, Yosemite should be on your bucket list

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Where should I land ?

FresnoYosemite International  (FAT) or Merced Airport (MCE) : Allow about 2.5 hours to Yosemite Valley

Sacramento International  (SMF) Allow about 4 hours to Yosemite Valley

San Francisco International  (SFO), Oakland International  (OAK) or San José International  (SJC) : Allow about 5 hours to Yosemite Valley

What kind of car should I rent ?

Whatever you want. You can rent an economic car because you won’t have to drive on difficult roads. You can rent a Van or an RV but make sure you registered to stay in a campsite.

Where to sleep ?

Camping: In a tent, van or RV, it’s up to you. Reservations are the best way to make sure you have a place, especially during summer. Yosemite is one of the busiest National Parks I have seen. From April to June, the very first-come, first-served might find a campsite. Make your reservation on Recreation.gov or check it out often. If it’s sold out you might find a cancellation in a campground that accepts reservations in or near Yosemite. There are 11 different campsites but only 4 in Yosemite Valley. Camp 4 (tent site only, $6 per night) located at the beginning of Yosemite Fall trail and near Yosemite Valley Lodge. Pines Campgrounds: Lower Pines, Upper Pines and North Pines ($26 / night) located near Half Dome Village.

Backpacking: Free wilderness permits are required year-round for any overnight stay in Yosemite. There is a limited number of people for each trailhead. Reservations are available up to 24 weeks in advance ($5 per confirmed reservation + $5 per person) If it’s something you would like to do, learn more about or make a reservation Click here

Hotel: The hotels closest to Yosemite Valley are the more expensive ones. You will have to drive a bit further if you don’t want to spend more than $100 a night. I usually book with Booking.com

Public Transportation :

A large service of public transportations are available to get to Yosemite or to get around. Amtrak, Greyhound, YARTS, free shuttles… Please check out Yosemite National Park’s website for more information. I only used Yosemite Valley Shuttle, so I won’t be able to help you with the others but I wanted to let you know the possibilities. Below is some information about Yosemite Valley shuttle system:

  • Yosemite Valley Shuttle provides service around eastern Yosemite Valley and operates year-round from 7am to 10pm. It stops at most of the trailheads located into Yosemite Valley, the Pines Campgrounds, Camp 4, Half Dome Village, Visitor Center…

  • El Capitan shuttle stops at El Capitan, Bridaveil Falls, Four Mile trailhead and the Valley Visitor Center. It operates from mid-June through early October from 9am to 5pm.

What to do ?

Yosemite National Park offers various activities

  • Guided Tours: Take a tour at Glacier Point. Overlook with view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Yosemite’s high country. Available when the Glacier Point Road is open, typically late May through October. You don’t have to take the tour, you can drive there on your own. Also, Valley Floor Tour and Tuolumne Meadows Tour are offered. To make a reservation Click here.
  • Hiking: There are so many hiking possibilities. Easy, moderate or streneous. You can find a list with more details on the National Park’s website. For some ideas, check out below in “My experience”
  • Art & Photography: Art class and Photography walks, classes & workshop…
  • Backpacking (wilderness permit required)
  • Biking:  Bicycles are available for rent in Yosemite Valley
  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing
  • Rock Climbing  & Bouldering
  • Stargazing
  • Water activities:  Kayak, Canoe, raft
  • Winter Sports: Cross-country skiing, Snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, Snow tubing, sledding and ice skating

 

HALF DOME

The Half Dome is a Yosemite Icon and a great challenge to many hikers. A permit is required to hike to Half Dome.

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It’s a 14 to 16 mile hike (roundtrip) and you will be gaining elevation for a total of 4,800 ft. This is a very streneous hike and it is not for you if you are out of shape or unprepared. Along the way, you will have a stunning view of Vernal and Nevada falls, Liberty Cap and Half Dome. Most hikers take 10 to 12 hours to make it. The best is to start the earliest possible like before sunrise and have a non-negociable turn-around time if you haven’t reached the top of the Half Dome (3:30 pm the latest).

The most famous and incredible experience of the hike is the ascent up the cables. The 2 metal cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment. Wear good hiking boots and bring gloves for the cables (Some pairs were available before the climb but it’s better to have yours in case they are all taken).

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It’s me 😀

About the permit:

A maximum of 300 hikers are allowed each day (about 225 day hikers and 75 backpackers). Permits are distributed by lottery via Recreation.gov.

The preseason Lottery runs from March 1 through March 31. 225 permits are available each day. Results in mid-April by email.

The Daily Lottery has approximately 50 permits available. You have to apply 2 days prior to the hiking date.

Fees: Two separate fees are collected. The first fee is charged at the time you submit an application, $4.50 online or $6.50 by phone (per application). Non-refundable. The second fee is $8 per person only when you receive a permit.

For 2017, they are planning on the Half Dome cables being up May 26 through October 10, but these dates could change based on conditions.

HOW TO APPLY: Visit Recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777.

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My experience

I went to Yosemite National Park with my friend Hellen in Mid-June. We spent 3 days there. I planned and booked this trip about a month and half before.

How much did it cost ?

Flight: $150 / pers (From Seattle to Sacramento) Why Sacramento? I considered to land either at San Francisco or Sacramento. The flight was the same price but the rental was cheaper and the drive a bit shorter from Sacramento.

Rental: $160 insurance included with Enterprise (4 days) / 2 pers

Gas: $50 / 2 pers

Hostel: $137 for 3 nights / pers. Yosemite International Hostel at Groveland. We shared the room with 6 other people. Cheap hostel. Was OK for the price. Bed not really comfortable. Kitchen and bathroom shared with about 10 people. Located about 1h drive from Yosemite Valley.

What did we do ?

Day 1

We arrived at Yosemite National Park around 3:30 pm but we were stuck in traffic in the park for about 1h30. When we could finally park the car at Yosemite Valley and start hiking, it was late and we didn’t have time for a long one. We did Mirror Lake, which is an easy, famous and beautiful hike. The entire loop is a 5 mile hike or you can hike to the lake and back, which is 2 miles.

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Mirror Lake

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Then, we stopped and admired Yosemite Fall before we hit the road and checked in at the hostel.

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Yosemite Fall

Day 2

Early morning! I woke up my friend at 5:30am and we drove to Clouds Rest Trailhead, which was 1h30 drive. The trailhead is off Tioga Road. The parking lot is very small and fills up fast. It was already full when we arrived around 7:30 am but we still found a spot. It’s a 14.5 mile hike with 1,775 ft elevation gain (Clouds Rest elevation: 9,926 ft) . Bring enough water because it’s really hot and the hike takes about 8h. This hike is all about the destination but it’s totally worth it. You will have striking views in every direction, including Half Dome. Also, I recommend that you bring a mosquito spray. I got like 50 mosquito bites this day 😂😣

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Day 3

Woooow! I was so lucky. I won the permit to climb the Half Dome. I tried to get it by applying at the Daily Lottery 2 days before and I got the permit for my friend and myself. It’s probably the hardest hike I have done for now but also the one I’m the most proud about. We started the hike around 7:30 am and I was done at 4:30 pm. On our way, there were 2 amazing waterfalls called Vernal and Nevada Falls. You should definitely include them in your To-do list even if you don’t have the Half Dome permit. It is not required to see them. Also, it’s a BUSY trail. I recommend you to go early if you want to avoid the crowd.

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Vernal Fall
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Nevada Fall

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Two Park Rangers were checking the permit at the base of the subdome, about 1 mile before the cable. I met people walking back upset because they were turned away, so don’t waste your time if you don’t have the permit. They strongly recommend at least 1 gallon of water (4L). I didn’t bring enough (2 quarts/2L) and it was a huge mistake. I ran out of water on my way back and it was a terrible experience. A really nice woman gave me one of her bottles of water and I can tell you, she saved my life. 

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At the top of Half Dome

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Getting the permit for the Half Dome changed my plan since I didn’t expect to win it 😅 There were  other hikes I wanted to do and places I wanted to see but I didn’t have time or energy. Here’s a list of what else wanted to do:

  • Bridaveil Fall Trail : 0.5 mile ~ 30min
  • Sentinel Dome : 2.2 mile ~ 1h30
  • Cathedral Lakes : 8 mile ~ 4h
  • Overlooks  : Glacier Point, Washburn Point and Tunnel view (I did Tunnel View during my winter trip)
  • Swimming and rafting at Merced River. You can rent a raft or bring your own. (June & July depending on conditions)

 

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San Diego

3 days in San Diego 🌞

San Diego is a major city in California located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California and adjacent to the border with Mexico.

Sunrise at Ocean Beach

Ps : I apologize for the pitures’s quality. I had a compact camera and IPhone 4 only 😐

 

I travelled to San Diego by myself in February 2016 and I spent 3 days there. I planned my trip 2 weeks before (cause you never know when you will be off 😀) and I flew from Seattle.

Budget :

  • Flight : $330
  • Hostel : $129 for 4 nights
  • Rental car : About $190 for 2 days (very disappointed by the rental company)
  • Gas : $20
  • Tijuana in Mexico : $48 for an half day (via Viator)
  • Horse Riding : $135/pers for a group tour/ $150 for a private tour
  • Hike : $6
  • Food : $40

 

Hostel : USA HOSTELS OCEAN BEACH 😁

15 min drive from the airport. 2min walk from the beach. I loved this hostel. I shared my room with 5 other people and I made a friend from Australia. This is why I like Hostels, it’s easy to meet people and very cheap. The breakfast was included (cereals, oatmeal, fruit, tea, coffee, bread, jam…). During breakfast, you can meet new people as well. Rooms, kitchen and bathrooms were very clean. The staff was very nice and friendly and offered activities nightly, like bonfire at the beach with smores or go out to the club. The hostel also offered easy access to the Zoo, Downtown, SeaWorld and La Jolla via free shuttle.

Rental car : Payless 😡

I was so disappointed 😡 I booked a car for $85 for 2 days via Rentalcar.com. When I arrived at the rental company she told me I had to take the insurance which was about $70 (First and last time I heard that). I didn’t want to take it but for some reasons she didn’t let me get the car without the insurance. I cancelled my reservation and went to Hertz. They refused my international driving license because they wanted my french driving license. I didn’t understand that. I really needed the car so I went back to Payless because the other companies were too expensive. I had to pay $190 if I wanted to get the car.  With my reservation “cancelled” they considered me like a last minute booking, so it was even more expensive. But since then It’s been so much easier to rent a car since I got my US drivers license.

First day

Early hike at Torrey Pines State Reserve and snack at La Jolla beach with Gustavo, who I met on couchsurfing. Don’t be shy at Torrey Pines, it’s not unsual to see people walk naked on the beach. Feel free to participate. LOL!

Then, I did the Tijuana Tour via Viator. It was cheap and the bus driver was nice but I didn’t really like it. I spent 3h on the same street in Tijuana and I was very uncomfortable and sometimes felt unsafe by the way guys were looking at me. Gustavo, who comes from Mexico and knows Tijuana well made fun of me the next day when we met again. He said sorry I forgot to tell you that you shouldn’t wear shorts! So girls, stay covered up! Haha! BUT the tacos were good and cheap. I ate them from a deck on the second floor and watched the people in the market walking around.

Then when I went back to San Diego, I hung out with Atylla who I also met on couchsurfing. Got some drinks and dance at the bar.

Second day

I went for a hike by myself about 1h drive from San Diego. It’s called Cedar Creek Falls to Devil’s Punchbowl. I didn’t know I needed a permit but fortunately Atylla told me the day before and I could get the permit at the last minute for $6. It was a really nice 6 mile hike that leads to the waterfalls. The water was cold but refreshing. You can jump in from an awesome rock. I really had fun but it can be crowed even during the weekday. It was busy so the permit was sold out when I arrived at the parking lot. Keep in mind, when I went, a ranger was there checking permits.

Then, I walked into Balboa Park which is a famous park in San Diego. It was very beautiful and relaxing.

Finally, I caught the sunset at Ocean beach before I went back to the hostel.

Third day

I fullfilled one of my dreams, which is to ride a horse on the beach! I booked the tour online with “San Diego Beach Rides” which is a 30min drive from Ocean Beach. I was alone for the tour (3h) and they usually don’t gallop but we did 😃🏇 It was an incredible experience.

Then I went to Coronado Island and had lunch on the beach. It was nice to take a break and relax 😎

I made a stop at the Old Town and walked around into the market. Nothing crazy but I loved it. Also, it was Tacos Tuesday so I spoiled myself with Tacos and a margueritta 🍹

After, I went back to the hostel for the bonfire and smores with the other travellers on the beach. I met this nice Australian girl and offered her to come with me to see the Embracing Peace and USS Midway at night, which she agreed and we had fun. Then I went back there in the morning before I flew home.

Other things to do or see ?

  • Sea World
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park
  • Seaport Village
  • Historic Gaslamp Quarter in downtown
  • Point Loma
  • Cabrillo National Monument
  • Sunset Cliffs Natural Park (Look for the cave)
  • Surf (or at least try to)
  • Whale watching
  • Catch a game
  • Flower field (mid-March through mid-April)

 

If you have any questions or if the post was helpful to you

Please leave a comment ✏

Death Valley 

Death Valley

La Vallée de la Mort in french

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Death Valley is a desert valley located in Eastern California near the border of Nevada. It’s one of the hottest places in the world at the height of summertime.

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When to go ?

The best time to hike in Death Valley is from November through March due to the very high temperatures in the park. Summers are extremely hot and dry. Daytime may exceed 120°F / 49°C.

Where to land ?

The closest airport is Las Vegas. About 2h30 drive. It’s almost 5h drive from Los Angeles.

What kind of car should I rent ?

We rented an economic car and we could easily drive on the unpaved road of Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Some people were more original… 😎

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It doesn’t mean you can drive everywhere with an economic car. Farabee’s Jeep Rental now have an outlet located in Furnace Creek. These jeeps are outfitted for rugged backcountry road use.

Where to sleep ?

Camping : There are 9 different campgrounds. They are all first-come/first-served except for Furnace Creek campground. Reservations are available for the camping season of October 15 to April 15 by phone or online. Acording to the National Park’s website, it’s very rare for all campgrounds to fill. Prices : From free to $22

Backcountry camping : The backcountry permit (free) may be obtained at the visitor center or any ranger station. Check out the National Park’s website or directly with a ranger to see where the backcountry camping is not allowed.

Lodging : Reservations online

Hotel or RV campground : Outside of the park (Amargosa, Pahrump, Beatty)

What to do ?

  • Wildlife watching : Death Valley’s great range of elevations and habitats support a variety of wildlife species, including 51 species of native mammals, 307 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, 3 species of amphibians and 5 species and 1 subspecies of native fishes
  • Hiking : easy, moderate or difficult. It’s up to you 😉 you can find some ideas below in “my experience” or check out the National Park’s website for more.
  • Backpacking (must obtain a free backcountry permit)
  • Biking & Mountain Biking : Death Valley has more than 785 miles of roads including hundreds of miles suitable for Mountain Biking

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My experience

My best friend and I went to Death Valley at the end of March. We did a road trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and drove from L.A to Death Valley. We had a great time. But a bit scary when we got caught in two sands storms! Once while driving and the next while we were outside of the car taking pictures. Then we almost ran out of gas as we entered the park. Lucky there was a gas station close although gas tends to be much more expensive close to the park.

We booked a night in a really nice RV for $52 at Pahrump (Booking.com) which is about a 1h drive from Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

All in all, it was a great trip. It’s very nice to drive through Death Valley National Park, I love the desert. It’s incredible how the scenery can be totally different from one place to another.

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What did we do ?

First day (Half day)

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White Gold
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Badwater Bassin : Surreal landscape of vast salt flats. 1 mile
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Natural Bridge : 1 mile

 

Second day

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Zabriskie Point : The most popular viewpoint in the park
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Mosaic Canyon
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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes : The largest dune field in the park. 2 mile
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Salt Creek Interpretive Trail : 0.5 mile
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Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail : 3 mile
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Twenty Mule Team Canyon : 2.7 mile one way loop drive (unpaved)

 

There are other places that you should check out if you have time :

  • Dante’s View : At 5,475 ft, the most breathtaking viewpoint in the park.
  • Devil’s Golf Course : An immense area of rock eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires (unpaved access road).
  • Artist’s Drive : A 9 miles scenic loop drive. This road is one-way and is only drivable with vehicles less than 25ft in total length.

 

Other things to see ?

Death Valley National Park has over 5,300 square miles of desert and mountains, making it the largest national park in the contiguous United States. The possibilities for discovery are ENDLESS!

If you have any questions or if the post was helpful to you

Please leave a comment ✏

Road Trip #1 : California-Nevada-Arizona-Utah (March/April 2016)

A Road Trip is an amazing way to discover a country and especially in the USA. The scenery is just breath taking. It’s like a show from your car. Also, you better like driving cause you are going to drive for long hours and some roads are straight and endless. There are so many different Road trips you can do. Depends on how many days or weeks and what you want to see. Here are some ideas… 🚗

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9 DAYS – 2 PARTS

For some reason my best friend Bruna couldn’t make the entire road trip with me. My boyfriend decided to join me for the second half. This is why I chose to land in Las Vegas. Otherwise a start in Los Angeles would have been the best. I spent 4 days with Bruna in Nevada and California and 5 days with my boyfriend in Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

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HOW MUCH DID IT COST ?

☆ Flight : $340 / pers (from Seattle)

☆ Rental : $290 (Enterprise) / 3 pers

☆ Gas : About $225 (~2000 miles) / 3 pers

☆ Hotel : $300

  • 2 nights = Couchsurfing = FREE
  • 1 night = RV = $52 / 2 pers
  • 5 nights = Hotel = $248 / 2 pers

☆ Visit :

  • $86 Universal Studio Los Angeles (Cheaper online) / pers
  • $80 National Parks Annual Pass
  • $20 Monument Valley
  • $28 Antelope Canyon / pers
  • $65 Canyon Trail Rides Bryce Canyon (Horse ride) / pers

 

I planned and booked everything about a month before. The earlier you book, the cheaper you will pay. You definitely can find a flight for Las Vegas for less. If you are under 25, you will pay more for the rental because of the insurance. It’s also more expensive if you drop the car off in a different place than where you picked it up. I usually book my flight with Kayak, the car with Rentalcar.com and the hotel with Booking. 

I like to use Couchsurfing when I’m travelling in the City, either for the night or just to hang out. It’s a nice way to meet people, share culture and whatever you like, and you have someone to show you around or give advice about where to go. Usually, you’ve already researched online what you want to do and what you want to see but they can advise you about places less touristic.

 

THERE WILL BE A POST IN MORE DETAIL ABOUT EACH DESTINATION

 

Los Angeles

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Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

Death Valley

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Zabriskie Point, Death Valley

Click here to read the Death Valley blog

Grand Canyon

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South Rim, Grand Canyon

Click here to read the Grand Canyon blog 

Horseshoe Bend

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Sunset, Horseshoe Bend

Antelope Canyon

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Monument Valley

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Click here to read about the Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon & Monument Valley Blog 

Grand Staircase Escalante

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Spooky Gulch, Grand Staircase Escalante

 Bryce Canyon

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Click here to read about the Bryce Canyon blog

Zion

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From Angels Landing Trail, Zion

 

🚗 Have fun and Drive safe 🚗

If you have any questions or if the post was helpful to you

Please leave a comment ✏

Yosemite in Winter

Who doesn’t like snow? It beautifies everything it covers that’s why we call it WINTER WONDERLAND… ❄

I went to Yosemite during the summer (will be another post) and I can tell you it’s another world during the winter.

From Tunnel View – El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls

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Winter Road Closure 

Tiago Road (Hwy 120 through the park) and Glacier Point Road are closed for the season due to snow (chains are often required) between November and May or June. Check out Yosemite NP’s website.

Hiking 

In my opinion the most beautiful and easiest hike is Mirror lake. You won’t be dissapointed by the reflection.

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Unfortunately Mist Trail that leads to Vernal and Nevada Falls is closed. They are both very beautiful and popular. I walked about .1 mile to get a picture of Vernal Fall. Just amazing.

I just learned there is a way to get Nevada Fall, by the Muir Trail there is a winter route.

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The Yosemite Falls is North America’s tallest waterfall, which rises 2,425 feet above the Valleyfloor. This trail starts near camp 4, it’s a steep and strenous hike. On your way to the top you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and Sentinel Rock. Something that particularely impressed me was the sound of the waterfall, like thunder. The waterfall is also pretty amazing to watch from Yosemite Valley.

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And wherever you go, never forget to have fun ❤