To pass the time, some people enjoy counting the switchbacks on this trail (more than 100), while some prefer to go into the pain cave and slam the door. Either way, be prepared for some seriously steep climbing. It is especially important on this grueling trail to bring adequate food, water and sun protection. Although the vistas are best at the top and continually improve with each step of elevation gain, you can enjoy fantastic views from partway up and should choose a turnaround point that matches your own abilities.
The adventure starts at the far end of the Mirror Lake Trail
. Start switchbacking immediately after the trail intersection and just keep on going- up and out of Tenaya Canyon. There is not much shade to be had as the trail blasts its way up the granite faces. You are rewarded with good views of various iconic landforms (e.g., Half Dome
, Quarter Domes, Clouds Rest
) after only a dozen or so switchbacks. The trail surface here is challenging with rocky sections interspersed with drop-offs. The views get better as you climb higher until the trail leaves the open canyon walls and enters the shady forest. The switchbacks mercifully end here and you'll cover nearly flat ground for the last 1/3 mile. Approximately 2.3 miles after beginning the climb, you'll reach a trail junction near Snow Creek. A right at the fork brings you to the footbridge and makes a logical turnaround point.
Besides the spectacular views to be had (hike just through the trees and towards Half Dome
), some people also wade in Snow Creek's pools and mini-cascades when the conditions are safe. The main Snow Creek Falls are not actually visible or accessible from this trail. Plan to spend some quality relaxation time at this spot before retracing your steps back down to the valley below- you've earned it. Fun factoid: often cited as the steepest trail in the Valley, the Snow Creek Falls Trail covers the same vertical in 1.7 miles as Upper Yosemite Falls
does in 3.2 miles, and the Four Mile Trail
does in 4.2 miles.
Rattlesnakes have been reported, so please use caution.