trail running in yosemite valley is really wonderful. we spent 4 days running various trails, and while some of it is pretty exhausting (you always have to climb quite a bit to get out of the valley), the views are well worth it, and with the exception of the climb next to yosemite falls, all climbs are on trails which are well suited for running. here is our program of these fours days:
- half dome: starting from the upper pines campground, we severely underestimated the length of the climb, we took no water and no food, which was really stupid. after quite a bit of bonking on the way up, we finally made it to the top after three hours (the cables were still down, but they are still there year-round, they are simply lying on the ground, and it is still quite easy to get to the top). because it was rather early in the season and the cables were still down (they were set up two days later), we had the summit completely for ourselves, which is a pretty special thing considering the usual hordes of hikers populating the half dome summit. luckily, we found a water bottle on the top (probably left behind by some climbers), which probably saved the day. however, still having no food, running down also was not as easy, and in the end the whole trip took us 5 hours. with a bit more sensible planning (like taking water and food), it could probably be done pretty comfortably in 4 hours. this run really is great, incredible views from the top of half dome , and most of the climbing is not too hard, with the exception of the last two hills (the steep one right before the cable part, and of course the cable part itself).
- mirror lake: after a pretty long day with half dome, we decided to have an easy day and made the loop past mirror lake (admiring half dome from the bottom) to the bridge over tenaya creek, and then back down on the other side of mirror lake, following the merced river for a little while, and then heading back to the campground. 70 easy minutes of running, mostly flat. the valley floor is really good for beautiful flat running, and at this time of the year it is not overly crowded.
- el capitan: this one has a really nasty start, the trail from camp 4 to the top of upper yosemite falls is really steep and has a lot of boulders. the upper part of the trail (before you reach the top of the falls) is too steep to run, at least that was true for us... from the top of the falls, we made a brief out and back to yosemite point (1 mile, not too much climbing), which is really worth it because of the breathtaking view over the valley . after that, we headed to the trail going to eagle peak and el capitan. the little out-and-back to eagle peak is well worth it, it is only 0.3 miles and again offers spectacular views over the valley . from there, it is another 2 miles to the top of el capitan. unfortunately, there was a heli flying around, so we could not get to the top of el cap's big wall, but it still was a very good view from el cap's top. the run back is nice, but the trail down next to the falls is steep and rocky and requires a lot of rock hopping when running down (fun, but no time to look at the scenery). from camp 4 to the campground it was another 25 minutes, in the end the whole trip took 5:30.
- glacier point: going up the other side of the valley (opposite of yosemite falls) on the next day provided a pretty view of the el capitan route of the day before. getting to the trail head from the campground took 20 minutes, a nice and flat warmup. the trail (confusingly called
four mile trail, even though it is almost five miles long) is much easier to run than the yosemite falls trails, less steep and less boulders. getting to glacier point from the trail head took 1:10, but probably would be possible in less than an hour. continuing from glacier point on the
panorama trailis probably the nicest trail running in the valley, modest grades and a good trail all the way down to illilouette falls. from there, a bit of uphill takes you to nevada falls, and since i had missed this turn-off on the trip to half dome, this time i took the route past the emerald pool and vernal falls, which is called the
mist trailfor a reason... in the end, 3:30 for the full loop from upper pines campground, and less strenuous than the other runs because of the more gradual downhills.
after these fours days, we left yosemite valley to head east to mono lake, which turned out to be less than perfect as a trail running location... yosemite valley, on the other hand, is a really great place for running, i am looking forward to the next trip to the valley. one nice loop i would like to try is going up the yosemite falls trail, and then head east towards north dome and come down the tenaya trail. next time...