There's nothing like driving into Yosemite for the first time. The vertical rock face of El Cap shooting up from the Valley floor or the curved hunchback of Half Dome arcing the skyline in the distance are things that nuzzle their way into the folds of your brain and settle in your memory for awhile.
But with more than 4 million visitors a year, Yosemite is undoubtedly one of America's most popular National Parks, meaning it's near impossible to get away from the traffic or the crowds. Except if you're willing to put in the effort. While the masses are hiking to get a glimpse of Lower Yosemite Falls or parking at Glacier Point, you can find yourself some peace and quiet among the chaos at Sierra Point.
Wiped out by a rockslide in the 1970s, Sierra Point is technically considered a decommissioned trail so don't go looking for it on any Park maps. Though it's still publicly accessible, you've got to know where to look to find the trailhead, located off the Vernal Falls Trail. it can be difficult to scramble over rocks, for sure, and the Park Rangers will likely tell you not to attempt it if you ask. But trust us - if you're in decent physical condition and you're looking to get a glimpse of Yosemite that few get to see, this is the hike for you.
Length: 0.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
Highlight: The view from the top. There, you can see five waterfalls: Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls and the elusive Illilouette Falls. Locals in the area told us that after a snowy winter, you can sometimes see seven waterfalls from this one spot. Seven!
Overview: Sierra Point trail is a short but fairly strenuous hike. The trail has been closed since the 70s due to a rock slide that wiped out a portion of the trail. For this reason it can be difficult to scramble over the rocks; you'll need to find stable handholds and maintain your footing in loose soil. There are ledges that you'll have to climb along with steep drop-offs and finding the trailhead can be difficult.
Approach: From Happy Isle, start on the John Muir Trail heading toward Vernal Falls. Shortly after you start, you'll see a sign on the left side that says "Rock Piles." If you go straight up through the rocks and stay to the right side you'll find the trail.
Route Description: Follow what's left of the trail to Sierra Point. If you can't find the trail or lose it along the way, keep in mind that it generally heads diagonally to the right. It's not totally necessary to follow the trail, but expect to do a bit of bushwhacking and you will likely be contributing to more erosion in the area. Just be careful and be mindful.
Somewhere near the middle of the route the trail has been wiped out by landslides on a particularly steep section. This is the hardest part of the climb, mostly because the ground is loose here. Scramble up and through the steep section of rocks to the right (they create a kind of stair system) to find the trail again.