There are two ways to get to Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park—we took the wrong way. I’m kidding. We took the southern trail, which just happened to be longer and rougher than the paved trail that goes along the northern side of Tenaya Creek.
As it turned out, we were quite pleased to have stayed on the southern side because it is much more scenic. The path is rocky with quite a few ups and down, and runs through beautifully treed areas with a few glimpses of wildlife (click pics to enlarge). The north side is just a paved service road.
Our trek to Mirror Lake began at the park’s shuttle stop #17. At first it’s a single path, that soon divides to either side of the creek. We’d read that it was possible to do an entire loop, and assumed we could start from either side. We chose to avoid the crowd on the paved road, so instead of crossing the stone bridge over the creek, we veered to the right.
We expected to walk a couple of miles and then find a crossing.
Turns out, there is no safe access from one side of Mirror Lake to the other, except via bridges at each end of the trail.
Even though we hiked for quite some time, we never found the far bridge that would have taken us to the other side. We weren’t alone because all the hikers coming towards us had gone on for a long ways and never found the bridge.
The website, which we didn’t read until long after the walk, warned that ‘hikers often spot what appears to be an easy way to rock-hop across Tenaya Creek, either just for fun, or as a way to shortcut the loop and rejoin the trail without doing the entire loop. While this crossing is only ankle deep at first, it quickly becomes thigh deep, and, all too often, hikers are swept into dangerous whitewater and pinned against rocks. Don’t be tempted to leave the trail, and always remember when approaching moving water to look at the conditions downstream.’
We didn’t see a shallow enough spot to even think about crossing. That’s probably because the creek runs highest in spring and summer. Funnily enough, Mirror Lake is often referred to as Mirror Meadow in late summer due to the lack of water and the influx of grasses and sandy areas. Maybe you can cross then?
In addition to the Mirror Lake hike, we did a circuit of Cook’s Meadow. It’s almost in the middle of Yosemite Valley and gives wonderful views of the surrounding granite cliffs, including the Half Dome. The meadow is named after John Cook, a New York businessman, who ran a hotel in the valley in the 1880s. His livestock used to graze where we walked. I hope they appreciated the views.
P.S. Speaking of cooks, I hope you’ll take time to check out my cooking blog.