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Yosemite in autumn: a Guide by The Chronicle’s Tom Stienstra

Merced River, Yosemite Valley, November

Tom Stienstra is an outdoor writer and photographer for The Chronicle in San Francisco, and he has presented us with an “essential guide” to enjoying autumn in Yosemite National Park! He begins his essay, in

Yosemite is the showpiece of the Sierra Nevada, and in fall, when aspens and maples turn, the trails quiet and the Merced River <my image above> slows to a trickle, it can feel like you are living in a painting — or an Ansel Adams photograph — when you visit.

That is the way I always feel at Yosemite… at any time of year. For me, the experience is more like living in a painting, because of the rich colors absent from the photographs of Ansel Adams, although the underlying STRENGTH and contrasts apparent in his photographs are always present beneath the colors, as a supporting structure for the natural majesty that is Yosemite!

Stienstra distills his visit to Yosemite in early October into a parade of paragraphs, each describing a feature in his exploration from the Valley floor beneath El Capitan to Half Dome and other landmarks to the highest point in the park at 13,120-foot Mount Lyell. Fall is “projected to peak from mid-October through the second week of November.”

There is still time.

A word about timing…. At the time of Stienstra’s visit in early October:

…the aspens were ablaze in yellows and oranges at elevations of 10,000 to 12,000 feet on the slopes of Lyell Canyon above Tuolumne Meadows. In the weeks to come, the array of color will descend to Yosemite Valley and across the Sierra foothills.

That is how autumn arrives in California – it DESCENDS upon us from the east! Stienstra shares his knowledge of Yosemite to guide us vantage points for viewing and photography. With a recognition of the ages and abilities of his readers, Stienstra describes “drive-to” views, hikes of various degrees of difficulty, bicycle paths and rentals, waterfalls, places to paddle, a wilderness trek to Cathedral Lake at 9,288 feet of elevation, an easy rock climb, a photography walk to Mirror Lake, and the meteor shower of The Orionids, peaking around Tuesday or Wednesday, October 20 or 21, but still good through November 7.

The cost of entry is now $30/vehicle, good for one week. If you are old enough to have a National Parks Pass, entry is free. Stienstra gives links and phone numbers for camping, lodging inside and outside the park, and for general information.

If you have never been to Yosemite, just GO! :-)

(Thanks, Tom!)

-Bill at

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