No. Not Half Dome.
September 30, 2011 4:08 PM   Subscribe

Yosemite trip with my parents: what not-ridiculously-hard hikes are best for my parents, who are in their late 50s? We're going this weekend (early October.)

I'm visiting Yosemite this Sunday/Monday/Tuesday with my folks, who are visiting from the midwest. Past Yosemite trips and various hiking trips I've planned have all been with my friends of similar age and/or fitness level, and I need some advice in choosing hikes that are appropriate for me and my parents. I'm a bit notorious for taking friends on hikes that are manageable, but just a little bit more challenging than they want, and I really don't want to do that to my parents! What hikes should we do?

My parents are both in their late 50s. They aren't out of shape, but they aren't out running marathons or doing back country hikes. My dad referees kids' hockey for fun/to stay in shape, and my mom goes to the Y somewhat regularly and uses the elliptical machines and such.

Hiking (or spending time in forests) is not something they do regularly, though mom likes walking. They are not expecting to just drive from photo op to photo op. Both of them went hiking a bit on a recent trip to Maine, so the only point of reference I have for their fitness level is that they enjoyed a 3 mile coastal hike.

Yosemite trip details: we're leaving early this Sunday (Oct 2). and we've got a half day in Yosemite on Sunday, full day on Monday, and a half day on Tuesday. We're staying in a hotel near the south entrance (41/Fish Camp), and neither of my parents have been to Yosemite before. No interest whatsoever in camping.

So aside from the driving-to-scenic-viewpoints angle of things, what not-overly-challenging hikes would be good for us to do together?

(Side question - I have not been to Tuolumne Meadows. Is it worth it at this time of year, and with the limited time my parents have on this trip?)
posted by soleiluna to Travel & Transportation around Yosemite National Park, CA (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I envy you your visit - the park is really beautiful this time of year.

I'd suggest the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls (medium, 3 mi r/t) or further on the same trail to Nevada Falls (bordering on strenuous, 7 mi r/t).
posted by DandyRandy at 4:46 PM on September 30, 2011

Best answer: Is the glacier point road still open? There are some awesome hikes that start there that aren't that strenuous, since you are already up.

Hetch Hetchy is kinda bizarre in my opinion, but still pretty, and the falls are a dead flat walk from the parking lot.

Yosemite falls hike is of course intense, but if you do it planning on only going partway up, it is not too bad, and frigging gorgeous.

Mirror Lake is very pretty, and also easy. You can go up the trail that leaves from the lake as far as you desire.
posted by rockindata at 5:40 PM on September 30, 2011

Best answer: There are a bunch of really simple trails from the valley floor. There was something I did that was billed as a "trail" but was more like "the path to a viewing area."

How are they on bikes, though? I rented a bike when I was there, and made a circuit of the main valley -- it wasn't strenuous at all, and I got away from crowds here and there. Took me a little over an hour; maybe renting bikes for a couple hours and going on a ride, stopping now and then for good views, isn't a bad idea.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:45 PM on September 30, 2011

Best answer: My partner and I are both > 50 and we just spent the past week in Yosemite...

The sequoias down in Mariposa Grove are beautiful -- it is a little over a mile round trip to see the Grizzly Giant (the biggest one they have in the park) and the California Tunnel tree.

Tuolumne Meadows is awesome -- you can hike around Lembert Dome or up to Cathedral Lakes.

The Mist Trail is pretty classic. Have a great trip!
posted by elmay at 6:26 PM on September 30, 2011

Best answer: Agree about trails in the main valley, trails there are very gentle/not strenuous, mirror lake is great too. The vernal falls/mist trail is easy but the nevada falls trail involves a lot of steep hills in my recollection.

Since you're at the south entrance, I suggest Mariposa Grove for giant redwoods. There is a free park bus to the grove from the big hotel near fishcamp in the park, and you can walk or take a tram tour through the trees for some $ (we didn't want to take it, not sure the cost). The trees are amazing, there is an easy paved trail to many trees and several shorter strenuous/hilly hikes through woods to see more trees. (my cred: went to Yosemite with my upper 50s parents who are really into hiking but have foot and arthritis problems, and a boyfriend who'd had leg surgery 3 mo before the trip.)
posted by holyrood at 6:31 PM on September 30, 2011

Best answer: The Panorama trail has magnificent views and is non-strenuous... it's one-way, though, so you either have to hike up and down the same trail, take the somewhat more strenuous 4-mile trail up to Glacier Point, or take two cars.

The Mist trail is spectacular, but I can't say that I agree that it's easy... climbing past Vernal Falls while being slammed with water was the most difficult part of the Half Dome hike for me.
posted by deadweightloss at 8:28 PM on September 30, 2011

Best answer: Mirror Lake is very pretty, and also easy. You can go up the trail that leaves from the lake as far as you desire.

Mirror lake is dry this time of year and the trail has been partially closed by rockfall.
posted by foodgeek at 4:03 AM on October 1, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips! We ended up doing Taft Point & the Fissures and Sentinel Dome on the first afternoon, which was about right in terms of difficulty, although the uneven rocks+incline on the way to Sentinel Dome was a bit challenging on mom's knees. (And they didn't climb the final rocky bit.) I'm glad we got this in, since we got to see a great sunset at Sentinel Dome, and we probably caught the very tail end of the opportunity to do it, since it snowed at Glacier Point just a few days later.

Day two was driving/strolling to the main scenic things (Bridalveil, Tunnel View, Lower Yosemite Falls), hiking to the footbridge at the base of Vernal Falls, and beers at the Awahnee. Hiking to Vernal Falls (even just the first part) was probably too challenging for my parents...lots of little stops along the way. Unexpectedly steep.

Before heading back on day 3 we went to Mariposa Grove and did the hike that's just slightly longer than the smallest touristy loop, ~4 miles. That was perfect! Easy hike, cool trees, and once we got off the main touristy part we saw a bunch of deer.

Thanks for the tips - I think they got a nice overview of the various neat things in Yosemite.
posted by soleiluna at 4:09 PM on October 31, 2011

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