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Yosemite's changes
New roads, new trails

Waterfall season at Yosemite National Park just around the corner. Depending on the warm-up in the High Country, waterfalls can begin trickling in late February, and by late March you can enjoy seeing water gushing from cliffs all around the Valley. Most visitors start pouring into the Park in early April. But things have changed a bit, and there’s news you need to know before heading up to the Park. 

Day-Use Reservations required: Gone are the days you can just cruise on up on impulse. Yosemite’s popularity continues to grow, and this year, the Park has put day-use reservation restrictions into place to limit traffic and road congestion. 

To save yourself the disappointment of a long drive and being turned away at the gate, make sure to check if you need a day reservation – and note that it applies whether you’re visiting the Valley or just driving through to another destination. If you are staying in the Valley, your lodging reservation is fine. Key reservation required dates:

  • April 13 - June 30: 5AM-4PM on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays (May 27, June 19).
  • July 1 - August 16: 5AM-4PM every day.
  • August 17 - October 27: 5AM-4PM on Saturdays, Sundays, and on holidays (Sept. 2, Oct. 14). 

For more info,


Bridalveil Falls Trail reopens: The two-year Bridalveil Rehabilitation project is wrapping up and the trail is now open from the main road. They’re still working on the parking lot and new bathrooms (the ranger couldn’t give me a completion ETA), but parking is available along the main road just beyond where it turns to one way. The road’s parking configuration has changed, with a number of areas on the right restricted to buses and handicapped parking, so check before you park. Many of the spillover parking spots further up the road that people ‘created’ are gone.

Recognizing the need for ADA compliance and visitor access, the trail has changed significantly. The new trailhead features a view of the falls, and a wide paved area and plenty of informative signage on the changes that have been made and why. 

There’s a brief snippet of the old trail from the trailhead before it merges with the paved trail (which starts on the far left). Then, gone is the bumpy rock-strewn trail of decades past, and in its place is a smooth-paved road that climbs more gradually to the two bridges, following along the old trail’s original path. 

What really struck me were the number of photo opp spots and rest areas that have been added. At one time, to get a clear shot of Bridalveil, you had to hike up the steep and often slippery trail near the base. Now, you can get some nice shots along the main trail. The steep trail itself has been re-graded, with traction ridges to minimize chances of slipping, and the viewing area expanded. At its base is a wide area with places to sit. I spied an elevated wooden walkway along the south cliff base that leads to the parking lot.

Some helpful hints: Because the trail is newly reopened, it’s busy – especially from morning-early afternoon. My personal favorite time to visit is in the later afternoon – the crowds usually have eased off, and the sunlight illuminates the watery ribbons to release countless rainbows, especially on a breezy day. 

You may have to wait to take advantage of the photo opp locations due to the crowds. If you’re visiting in Spring and plan to take the steep trail, bring a rain poncho, and count on getting soaked by spray. Parking is challenging, but may improve once the new parking lot is opened. 

Valley floor roads rewinding: Brace yourself for redirected roads in the Valley. I confess I’m not sure what the traffic planner was thinking, but they’re not an improvement – even bike trails have been tinkered with. Turn left at Sentinel Bridge, and traffic goes ‘British’. The two-lane road now has a raised divider forcing you to take the left lane. 

If you instead go straight towards Half Dome, at the Curry Village intersection the main road has been permanently blocked, rerouting drivers to detour through Curry Village to access the road further up, and creating serious congestion. And that’s just a partial listing of the changes. Keep a close eye on directional signs because if you don’t, you may find yourself going in circles. Pack your patience, especially in busy season, as I can guarantee you’ll need it.

Glacier Point Road reopens: Visiting Glacier Point is a favorite trip, and best done first thing in the morning before it gets too busy and traffic control restrictions come into place. Many trailheads also start from the road, such as Sentinel Dome, Bridalveil Falls and more, further drawing hikers to head up early in the day (

The two-lane road has been under renovation for nearly two years, and it’s brought many improvements. Most noticeable is that it’s wider, making it safer for today’s larger cars. It’s also been leveled and repaved, making for a much smoother ride. Trailhead parking areas have been expanded (and fill up quickly). Note that the widening has eliminated most of the ‘creative’ parking spots people invented along the road edge over the years, especially near Glacier Point. For more info,