Yosemite Day One: Birthday Hiking and Valley Sightseeing

I’m back from my epic birthday vacation!  It was hands down the best trip ever, and it was an amazing way to celebrate turning 30!


As I mentioned in my last post, I was traveling down to Seattle for a work trip and decided to extend my return ticket so that I could travel around Northern California for a week with my husband.  On June 29th we flew from Seattle to San Francisco, and immediately started our trip with a grocery shopping trip for Yosemite supplies.  We bought food for breakfast and lunch for the 4 days we were in the park, as well as hiking snacks.  As soon as we were done we headed out for our road trip to Yosemite.  It took about 5.5 hours to get there from San Francisco due to traffic, and we made it there just as the sun was setting.  But there was still enough sunlight to get a picture as we crossed into the park!


Yosemite was the number one thing on my bucket list, and I was so incredibly excited about finally being there!  It was kind of anticlimactic getting there in the dark, but it was worth it to be able to wake up there on my birthday the next morning!  We decided to spend my birthday driving around seeing all the sights and going for an epic birthday hike.

Tunnel View

First stop:  Tunnel View.  This is the iconic view of Yosemite that you’ll see all over the internet and on all the postcards, and it was an amazing place to start!  To get there, we drove out of Yosemite Valley towards Glacier Point Road.  It was really crowded but I could have spent hours there just staring at the view!

Glacier Point

Second stop:  Glacier Point.  This is an extremely crowded overlook, and for good reason – the view of Half Dome is insane!  It took us about an hour to get to Glacier Point from the Valley but the drive was definitely worth it.  We hiked down away from the crowds and spent some time there eating lunch and taking in the views.  I was especially interested in the views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, which we would be climbing on Saturday.

Vernal and Nevada Falls

Third stop:  Sentinel Dome.  As nice as it was to drive around looking at gorgeous views, we obviously wanted to get some hiking done too!  We chose to hike Sentinel Dome because it has 360 degree views, and while it’s at a much higher elevation than I’m used to it was also a pretty short hike.  My lungs hated me, but I made it up to the summit at 8100 ft.


We probably spent about an hour up there just quietly staring at everything.  I was especially in love with the views of Yosemite Falls, which kept changing as the winds shifted.  But before we got off the mountain we made sure to have a birthday celebration!  I’ve never had such a tiny birthday cake, or had only one person singing to me – but it was hands down the best birthday celebration ever!

Fourth stop:  Bridalviel Falls.  This was a really short and crowded hike out to a really pretty waterfall!   There were lots of tourists doing some crazy and dangerous things to get a good waterfall pictures, so we didn’t end up staying here very long.


Fifth stop:  El Capitan.  In case you don’t know, this is the best and most well known rock climbing spot in Yosemite (and possibly the US?).  My husband had recently watched a documentary about the history of climbing El Cap, so we pulled over in a random meadow to take a closer look at it.  He was sad we couldn’t get any closer, and my response was to find a trail to get to the bottom of it.  And we did!  It was unmarked but led right to the base of El Cap, where we found some water, clothes, and rope that some climbers must have left behind.  My husband was stoked and I was pretty excited about getting away from the tourists!

By this point it was time to get some dinner in the valley.  My favorite food is pizza, so we hit up the Pizza Pavilion in Half Dome Village.  It was a short walk from our tent cabin and was surprisingly good!  After dinner and a shower we decided to drive back up to Glacier Point, which is the best place to stargaze in Yosemite.  You can’t actually see much of the night sky from the valley floor, so even though we’d already drive up there earlier that day we knew we had to do it.  I don’t have any pictures of this but we got the most incredible, mind blowing views of the stars and the milky way.  It was an amazing experience to be able to stand on the edge of the cliffs staring down at all the little campsites below and up at all the stars at the same time.  I spent a lot of time thinking about how John Muir had been up there over 100 years earlier and had seen the exact same view of the stars and surrounding mountains, and how someone was going to come along 100 years from now and see the exact same views too.  It was the best way to end my 30th birthday!

Birthday Girl!


Total birthday miles walked on day one:  10.28

Stay tuned for the rest of my Yosemite adventures!

If you could spend your birthday doing anything you wanted, what would you do?  

17 thoughts on “Yosemite Day One: Birthday Hiking and Valley Sightseeing

  1. What an amazing trip! I’m so glad you had a great time and got to cross something off your bucket list 🙂 Happy belated birthday!

  2. I would spend my day running/hiking the West Hhighland Way (WHW) in Scotland. It supposed to be one of the most amazing and difficult running/walking/hiking trails in Scotland and I can’t wait to check it out myself!

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