Hetch Hetchy Valley
Hidden North of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park is a peaceful less visited corner of the one of the Sierra’s greatest National Parks. Hetch Hetchy Valley / Reservoir is an often missed gem in exploring Yosemite National Park. Located 40 Miles North of Yosemite Village ( by Car) Hetch Hetchy Valley provides a treasure in Yosemite National Park worth visiting.
A wonderfully exact counterpart of the great Yosemite Valley – John Muir
Hetch Hetchy is home to two of North Americas tallest waterfalls, Tueeulala and Wapama falls, cascading over thousand-foot granite cliffs. Because of the reservoir, that now fills the once inhabited lands of Hetch Hetchy Valley, access to these two falls and the greater northern wilderness of Yosemite National Park is a simple single trail around the lakes edge right up next to the waterfalls and cliffs.
Hetch Hetchy has Three main waterfalls but depending on the season and snow melt for each winter, just like Yosemite Valley has many temporary waterfalls each spring that please visitors who walk the trail along the lakes cliff.
Wapama Falls – One of the largest North American waterfalls is a 5 mile round trip from the dam. The Trail follows the shoreline after a short walk through a man-made tunnel in the side of he mountain just over the dam. The trail includes spectacular views of Tueeulala falls along the way and increasingly better views of Hetchy Hetchy Valley as it opens up around the cliffs.
Wapama Falls is a great location hike that features multiple bridges that take you directly over the rushing water and easily into the splash zone of the waterfall in spring and early summer. Similar to Yosemite Falls, Wapama Fall cascades high above and has two landing areas creating a second waterfall that from the dam is pretty impressive by itself. The Upper fall you can’t see until you are right on top of the waterfall, making this a very surprising waterfall feature for hikers.
Once on the Bridge you can see the upper Wapama Fall and notice that the bottom splinters into 3-4 different runoff sections into the lake, each providing their own unique cascading water effects.
Tueeulala Fall – A much more whimsical waterfall than Wapama fall, Tueeulala Fall is a beautiful Tall cascade that streams over the cliff some 800 feet above. Located just before Wapama Fall this is an easy hike from the Dam and is a great waterfall stop along the way to Wapama Fall . This Waterfall reminds me of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley.
Rancheria Falls – The Trail to Rancheria Falls continues on past Wapama Faa and may be done in a long 13-mile day hike or a great backpacking trip. The Hike to Rancheria is 6.5 miles with beautiful views fo the valley and waterfalls. Backpackers will have access to Tiltill or Rancheria mountains, the vast Northern wilderness of Yosemite a multiple trail options to Yosemite Lakes. Rancheria Falls isn’t a dramatic plunge like Yosemite or Wapama Fall, but rather a series of cascades that zip through a narrow canyon for more than a thousand feet of vertical drop before the ride ends in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
Wilderness Lake Access
Besides spending the day hiking around Hetch Hetchy Reservoir The Trail System on this side of the park will allow backpackers access to these other Yosemite Wilderness Lake Locations
Lake Vernon is located in the Tiltill Valley in the northern sector of Yosemite National Park just north of Hetch Hetchy Valley. The surface elevation of the lake is 6,568 ft (2,002 m). Due to the remote location of the lake it is usually only accessed as a backpacking destination. The area surrounding the lake was once home to a band of Sierra Miwok Indians, and numerous artifacts can be found in the area. Lake Vernon is the source of Falls Creek, which feeds Wapama Falls.
Laurel Lake – Often done as a loop package with Vernon Lake this high Sierra Lake provides great fishing adn wilderness experience for many backpackers. The Loop is a 29 mile multiple day hike that includes great views and great access to wilderness. But if you are into Stenuous Day hikes you can do a 8 mile day hike version.
If you are a peak Bagger, then Hetch Hetchy Provides Access to Smith Peak 7751 ft it is the highest point in the area and offers outstanding views and will provide another access point to the high country of Yosemite. Two trail options but both will give you a good 3300 or 37oo elevation change along the trial.