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Re: Hiking halfway down the 4 Mile Trail at night (advice and companions wanted)

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Hey folks!

I'm looking for some advice and would appreciate any information. I will be travelling through California in May and stay two nights (May 27 - May 29) in the vicinity of Yosemite. One of the things I'd really love to do is taking a sunrise picture from the valley as the rising sun strikes the walls to the west. Some kind of reverse tunnel view. Right now, the only good location I've found is a point along the 4 Mile Trail, in the zigzagging section. Therefore, I need to hike down there (starting from Glacier Point) before sunrise.
I will be travelling on my own, and so I also need to do the hike on my own.
From what I've found out so far, I've been told it's not a good idea to do that at night, because the trail is dangerous and steep (even though it does not look so in Google Street View, but that might be misleading I assume). I'm not new to hiking, and I will be equipped with headlamps and a torch and proper footwear. Any thoughts on my plans?

And the other thing, which might seem ridiculous to some, but I'm a little bit afraid of a mountain lion or bear encounter at night when hiking alone. So, if it doesn't turn out that night hiking the 4 Mile Trail is completely lightheaded, I would be happy if somebody (especially with a interest in photography) would like to join. Either the night 27/28th of May or the night of 28/29th of May (also dependent on the weather and astronomic seeing conditions as I'd like to shoot Half Dome & the milky way from Glacier Point around midnight), starting from Glacier Point at around 4:15am (sun rises at 5:40am).

Any easier night-accessible alternative locations for my wanted photo (look here: https://www.google.at/maps/@37.7326913,-119.586688,3a,75y,251.69h,73.94t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sAkREZf0cIlIlL_mhtzCMNw!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo0.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DAkREZf0cIlIlL_mhtzCMNw%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D234.25243%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656!5m1!1e4!6m1!1e1) would also be appreciated.

Appreciated.

Greetings from Austria,
Thomas
Re: Hiking halfway down the 4 Mile Trail at night (advice and companions wanted)
May 02, 2016 12:38PM
By Yosemite standards, the Four Mile Trail is neither exceptionally dangerous nor steep. If you are somewhat experienced with hiking trails you should have no problem following the trail using a headlamp. There are a few places where there are steep drop-offs from the edge of the trail, but the trail itself is very wide. The location you indicated is probably 20 or so minutes from Glacier Point--the good news is you don't have to go down too far to get to this point. You could always arrive at Glacier Point early and pre-hike this portion of the trail to get comfortable with it--you may want to get some sunset photos of Half Dome and Clouds Rest from this area.

As long as all the food in your car is secure in a bear locker (I think there are some near the Glacier Point parking lot), there is no need to worry about bears, and mountain lion encounters are extremely rare--and almost all of the ones reported in Yosemite are in either Yosemite Valley or the Wawona area. Just make sure to keep any food you may bring with you under your control--generally within an arm's length reach.

Make sure to dress for layering for cool conditions--it could easily be in the 20's (degrees Fahrenheit) by sunrise, near the coldest time of the morning. You may get warm hiking but will cool off once you stop to set up for your photography.

One more thing: sunrise pictures in the Sierra, especially the western side, often don't have as much color as sunset pictures, which have the advantage of the sun's light shining through all the dust that's been kicked up in the Central Valley all day. This is especially true of lower points such as the Cathedral Rocks or El Capitan--the sun has to rise above the higher mountains to the west before these lower points are lit, so these points don't see light until well into "golden hour".

I can't think of any other easily-accessible locations for what you want to photograph. I think the top of Sentinel Dome puts you too far above the valley, and Taft Point would be a longer, more challenging walk to get to. Maybe check out the views from the meadow north of Swinging Bridge or on the Valley Loop Trail between Lower Yosemite Falls and Church Bowl where the trail goes through an open talus field...?

Anyway, welcome to Yosemite and have a great trip!
Hey basilbop!

Wow, thanks for your answer! That's a whole lot of useful information. Appreciated!
Especially the consideration about the sunrise vs. sunset is very interesting and makes sense. So, I probably won't get the color on El Capitan, which I hoped for.

I think, I would need way more time to explore Yosemite and find some spots to take photos. But even if I won't be able to get the pictures I want, I'm sure I will enjoy the impressive landscape there.

Thanks again, and greetings from Austria.
Thomas
First of all, thank you very much for all the helpful responses. I really appreciate all directions and hints you give me.

I will print out a map of the Valley and mark all the spots you recommended. I'm sure, these will be stunning - can't wait to get there. Just a few more weeks. Wish I had more time.

It does not have to be a sunRISE photo necessarily. But as I thought, most of the twilight shots from Yosemite I know are sunset shots (Tunnel View, ..) , I thought, I'd rather go for some sunrise shots. But I'd also go for some sunset shots (especially if they provide more intense color), if I find a stunning location. but most probably, it will be hard to find a great view in Yosemite NP which has not been shot a million times.

As far as TPE goes - I do have this app, but I prefer to use PhotoPills, as it also gives directions on the Milky Way (and apart from the planning tool, many other helpful tools).

From what I've seen of the upper section of 4 Mile Trail in Street View, I think I know the spots with the steep drop offs. If I'm gonna do that, I will take extra care. Thank you for the info on bears and mountain lions. My brain also tells me that I should be fine, but fear is irrational sometimes... so let's see, if I will be up to taking the trail before sunrise. :-) As it's during the night time, I don't plan on having any food with me, but as far as I'm informed, one can rent bear-safe food containers, in which I could store food in the car.

One other thing: I'm staying in Mariposa. As I want to shoot Half Dome and the Milky Way (from Glacier Point), which should happen between 12am and 1am, and want to be back in the Valley (or at Glacier Point, depending on what photo I'm going for) at 4am, it does not make much sense to go back to Mariposa in between to sleep. I thought I'd take a nap in the car to at least get 3 hours of sleep that night, but on the other hand, I could imagine that sleeping in the park in the car will (understandingly) not be well-received. Any thoughts on that?

Again, thanks to all of you, each of your responses is highly appreciated.

Thomas
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tangowhiskey
First of all, thank you very much for all the helpful responses. I really appreciate all directions and hints you give me.

I will print out a map of the Valley and mark all the spots you recommended. I'm sure, these will be stunning - can't wait to get there. Just a few more weeks. Wish I had more time.

It does not have to be a sunRISE photo necessarily. But as I thought, most of the twilight shots from Yosemite I know are sunset shots (Tunnel View, ..) , I thought, I'd rather go for some sunrise shots. But I'd also go for some sunset shots (especially if they provide more intense color), if I find a stunning location. but most probably, it will be hard to find a great view in Yosemite NP which has not been shot a million times.

As far as TPE goes - I do have this app, but I prefer to use PhotoPills, as it also gives directions on the Milky Way (and apart from the planning tool, many other helpful tools).

From what I've seen of the upper section of 4 Mile Trail in Street View, I think I know the spots with the steep drop offs. If I'm gonna do that, I will take extra care. Thank you for the info on bears and mountain lions. My brain also tells me that I should be fine, but fear is irrational sometimes... so let's see, if I will be up to taking the trail before sunrise. :-) As it's during the night time, I don't plan on having any food with me, but as far as I'm informed, one can rent bear-safe food containers, in which I could store food in the car.

One other thing: I'm staying in Mariposa. As I want to shoot Half Dome and the Milky Way (from Glacier Point), which should happen between 12am and 1am, and want to be back in the Valley (or at Glacier Point, depending on what photo I'm going for) at 4am, it does not make much sense to go back to Mariposa in between to sleep. I thought I'd take a nap in the car to at least get 3 hours of sleep that night, but on the other hand, I could imagine that sleeping in the park in the car will (understandingly) not be well-received. Any thoughts on that?

Again, thanks to all of you, each of your responses is highly appreciated.

Thomas
Please note that you have to remove all food and anything with a scent from you car at night and that includes bear safe canisters/container. They are to be used when you are backpacking not as a means to store food in your car. Yosemite bears have been known to rip off car windows to get to food and the only thing thing that would happen if you have your food in a bear canisters is that once the bear had gotten into your car they won't be able to open the container. At night food and anything with a scent is supposed to go into a bear box(locker). Here is the link about bears and how to store your food. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bears.htm I have never slept in my car with food in it so maybe someone else can give some thoughts about that. I would assume that if you are in the car then a bear would not bother you. You are not supposed to sleep in your cars unless you are at a campsite but I know that people do it all the time. Again, I have not done that and maybe someone else has some thoughts about that. Also, you are going to be in the park during Memorial Day Weekend which is one of the busiest times in the park. Yosemite Valley is where most of the people go so be prepared for a lot of traffic and even traffic jams. Since you are planning on going to the park to take night and sunrise pictures the crowds will not impact you during those times but be aware that during the day it will be crowded. If you are not already in the park taking night and sunrise pictures, make sure you are at a entrance early in the morning to avoid the lines at the entrance gates.
Thank you, parklover!

Thank you for the clarification on the bear safe food containers and food lockers. I obviously got it wrong because I thought the containers keep all the scent inside and therefore do not attract bears. Anyways, I don't plan on having any food with me during nighttime.

I have heard about Memorial Day Weekend, but unfortunately, for me there is no other time to get there. I should be inside the Valley early, so I hope I don't have a problem with traffic jams. I hope there is enough space at the parking lots like Tunnel View, Glacier Point and along the different spots throughout the Valley.

Appreciated.
Quote
tangowhiskey
Thank you, parklover!

Thank you for the clarification on the bear safe food containers and food lockers. I obviously got it wrong because I thought the containers keep all the scent inside and therefore do not attract bears. Anyways, I don't plan on having any food with me during nighttime.

I have heard about Memorial Day Weekend, but unfortunately, for me there is no other time to get there. I should be inside the Valley early, so I hope I don't have a problem with traffic jams. I hope there is enough space at the parking lots like Tunnel View, Glacier Point and along the different spots throughout the Valley.

Appreciated.
Finding parking is going to be difficult during the peak hours so since you will be in the park to take sunrise pictures, after you are done then visit the popular viewing spots before the crowds start to come. Once you are done with your photography and viewing spots,during the day if you are in the eastern part of the Valley park your car and use the shuttle. I don't know if the shuttle for the western part of the Valley will be running yet. If you have access to a bicycle, park your car and use that to get around the Valley. You can also rent them in the park. Sometimes even the shuttles get stuck in traffic so better yet is walking. For Glacier Point between the hours of 10 am and 4:30 if the parking lot there is filled, you park your car at Badger Pass and there is a shuttle you can use. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/glacierpoint.htm The key thing about going to Yosemite during Memorial Day Weekend is to get to the park early to avoid getting stuck in traffic. The Valley is the most popular part of the park so if you are driving to there do it in the early morning or go in the evening. Hopefully Tioga Road will be opened by then so that is one place to go during the day and it will not be as crowded as in the Valley. One thing to remember is that most of the day use visitors tend to leave the park around 4 or 5 pm so the traffic will back up in the Valley. Don't be discourage about the crowds in the Valley. We have been to Yosemite many times during MDW and found that many of the visitors to the Valley are there to picnic, go to the popular spots that don't require a lot of hiking or tend to stay in the developed areas on the eastern side. You can find peace and quiet during the busy times of the day by avoiding those areas. A lot of people don't hike the western valley loop so you could do that. If you want to go to Mirror Lake we have found that people tend to use the paved bike/pedestrian path and not the trail so there are less people on the trail. You also mentioned about taking a nap and during the busy part of the day you could take a nap in your car.

You said that during the night you will not have food with you. I would at least take some food in your backpack and as long as you have your backpack within reach it will be fine. There have been a few times in the past that we have not taken anything to eat with us when we were just going to take a short walk that should take only a hour and because we got sidetracked by something that hour turned into two or three and we all were very hungry by the time we got to where you could get food. Now, unless we are just stopping at a view spot, we always take at least a few granola bars with us every time we leave the car or our lodging.

I don't know if you looked at the Yosemite Guide yet but it can give you some useful information. It can be found at https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/glacierpoint.htm This issue ends on May 17th and opening and closing of facilities will change before your visit so you can go on the site and keep checking for the new one.
Hello again and thanks for the helpful response. I hope that I will be able to flee from the crowds, but with all the hints you gave me, I guess I will be pretty fine. Particularly, I like the idea of renting a bicycle to get around in the valley during daytime to avoid traffic jams. Really, I appreciate all you help. Most probably, there will be too much to see and too little time... smiling smiley
Thank you very much!

Greetings from Austria
Quote
tangowhiskey
Hello again and thanks for the helpful response. I hope that I will be able to flee from the crowds, but with all the hints you gave me, I guess I will be pretty fine. Particularly, I like the idea of renting a bicycle to get around in the valley during daytime to avoid traffic jams. Really, I appreciate all you help. Most probably, there will be too much to see and too little time... smiling smiley
Thank you very much!

Greetings from Austria
YW No matter how long you stay and how often you go there is always too much to see and too little time. Just enjoy the time that you have and try not to do too much. Sometimes the best way to enjoy Yosemite is just to sit down for a while and enjoy the view. Have a great time.
If you want to take pictures of the sunrise in Yosemite Valley my husband suggested two spots:

There is a spot where Ansel Adams took pictures of El Cap. My husband has also taken pictures from that spot with El Cap reflected in the Merced River. On South Side Drive east of the turnoff to the Cathedral Beach Picnic area, on the left hand side of the road you will see a pull off that has two trees in the pull off. At the west end of the parking lot walk down the slope to the river and you will see El Cap. You will have to walk up and down the river band to find that spot you like the best. Pull off
https://www.google.com/maps/@37.7224977,-119.6210544,3a,75y,90h,75.89t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s-IlBwjGSn7AXN2ho9BSkTQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

About 1.9 miles west of Camp 4, Slaughterhouse Meadow on Northside drive and Wosky Pond should still have water when you are there. On a calm day you can get some nice reflections of the cliffs of Cathedral Spires and Cathedral Rocks in the pond. The pull off and meadow is on the left side of the road. There is a roadside marker that say V5 in this area.


If my husband can think of any more specific places you can see nice sunrise light on the cliffs I will post them.
Quote
tangowhiskey
Hey folks!

I'm looking for some advice and would appreciate any information. I will be travelling through California in May and stay two nights (May 27 - May 29) in the vicinity of Yosemite. One of the things I'd really love to do is taking a sunrise picture from the valley as the rising sun strikes the walls to the west. Some kind of reverse tunnel view. Right now, the only good location I've found is a point along the 4 Mile Trail, in the zigzagging section. Therefore, I need to hike down there (starting from Glacier Point) before sunrise.
I will be travelling on my own, and so I also need to do the hike on my own.
From what I've found out so far, I've been told it's not a good idea to do that at night, because the trail is dangerous and steep (even though it does not look so in Google Street View, but that might be misleading I assume). I'm not new to hiking, and I will be equipped with headlamps and a torch and proper footwear. Any thoughts on my plans?

And the other thing, which might seem ridiculous to some, but I'm a little bit afraid of a mountain lion or bear encounter at night when hiking alone. So, if it doesn't turn out that night hiking the 4 Mile Trail is completely lightheaded, I would be happy if somebody (especially with a interest in photography) would like to join. Either the night 27/28th of May or the night of 28/29th of May (also dependent on the weather and astronomic seeing conditions as I'd like to shoot Half Dome & the milky way from Glacier Point around midnight), starting from Glacier Point at around 4:15am (sun rises at 5:40am).

Any easier night-accessible alternative locations for my wanted photo (look here: https://www.google.at/maps/@37.7326913,-119.586688,3a,75y,251.69h,73.94t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sAkREZf0cIlIlL_mhtzCMNw!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo0.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DAkREZf0cIlIlL_mhtzCMNw%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D234.25243%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656!5m1!1e4!6m1!1e1) would also be appreciated.

Appreciated.

Greetings from Austria,
Thomas


First, if you don't already have this app, The Photographer's Ephemeris on your smartphone (Android or iPhone), I highly recommend that you purchase it, download it and learn how to use it. It provides a wealth of information about the position of the sun (and moon) that could be very useful for your sunrise (or sunset) shots.

You can download the Android version here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.crookneckconsulting.tpeandroid

The iOS version (iPhone, iPad or iPod) here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/photographers-ephemeris-sun/id366195670

Or the free desktop web app version here: http://photoephemeris.com/tpe-for-desktop

In regards to your proposed sunrise shoot during the Memorial Day weekend, as already stated by basilbop, the Four Mile Trail is a relatively easy trail to follow (though it does have some steep (a possible fatal) drops offs on traverse between Glacier Point and the switchbacks). But the trail is wide enough that it shouldn't be any problem staying away from the cliff side of the trail. But be sure to familiarize yourself with the trail the day before your sunrise shoot so you'll have no problems or surprises when navigating it in the very early morning hours.

Note that on the days you'll be in Yosemite (May 27 - 29), first light (nautical dawn) will be at around 4:30 AM PDT and civil dawn at around 5:10 AM PDT. The actual sunrise, as you already noted, will be at about 5:40 AM PDT. It's about a twenty minute walk from the start of the trail at Glacier Point to the switchbacks, so a headlamp and a small flashlight should be sufficient for illumination. In fact, after the civil dawn (at around 5:10 AM) you probably won't need to use your headlamp or flashlight.

There's a good possibility you WILL encounter (or see) a bear on or around the Four Mile Trail during those early hours. I have, a number of times. BUT DON'T WORRY — the bears will stay clear from you and mostly likely runaway from you (not letting you take a good photograph of them. They appear to be very camera shy. wink). The bears pose NO real threat unless you are stupid enough to leave some food lying around. And even then, they'll go after your food, but not you.

In regards to mountain lions, while there has been sightings of them along and near the Pohono Trail (father west than the Four Mile Trail), there have been no known Mountain Lion attacks in Yosemite in the recent history (if ever). (Note there haven't been any known bear attacks either).

You'll want to be at your viewpoint about at lest 30 minutes before sunrise to be in position to capture any alpine glow off the cliffs (which occurs BEFORE the actual sunrise).

Good luck, and have a great time out there.



Leave No Trace



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/03/2016 09:53PM by plawrence.
I don't think it will be too difficult in the dark... just take care and keep your eyes on the trail (easier said than done).

Enjoy!
FYI, just hiked the four mile trail yesterday. You should be good to go; just pay attention. My husband doesn't like heights and I was thinking, it's a good thing he's not with us, because there are parts of the trail, mostly near the top, that do have sharp drops. The other thing was I was surprised by the snow patches on the trail, and they take half the trail. But you're not going for a couple of weeks and it's going to warm-up, so much of that may have melted by then.
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