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Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

The Moon is Waxing Gibbous (99% of Full)


Re: Sunnyside Bench trip

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Sunnyside Bench trip
July 14, 2012 04:20PM
Hey everyone,

A few weeks ago, I finally made it to the park and hiked to Sunnyside Bench. Although I had intended to make up to Fern Ledge, my hiking partner and I didn't feel comfortable with the exposed climb after making it to the Bench. But here's a detailed trip report so that others may get to one of the coolest places in the park!

Getting started: A number of prior reports mention starting at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls and taking the Valley Loop Trail towards Yosemite Village Stables. You can do that, but we found it far easier to get off the bus at Yosemite Village. When you're there, walk towards the village and you'll quickly come to an info booth. Keep walking straight, and you'll cross a paved road. Turn right, and in about 45 seconds you'll be in the stables.

Walk through the stables, and you'll hit the Valley Loop Trail in short order and encounter the rockfall. Here's where we had a number of problems, and is definitely the hardest part of finding the trail. I'd read a number of reports that mentioned walking up "between the talus field and a dry creek bed." This gave me a rather wide image in my mind. Instead, the proper path is a ridge directly to the left of the talus field. If you go further to the left (towards Yosemite Falls), you'll find yourself standing underneath Sunnyside Bench in sand up to your ankles, like we did. This was definitely sketchy, as the sand is almost exactly at the angle of repose and kept sliding out for under our feet. But if you stay exactly to the left of the talus field, you will eventually reach some signs warning you about bird habitat. If you see these sighs, you're on the right path! Keep going, and you'll reach a boulder. Some simple grips should get you over the boulder, and voilĂ , you're on the Sunnyside Bench trail.

The trail: After reading this report, I was worried about trail giving way underneath my feet (see the comments section). Having hiked the trail, I believe a lot of the concern comes from people making mistakes on the trail. The trail is sometimes hard to spot, and it is very temping to follow what looks like paths heading up towards the cliff. These are likely smaller use trails from climbers, but they are not the trail. You want to go straight out towards Yosemite Falls. There were maybe 4-5 sketchy portions right at the start of the trail, but the trail is quite stable after that. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

The end: Pretty quickly, you reach the end of the trail. You'll want to turn to the right and head down through a gap in the rocks to reach the Mid Falls. When we were there, the water level was low so it was completely dry out on the slabs. It made for an awesome picnic location!

Unfortunately, it was getting rather late in the day for us to continue on to Fern Ledge. The only way that I could see further up looked like a 50-60 foot rock climb, but this may not be the case. In any case, we did not press on.


On the start of the Bench, looking back at Half Dome:

At the end of the trail, looking down at Lower Yosemite Falls:

Looking over at Upper Yosemite Falls Trail:

The trail:

The top of Lower Yosemite Falls:

The Middle Cascades and Upper Yosemite Falls:

The (mostly dry) bench itself:

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/15/2012 10:04PM by yosemitenut.
avatar Re: Sunnyside Bench trip
July 15, 2012 12:17AM
Thanks for this initial report. Looking forward to the photos!
Re: Sunnyside Bench trip
July 15, 2012 10:05PM
Photos are up!
Re: Sunnyside Bench trip
July 16, 2012 07:38PM
How difficult is it to follow the trail? Did you, at any point, feel as if you were in a tight/dangerous spot? Any rattling reptiles?

Nice photos; I particularly like the ones where you pretty much look directly across to Oh My Gosh.
Re: Sunnyside Bench trip
July 16, 2012 10:18PM
Yes, there were a couple of times I felt that I was in a dangerous spot. These were almost all in the beginning of the trail when I was trying to find how to get to the Bench, rather than when on the Bench itself. The soil underneath the cliff is almost exactly like kitty litter and it sits exactly at the angle of repose. So while staring at the cliff trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, I could feel the ground slipping from beneath my feet. Scary!

The solution: treat the talus field as a guide and stick just to the left of it, like a chimney.

I did find it hard to resist the temptation to curve up and away from the trail because there are a number of places that look like they're packed out trails, but they are not. I had to force myself to just go straight and not veer.

No rattling reptiles!
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