4 Mile Trail Yosemite National Park - Campfire Chic

While on our weekend trip to Yosemite National Park with Amy and her husband, we were able to get in a popular hike, the Four Mile Trail from Glacier Point to the Valley floor.

The basics:

Distance: 4.7 miles one way (from Glacier Point to the Valley floor or the other way around)

Elevation change: 3,200 feet (gained, if going to Glacier Point and lost if you hike to the Valley floor)

Time: give yourself between 2 and 4 hours one way — obviously more time will be needed if heading uphill

Crowds: It’s super popular, especially during the summer weekends when the park is naturally crowded & when Yosemite Falls is flowing

What we did: The four of us drove to Glacier Point and began our hike down to Union Point, which is 1.9 miles from the trailhead and boasted amazing views. It was a warm day so we tried to start early, but the crowds beat us and it was already a little tight in the parking lot.

Pro Tip: There is a second level in the parking lot…keep driving and stop blocking traffic because you want princess parking. It is closer to the viewpoint if you drive around to the upper level and park near the exit anyway.

The Start of 4 Mile Trail Hike in Yosemite - Campfire Chic

I won’t go on about the views, you don’t need to go far down the trail to get some great views that don’t involve a bunch of people holding up iPads to get a photo. In fact, take a 5 minute walk down the trail from Glacier Point and take a look. It’s shady, generally quieter, and being among the trees always makes me feel better.

The trail itself is very well-maintained and there are plenty of people walking in both directions. There are quite a few switchbacks, so if you’re like me and get mentally defeated by those, don’t hike up to the hike, just do the one way hike. There are some steep areas along the trail, so if you are nervous around heights, keep that in mind before going too far down the trail…because you need to get back up!

 Easy Hike in Yosemite National Park - Campfire Chic

Are you already asking yourself…how did she drive to the top of the hike, walk to the bottom, and somehow get her car back?

I didn’t go all the way to the bottom. Here’s the thing: it’s a relatively long drive between Glacier Point and trailhead point in the Valley. In order for us to do this hike where we all make it to the bottom, we would’ve needed to caravan into the Valley from our campground, leave a car at the busy trailhead, jump into one car, drive to Glacier Point and park the second car, hike down, pile into the car at the bottom, drive back to Glacier Point to get the second car and either caravan back to the campground or back down to the Valley floor — more time spent in the car than I was willing to put up with. The other option was paying about $25 a person to get a tour bus to take us back to Glacier Point, but reservations are recommended and, seriously, $25 was not in my plan for the weekend.

So our group went to the 1.9 mile lookout point — which is itty bitty and while the views are nice, I bet they’d be more speculator if it wasn’t so hot and the waterfalls were flowing. Alex and Andrew wanted to keep going and make it to the bottom…so did Amy, because, let’s be honest, walking downhill in the heat is way nicer than walking back up, plus the views are different as you make it to the bottom. Following the rule to not travel alone, Amy braved the hike back to Glacier Point with me. I promised her some sort of ice cream/Popsicle at the top.

Glacier Point Hiking in Yosemite National Park - Campfire Chic

After resting on-and-off, Amy and I emerged from the trail and made our way straight to the store — where everybody else in the park seemed to be. Crowds aside, the ice cream was cheaper than expected (about $6 for a King Cone and a popsicle instead of the $15 I expected to pay!), and we were able to get to the car without delay and head out to pick up Alex and Andrew. By this time (maybe 2:15?) the road to Glacier Point was packed/jammed/precarious…go earlier in the day, folks!

Additional trail notes:

  • Don’t cut the switchbacks – it doesn’t make you look cool and it pretty much sums up “why we can’t have nice things”
  • There are restrooms at Glacier Point, use them! Honest to blog, we met a Ranger who had to stop and ask each person on the trail to please take their trash out with them…including toilet paper. If you can’t go on a 4 mile hike without pooping, stay home. Seriously. Also: if you have the space for TP, you have space for a pooper-scooper and a baggie to carry out your waste…don’t leave it for the Ranger to pick up! They only give her one pair of gloves and that’s just unnecessary. POOP BEFORE GOING HIKING
  • Bring water – And not just your 32oz Aquafina from the shop, bring some extra people somebody is going to run out or try to ration to the point where they get sick. The great thing about carrying water? The more you drink (good!) the less it weighs (extra-good!)

 

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Kam and Amy spend a weekend in Yosemite National Park - Campfire Chic and Lemon and Raspberry

 

 

I shared some photos on Instagram of my weekend in Yosemite National park with Amy and her husband, Andrew, but I feel like it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t share a few blog posts about our weekend in the Sierras. There are a few hundred photos between the four of us (don’t worry, Alex was there, too!) so narrowing them down to one blog post is impossible, so I decided to share more photos in future posts.

Amy and Kam go to Yosemite

Who: Amy, Andrew, Alex, and Kam

What: Camping, bouldering, hiking, and plenty of photo-taking

When: August 9-11, 2013

Where: Yosemite National Park in California. We camped in Crane Flat Campground, visited the Valley floor, wandered around Camp 4, hiked the 4 mile trail, ate ice cream at Glacier Point, and drove more than we’d like to think about

Why: Alex and I planned 3 trips to Yosemite earlier this year and as we put in for 6 people to be at our walk-in campsite, we invited Amy and Andrew (before Alex even met them IRL) to spend the weekend with us. Also: Why not

Crane Flat Campground in Yosemite National Park - Campfire Chic

 

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This is the second time going to Glen Aulin backpackers campground in Yosemite National Park. You can read about the trail here. This is also the second time we’ve gone backpacking the weekend before going to Comic-Con! We’re pretty into walking with backpacks, apparently.

What was different this time around:

  • Two friends joined us
  • I carried a lot less weight
  • It took less time to get to camp (about 3 hours in and 3 hours out)
  • We spent more time exploring the area once we made it to camp

Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp

Glen Aulin Backpacking Trip 2013

 

A few months ago, I put in for 6 wilderness permits for an overnight trip to stay at the backpackers campground at Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park. Alex and I figured we would be able to wrangle a few people into coming with us, and ended up getting 2 friends to join us!

Our friends, Arya and Paul, joined us for their first backpacking trip and I’m 80% sure they had a great time. We stayed in Mammoth Lakes, CA the night before getting on the trail and then headed straight home when we got off the trail.

Some of the highlights from the trip:

  • Swimming in the ice cold water below the waterfall at camp
  • The guys waiting for me to show them the way across some granite
  • Rocking it on the way into camp (and forgetting that all the downhill means UPHILL on the way out)
  • Trying out a new tent (the Big Agnes Fly CreekUL 2)

 

Backpacking In Yosemite National Park

 

If you’re interested in some of the clothes/gear we have with us:

 

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Mt. Rainier Behind the Clouds - Campfire Chic

 

There are two reasons why I haven’t shared our visit to Mt. Rainier National Park:

  1. We only took a handful of photos – like, a dozen
  2. By the time we made it to the park, we were kind of over being on vacation

 

You see, our trip to Washington started out in Olympic National Park and then we drove to Mt. Rainier National Park. We didn’t do much planning ahead of time, and we found out the hard way that Mt. Rainier NP is not necessarily a place for non-mountaineers to visit so early in the year. Most of the park was covered in snow, so we weren’t able to make it to the main visitor centers or to see most of the park. So don’t go visiting this park until you know the snow is melted enough for you to get around the park.

 

We were able to get out and walk around a bit, however, taking in a few short hikes that are directly off the road, and a longer hike that took us above Trail of Shadows meadow area but didn’t quite meet up with the Wonderland Trail, which skirts around the mountain/volcano. The only part of the park where we could really do anything was in Longmire, which has a restaurant, store, ranger station, museum, and flush toilets.

 

If you would like to stretch your legs while also learning a bit about the flora and fauna of this are of the park, I’m going to suggest doing the 0.7 mile loop called Trail of Shadows. It is an interpretive trail that goes around a meadow – there is plenty of wildlife in the area, too. You can’t go far without seeing deer, evidence of beavers, and possibly hearing frogs along the trail.

 

Trail of Shadows Bridge - Mt. Rainier National Park - Campfire Chic

 

There is a trailhead off of the Trail of Shadows that will lead you up to the Rampart Ridge Trail, a 4.6 mile loop that is pretty step and contains more switchbacks than I care to remember. Alex and I only wanted to make it to the vista point, which isn’t far up the trail. the rangers promised amazing views but it doesn’t really have a view of the mountain at all. We spent a few minutes hanging out at the vista and Alex was really patient as I tried to recreate our photo from Rocky Mountain National Park but I wasn’t quick enough for the timer this time around, as you can see below. This was the best photo I took that day.

 

Mt. Rainier National Park Rampart Ridge Trail

 

If you are planning a trip to Mt. Rainier National Park, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The first set of bathrooms as you enter the park are vault toilets…but they do have hand sanitizer, so choose your poison
  • There aren’t “brand name” hotels in the area, so be ready to stay someplace a little new…we stayed at Jasmer’s, which is located at a good spot in a town nearby. Our ‘cabin’ was built by the owner and is in what used to be a carport and attached to another room on one side. We stayed in the “Birds Nest” room, which came with a few amenities like snacks and a toaster – perfect for eating on the cheap
  • Don’t dawdle when it comes to getting food, the Base Camp Grill ran out of most of the food we could eat before 7:00 p.m. but the service was nice, the atmosphere was fun, and the beer was really good
  • Stop at Wildberry Restaurant for a slice of boysenberry pie and a nice, hot meal. There are options for the non-adventurous eaters, but this place has great Himalayan/Nepalese food for those looking for a hearty meal and plenty of vegetarian options
  • Bring your own water bottle(s) because the Longmire area doesn’t really have many (if any) water fountains. I was able to get some water from a low hose spigot outside the ranger station, but that may not be your jam

By the way, this is park #9 for me and park #8 for Alex.

Have you visited Mt. Rainier National Park?

What would you suggest first-time visitors see/do?

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Kam visits the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park - Campfire Chic

Alex and I spent a good amount of time hiking around the Hoh Rainforest between visits to the Washington Coast during our trip to Olympic National Park.

 

The Hoh Rainforest is south of Forks and a little north of a long stretch of beaches popular with park visitors. There aren’t many services in this portion of the park, so bring whatever food you think you may need. There is a nice visitor center, complete with a banana slug stamp for your U.S. Parks Passport! There is plenty of parking, picnicking areas, interpretive trails, and some longer trials, like the one we were on for a few hours.

 

 The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park is one of those places that is hard to describe. I’ll let the photos do the talking.

 

 

Hoh Rainforest - Olympic National Park - Campfire Chic
Olympic National Park - Hoh Rainforest - Campfire Chic

 

This part of the park is worth the drive, it is incredible to see how lush everything is and there is even an interpretive area that shows just how much precipitation that portion of the park receives on an annual basis. You can also hike to one of the named glaciers in the park, which seems incredible to me.

 

There is a good amount of wildlife in this portion of the park, too…including the banana slug! How cool is that thing? It was crossing the trail and I’m happy I saw it before I squished it! We saw a smaller, less yellow, version snuggling in some moss on a tree earlier, so this was a big surprise. We were completely surprised to find it there. Also? Elk. Everywhere. They were kind of like dinosaurs…just, like, there whenever we turned a corner or had the feeling somebody was looking at us. Creepers. Elk are creepers.

 

Have you visited a rainforest?

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While Alex and I were in Olympic National Park earlier this month, we knew we wanted to spend an early morning visiting the Washington Coast.

“Kam, you live 20 minutes from the beach, why would you want to go to the coast?” Because it’s not the same. So not the same.

 

Kam goes to the Washington Coast - Olympic National Park - Campfire Chic

 

Alex and I started out our first full day in the Washington Peninsula at 5:30 a.m. so we could drive from Port Angeles to Rialto Beach, a little over an hour away. After spending the morning at the beach, we had a hearty breakfast, visited the Hoh Rainforest (post coming)…and the call of the coast couldn’t be denied…we headed to Ruby Beach, one of the most popular parts of the coast to visit by National Park goers.

 

You will most likely need a car when you visit Olympic National Park, there isn’t an official shuttle service to take you to the various areas of the park and I’m not sure there is a regular transit service to take you to some of the more remote areas. Plan your trip accordingly and expect to spend plenty of time in your vehicle going to the various parts of the park…Some of the landmarks are over an hour and a half away from Port Angeles due to slow speed limits in some areas.

 

Most of these photos are from Rialto Beach. Ruby Beach was beautiful but with the number of people on the beach at that time, we weren’t able to get as many “blog-worthy” shots. I liked that Ruby Beach had some beautiful sea stacks and a TON of rock stacks/Cairns. There were also beautiful examples of large driftwood pieces – which can be very dangerous during high tide, so use extreme caution when visiting these locations.

 

Beach Stacks - Olympic National Park - Campfire Chic

 

Here’s the thing: Rialto Beach looks dreamy like that because it was so wet out! Not really rain, just a wetness that wouldn’t go away…and it was amazing.

 

We had the entire stretch of beach (from the parking lot to Split Rock) to ourselves. We did encounter a local man and his dog and he told us about the history of the area and recommended some books to us if we wanted to learn more about it, including The Good Rain by Timothy Egan.

 

Oh, and we were joined by three river otters who came down from the river and played in the surf as we walked back to our car. The otters swam with us and even stopped and started to come onto the shore to investigate us at one point. We stopped and made sure we were far enough back that they wouldn’t feel threatened. When we made it back to the parking lot, the otters were wrestling in the sand and having a good time. It was a magical experience.

Rialto Beach and Ruby Beach - Campfire Chic

 

Tips for visiting the coastal areas of Olympic National Park:

  • Schedule your visit around low tide so you can do a bit of tidepooling
  • Bring a rain jacket, even if the weather does not call for it
  • Be prepared to protect your camera — Rialto was super wet, like I mentioned earlier, so Alex only had his camera out for a little while. Most of these shots were taken using my iPhone, which was protected with this LifeProof case
  • Bring a snack – you are not close to towns and there are no concessions at these locations
  • Bring a map. The park rangers should have a free printout that will point out the areas you should avoid when the tide comes in. Use extreme caution when on the coast…when in doubt: play it safe

 

Have you visited the coastal areas of Olympic National Park?

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Kam shares photos from her recent trip to Olympic National Park on CampfireChic.com

Where do I even start with this one? Olympic National Park was Alex’s #1 park to visit since we started this endeavor, and spending a long weekend in the park was exactly what we hoped – magical.

If anybody ever talks about her weekend in Olympic National Park and does use the word magical…well, there is something very wrong with that person. Magical can’t quite capture this multi-environment park. It’s other-wordly. I was able to go from an Alpine mountaintop, to the rainy and secluded coast, and to the moss-covered wonderland of a rainforest.

 

All in one freaking day.

 


U.S. National Parks Passport - Campfire ChicKam and Alex in Olympic National Park - Campfire Chic Madison Falls Elwha Olympic National Park - Campfire Chic  

The clearest way into the Universe
is through a forest wilderness.
-John Muir

 


Hiking in Olympic National Park - Campfire ChicOlympic National Park - Fragile Meadows - Campfire Chic

 

We stayed at the Super 8 Motel in Port Angeles, which offers free wifi, free parking, and a free breakfast in the morning. If you’re not concerned with staying in a fancy hotel, this is a great option for you. It even came with a small fridge, so we were able to have “hotel dinner” to help save money.

 

We started our adventure on Thursday at the Visitor Center on the way to Hurricane Ridge, the rangers were super helpful with letting us know about the closures in the park. One ranger spent quite a bit of time with us, writing out the high tide and low tide times for the next few days, giving us the driving times between different areas of the park, making suggestions for seeing what the park had to offer, and showing us photos she took on her tablet. Honestly one of the best interactions with a ranger we’ve had at any of the parks.

Rialto Beach Olympic National Park - Campfire ChicSea Stacks Rialto Beach Olympic NP - Campfire Chic

We started our day early on Friday, grabbing a quick breakfast before heading out to Rialto Beach. We spent a few hours on the (really, really wet) beach, exploring the shore, taking photos of the sea stacks, being followed by a few river otters, and chatting with a local about the history of the areas. Magical.

 

Our adventure didn’t stop there, we had a more proper breakfast in Forks (please see below for my suggestion on dealing with anything having to do with Forks), and then drove to the Hoh Rainforest. The Hoh Rainforest should not be missed…yes, it’s a drive, but it wouldn’t be as magical of a trip if you don’t go there. All I need to say: banana slugs. Because, why wouldn’t you want to drive a couple of hours in search of a banana slug? We did about 5 miles of the Hoh River Trail before stopping for lunch…and the shore called to us again so we decided to check out Ruby Beach. It wasn’t as deserted as Rialto, but it was much drier.

Hurricane Ridge Olympic NP - Campfire Chic

 

Where to visit on your next weekend in Olympic National Park

  • Hurricane Ridge
  • Hoh Rainforest
  • Rialto Beach
  • Ruby Beach
  • Elwa

I cannot capture the magic that we encountered over the few days we were in the park, so I’ll be back with more posts. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some of the photos I took while in Washington. If you don’t, you can find me at @CampfireChic.

Before you go

  • Check the park website or call the ranger station for closure updates
  • Get your fill of Mexican food, the area isn’t known for it and the last thing you want to do is be disappointed when trying to satisfy a craving
  • Bring extra water – I only remember 2 water fountains and neither were water bottle-friendly
  • If driving from SEA-TAC, load up your phone/music player with some podcasts…it’s a long drive to Port Angeles
  • Practice saying, “No, I’m not here for the Twilight Tour”

 

Have you been to Olympic National Park?

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