Yosemite National Park is known for its incredible valley views of sheer granite cliffs and bursting waterfalls, which have been well-recorded throughout history by explorers, artists, and tourists alike since before its protection in 1864.
Even with these high expectations, I was not disappointed during a girls-only camping trip with my sister and niece in Yosemite Valley, California last week. The trip was a blast filled with hiking, good food, and incredible views of raw, rugged nature.
But what the thought that lingers with me even now is my first impression: That Yosemite is most beautiful as the sun rises.
I entered the valley at sunrise after a six-hour midnight drive from Los Angeles. Coming from the south, I drove through the tiny town of Oakhurst in the pitch black and reached the South Gate entrance with the slightest shades of dawn.
To reach the valley, I drove through the belly of a mountain via the incredibly long Wawona tunnel deep inside a mountain. And at 6am, I had it entirely to myself.
Cool morning blue light dazzled my eyes as I exited the tunnel and came face to face with the valley, ringed with majestic peaks and light-flowing waterfalls.
Every tight bend in the road revealed the ever-changing angles of Half Dome, El Capitan, and Cathedral peaks as I wound my way down to the valley floor.
I rolled the windows down and let summer’s crisp morning mountain air revitalize me after an all-night drive. I stopped again and again to enjoy nature as it was waking up.
And as it woke up, so did I.
Yosemite truly is most beautiful at dawn.
— Laura Rowley