America The Beautiful

Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite Valley (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Yosemite locals are often asked, “Do you ever get tired of the beauty?” I would answer when living in the Valley for nearly a decade, “When you stop looking up, you’ve been here too long.”

I never tired of looking up.

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Yosemite Valley is the most beautiful 2.12 square miles on Earth. Everything about it is perfection.

Elliot McGucken and Steve Arita visited this weekend and each said three words, “Peak, GO NOW!”

Their words may remain good for another day or two, but not much longer. Beyond that, you’ll miss the “at peak” visceral context expressed within America the Beautiful.

Steve noted that the bomb cyclone has “definitely brought back to life the famous waterfalls at Yosemite…the water was just thundering across the valley floor…and not obviously just the waterfalls, but the Merced river and all areas throughout the valley there was water, that combined with the gorgeous fall colors at peak…just made for a beautiful place to be.”

He recommends these locations for the best fall color:

Upper Yosemite Fall (10/30/21) Steve Arita

1. The parking area near Yosemite Falls “was simply gorgeous, very bright and intense, more than I’ve seen in past years, so definitely a place folks may want to take time to see.” A forest of black oak extends from the base of Yosemite Falls, east to the Yosemite School and can frame the falls beautifully with orange and black.

2. Autumn color throughout the valley is beautiful and at peak.
3. Steve anticipated the Merced River approaching Happy Isles would be perfect, but this was one area that most trees were still green. Above Happy Isles, the river runs fast in the spring, as was the case yesterday. This area will be beautiful and perfect for picture taking in a week or two. Everything else is pretty much at peak.

Black oak, Upper Yosemite Fall (10/30/21) Steve Arita




4. The trail to Mirror Lake along the river is at peak all the way to the lake, with the river running fast and high.  The lake (more correctly called a lagoon) was high. One of the few disappointments park visitors have in visiting Mirror Lake is that the mirror, which used to reflect Half Dome, is no longer seen. It was manmade. The marsh would be dredged by park settlers to create the mirror reflection, and since this was not a natural process, the National Park Service stopped the practice and the lake has succeeded to meadow. Steve got to experience “Mirror Meadow” as a lake, and one whose trail is now peppered with bright fall color.

Gates of the Valley (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Dogwood, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

What is remarkable about Steve and Elliot’s images is that Pacific dogwood, bigleaf maple, Frémont cottonwood, willow and black oak – Yosemite Valley’s best autumn color – are at peak concurrently. Often, dogwood and bigleaf maple have peaked by now, leaving November to the cottonwood, willow and oak.
The black oak will continue at peak in Yosemite Valley just about to Thanksgiving day. However, all we can say at this point is … GO NOW!

Bigleaf maple, Southside Drive, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Cook’s Meadow (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Sentinel Meadow (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Three Brothers, Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

El Capitan, Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Happy Isles, Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Mist Trail (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Meadow Loop Trail (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Dogwood, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Gates of the Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Gates of the Valley (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

El Capitan, Merced River (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Black oak, Cook’s Meadow (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Cook’s Meadow (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken


Cook’s Meadow (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!

8 replies
  1. Shirley Keller says:

    Wow! Thank you for sharing these magnificient views of fall in Yosemite. I live near the entrance of Sequoias. I grew up in the Yosemite Valley through out my childhood summer vacations, then hiking as an adult with my children. The fires and smokes of this last month scared me into thinking it would all be gone in flames. You photos brought back hope and love of the beauty of our forests and a reminder they were here before humans were. Thank you!!! SK from Three Rivers, CA

  2. Mark Wialbut says:

    Gorgeous! Convinced me, got a campsite in the valley. I’m going to ride up on my motorcycle tomorrow and see it for myself.

  3. Shirley Jean Hewlett says:

    WE have a cabin at Fish Camp and have always tried to see Yosemite in the fall.
    It has to be very beautiful this year with the falls all running so fast and thundering
    through the valley. We cam no longer travel and really appreciated the
    wonderful photography. They brought back many pleasant memories of
    the most beautiful place in the world. Shirley Hewlett


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