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Yosemite in Autumn
2022 Trip Report

There is something about arriving to the Yosemite Valley that conjures up emotions and feelings of grandeur. We made our group arrival through the south entrance while driving along the scenic Wawona road. Just as we began our descent into the valley, we exited the tunnel to the welcoming view of one of the most inspiring scenic landscapes in North America. Here is where the whole of the Yosemite Valley is laid out before us. The undulating domes of granite mountains frame the verdant valley floor of pine forests and grassy meadows—all hugging the ribbon-like Merced River. It’s impossible not to stop and take our first couple of snaps and discuss the photographic possibilities that lie ahead.


Lodging in the center of the valley is definitely the way to go as most of the scenic landscapes are within an easy fifteen-minute drive of our accommodations. With seasonal changes in the air, autumn is the time of cool mornings and few crowds. Up and till now, the season has been unseasonably warm and dry, with little water flowing from the cliffs over the valley. Along with the absence of Yosemite’s famous waterfalls, the warm weather has also held back the seasonal change in color of the forests of dogwood and big leaf maples, yet the landscape still manages to wow the photographers seeking to capture just a little bit of this beauty.


Each morning, we headed out early to catch blue hour and the subsequent golden glow of sunrise at some of the valley’s more famous views or, occasionally, we would opt for one of our time honored favorite quiet spots along the valley floor. By mid-morning it was time for a break and a good wholesome brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel. We quickly set into a daily pattern and after a short midday break, we would head back out following the light into the surroundings for more photography, easily capturing great images until sunset.

Our scenic locations up and down the valley would often find us within view of the beautiful Merced River. The dry conditions over the valley left the mighty river running lower and slower. This is when the Merced offers up many new and unique reflecting pools around which to work our photographic compositions. With our small group immersed in photography, it was easy to get lost in the moment. Sometimes it was just the early morning timing, sometimes it was the out of the way locations that we found to photograph but we always seemed to have plenty of room—often having our photo locations pretty much to ourselves.


Every trip to Yosemite National Park should include an excursion to the Mariposa Grove of ancient sequoia trees. With all the wildfires in the area lately, these treasured trees gain national attention as the ever-expanding fire seasons threaten their reign over the landscape.

I can happily say that this stately grove survived another season, mainly due to good planning and a lot of hard work from wild land firefighters. The thinning and trail work around the grove is designed to help protect the trees in the case of a fire but has also worked to a photographer’s advantage allowing new angles on some old favorite trees like the massive Grizzly Giant. After an afternoon at the big trees of Mariposa Grove, it was well worth our gastronomic interest to make a planned stop for dinner at the historic Wawona Hotel and enjoy one of our best meals of the week in its comfortable historic dining room.


Everyone who photographs at Yosemite has their favorite views of the valley. I like to finish up the trip with an out of the way view that frames some of the more notable granite features of the park and, with some luck, catch it just as the glow of sunset falls over the scene. As usual the evening did not disappoint. The setting sun managed to slip its last rays under a thin layer of clouds just west of the park, illuminating the sky and painting the valley with a neon incandescence.


It’s always rewarding to introduce photographers to some of our favorite photographic locations in Yosemite. From trip to trip these locations may be a little different based on conditions but rest assured always reliable in their beauty. Yosemite is one of those havens on Earth that always manages to work its way deep into a nature photographer’s soul.

Upcoming Related Tours

Yosemite in Autumn

The towering rock walls that form the bones of Yosemite’s spectacular valley are at their finest in the warm low-angled light of fall. The Merced River flows at a gentler pace and autumn-hued foliage and granite peaks are framed in mirror-like waters. Yosemite in autumn is a never-ending source of inspiration.

October 20 - 26, 2024
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