Yosemite National Park

Merced River

View at shoreline on the Merced River from behind Yosemite Lodge. Off the paved pathway are several dirt paths that will lead you down to rivers edge. The paths are usually fairly hard packed and easy to navigate even in a manual wheelchair. This shot was taken first week of May.

Down the road from Bridalveil Fall is Sentinel Beach which has a large parking lot with ADA parking and restrooms. This is a favorite spot for us and the location of the Swinging Bridge, a foot bridge only, which crosses the Merced River. The views from here are magnificent with the Three Brothers in front, El Capitan to the left and Upper Yosemite Falls to the right. There is a wonderful picnic area to the left of Swinging Bridge that is of a light sand and moderately accessible to manual and electric wheelchairs and scooters.  I traveled this area with ease in my electric wilderness wheelchair and would expect any standard electric wheelchair to preform the same with adequate ground clearance. The bridge is easily accessible and there are good photo opportunities in this area. If you go just past the restrooms you come to a dirt walk path that runs along the edge of the meadow to Sentinel Bridge. We found this path to be very easy to navigate with beautiful views and many photo opportunities along the way. You will also find a few pathways that lead off the path into the meadow, and depending on your ground clearance are accessible for a short distance into the meadow providing many great photographic perspectives. You can choose to cross the bridge and follow the pathway past the back side of Yosemite Lodge, cross Northside Drive to the Yosemite Falls trail-head. We also explored this pathway and found it easily accessible with some areas of the path paved and the balance hard packed dirt. If you find yourself on this path and behind the Yosemite Lodge take some time to explore the dirt paths leading off the path towards the Merced River. We discovered a couple of paths that were narrow and sandy that I was able to navigate to rivers edge for a beautiful perspective on the river lined with Dogwoods, Aspens, and Black Cottonwoods.


From the Swinging Bridge parking lot it’s a short distance to Cook’s Meadow on your left and the Chapel to your right. There is easy street parking on the left side of the road, the parallel stalls are long and wide with plenty of room to deploy your van lift either side or rear. You also have the option to continue to Sentinel Bridge, cross the bridge, and park in the parking lot to the left. There are a couple of ADA parking stalls located near the entrance and provides easy access to the pathway through Cook’s Meadow. The meadow is a favorite for us as it has two very accessible pathways, both paved, and  at ground level, so you can easily scoot off the path for some low perspective photography of Yosemite Falls. You do have to share the pathway with the cyclists, but we found the paths plenty wide to accommodate everyone. Both paths will take you to Northside Drive near the trailhead for Yosemite Falls, and is a great way to hike from the South side to the North side without driving. If you are planning to photograph the Moon Bow that appears during the Full Moon period in both May and June then Cook’s Meadow will provide you great vantage points. The center pathway or Southside Drive along the edge of the meadow are favorite locations for photographers. I will caution you arriving early to ensure you have time to pick out your favorite vantage point. Since I am on the Moon Bow topic,consider a trip to the bridge at the lower falls. I guarantee you will get wet so bring a rain poncho for you and your gear, you will be glad you did. There are many website with information on Yosemite Moon Bows and I suggest devoting an evening or two to increase your chances of success.


Flowering Dogwood will begin blooming mid April to early May. Dogwood blooms will begin to bloom before the leaves start filling the thin branches, this is the best time to create those awesome flowering dogwood photographs. The Dogwood can be found throughout Yosemite Valley including areas along the Merced River. The Happy Isles Nature Center is a favorite area for us to photograph the dogwood.

The full moon period in May is our favorite of the two months for many reasons including the Moon Bow. If there has been a good snow pack in the Sierras combining an early warming of spring, all the falls will be flowing strong, the Dogwood will be in full bloom, and the Quaking Aspen and alder will have begun filling with green. A bonus perspective that many photographers miss is photographing the rising full moon from Tunnel View Vista, to say it is breathtaking speaks a coarse injustice. So you can see there are decisions to be made at each visit to Yosemite National Park.










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