Yosemite National Park


View of lower yosemite falls from the bridge. Photo taken early May.


View from along the ADA pathway to the bridge at the lower falls.

So, let’s just say you started around Southside Drive, walked/rolled through Cook’s Meadow, and now find yourself on Northside Drive near the  Yosemite Falls trailhead. You may also notice a few busses and a gazillion cars parked taking up both sides of the road. That’s because this a vista stop on the Yosemite tour and the main parking area for all those visiting the falls and too lazy to walk. This is a great spot to freshen up after your long trek across the meadow, and the restroom facilities are among the best in the park.  Next look for the kiosk, you will notice that the National Park Service has built a trial to the falls that is accessible to those of us ADA types. On a side note regarding both trails. The main trail up to the falls is doable with an electric wheelchair or scooter, except for about ten yards near the top, it is quite steep and the surface is very rough. I went back down this way and found it challenging, going up, I would not recommend it. The recommended ADA pathway will get you to the top and the trip is just as rewarding, just as exciting, and there is just as much to see and photograph. The ADA pathway is a gradual incline, paved, smooth, and easy for all three and four wheel users. We found several locations along the pathway that provided us great opportunities to rest, enjoy the beauty surrounding us, and photograph the strong flowing river from the falls. Take some time to explore the area around the parking area at the falls also, we found it very accessible and several super cool views to photograph.

Drive to the end of Southside Drive and you will come to a stop sign, take a left and you will fine yourself between upper Pines and Lower Pines Campgrounds. I don’t want to explore the camping options at this time, so if you have your handicap placard proceed straight ahead through the stop sign until you come to the Happy Isles Nature Center, it will be on your right. There are two ADA parking stalls with a hash marked area for your van side lift, these parking stalls are located in front of the ADA restrooms. I could easily go on for hours about the accessibility, beauty, sights to see, trails to take, and photographic opportunities, but I won’t. I will say that this area is completely accessible, and you, like us, will easily spend an entire morning or afternoon roaming this beautiful area. Explore the entire area, behind the Nature Center as well as along the Merced River. There is a nice trail behind the Nature Center that will take you to a fireside area. At one point along the trail you cross a small stream, we found many photo opportunities here.  The path is narrow in spots but mostly hard packed dirt littered with rocks that will challenge your negotiating skills but the trip is worth the effort. If you are a manual wheelchair user I’m not sure how far up the trail you can go, but I believe you can make it at least to the small stream. At any point along the path look up to realize just how insignificant you are to the trees that surround you.  All around the Nature Center including including along the nearby Merced River, the Flowering Dogwood are prolific and provide infinite photo opportunities during spring. Given the accessibility all around this area we were able to photograph the flowering dogwood easily and at different times of the day.  All this said, you will not be visiting in the spring, please don’t think there is nothing to photograph. Not true, remember, you are in Yosemite, there is always photograph’s to be made.
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