Hetch Hetchy

Backpacking with Audrey around the north and south sides of Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite. This area gets only a fraction of Yosemite Valley's visitors, but is comparable in beauty.

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Hetch Hetchy, Hetch Hetchy photo

Hetch Hetchy

From the western end of Hetch Hetchy, the view is framed by massive Hetch Hetchy dome to the left and imposing Kolana Rock to the right.

Wapama Falls, Hetch Hetchy photo

Wapama Falls

Here's a shot of Wapama Falls, which crashes into Hetch Hetchy in a cloud of mist.

I took this from the old tribal cave on the opposite shore of the misty canyon lake. Here, the kings and queens of the ancient tribe of Moo would celebrate the life gift of water. From the sacred granite cavern, warriors would paddle out across the glassy ceremonial waters into the deep mist of the falls, where gifts would be left for the Moo God.

(OK the photo is upside down.)

Wapama Falls, Hetch Hetchy photo

Wapama Falls

Wapama Falls gushes between gaps in the boulder field.

Cottonwood Creek, Hetch Hetchy photo

Cottonwood Creek

The first day we camped near Cottonwood Creek, which is on the south side of Hetch Hetchy. It's a beautiful area of lush meadows and mature pine forests. Despite the great views from Smith Peak and easy access to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, the area offers relative solitude compared to nearby Rancheria Falls.

Snow Plant, Hetch Hetchy photo

Snow Plant

Snow plants flower immediately after the spring melt. We saw some almost a foot tall.

Snow Plant, Hetch Hetchy photo

Snow Plant

Close-up of a snow plant; Dr. Seuss would approve.

Audrey, Hetch Hetchy photo


Smith Peak offers vistas of the northern Yosemite wilderness. Mt. Conness can be seen to the east.

JK and Audrey, Hetch Hetchy photo

JK and Audrey

Hetch Hetchy photo
Kolana Rock, Hetch Hetchy photo

Kolana Rock

The second day we backpacked over to Rancheria Falls. Kolana Rock was a prominent landmark looking down Rancheria Creek, and seemed to give the area a Japanese woodblock flavor.

Rancheria Creek, Hetch Hetchy photo

Rancheria Creek

Rancheria Creek falls steeply on its quick journey down to Hetch Hetchy reservoir.

Rancheria Falls, Hetch Hetchy photo

Rancheria Falls

Rancheria Creek alternates between plunging through narrow gorges and sliding over wide granite sheets. Here the falls shoots two gaps in the narrow granite canyon.

Baby Bear, Hetch Hetchy photo

Baby Bear

A mama bear and her three cubs lived in the trees overlooking our campsite. We didn't choose this, they moved in after we did. The mother bear would send her cubs up a tree for safekeeping when she had to leave them to make her rounds. Except for occasional quality time with mama, the cubs spent most of the day and night living in the trees.

If you camp in the Yosemite backcountry, be sure to bring a bear canister and secure all food, trash and toiletries.

Hetch Hetchy photo
Hetch Hetchy photo