Trip Report: Spring in Yosemite (hiker) – May 2019

Coming right on the heels of our Spring in Yosemite (standard) Tour was our hiker photo version of the tour.

This group of folks was excited to see Yosemite and get up off the valley floor a bit and gain some new perspectives on the giant granite walls. After an introduction meal and itinerary overview in Fresno, we headed north for the Yosemite Valley, eager to take in the sights and sounds of the first publicly protected space in the United States.

Yosemite Valley, if you’ve never been, can stop you in your tracks when you first see it, able to instill a sense of awe and wonderment, unlike any other place. This was still very much the case for our entire group as we were welcomed to the valley by the famous “Tunnel View” which is a wonderful way to see the valley for the first time.

As we ventured further into the valley, we jumped on the free shuttle and headed out to Mirror Lake where we walked along the Tanaya River and photographed the new growth of spring. Cottonwood trees, maples, and the recently blooming dogwood flowers made for great spring photos and encouraged us all to appreciate the small scale beauty in such a large scale destination.

After photographing reflections in Mirror Lake, we stopped for lunch and enjoyed some time together under the walls of Yosemite Valley. Later that evening, we set up shop at Valley View and photographed an iconic scene as the sun dropped below the horizon.

Chris Gheen

The next day was our first big hiking day. We ventured up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail and photographed views of Half Dome and the Upper Yosemite Falls. Patches of sunlight provided a fleeting rainbow in the mist created by the falls. Adrenaline pumped through our veins from the edge of a cliff as we shot looking down at the falls through the colors.

Chris Gheen

That night, dramatic clouds came in and we shot from the famous Tunnel View and appreciated the patches of sun that would come and go, illuminating the roaring Bridal Veil Falls.

The following morning we got an early start to catch the first light illuminating the top of the incredible El Capitan. We photographed the reflection of the granite monolith from the El Cap meadow, as spring meltwater had filled a small depression, providing us with a quiet pond to photograph.

Even with our widest lenses, we still struggled to capture the entirety of the massive 3,000-foot tall wall in the reflection. Nevertheless, the quiet morning and calm water was a peaceful start to the day.

After breakfast, we grabbed our bags and ventured out from the hotel on a walking tour of Yosemite Valley. We shot various landscapes, most of which incorporated either Half Dome or Yosemite Falls under beautiful blue skies with white puffy clouds.

A perfect day to be in the valley. With a break for lunch and some downtime in the afternoon, we parted ways before regrouping for an evening shot of Half Dome towering over the Merced River.

Our fourth day in the valley would be our most strenuous, but also most exciting and rewarding. Our group hiked out to the popular Mist Trail, in search of two of Yosemite’s most famous waterfalls, Vernal and Nevada Falls.

The Mist Trail is appropriately named, as our hike brought us right through the thickest part of the mist that comes spraying off of the heavily flowing Vernal Fall.

The trail then ventures steeply up to the top of Vernal Fall where the sun warmed our cold and wet extremities.

After a break for lunch, we continued up to the even larger Nevada Fall, where after a few photos, we made our way back down to the bottom of the hill, by way of the John Muir Trail, which granted us views of Liberty Cap, Half Dome, and both of the waterfalls we had previously seen. After over six miles and nearly 2000 feet of total elevation gain, our crew was worn out and ready for a relaxing dinner and bed before a long travel day the following morning.

Our final day together was spent exploring the big trees in the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias. These trees are massive and truly worth exploring.

Chris Gheen

After taking photos of the variety of large growth specimens, and a few small flowers and mushrooms, we grabbed a group photo under a giant sequoia and headed back to Fresno to say our goodbyes.

Chris Gheen

A great group, great weather and a great time meant everyone was sad to leave but happy to have many photos to keep the memories alive.

Chris Gheen







Chris grew up exploring the mountains of North Carolina, originally with his family on weekend camping trips and later as a self-taught rock climber and backpacker, leading him ultimately to a degree in Recreation Management from Appalachian State University with a focus in Outdoor Experiential Education. Immediately after graduating, Chris drove west, knowing the mountains and opportunities for adventure were much bigger. Since then, he has worked in a variety of guiding applications, from small leadership non-profits to adolescent wilderness therapy, to commercial hiking and tourism guiding in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, always with a camera in hand. Chris loves teaching and sharing his passions and experience with others and is sure to provide careful insight and education whenever the opportunity arises. Chris currently resides in Bozeman, Montana where easy access to Yellowstone National Park allows him frequent trips into the park to photograph wildlife and the unique geologic features of the area. When not behind the lens, he spends his time backcountry skiing, ice climbing, and mountain biking, always on the lookout for a new unique perspective to photograph. The mountains have always been a point of inspiration for Chris and he is excited to capture the beauty of the natural world in an effort to share the space he is so privileged to work in with those around him. For a look at some of Chris’ work, visit his website