We left the warmth of Southern California for the Sierra Nevadas for a few reasons, one of them being hiking and general carousing in the National Parks. Luckily our campground in Coarsegold is a short drive from all the hiking you could manage to fit in a lifetime, all in one spot.
In the morning, I managed to drag Colette away from reruns of The Bachelor (inside joke – we don’t watch TV) and out the door to the mountains. Luckily the weather was absolutely gorgeous, clear skies and high 60’s – perfect hiking weather.
The Lewis Creek National Recreation Trail is around 8 miles south of the Yosemite south entrance, right off of highway 41 at around a 4,000ft elevation. Most people enter off of the middle trailhead directly from 41, we opted for the more obscure southern trailhead off of Cedar Valley Drive that winds along the river past many small falls up to the larger Corlieu Falls where it meets with the main trail. More narrow and elevation changes than the main trail, but also fewer people – we had the trail to ourselves the entire time until we hit the main trail. Also less snow on the lower trail, I think simply because it started at a lower elevation.
It might not be Yosemite proper, but it certainly encompasses the splendor that Yosemite and the Sierras in general have to offer. Towering Ponderosa pines, running water, birds singing, the sound of the wind through the top of the trees, moss, patches of snow, simply beautiful.
The trail follows the historic Madera Sugar Pine Lumber flume route (an elevated channel that was filled with water and logs were floated down in it) which was used to transport lumber from Sugar Pine to the railroad down in Madera. Some of the steam engines from the Sugar Pine Railroad still exist and are operated as a tourist attraction up in Sugar Pine, just outside of Yosemite.