Exploring the trails in Yosemite National Park and Squaw Valley, Cali

Finally I can post about running again! I’d been running on an achy left leg for a few weeks before my last race, the Lymington 10k, which proved to be the final nail in the coffin for me. The result was a suspected stress fracture on my shin and several weeks of no running. Boo.
Luckily, back in November of last year Kris and I had planned an RV road trip around California in June. Surely this would be the perfect distraction from my forced running break. How wrong was I? The trails here are amazing, there are mountain ranges and national forests everywhere and the weather has been near perfect every day. I held off for a few days but when we arrived in Yosemite National Park I knew I would have to head out. For my first run I headed up to Glacier Point at 2200m and roughly an 11 mile trip out and back from Yosemite Valley where we were camped. The trail consisted of fairly steep switch backs most of the way with some of the higher sections through woodland. I fast hiked most of the the way up in about an hour and a half. The views on the way up of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome at the top were awesome. I also rang my Dad, who lives in the Alps, and weirdly was hiking up to Prafandaz (roughly 1900m) at exactly the same time. The run down was really fun and I was pleased that my leg wasn’t playing up too much. The last two flat miles back to camp were the hardest and I could feel my ankle and shin protesting a bit
After a days rest and feeling a bit achy all over I decided to head up the opposite side of the valley to Yosemite Falls and on to Yosemite Point. This is a popular hike and as I suspected there were quite a few people out on the trail already when I started. At 2114m and about 8 miles up and back it was a shorter run then Glacier Point but it definitely felt harder! The trail was steep, super rocky and exposed to the sun most of the way. Still it was 100% worth it for the amazing views of the falls at the top which I managed to have to myself for a good 15 minutes. At the last minute Kris decided he would run up as well so whilst waiting for him I continued on via the bridge over the falls and up to Yosemite Point. There were more amazing views here and signs for some epic looking trails including North Dome and Tiago Road which I really hope I can tackle on another trip.
Once Kris had made it up and had a look around we decided to head down as we were cutting it pretty fine to pick up our daughter from nursery. In the end Kris went on without me and made it down in a staggering 30 minutes. It was the most technical trail for downhill running I have ever seen, I actually can’t believe he made it down in one piece! I went a bit more carefully but still got a move on. Again the flat run back to camp was the hardest and I had to walk in the end. My leg seems fine on hills but just can’t hack the flat. Not sure why this is?!
Our next stop was Lake Tahoe which has a 165 mile trail around the rim. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to recce any of the route but its definitely something I’d like to run part of in the future. Next we moved on to Squaw Valley, which is a popular ski resort in winter but more importantly the start of the Western States 100 mile endurance run. Way back when we booked this trip we hadn’t considered catching any of the big trail races out here and unfortunately we are missing the start of the race by 12 days! I would have loved to cheer everyone on. It does mean however that I could have a little explore of the first few miles on my own. Setting of from Squaw Valley, past a plaque commemorating the race, was pretty exciting. However I soon found myself lost. Unlike the Alps, which I’m used to hiking in the summer, there are no sign posts and 10’s of trails in every direction, none of which look particularly more worn than the other. Luckily I ran into a small group training for WS who pointed me in the right direction. I ended up getting lost quite a few times and headed up snowy Squaw Peak before realising I was in the wrong place and running back over to Emigrant (2650 meters) and Watsons Monument, near the first checkpoint. I think I covered about 4 miles getting up there but it was great to reach the top and get a view of the next 10 miles or so of the race as well as views back to Squaw Valley and Lake Tahoe. The run down was a bit slippery, there is a lot of straw over the runs and some steep gravel sections (in retrospect running in my road shoes was an unwise choice!)
The next day I decided to tackle Granite Chief Peak (2746 meters). The trailhead started on the other side of town, near Olympic Village, and immediately took you away from the ski runs, through woodland and over huge slabs of rock. About an hour in, I started to hit patches of snow and by the time I had reached the start of the Pacific Crest Trail I was in a few feet of snow with no signs to be seen. I decided to head up to the summit anyway but soon got lost (again, I know…I need navigation lessons!). Unfortunately I had headed off a little late in the afternoon and after 20 minutes, having not found the route to the summit I decided to start heading down so as not to get caught in the dark. The ensuing hour was…well an adventure. I ended up on a very steep slope, covered in prickly bushes, waterfalls and open rock faces. There was more rock climbing than running involved but eventually I made it back on to the ski fields. A very steep climb got me back to Shirley Lake and in view of Squaw Valley and a speedy run down got me back just before the sun went down.
I’ve had a great few days of mountain hiking/running and although the leg continues to niggle a bit I feel like I’m getting back into things. For those of you following the blog, you will know that I am in the middle of running 600 race miles for charity. Unfortunately I missed the Poole 10k due to my injury and will probably miss the Sway 5m and the Mont Blanc 10k. However I factored in a final 50 mile race in October to cover any races I needed to pull out of so I am still on track for completing my 600 miles 🙂

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8 thoughts on “Exploring the trails in Yosemite National Park and Squaw Valley, Cali

  1. Fantastic photos, I can see you are all having a great time. What a place to visit if you love running or even just walking the trails.

  2. Those views look amazing and well worth the effort! Though, I admit that I’d probably struggle enough hiking up, let alone running – I’m in awe every time a runner passes me on a steep section of a hike as it is!

    • Hey thanks for your comment. To be fair I only run mildly hilly sections, otherwise its hiking all the way for me! Have you seen any of Killian Jornet’s running videos for Salomon? He’s like a mountain goat running up the trails.

    • I’d looooove to! You’re so lucky to have such awesome running on your doorstep. You never know, one day in the very, very distant future I might get into WS100. Then I’d have no choice but to train for a few, I don’t know, months, years?! over there….

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