Today we hiked Hetch Hetchy Dam. This dam was created in 1923 with the daming of Tuolumne River and began to deliver water to the San Francisco area in 1934. The creation of this dam is rumored to have contributed to the death of John Muir because he was so saddened by the loss of this beautiful valley. The valley is described as having natural beauty to rival Yosemite Valley. The Sierra Club still has a campaign to restore the valley to what it was like before the dam was created and open it back up to the public. As I walked along the water in the valley I too couldn’t help but mourn the loss of what would have been a gorgeous area to hike and camp in. Similar to Yosemite Valley, it has natural domes, huge and gorgeous waterfalls, and a river that would have run through its center. While draining the dam may be unrealistic at this point because it supplies water to such a huge area, as I hiked across the dam and looked across the filled in valley I could almost imagine what could have been had this area not been altered and, as a staunch conservationist, deeply regretted the loss of what should have been a protected area for the public to enjoy.
Even though the area has been massively altered by the creation of the dam, the hike is still quite beautiful. The first step to the hike is walking across the dam itself. It is a stark contrast between the calm waters of the reservoir on one side and rapidly flowing water on the other side. From this point, you have a view across the whole valley. We went incredibly early in the morning, and the sun was rising above the valley so the pictures look a little discolored despite my efforts try every exposure and aperture setting on the camera. The pictures I took here don’t quite capture the natural beauty of this area.
Next the hike walks along the water. It may have been a high year of rainfall when we went, but we were no more than 10-20 feet above the water for the next mile of the hike. It is fairly flat at this point with a wide trail where my dad and I were able to walk side by side. As with the rest of the hike, you occasionally catch panoramic views of the valley through the trees that line the trails.
The next part of the hike is on uncovered rock that starts to go a lot steeper uphill and then back downhill. This pattern of uphill and downhill recurs a few times. If it wasn’t 8 am in the morning when we were doing this hike I would imagine that this would be uncomfortably hot because there’s no tree cover on this part of the hike.
After a final uphill and then downhill push, you finally arrive at the waterfall. This waterfall must have been huge and beautiful before the dam existed. Even as is, it was still one of my favorite sites we saw this week. The waterfall sprays down in multiple separate places and mists off the rock forming little mini rainbows in every direction. The water from the falls actually gets the trail a little misty and it felt very refreshing after the hike it took to get there. The trail in this place is actually a long bridge and the water from the falls runs under the trail in places and into the reservoir. This waterfall is easily the best part of the hike.
Overall, this hike was very easy, had some great views over the reservoir, and ended with a gorgeous waterfall. If you’re ever in this area, I would recommend it but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do this hike. It was nice, but it takes a long time to get there because the road is windy and narrow, and the entire time I could just imagine how the valley would have looked before it was filled in with water. It really is a tragedy what happened to this valley, and I can only hope that us humans are more thoughtful about using nature for our own gain in the future.
The valley before it was filled with water. You can see the waterfall I have photos of as well as the river that used to run through the valley.
This ended our trip to Yosemite. I had a great week with my dad and Shayna and we were already planning on next trip on the car ride home today.
Thanks for reading!