Hike: The Yosemite few people see

Nature has endowed California’s Tuolumne County with such splendor, it almost doesn’t seem fair. That these riches are so easily accessed by hiking trails makes us all the luckier.

Before the reservoir was formed by O’Shaughnessy Dam at Yosemite National Park, Hetch Hetchy was a glacier-carved, granite-walled valley complete with a mighty river and waterfalls crashing down from dizzying heights. Sound familiar? Naturalist John Muir called the valley “a wonderfully exact counterpart of the great Yosemite.” Muir led the battle to save the valley from being dammed to create a reservoir for post-earthquake San Francisco — a fight that was ultimately lost.

It’s still wondrous, though. The trail skirts magnificent Tueeulala and Wapama Falls, torrential in the spring.

Less than 5 percent of Yosemite’s visitors come to this area, tucked away in the northwestern part of the park, where there is so much to see. Hetch Hetchy lies near the Big Oak Flat entrance to the park on Highway 120. Pretty Carlon Falls is nearby, offering a 3.8-mile round-trip jaunt, sometimes skirting fire-damaged forest, which burned in the devastating Rim Fire of 2013.

If you follow eastbound Highway 120 as it becomes the Tioga Road, you’ll find an array of High Sierra hiking trails leading to Lukens Lake and Ten Lakes, Yosemite Creek, North Dome and more. Stop at Olmsted Point for views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and other granite wonders. Explore the high subalpine meadows with their vast grasslands, granite domes, meandering river and trails galore.

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