A years' long $13.5 million campaign to restore hiking trails in Yosemite National Park has concluded, with improvements seen from the Yosemite Valley to the park's spectacular high country.
The project was a combined effort of the Yosemite Conservancy, which raised $10 million for the work, and the National Park Service.
"Our goal was elegant in its simplicity - improve the condition of Yosemite's most treasured, high-profile trails in order to protect irreplaceable natural resources," said Conservancy President Mike Tollefson in a news release. "Yosemite's spectacular trails are a mirror of the democratic notion of the National Park Service's founding - they exist for all people for all time."
The six-year Campaign for Yosemite Trails involved 75 miles of trails and is the largest ever trail repair and restoration program undertaken in Yosemite, according to park officials. The milestone was celebrated last Wednesday with a ceremonial dedication of the East Valley Loop Trail, and recognition of generous donations and the skilled work of Yosemite trail crews.
"Yosemite's trails are pathways to discovery and inspiration. Some of the park's most important trails were improved to reverse years of degradation to benefit visitors for decades," said park Superintendent Don Neubacher in prepared remarks. "The result is better trails, restored habitats, and greater education opportunities for visitors."
In the front country, repairs were made to the John Muir Trailhead in the Valley and to the east and west ends of the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail with heavily impacted areas being resurfaced with a natural looking asphalt alternative, repairs to foot bridges and new way finding signs. Near the park's southern entrance, trail improvements in parts of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias now protect the big tree's root systems.
On 33 miles of the John Muir Trail, work addressed parts of the trail from Tuolumne Meadows through Little Yosemite Valley to Yosemite Valley. There are new stone walls, rock staircases, and drainage structures, plus habitat restoration.
At the May Lake Trailhead accessed from the Tioga Road, hikers can expect a better defined route to the summit of Mount Hoffmann. Based on the successful work at Mount Hoffmann, park officials said additional trail improvements and restoration would be made on the route to Cathedral Peak and to the summit of Mount Dana. Also along Tioga Road, improvements were made to trailheads at Tamarack Flat, May Lake, Yosemite Creek/Ten Lakes, Snow Creek, and at Gaylor Lakes.
The work is different at each, and hikers might find habitat-friendly and safer parking and access, food storage lockers, or wilderness education exhibits. Major portions of the spectacular 12-mile Red Peak Pass, the Sierra's highest trail at 11,000 feet in southeastern Yosemite, were repaired and rebuilt.
Eight hundred miles of trails wind through Yosemite's valleys, meadows, streams, forests and across polished granite. Trail degradation compromises the visitor experience and habitat tremendously. Poor drainage erodes trail surfaces leading hikers to go off-trail, creating multiple social trails that divert water flow and destroy habitat animals depend on.
"Improvements were made to trails for every type of visitor from families with small children to ardent backcountry enthusiasts," said John Dorman, Yosemite Conservancy board chairman. "These arteries provide access to unimaginable beauty and a life-time of memories."