It sounds odd to talk about Yosemite as “off the beaten track,” since this world-class park is a destination for hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. But most people thinking of Yosemite think of thundering waterfalls along with towering cliffs, and in the fall, although the cliffs still loom, the water is largely silent. The long dry summer takes its toll on the rivers and streams, and in a dry year (such as this one), smaller creeks like Bridalveil may be dry, or nearly so. And so, many people choose not to visit at this time of year.
And that is part of the charm. The Valley is winding down, cooling off, and preparing for winter. You may see more bears and coyote in the valley, looking for food among the red and gold fallen leaves, or the golden grasses and ferns. The shadowy edges of the Valley may be chilly all day, as cold seems to radiate from the cliffs, while the central areas will still be warm. In the morning, you may see ice on the edge of the river.
This is the best time to have the Valley as much to yourself as is ever possible. It’s a great time to hike the “Mist Trail” beside the largest (although not tallest) waterfall in Yosemite, Vernal Falls. In the Spring, it may be too wet, and the trail is sometimes closed because of the risk to hikers, but at this time of year, you can climb near the waterfall, and not feel like you are in a massive cold shower.
Late October through mid-November is a great time to visit this park, one of California’s great natural wonders. You can reach the park easily by car (or Amtrak) from EC San Francisco in around 5 hours. Don’t be put off by the season. Get out there, and enjoy.