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Right Place, Perfect Time: Frazil Ice

Witness a river of slush flow through Yosemite Valley.
Kirkendall_yosmite_445.jpgFrazil ice pouring from Yosemite Falls. (Kirkendall-Spring)

Most Yosemite hikers get sore necks from looking up, but travel here as the valley awakens from winter, and you’ll be captivated by an ephemeral showstopper at your feet: frazil ice. Mist from Yosemite Falls freezes and reenters the creek to create an alpine Slurpee of epic proportions. The ice lava meanders through the forest with a consistency that oscillates between soup and cement. Mist also freezes to the cliff face next to the falls, then flakes in the midday sun—crashing loudly atop a snow cone that grows to 100 feet or higher.

Get close to both on an overnighter up Yosemite Creek in late March or early April. From the visitor center, walk west and cross several footbridges over the creek—and the frazil ice—and continue a mile to Camp Four. Follow switchbacks toward Lower Yosemite Falls and a view of the massive snow cone. More switchbacks take you past the upper falls and a perch overlooking the valley at mile 3.5. Continue a half mile to multiple camping options, just before Yosemite Point, with vistas of Half Dome and other granite icons. Caution: Be prepared for icy trails above the falls.

Map Trails Illustrated Yosemite SW ($10, natgeomaps.com) Info (209) 372-0200; nps.gov/yose

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