By: Pete Yamagata
Having been apprised of a new bus service to Yosemite Valley, I drove to Merced, CA, to catch the 8 a.m. departure of the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System bus, being conditionally free for an introductory time period. The normal round trip fare would be $15. This obviates the regular $20 park entrance fee. Arriving at Yosemite Village Visitor Center at 10:40 a.m., I took the free Valley shuttle to Yosemite Lodge, from where the Yosemite Falls Trail was about a quarter mile walk. I had seven hours to do this peak, before the last free bus ride for the day left at 6 p.m. Eagle Peak is signed to be six miles one way, with a start on the Valley floor of about 4,000 feet elevation. I estimated that the total dips on the way to add another 400 feet of gain, round trip. Pushing myself hard, I reached the Valley rim at 6,800 elevation after a little over two hours. There are a few trail junctions en-route to the peak. I arrived there by 2:22 p.m., snapping photos quickly. The snow was spotty already on the higher peaks. Three other hikers were sitting on top, with some having come in from the Tioga Road.
Leaving after ten minutes, I hurried back down, fearing some delay, which would cause me to miss my free ride. But, I was back to the Valley floor by 5 p.m. Having time for another shuttle ride and a couple sodas, I got a good seat for the return ride along the Merced River Canyon on Highway 140. We arrived back to the Merced Transportation Center (I 61h and 0 Streets), and its free parking, by 8:40 p.m. I was home to Sacramento, after dinner, by 11: 13 p.m. The bus is a full-sized motor coach, with about 60 seats capacity. You are allowed backpacks. There is air-conditioning, with a single restroom. The Highway 140 route includes stops at several lodging points, and with three or four stops in Mariposa. There are some 13 runs each day. Other branches of this bus run sparingly from Coulterville, (Highway 132/120), Wawona (Highway 41), and from Mammoth Lakes via Tioga Pass.For more information on the bus service, the YARTS web site is at
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