BigView – Yosemite from Modesto

The BigView
By Chris Murphy

Modesto, the real “Gateway to Yosemite”.

Yes friends, we are the true gateway to Yosemite, and you can even see it from here. How is this possible? It is up in the mountains at 4,000 ft. But, we have the best location and on a clear day, most likely right after it rains, you can see right down Yosemite Valley and even get a glimpse of Half Dome.

We love to discover the places around us and we often look up to the mountains to the east. Modesto is in this wonderful spot, basically a direct line between San Francisco and Yosemite, two of the most beautiful places on earth. I have a special affection for Yosemite, as I was born there 62 years ago and it is a source of magic, inspiration and beauty. Truly, one of the most iconic mountains in the world is Half Dome. I have been to the top many times, and it’s familiar profile has been seen by millions.

Did you know you can actually see the majestic Half Dome from the Modesto area on a clear day, the kind of day where the wind is blowing, after a rain and there are no clouds? I think when you can see Half Dome from your city, hometown hero and legendary Yosemite climber Royal Robbins lived here, and Highway 132, (also named the John Muir Highway from Coulterville to Highway 120), that leads to Yosemite runs right through your city, I think qualifies us to truly be both figuratively and literally the “Gateway to Yosemite”.

Yes, it’s true. I have seen it myself from a couple of different locations, but I have never had the camera equipment to get a good picture. You can see it from the top of the Doubletree Hotel and from most elevated spaces with no obstruction between Modesto and Yosemite. There is a narrow swath from the southern part of Modesto to a little south of Turlock where you can look down Yosemite Valley. There are pictures from the Lick Observatory on Mt Hamilton too. Still don’t believe me?

Fortunately, there are a couple of photographers that took on the challenge to get this elusive clear day picture.

In 2009, my friend Elias Funez, formerly of the Modesto Bee and the Patterson Irrigator and now with The Union in Nevada County, captured Half Dome from the West Side on Jennings Road, a road that I drive frequently. He snapped an amazing photo and posted it and it created quite a controversy. Immediately people were claiming it was faked, but it was truly legit.

Soon after, another photographer from Lake Tahoe, Tony Immoos had seen the photo and came down to see for himself. Tony found a clear day vista on the east side of town near Denair.

It was quite controversial, people accusing these photographers of “Photoshopping”, but few had ever actually ever been to those sites where you can actually see it. I have seen it from the south end of Warerville Rd and you can see it from ther uppor floors of the DoubleTree. Half Dome is actually only 60-70 straight-line miles from Modesto and it’s nearly 9000 feet tall, with nothing else taller in between (El Cap is 7500 ft). On clear days you can see right down Yosemite Valley, with the top of El Capitan and Sentinel Dome in front of one of the most recognizable pieces of granite in the world.

Best thing to do is take a local road trip and see for yourself. April and May might be your last chance of the season to see it after some storms. Watch for a clear day after some rain with some breeze and see for yourself. These are the crystal clear days that make it possible.

Jennings Road between Monte Vista and West Main and the GPS points from Tony in Denair, are easy to identify at 37.541659°N 120.737164°W

Here is Elias Funez blog:
Here is Tony Immoos flicker page:

Go Climb A Rock
Yosemite is absolutely stunning right now. The snow is falling, the roads are closed ,the waterfalls will be thumping this spring, which is always a pleasure. The mist trail up to Vernal Falls is wet and the snowmelt is expected to keep going for a while. Before you go into the park, check to see if you need a reservation.

While you are there check out Camp 4 is where the worlds greatest climbers like Royal Robbins have made their home as they ascended the granite to the sky. You can feel the history. In the spring, summer and fall, tor those less daring, the 4-Mile trail from Bridalveil Falls to Glacier Point is always a winner and doesn’t require a back-country permit but check for winter conditions and possible closures. There is a lottery system to get a permit for Half Dome that you can apply for and lottery winners will be notified by mid April. Cables usually go up around Memorial Day. Curry Village is scheduled to open April 2, bike rentals on April 9 and Housekeeping is scheduled to open April 23

But no matter what time of year you go, it is always amazing. It is good that the Ahwahnee Hotel is back and Camp Curry is back. Even with limited capacity, a cocktail on the Ahwahnee patio, staring up at Glacier Point and Half Dome is an essential. Get up and get in early, enjoy the park and rent a bike. Make sure to wear your mask in public areas and take your rock scrambling shoes and be prepared to get wet.

For permits, hours and closures,
For lodging and dining reservations,

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.