Water views of the Hetch Hetchy

Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam


Unveiling the Splendor: Discovering Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and Dam

It must have been amazing to see the Hetch Hetchy Valley in its unspoiled and natural state prior prior to it being dammed up as a reservoir to fill the water needs of the Bay Area and San Francisco. Below is a beautiful black and white photograph taken of the valley prior to the the dam project being started in 1914, quite stunning isn’t it?



Visiting the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam


Hetch Hetchy Valley image in public domain prior to Jan 21, 1923


Where is Hetch Hetchy located?


Hetch Hetchy is located in Yosemite National Park, in the state of California, United States. It is situated in the western portion of the park, near the northern boundary.


What to see at Hetchy Hetchy

Visiting the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam for the first time was an unexpected treat seeing that this place has always been on my radar, but never convenient time-wise when visiting Yosemite. It’s always never enough time visiting Yosemite which is always the key destination, so there is never any time left for a detour to this sister valley, which is just a short drive and along the way back to the Bay Area.

Upon visiting the site for the first time, I’m pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it is despite the fact that the main granite formations of Kolana Rock and Hetch Hetchy Dome are mostly buried in the dammed portion of the reservoir. Still, it is quite dramatic and the walk through the dam is easy and gives different vistas to the reservoir and the valley floor on the other side of the dam.



Water views of the Hetch Hetchy

A clear blue sky day at Hetch Hetchy reservoir


The Hetchy Hetchy reservoir and dam had a controversial history with its completion of the O’Shaunessy dam in 1923 to supply San Francisco and it’s municipalities. Until present day, it is still contested and many actions are ongoing to try to return this magnificent valley back to its original state. There are many efforts from conservation groups but is quite an uphill battle involving many municipalities, cities and water rights advocates who need the water. Currently, this case has reached a recent judgement of the efforts to revert the site. This is the start of a series of posts covering my favorite park in California, Yosemite Valley, here’s the next post if you would like to continue reading the series.

Weather and best time to visit Hetch Hetchy area

The weather at Hetch Hetchy varies throughout the year due to its location in Yosemite National Park. The best time to visit the Hetch Hetchy area depends on personal preferences and the type of experience you’re seeking. Here’s a general overview of the weather and recommended times to visit:

Spring (March to May): Spring brings mild temperatures and blooming wildflowers to Hetch Hetchy. However, the area can still experience occasional rainfall and snowmelt, which can result in higher water levels in the reservoir. This season offers opportunities for hiking and enjoying the rejuvenation of nature.

Summer (June to August): Summer is the busiest and warmest time in Hetch Hetchy. The temperatures are generally comfortable during the day, ranging from mild to warm. It’s a popular time for hiking, backpacking, and exploring the reservoir and its surrounding trails. However, be prepared for crowds, especially during weekends and holidays.

Fall (September to November): Fall in Hetch Hetchy is characterized by cooler temperatures and fewer visitors compared to the summer months. The autumn foliage adds vibrant colors to the landscape, creating a picturesque atmosphere. It’s an excellent time for hiking and photography enthusiasts to capture the beauty of the area.

Winter (December to February): Winter brings colder temperatures and occasional snowfall to Hetch Hetchy. The area may be less accessible during this time, as road closures and trail conditions can occur due to snow. However, if you enjoy a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, winter can offer a unique experience for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.


Where to stay in Yosemite area

There are many options in visiting the area either if you stay in the valley, camp or just outside in the smaller communities leading up to the national park. Places do book up early during the visiting season, so plan well ahead for your visit and book in advanced. Here are some suggestions on where to stay in the area.


Yosemite View Lodge – located in El Portal just on the outside of the park entrance, with large rooms overlooking the river, large baths with Jacuzzi, friendly service and park shuttles.

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel – called Awhanee before this classic national park hotel is stunning and with period details and modern amenities.

Yosemite Valley Lodge – centrally located in the park village area with plenty of choices to dine and shop in the village, clean rooms and pick up for shuttle service.

Half Dome Village – Camping accommodation set up close to Half Dome – if you want to experience camping with heat, bedding supplies and bathroom services close by  without the hassle of slepping stuff.

For more reviews of places to stay around Yosemite, check out this link for current prices and availability.



Inside tips to visiting Hetch Hetchy area

When visiting the Hetch Hetchy area, here are some inside tips to enhance your experience:

  1. Plan ahead: Check the official Yosemite National Park website for the latest information on road and trail conditions, closures, and any permits or reservations required for your visit. This will help you make the most of your time in the area.
  2. Start early: Arrive early in the day to avoid crowds and secure a parking spot. The Hetch Hetchy area can get busy, especially during peak season, so arriving early allows you to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the surroundings.
  3. Pack essentials: Carry plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and insect repellent, especially if you plan on hiking or spending an extended period outdoors. The Hetch Hetchy area may have limited amenities, so it’s essential to be self-sufficient.
  4. Explore the trails: Take advantage of the hiking trails that showcase the natural wonders of Hetch Hetchy. The most popular trail is the Hetch Hetchy Trail, which follows the reservoir’s edge and offers stunning views of the valley and waterfalls. Research and choose trails that suit your fitness level and interests.
  5. Respect nature: Help preserve the pristine beauty of Hetch Hetchy by following Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all trash, stay on designated trails, and avoid disturbing wildlife or vegetation. Leave the area as you found it, ensuring future visitors can enjoy its splendor.
  6. Enjoy the waterfalls: Hetch Hetchy is home to several majestic waterfalls, including Wapama Falls and Tueeulala Falls. Experience their awe-inspiring beauty and take memorable photographs, but exercise caution around slippery surfaces and fast-flowing water.
  7. Embrace solitude: While Hetch Hetchy may not be as crowded as other areas of Yosemite National Park, you can still find pockets of serenity and solitude. Take time to immerse yourself in the peacefulness of the surroundings and connect with nature.
  8. Stay informed about wildlife: Yosemite National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including bears. Familiarize yourself with proper bear safety practices, such as storing food securely and making noise while hiking to avoid surprising any animals.
  9. Capture the moments: Don’t forget to bring your camera or smartphone to capture the breathtaking landscapes, waterfalls, and wildlife you encounter along the way. Hetch Hetchy offers numerous photo opportunities that will allow you to cherish your memories.
  10. Immerse yourself in the experience: Take moments to pause, breathe, and appreciate the natural wonders surrounding you. Hetch Hetchy is a place of immense beauty and tranquility, offering a chance to connect with the outdoors and rejuvenate your spirit.


Check out these other posts on Visiting Yosemite


Yosemite history and indian culture

Yosemite key attractions and landscapes

A scenic hike to Glacier Point

Awhanee Hotel visit and brunch

Yosemite in black and white


Conclusion to visiting the Hetch Hetchy area

In conclusion, visiting the Hetch Hetchy area is a remarkable experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the pristine beauty of Yosemite National Park. With its breathtaking reservoir, stunning waterfalls, and picturesque hiking trails, this hidden gem offers a tranquil escape from the bustling world. By planning ahead, respecting nature, and embracing the solitude, you can fully appreciate the wonders of Hetch Hetchy. Whether you’re capturing the majestic landscapes, embarking on scenic hikes, or simply taking a moment to connect with the serenity of the surroundings, a visit to Hetch Hetchy promises to be a memorable journey that leaves you with a deep appreciation for the remarkable natural treasures it holds.

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