Rainbow View is a spectacular viewpoint destination which follows remnants of the old Big Oak Flat Road past rockslides and washouts to enjoy views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall. Difficulties encountered on the hike include route finding to locate and follow portions of the old road, successfully bypassing approximately 20 washouts, and overcoming challenging bouldering sections at rockslide crossings. A topographical map of the entire route (1st map) and a Google Earth map of the Switchbacks Section (2nd map) can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 37° 43.429'N, 119° 38.703'W. GPS coordinates for the turn from 1st switchback to 2nd switchback are 37° 43.360'N, 119° 40.387'W. GPS coordinates for the turn from 2nd switchback to 3rd switchback are 37° 43.409'N, 119° 40.196'W. GPS coordinates for Rainbow View are 37° 43.360'N, 119° 40.451'W.
My Yosemite Valley hike to Rainbow View via the Rockslides Trail took me nearly four years to complete from initial planning to finishing the hike. That might sound a bit strange but there were good reasons for the long delay. Back in 2008, I set out to hike some Yosemite Valley exclusives which would provide some isolation and peace away from the loads of tourists in the valley, but at the same time showcase some excellent scenery by way of a challenging route. For the first two of my Yosemite Valley exclusives, I chose Illilouette Gorge and Sierra Point. Both hikes were outstanding. When searching for a third destination, I checked in with some of Yosemite's most well-known hikers. One of the suggestions they gave me was to hike to Rainbow View. At that time, it was already late in the summer and the water flow over Bridalveil Fall was at about half capacity. At the same time, Ribbon Fall had already dried up for the season. Thus, I decided that it would be best to wait until springtime the following year before doing the hike, because I wanted to showcase the Rockslides Trail at its very best. When the spring of 2009 finally rolled around, I was busy once again occupied with hikes in Death Valley. The same was true for the next few years after that. Finally, in the spring of 2012, I had a family member visiting me from Russia. Since he wanted to see Yosemite, I finally got to hike out to Rainbow View. The hike was definitely well worth the wait.
For the hike, we parked near the small dirt lot close to the V7 marker (formerly V9 prior to 2014) on the valley floor and began following the Old Big Oak Flat Road up past the Wood Lot. The road soon turned sharply to the left, passed the Ribbon Fall turn-off, and degraded into an overgrown trail. But it remained easy to follow as the route was clear. After a while, we soon learned just why it was called the Rockslides Trail. One section after another on the trail had either washouts or rockslides to navigate through or around. While crossing over the endless rockslides, the trail was steadily gaining elevation as it paralleled the valley from high above it. All along the trail the views were outstanding. We had views of El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Fall, Ribbon Fall, and many Yosemite peaks and natural features. After a couple of hours, we finally reached the infamous washed-out Switchbacks Section. Based on other reports I have read online, the Switchbacks Section seems to be the place where about 50% of hikers trying to reach Rainbow View give up and fail. You will know you are at the Switchbacks Section when you look up one of the rockslides areas and see a large rock wall high above you. In order to skip the switchbacks, you can attempt to scramble up the boulder field towards the rock wall and then try to look for the painted rocks to guide you back into the forest at the correct spot. It can be tricky, to say the least. And hiker safety should be of prime importance in this area. Because I had spent so much time researching this hike, we were able to successfully stay on the "official" trail the whole time. We followed the lower switchback into the forest, navigating past some more wash-outs. Then we turned to the right and followed the middle switchback back through the forest in the opposite direction until it emerged from the forest and ended above the rock wall we had seen from below. Then, we turned left and followed (what was left of) the upper switchback back into the forest once again toward Rainbow View. It was nice to be able to complete the Switchbacks Section perfectly, especially in view of all the problems in navigating this area that we had read about online. Past the switchbacks, we encountered a couple more wash-outs. We then arrived at Rainbow View, the final destination for our hike. The viewpoint for Rainbow View seemed to be directly across the valley from Tunnel View, where we could see many tourists and cars parked. But on our side of the valley, we had Rainbow View all to ourselves. During the whole half-day of hiking, we only saw two other groups out on the Rockslides Trail. On the way back to our vehicle, I attempted to count the number of wash-outs that we had to cross. My count came in at 19 wash-outs. Another Yosemite hiker has counted a total of 20. So the actual number is somewhere in that range. It's hard to get an exact count since some wash-outs can be either counted as one or two, depending on how long you consider a wash-out to go on for. In summary, all in our group loved this hike and can't wait to do it again. Our hike took place on April 29, 2012.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT