My Yosemite Valley hike to Rainbow View via the Rockslides Trail took me nearly 4 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 V9 marker (now changed to marker V7 as of 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 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 just 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.  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 towards 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.  (Click on both maps below to enlarge.)
Rainbow View topo route map
Rockslides Trail Switchbacks
Parking in the small dirt lot next to the V9 marker on the valley floor.  As of 2014, the marker at the trailhead has been changed to V7:
The V9 (now the V7) marker marks the spot where the Old Big Oak Flat Road ends in Yosemite Valley.  There is a locked gate here, so hiking up is necessary:
Here is the reason that this area is known as the Wood Lot.  Fallen trees are dumped here for valley residents to cut up and use as firewood:
The Old Big Oak Flat Road a.k.a. the Rockslides Trail zigzags up a small hill and then turns sharply to the left:
First minor obstacle along the trail during our hike was this fallen tree:
Right away a fantastic view of Bridalveil Fall comes into view.  Even the lower portion of this trail is worth hiking just to see some of the views:
The obstacles are getting progressively tougher.  First, one fallen tree, and now two logs to climb over.  These are just teasers of the challenges to come:
This is the 1st washout of the Rockslides Trail, an area where the old road was washed away by flooding over the years:
Charlie can be seen at the top of this picture.  The 1st washout is simple to overcome-- drop down and then climb back up the other side:
Back on a nice trail with shade provided by an abundance of trees:
Another excellent view of Bridalveil Fall through the brush:
Looking back at El Capitan as it looms large in the distance:
And a spectacular view of Half Dome can now be seen:
The early portion of the trail before we started hitting washouts one after another was fairly enjoyable and easy to follow:
Panoramic view of Bridalveil Fall from the Rockslides Trail (click to enlarge):
Rockslides Trail panoramic of Bridalveil Fall
Full view of Bridalveil Fall showing the large waterflow of late April:
Picture of Steve with Bridalveil Fall in the background:
The obstacles on the trail soon became more numerous and quite a bit more challenging:
As we gained elevation, the view of the valley floor below us took on more significance:
Reaching the first area of the rockslides.  These boulders from above wiped out the Old Big Oak Flat Road a long time ago and ever since then this has been known as the Rockslides Trail:
We have been heading away from Bridalveil Fall during the hike:
But I still kept getting more pictures of Bridalveil Fall from various spots since these were such unique views along the trail:
Panoramic from the Rockslides Trail showing Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Valley, and the old road (click to enlarge):
Rockslides Trail panoramic of Yosemite Valley
Looking straight down one of the boulder rockslides toward Bridalveil Fall:
The rockslides contain some absolutely massive boulders:
Another great view of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley:
Zooming in on the rim of Bridalveil Fall:
The open areas as we passed through rockslides provided great views of El Capitan:
In between sections of rockslides the trail would head back into the forest:
A short time later, the trail would once again pass through a section of rockslides:
One of the highlights along the trail is this special view of Ribbon Fall.  Seeing this view inspired us to hike up to the base of Ribbon Fall the next day:
This view shows Ribbon Fall, El Capitan, the Rockslides Trail, and Half Dome:
Zooming in for a close-up of Half Dome:
The sheer face of El Capitan with Half Dome in the background:
Not all sections of trail which passed through the rockslides were clear.  As you can see here, we had to do quite a bit of scrambling to get over these boulders:
The trail began turning slowly to the right along with the shape of the valley below:
Another view of Bridalveil Fall showing the wind blowing the water and mist around:
Charlie and Oleg navigating more boulders.  This was Oleg's first trip to California and Yosemite:
Pretty wildflowers in bloom along the side of the trail:
The next two pictures show a challenging obstacle that we had to overcome by climbing up and then dropping back down the other side:
Catching sight of the Merced River through the trees below.  Daria sat out this hike and relaxed by the river near here:
A very small washout that we had to work our way around:
Looking straight down the rockslide at a small meadow below:
A tree in bloom that is overgrown and has taken over the trail:
Dealing with another washout in the next two pictures.  About halfway  through the hike, these washouts start appearing very regularly:
Back on some easy terrain as the trail turns sharply to the right to follow the hillside:
As the bend in the trail continues, a small rockslide has taken over the trail:
The rock wall of the old road can be seen here still doing its job:
This major washout can be clearly identified because there is a pipe below the trail which drains water.  You can see the pipe if you look carefully near the middle wall:
The water being drained is coming from this very minor waterfall off to the right:
Charlie and Oleg navigating through this washed out section:
The trail heads back into the forest for a brief stretch, continuing the pattern:
And then it emerges at another wide open area of boulder rockslides:
As you can see, we are well past that meadow that we spotted earlier and getting farther away from Bridalveil:
Looking up while passing through this section of rockslides.  This would be a bad place to be standing in an earthquake:
Steve on the trail with Bridalveil directly behind him:
Overcoming a massive boulder field in the next two pictures.  It was areas like this that made the hike challenging and hard to stay on the trail:
Looking up the hillside of boulders, we spotted a notable rock wall we had been looking for.  Seeing this rock wall let us know that we had reached the beginning of the Switchbacks Section.  At this point, some hikers would choose to scramble uphill through the boulders to get to the wall, while others would feel lost and give up on the hike:
We did neither.  Instead, we continued hiking along the lower switchback, determined to successfully hike the entire trail route to Rainbow View:
Charlie and Oleg continuing along the lower switchback despite some reservations:
The lower switchback headed into the forest:
There were some small logs and branches covering parts of the lower switchback:
We next ran into this major washout on lower switchback:
Working our way around more sections of washed out trail:
This rock with the double red arrow marks the spot where lower switchback turns sharply to the right onto middle switchback:
At this junction, there is a clear view across the valley of the Tunnel View parking area:
Middle switchback begins climbing and gets challenging rather quickly:
A major washout hits the switchback right away and we had to navigate across with no clear trail on the other side:
This is all that you can see-- rocks and trees:
Finally, we picked up the middle switchback once again:
A giant boulder resting in the center of middle switchback:
Middle switchback emerges from the forest back into the wide open field of boudlers:
At the forest edge, another double red arrow rock points the way.  An easier way to go from here is to just scramble up the hillside to quickly reach the end of upper switchback:
Instead, we stayed on the middle switchback and headed out towards the rock wall, which we were now nearly level with.  You can see the rock wall in the right center of this picture:
At the end of middle switchback looking back toward the forest:
Finally standing right next to the rock wall which is the major landmark of this area:
A section of the Old Big Oak Flat Road is still visible between some boulders:
Look toward the tree line in the distance.  At the tree line in the lower part of the picture you can see one of our hikers.  That is where middle switchback comes out of the forest.  Now look a little higher up where there is a small opening in the trees.  This is where upper switchback heads back into the forest:
There's not much of a road left until just before upper switchback heads into the trees:
At tree line, another double red arrow marks the spot of upper switchback:
A clear trail is once again easy to follow as upper switchback enters the forest:
Keeping shady and cool on a hot day.  The forest sections were very nice:
The next two pictures show the first of two major washouts past the switchbacks:
Past the first washout, the trail resumes for a short distance:
And then we ran into the second major washout past the switchbacks:
Oleg struggling to keep his balance as we got past the second washout:
Finally, we were homefree.  An easy trail from here to Rainbow View:
This railing was a clear indication that we had reached Rainbow View:
First view looking out from Rainbow View:
Once again we could see all of the tourists at Tunnel View across the valley:
A BM survey marker is in place at Rainbow View:
Yosemite Valley as seen from Rainbow View:
The view of Bridalveil Fall from Rainbow View:
Panoramic showing Yosemite Valley as seen from Rainbow View (click to enlarge):
Panoramic taken from Rainbow View
Picture of Steve standing in front of the Rainbow View railing:
Steve and Oleg (visting from Russia) at Rainbow View:
This picture reveals the steep drop beyond the protective railing:
Four final pictures showing some more views of Yosemite Valley from Rainbow View:
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