Marvel at the spectacular views and hike to some of Yosemite’s less-visited areas at this tranquil reservoir in the northwestern part of Yosemite National Park.
Discover waterfalls, wildflower meadows, dramatic cliffs and soaring granite peaks at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. This vast lake sits amid the natural beauty of Hetch Hetchy Valley in the northwestern corner of Yosemite National Park. Stretching for 8 miles (13 kilometers), it is the longest lake in the Yosemite region. Visit Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to enjoy hikes to some of the park’s most isolated and photogenic landscapes.
Start your visit at O’Shaughnessy Dam, built in the early 20th century to supply potable water to the San Francisco Bay Area. Stand on the dam’s bridge and gaze across the placid surface and up at the huge craggy peaks. Watch as large amounts of water spill down the dam’s wall into the Tuolumne River.
Scenic trails lead around the waterfront and inland to numerous beautiful spots. Walk along the shoreline path to the thundering Wapama Falls, which cascade out from the cliffs. Continue past sprawling green meadows to Rancheria Falls. Swim in the waterhole, stay overnight at the campground and follow trails deep into the Yosemite wilderness.
Head south from the dam on Lookout Point Trail. Climb uphill for a mile (1.6 kilometers) and be rewarded with uninterrupted panoramas of the valley. Trek along the banks of the Tuolumne River and then descend into the Poopenaut Valley. Experience a top-of-the-world sensation at the 7,751-foot-tall (2,362-meter) Smith Peak, the valley’s highest point.
Take a moment to appreciate the diverse vegetation. Feel tiny beneath towering California black oak, giant sequoia, cedar and gray pine trees. See fields of colorful wildflowers such as buttercups, lupines and monkey flowers. Watch for bears, bobcats and eagles.
The reservoir is about a 1-hour drive from both Groveland and Yosemite Village. Get here via Hetch Hetchy Road, which is open during daylight hours. Use the car park at O’Shaughnessy Dam with overnight parking available.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and its encompassing valley have a mild climate year-round and one of Yosemite’s longest hiking seasons. Pick up a free camping permit from the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station if you plan to stay overnight.