As part of Mariposa County, Yosemite West is a subdivision of 294 lots on approximately 120 acres (49 ha), complete with underground utilities and paved roads. To date there are 173 developed lots with houses, including two condominium buildings with a total of 48 units. It is surrounded on three sides by Yosemite National Park and Sierra National Forest.
Some homes are owned by permanent residents of the area while others are resort homes, some of which are rented on a daily and weekly basis by visitors to Yosemite National Park. These vacation rentals provide much needed funds for infrastructure repairs.
Logging: timber and growth of the Yosemite railroad
As early as 1912 the cutting of timber in the Chinquapin area was started and logs were hauled to Merced Falls. The Yosemite Valley Railroad was built to carry out the lumber harvested from the vast supply of Sugar Pines found along the Merced River canyon. Immortalized in author Hank Johnston’s book, “Whistles Blow No More”, the Yosemite Lumber Company logged in this area. In fact, the remains of the longest Incline rail system ever built are located at what is now Camp One Resort , just a short distance away from the Yosemite West development. The incline rose to a height of 3,100 feet (950 m) above the Merced River. The Camp One incline was used to lower logs to the Merced River at El Portal from the logging area. One of the stops on the Yosemite Valley Railroad line was the lumber mill built by the Yosemite Lumber Company where the wood was planed, finished, dried and stored. The lumber company is gone now and trees have fully returned with most 80+ feet (24+ m) tall, surrounding most homes on the hill. The old Shay logging train grades have been replaced with paved roads and underground utilities, giving it a pleasant rural atmosphere.
Getting there: access through the Yosemite National Park South entrance
You can drive up Highway 41 through Fresno and Madera counties to enter the Park through the South Entrance. This is the best way to go if you want to see the Mariposa Grove, the Wawona area, and Glacier Point on the way to Yosemite Valley. Highway 41 becomes the Wawona Road when it enters Yosemite. Henness Ridge Road is the junction off HWY 41 which leads to Yosemite West.North of Yosemite West is Chinquapin junction. Located midway between Wawona, Glacier Point, and the Yosemite Valley, the junction is the turn off for Badger Pass Ski Area Resort and Glacier Point. During the winter months, Badger Pass skiing is just minutes away.
Hiking trails starting at or near Yosemite West
Several trails begin at the border of Yosemite West, a private community. Some of them follow the old railroad beds left by the Yosemite Lumber Company. One such trail is across Hwy 41 near the Henness Ridge Road turn off to Yosemite West. Here you can find a parking area and the trailhead for Deer Camp Trail. This trailhead is just south of Chinquapin and Glacier Point Road. As you hike along the trail above Hwy 41, it passes over Rail Creek and Strawberry Creek on its way to Deer Camp on Empire Meadow. Alder Creek Trail branches off from Deer Camp Trail.
Along Alder Creek Trail you will come to Alder Creek Fall and the remnants of the old Yosemite Lumber Company railroad. You will see old railroad ties and pieces of track. In spring, Alder Creek Fall, which cascades down about 100 ft., can be a lovely sight. Some of the areas along the trail were at one time almost completely clear-cut by the lumber company. But now the area has dense stands of conifers and a few oaks and is well populated with birds in its full canopy. The trail is moderate in difficulty but the terrain is smooth. Towards the last mile or so it is steep as you hike down toward the end of the trail at Wawona.
Another hiking experience is the Henness Ridge Fire Lookout Trail. This unmarked trailhead starts at the end of Azalea Lane in Yosemite West. Using the asphalt access road to the right, hike past the water towers and continue 0.7 miles to the Henness Ridge fire lookout tower. This historic site is one of two remaining four rustic-style lookouts in the state. Built in 1939 by CCC, it was used by US Park Service for fire detection during the 60's and 70's, and is now historic structure number 5300. 360 degree panoramic views of Yosemite can be seen from this vantage point.
Another branch of the trail starting at Azalea Road. Take the path to the left and proceed a quarter mile northeast distance, the trail turns south. You are now on the Eleven-mile Trail also known as the Old Wawona Road, which parallels the current Wawona Road. Follow this old road bed south. The trail branches at the Eleven-mile Creek. Follow the trail, which parallels the creek bed, to the right to arrive at Eleven- mile Meadow.