Get on granite. The short climb to the top of Pothole Dome provides an ideal vantage point for taking in Tuolumne Meadows. From the pullout on the north side of State 120 at the western edge of the meadows, look for a winding granite path that leads first into a grove of pines and then up the gently curving rock face. The 0.5-mile trip to the top takes less than 20 minutes and is easy all the way.
River walk. The Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River is on the other side of State 120 from the meadows. A meander along the river, really
more like a gentle stream this late in the year, reveals quaking aspens and tall, golden grasses. Trails extend for more than
8 miles up the canyon; make an out-and-back hike of any distance.
Follow the sun. On the drive back to Yosemite Valley, you'll pass several well-known landmarks, including Tenaya Lake (an easy, 2-mile out-and-back hike begins at the south end of the sandy beach and runs along the south side of the lake) and Olmsted Point, where Half Dome feels so close you can almost reach out and touch it. For dinner, the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls Food Court ($$; 209/372-1265) has burgers, pizza, and spaghetti, and it generally remains open until 7 p.m.