The Curse of Tenaya Canyon in Yosemite

The Curse of Tenaya Canyon in Yosemite
13 April 2024 J.W.H

One of probably the most dangerous places to travel in Yosemite National Park is Tenaya Canyon, where many individuals have been injured and even killed. Many imagine the canyon is cursed after Chief Tenaya and his people were faraway from Yosemite and the land of their ancestors.

Amid the towering redwoods and breathtaking landscapes of Yosemite National Park and its surroundings, a kingdom of shadows and whispered stories unfolds. As the sun sets behind the colossal redwoods, modern legends and ancient tales creep from the well-traveled trails into the darkness of Yosemite's haunted landscape.

Yosemite National Park covers 759,620 acres and spans 4 California counties. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984 and is crammed with granite cliffs, giant redwood groves, crystal clear lakes and streams, and stormy waterfalls from the mountains.

Although the history of European settlers in Yosemite dates back to 1851, when it was “found” by James D. Savage, Native American history within the valley dates back almost 4,000 years. As for human presence, perhaps as much as 10,000 years. And from the looks of it, it appears to be one in every of the more haunted national parks within the US.

Tenaya Canyon: View of Half Dome through Tenaya Canyon, where Chief Tenaya's curse is alleged to persist after his son was murdered by settlers: Akos Kokai/Wikimedia Commons

The danger of Tenaya Canyon

In Yosemite National Park there’s a spot stuffed with beauty and horror – Tenaya Canyon. Carved over millennia by powerful natural forces, this rugged gorge boasts towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls and untamed wildlife.

Tenaya Canyon has a fame for being dangerous and difficult to navigate without proper equipment, even for knowledgeable hikers and climbers. Some say it's due to the polished and slippery rocks, frequent rockslides, and steep climb, while some say it's due to something more sinister than the difficult terrain.

Because beneath Tenaya Canyon's picturesque façade lies a darker tale of tragedy, curses and inexplicable events which have given it its ominous nickname: Yosemite's Bermuda Triangle.

Removal of the Ahwahnechee tribe

Mariposa War: The war broke out because of tensions arising from the influx of settlers into indigenous territories, encroachment on indigenous lands, and disputes over resources similar to gold. The conflict led to the suppression of Native American resistance and the forced relocation of many Native people to reservations. “Protecting the Settlers” Illustration by J. R. Browne for his work “The Indians of California” 1864. An outline of a massacre by militiamen in an Indian camp.

Tenaya Canyon was named for Chief Tenaya, leader of the Ahwahnechee individuals who once called Yosemite Valley home. It is alleged that the Ahwahnechee people became a tribe distinct from other local tribes, and Chief Tenaya, a proud and resilient leader, fought fiercely to guard his people and their ancestral lands from encroaching settlers.

In 1850–1851, the Mariposa War took place in Yosemite and Sierra Nevada National Park between English settlers and the indigenous tribes living in the realm. A bloody conflict coupled with diseases imported from Europe that may reduce their numbers within the valley from about 7,000 to about 200 or thereabouts inside a decade.

It was in the midst of the California Gold Rush and the settlers desired to send the native tribes to the Fresno Reservation. Chief Tenaya and the local tribes resisted. However, personal tragedy struck within the 1850s when Chief Tenaya's son fell victim to a battalion attempting to forcibly remove the Ahwahnechee from Yosemite Valley.

At first, many tribe members decided to go to the reservation, but many fled back to the valley. One of them was Chief Tenaya's youngest and favorite son. His son was held captive by European settlers and when he tried to flee, he was shot.

In his grief and rage, Chief Tenaya is alleged to have placed a curse on the canyon, swearing that misfortune and destruction would befall those that entered his sacred grounds.

The Curse of Chief Tenaya

There are several different accounts of what exactly he said. One account of this curse might be present in Hutchings' California Magazine of 1859 by Lafayette Bunnell:

However, it’s value noting that it is a story written by someone involved within the removal of indigenous tribes from Yosemite. Another account by Lafayette Bunnell gives more details of what happened, and published in 1892, where he cursed them thus:

While the story of all of it is true, historians say its details ought to be taken with a pinch of salt, because the only story about what was said, when, and what was said comes only from the side that won the battle and stayed alive to inform the story.

But what do Tenayas descendants and natives need to say about this story? A spokesman for the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation says the curse can also be common amongst them. Every time someone dies, suffers a terrible accident, or nature itself is rocked by a rockslide, for instance, they are saying a prayer and blessing to remove Tenaya's curse and keep Yosemite protected.

But watch out, it is alleged that bad things will occur to those that don’t respect the rocks, plants and waters within the park.

The dangerous curse of Yosemite's Tenaya Canyon

Over the years, the curse of Tenaya Canyon has develop into a legend, whispered by park rangers and visitors alike. Tuolumne Meadows is alleged to be the place where the curse itself comes from and is crammed with the spirits of those that died there in battle.

Stories abound of accidents, mysterious deaths and inexplicable disappearances that befell those that dared to enterprise into its depths. However, it’s value noting that there are signs informing people throughout much of the canyon “Warning. This is not a trail. Travel beyond this point is dangerous without climbing equipment. Return to Tioga Road.”


Mostly, hikers and climbers within the canyon mainly talk in regards to the feeling that there’s something there. Like the climber's way that Rom Kauk talked about in: interview. He felt something with him within the canyon, something pulling him by his sleeping bag.

However, there are those that imagine that the curse is more dangerous than simply the ominous presence and jokes across the tents. Some imagine that the curse is chargeable for many accidents, disappearances and even deaths which have occurred within the canyon. Something that has led people to call this canyon the Bermuda Triangle of Yosemite.

Many have attempted the 10-mile traverse of the canyon or the route from Lake Tenaya to Yosemite Valley.

Even Yosemite legend Jon Muir fell and lost consciousness while exploring this a part of Yosemite National Park:

Suddenly I fell – for the primary time since my feet touched the Sierra rocks. After a number of somersaults I lost consciousness from shock, and once I regained consciousness I discovered myself pressed into short, stiff bushes, shivering as if from cold, without the slightest injury.
Steep trails by Jon Muir

Hiking the Cursed Canyon

Park rangers, well versed within the park's history and its secrets, began to view Tenaya Canyon with a combination of respect and fear. Some report strange occurrences and disturbing vibrations that permeate the air, indicating unseen forces at work. Other native tribes also take this curse at face value and urge tourists to treat the canyon with the respect it demands.

Despite its breathtaking beauty, Tenaya Canyon stays a spot of caution and respect, and its cursed fame serves as a grim reminder of the enduring power of the past and the ghosts that also roam the land. So the subsequent time you're drawn to the lure of Yosemite's wilderness, tread rigorously and heed the warnings whispered by the wind – because Tenaya Canyon may hold secrets which might be best left alone.


So many accidents occur here that it's called Yosemite's “Bermuda Triangle”

Tenaya Canyon – Wikipedia

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  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”