Hiking in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park has something for everyone. Hiking in Yosemite National Park is the prime choice for exploring the alluring realm of nature.

When going hiking Yosemite offers a variety of trails ranging from very easy to challenging and strenuous. 

From extremely short trails of around one mile to the hardest of all 16-mile trails.  

You can start your Yosemite National Park hiking journey with a one-mile loop trail to America’s largest waterfall, Yosemite Fall’s lower drop. 

On the other hand, people with hiking experience must face the challenging 16-mile hike to Half Dome.

Choose from some of the best hiking trails in Yosemite National Park. 

Book the guided Yosemite hiking excursion ticket for a challenging yet stress-free hiking experience.

Mist Trail (Vernal and Nevada Falls)

The signature Yosemite hike, the Mist Trail near Yosemite Valley, is usually considered challenging. 

Along the hike, you will get views of two stunning Yosemite waterfalls–  Vernal and Nevada Falls with the trail ending at the top of Nevada Falls. 

The trail takes you on a long staircase alongside the Vernal Fall. You might also get wet here if the flow’s strong enough.

The hike all the way to the top of Nevada Falls is steep and tiring, but you will be rewarded with striking views of Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, and the back of Half Dome.   

The best time to visit this trail is early morning during peak water flow, around April to June. 

Difficulty: Hard
Length: Vernal Fall– 3.4 miles (4.8 km) round trip, 3 to 4 hours;
Nevada Fall– 6.6 miles (9.7 km) round trip, 5 to 6 hours
Elevation gain: Top of Vernal Fall– 1,000 feet (300 meters); 
  Top of Nevada Fall– 1,900 feet (580 meters)                 

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

This trail to the top of North America’s largest waterfall, Yosemite Falls, offers a bird’s eye view of the Yosemite Valley. 

Along the path, you will cross Columbia Rock at a one-mile mark with views of Half Dome and Sentinel Rock.

This is one of the hardest Yosemite hiking trails. The way to the upper Yosemite Falls is steep and rocky, but at the fall’s top, you will see Yosemite Creek feeding the immense fall. 

If there’s still some energy and you will leave, extend your hike east to Yosemite Point and add 1.6 miles to your roundtrip along with closeup views of Half Dome and Lost Arrow Spire.

Prepare your mind as this trail is extremely long, with the total distance equivalent of just over two Empire State Buildings.

Early summer months or the spring, when the falls are throwing out excessive amounts of water, is the best time to hike this trail.

Difficulty: Very Hard
Length: Top of Yosemite Falls– 7.2 miles (11.6 km) round trip, 6 to 8 hours; 
9.4 miles (15 km) round trip, including Yosemite Point, 8 to 10 hours
Elevation gain: Top of Yosemite Falls– 2,700 feet (823 meters).
Yosemite Point– 2,969 feet (890 meters) 

Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

Lower Yosemite Falls Trail
Image: NPS.gov

Enjoy breathtaking views of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls on this short, one-mile climb to Yosemite’s most well-known waterfall.

This paved loop hike provides views of Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Creek from various angles as well as up-close views of the falls’ lowest part.

Visit the numerous exhibits to find out more about the region’s natural and cultural history.

For the finest views of Yosemite Falls, explore the loop counterclockwise. 

If you’re coming on foot from the Valley Visitor Center, use the bike path to the Lower Yosemite Fall shuttle stop, where the trailhead is located.

Try to visit early in the summer or during spring when the water level in the waterfall is at its maximum. 

When it comes to winter hiking, Yosemite National Park does have some suitable options including this trail.

When not covered with snow or ice, wheelchair users can use the eastern portion of this circular track.

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1 mile (1.6 km) loop, 15 to 60 minutes
Elevation gain: Approximately 50 feet (15 m)

Half Dome

Half Dome
Image: NPS.gov

One of the popular trails in Yosemite is also the toughest of Yosemite hikes. 

Along the route of this challenging hike, keep your eyes wide open as you’ll be treated to scenic views of the Vernal and Nevada waterfalls, and at the summit, Yosemite’s best panorama awaits.

You will need preparation and lots of water to climb this extremely steep dome over the eastern end of Yosemite Valley. 

The final climb uses steel cable handrails and wooden planks, which are usually laid out in late May or early June.

The climb’s cable route section, which closes during the winter season, also requires a permit. 

Most Yosemite National Park hiking permits are given out via a preseason lottery system during March and then a daily lottery, two days in advance, continuing through the end of the summer.

So be prepared, understand your limits and carry enough water.

Many hikers are rescued each year from this hike, usually due to dehydration. 

Difficulty: Extremely strenuous
Length: 17 miles (27.36 km) round trip via John Muir Trail, 10 to 14 hours
14.2 miles (22.7 km) round trip via Mist Trail
Elevation gain: 4,800 feet (1,600 meters)

Sentinel Dome Trail And Taft Point Loop

Sentinel Dome & Taft Point
Image: Eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com

For a stunning 360-degree perspective of the park, climb up the rocky slope of Sentinel Dome.

The hike through exposed granite with little cover to the Sentinel Dome is a 1.8-mile (2.9 km) round-trip that takes around one to two hours.

You can extend your trip to combine Taft Point (2.2 miles round trip), which will add another 2 hours to your round trip. 

Yosemite is open to visitors 24 hours, so you should consider going on this hike around dusk or during a full moon.

From the top of Taft Point, spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, are available.

The Fissures—narrow granite fissures known as joints—can also be seen close to Taft Point. 

But keep an eye out for drops of up to 2,000 feet.

The trails are accessible from Glacier Point Road, which is usually open from late May to early November. 

Difficulty: Moderate 
Length: 4.9 miles (7.9 km) loop, 3 to 4 hours
Elevation gain: 1,000 ft (300 m) 

Bridalveil Fall Trail

Bridalveil Fall Trail
Image: NPS.gov

The year-round fall famous for its heavy mist showers is best visited during peak snowmelt in spring or early summer.

This paved trail starts from the Bridalveil Fall parking lot at Wawona Road and leads to the 620-foot (189-meter) waterfall.

For a slightly longer trail (0.25 miles), drive a few hundred yards farther east into Yosemite Valley and hike to explore the Bridalveil Creek and various perspectives of Bridalveil Fall. 

Be careful around the rocks and pebbles near the viewing area because they can be slippery even when dry.

This is one of the Yosemite must-do hikes whether you’re a beginner or an expert.

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 0.5 miles (0.8 km) round trip, 20 to 30 minutes
Elevation gain: Approximately 80 ft (24 m)

The Four Mile Trail

The Four Mile Trail
Image: NPS.gov

The trail begins at the trailhead near Sentinel Rock’s base along Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley.

Along the way to the top, you can enjoy beautiful views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and, eventually, if you make it to the top, Half Dome.

Although, you would have to take a detour from Union Point to see the Yosemite Valley view. 

The trail ends at Glacier Point with a summer-only snack stand, a gift shop, a water fountain, and restrooms.

You can choose to continue your journey on the Happy Isles Trailhead for an additional 8.5 miles (13.7 km) through the Panorama Trail. 

No free shuttle system is available between Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley, so make sure you have a pick-up waiting if you are planning for a one-way hike. 

Usually, this trail starts for the season around May and ends below Union Point by November or December, owing to hazardous conditions after considerable snowfall. 

The trail may be closed entirely after a substantial snowfall. This is one of the toughest Yosemite hikes.

Difficulty: Strenuous
Length:4.8 miles (7.7 km) one way to Glacier Point, 9.6 miles (15.5 km) round trip; 3 to 4 hours one-way
Elevation gain: 3,200 ft (975 m) elevation gain

Tuolumne Grove

Tuolumne Grove
Image: NPS.gov

This entire downhill trail through the Tuolumne grove of giant sequoias offers a short and smooth walk.

To witness the stunning leaf color changes of deciduous trees, visit this trail in the autumn.

Explore the 100-year-old enormous sequoias and pass through the tunnel tree.

If you are looking for moderate hikes in Yosemite in terms of difficulty, this is a good option.

The trailhead along Tioga Road is open from June through October and closes in the winter months. 

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 2.5 miles (4 km) round trip,  1.5 to 2.5 hours
Elevation gain: 400 feet (120 meters) elevation loss 

Mirror Lake Trail

Mirror Lake Trail
Image: NPS.gov

A one-mile paved road from the trailhead at the shuttle stop 17, near Ahwahnee Hotel, leads directly to the Mirror Lake. 

The loop starts at the end of the paved road and continues past the lake along Tenaya Creek.

It continues past Mirror Lake on the south side of Tenaya Canyon and two bridges before rejoining the Snow Creek Trail.

The lake fed by melting snow from Tenaya Creek only fills in spring and has very little water for much of the year. 

The still water in the lake impressively reflects the neighboring cliffs.

Along the way, there are also exhibitions showing some of the local cultural heritage that might keep you occupied.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length: 2 miles (3.2 km) round trip, 1 hour;
5 miles (8 km) loop around the lake, 2 to 3 hours
Elevation gain: 100 feet 

Clouds Rest

For the most epic panoramic view of Yosemite, hike the strenuous all-day trail to the highest point in the valley, Clouds Rest. 

From the peak, you may see Half Dome, Tenaya Lake, Mt. Hoffman, Sentinel Dome, North Dome, Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, and Merced Lake, among other Yosemite sights.

This is one of the more challenging Yosemite hikes but the fantastic view from up top makes it worth it.

The Sunrise trailhead is located off Tioga Road at the western end of Tenaya Lake.

There are three other trailhead options to reach the Clouds Rest summit— the Happy Isles trailhead, Glacier Point and the Little Yosemite Valley backpackers’ campground.

If you are looking for an alternative to Half Dome, this is the hike you should do – less crowded and does not require a permit. 

Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: Sunrise trailhead– 14.5 miles (23.3 km) round trip,
Tenaya Lake  – 19 miles round trip;  8 to 14 hours
Elevation gain: 1,775 feet (540 meter)

Panorama Trail

The Panorama Trail starts at Glacier Point and ends at Happy Isles.

It is one of the many Yosemite Valley trails.

It connects with the John Muir Trail and the Mist Trail, which lead to Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls. 

You can take the Panorama Point detour to enjoy a different view of the Royal Arches, North Dome, and the back of Half Dome.

You can hike this one way or hike it as a round trip for a total distance of 17 miles.

Difficulty: Strenuous if going up, moderate if going down
Length: 8.5 miles (13.5 km) one-way, 4 to – 7 hours one-way
Elevation change: 3,200 feet (975 meters)

Mariposa Grove

There are a few trails in the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias ranging from a few miles to longer miles.


What is the most popular hike in Yosemite?

The Half Dome trail is one of the most popular Yosemite hikes. It is visited by many but is also very challenging.

Different folks prefer various hikes depending on their ability, the views and the time they have at their disposal.

Is Yosemite a difficult hike?

Yosemite consists of multiple hiking trails with difficulty levels ranging from easy to strenuous. 
This wide range ensures that even if you’re a beginner or an expert, you can find yourself a challenge of desirable difficulty.

 Why is Yosemite so famous?

Yosemite National Park is famous because of the wonderful marvels of nature present in the region. 
The waterfalls, sequoias, creeks, meadows and other attractions make it all a sight to see.

Does Yosemite have easy hikes?

Yes, there are some Yosemite trails that are easy and can be done with family. 
The easy hiking trails in Yosemite National Park include the Mirror Lake Trail, Bridalveil Fall Trail and Lower Yosemite Falls Trail.

Featured Image: Tripsavvy.com

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