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If you are a National Park lover like us, you need to read our blog about the best hikes in Yosemite! We’re Sydney and Caleb – we have explored over 47 of the 63 U.S. National Parks. While we don’t claim to be “experts” on every National Park, we have spent months hiking, camping, and exploring National Parks across the country.

Yosemite National Park is one of the most iconic National Parks (for a good reason!), and it should definitely be on your bucket list. It’s located in California in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Some of the most photographed landscapes in Yosemite include El Capitan, Half Dome, and Tunnel View. Hikers, climbers, and adventure seekers from all around the world come to experience this beautiful place!

While we understand that not everyone who visits Yosemite is NOT an avid hiker, we still think you should hike at least one trail on your visit. So, that’s why we’ve included hikes for all skill levels. So whether you are an advanced hiker or just beginning, you will find a trail that’s right for you!

best hikes in Yosemite

Best Hikes in Yosemite Table of Contents

In case you had a few trails in mind and just wanted to jump ahead (or get excited about what’s to come), here’s a little table of contents:

  1. Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point
  2. Mist Trail to Vernal Falls & Nevada Falls
  3. Upper Yosemite Falls
  4. Lower Yosemite Falls
  5. Bridalveil Falls
  6. Clouds Rest
  7. Sentinel Dome
  8. Taft Point

Disclaimer: Yosemite National Park is home to thousands of miles of trails! Of course, this isn’t an all-inclusive list of every trail in all of Yosemite. These trails are just some of the most iconic and best hikes in all of Yosemite!

best hikes in yosemite national park

Tips to be Prepared for Hiking in Yosemite

Avoiding the crowds

Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular and iconic National Parks in the USA. It should be no surprise to you that it gets CROWDED, especially in the summer. So, just be prepared to experience crowds when hiking in Yosemite. We HIGHLY recommend starting your hikes early (like between 5:00am and 6:00am) to avoid as many crowds as possible. Later in the morning into the afternoon, it can become a nightmare to find parking and enjoy the trails peacefully. If you don’t believe us, check out this reel we made about the afternoon crowds on the trails LOl!

Another way to avoid the crowds is to go in the shoulder season, early fall and late spring. The weather may not be as ideal, and everything may not be open yet (including hikes due to snow), but it will be less crowded. Sometimes, you can luck out and get amazing weather, no snow, and fewer crowds!

best hikes in yosemite national park

Best time of year for the best hikes in Yosemite

The best time of year to go hiking in Yosemite is late May to early October. Early summer is when most of the snow is still melting, making the waterfalls the most roaring and beautiful. But depending on the year, some of the trails and areas of the park could still be closed due to snow. Mid-summer is defiently the most crowded. It’s the warmest, typically the best conditions for hiking, and people are on summer vacation. In early fall, the temperatures should be a little cooler, making it more enjoyable hiking weather. That being said, sometimes snow can come early!

But no matter when you visit, be sure to always speak with a Ranger about the current trail conditions before starting your hike. We do research online before our trip on Alltrails to read people’s reviews about current conditions. Once we arrive at the park, we always stop by the visitor center to ensure all the information coincides with what the Park Rangers recommend!

best hikes in yosemite national park

What to bring on the best hikes in Yosemite

When hiking in Yosemite, you need to be prepared with the 10 essentials for hiking.

  1. Navigation (ie. map, compass, GPS device, etc.)
  2. Headlamp or Flash Light
  3. Sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, sun-protective clothes)
  4. First aid (bandaids, foot care, insect repellent)
  5. Knife
  6. Items to start a Fire (matches, lighter, tinder and/or stove)
  7. Shelter 
  8. Extra food (quality, high protein snacks)
  9. Extra water (1L for every 2 hours)
  10. Extra clothes (depending on the season – raincoat, jacket, gloves)

Keep in mind you may need additional items depending on the season you’re hiking or the area you’re hiking in (ie. bear country). This should be a list to help you get started with what to hike in your backpack! Of course, we also recommend wearing sturdy hiking boots.

8 Best Hikes in Yosemite:

best hikes in yosemite national park

1. Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point

Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point is the best trail in Yosemite (in our opinion!). Throughout the entire trail, you will see beautiful views of many iconic Yosemite sites. But those are not without a lot of effort; you climb from the bottom of Yosemite Valley to the top of Glacier Point. That’s a lot of elevation gain, 3,418 feet, to be exact! All your hard work will be well worth it when you enjoy breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome.

FYI, you can drive to the drop of Glacier Point (seasonal closures do occur). So, if you do plan to hike this trail, just know that you’ll be sharing the same views with people who just walked a few steps. We hiked it when Glacier Point road was closed, and it was quite peaceful!

2. Mist Trail to Vernal Falls & Nevada Falls

Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls is our second favorite trail in Yosemite! Hiking next to rushing waterfalls is exhilarating. The entire trail is absolutely beautiful!

The trail starts paved but shortly turns into what feels like an endless stone staircase up to both waterfalls. The mileage isn’t that long, but the elevation gain is no joke! If you plan to hike this trail in early summer, expect to get wet, even soaked. The mist from the waterfall can be pretty intense. We got absolutely drenched!

But if you don’t want to hike the entire trail, there are two options. You can either hike to the Vernal Falls Footbridge (1.6 miles round trip) or just the top of Vernal Falls (approx. 2.4 miles round trip) before turning around.

Typically, late May to early June is the best time to see the waterfalls flowing at their strongest. Throughout the summer, they tend to lose their water/power due to there being less snowmelt (most snow melts at the beginning of the summer). We were lucky in that the year we visited in mid-July (2023), after a winter with record snowfall, and the water was absolutely raging.

upper yosemite falls, one of the best hikes in yosemite
Photo Credit: National Park Service

3. Upper Yosemite Falls

Upper Yosemite Falls is one of the must-do hikes in Yosemite! This stairmaster of a hike climbs around 3,000 feet in 3 miles, leading to the upper portion of Yosemite Falls – the tallest waterfall in North America. All your hard work will be rewarded when you see the stunning views! Don’t miss stopping at Columbia Rock – it’s one of the best viewpoints of both Yosemite Falls and Half Dome on the entire hike.

Please be cautious around the top of Yosemite Point near Yosemite Creek. While the creek looks small in size, it feeds an extremely powerful waterfall and can be quite dangerous.

Want to see us experience some of the best hikes in Yosemite? Watch our Youtube video for more hiking tips and general visiting tips for Yosemite in the summer.

4. Lower Yosemite Falls

  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Mileage: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 55 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead Parking: Yosemite Valley Visitor Center
  • Alltrail Trail Link

Lower Yosemite Falls is the final 320-ft drop of Yosemite Falls. This short paved trail takes you through the woods before opening up to scenic views of the falls. Depending on when you visit, you can get sprayed by mist, even just standing on the footbridge. When

Again, typically, late May to early June is the best time to see the waterfalls flowing at their strongest. Throughout the summer they tend to lose their power due to less snowmelt (most snow melts at the beginning of the summer).

*FYI this photo is of Bridalveil Falls but not from the trailhead!

5. Bridalveil Falls

Bridalveil Falls is a beautiful 617 ft waterfall that’s the first one you see when driving into Yosemite. This popular paved trail is perfect for hikers of all skill levels!

The biggest tip is to make sure this waterfall is still flowing before doing this hike! As we mentioned above, typically, late May to early June is the best time to see the waterfalls flowing at their strongest. Throughout the summer, they tend to lose their power due to less snowmelt (most snow melts at the beginning of the summer). Nothing would be more disappointing than to hike it with no waterfall at the end!

If you plan to hike this trail in early summer, expect to get wet from the waterfall’s mist. It will probably feel quite refreshing on a hot summer day, but bring a raincoat just in case!

*These photos are from 2019 on a hiking trip with my mom and me (Sydney). This area of the park was still closed due to snow on our 2023 visit!

6. Cloud’s Rest

Cloud’s Rest offers beautiful, panoramic views of Yosemite Valley from nearly 10,00 ft. If you have binoculars, you can even see people climbing up Half Dome! While the entire trail is through beautiful scenery, the view at the end is why people push through to hike this trail.

This is one of the only trails on this list that isn’t located in Yosemite Valley. The trailhead begins off Tioga Road near Tenaya Lake, about 46 miles (around 1.5 hours, depending on the route/traffic) from the Valley. But, it can be done as a backpacking route from Yosemite Valley.

That being said, most people do this hike as a day hike! Cloud’s Rest is a difficult trail, and you should plan for it to take most of your day (around 8 hours, depending on your pace). This hike is long and strenuous, so be sure to pack lots of water, snacks, and other essentials. We recommend starting early to avoid mid-day heat and thunderstorms and give yourself enough to hike in the daylight.

The end section of the trail is where the iconic 360-degree views are, but you do have to scramble up a narrow, rocky ridge line. I’m afraid of heights and found it quite nerve-wracking since it has extremely steep drop-offs on both sides. While it is somewhat dangerous, it’s far less exposed and dangerous than hiking Half Dome or Angels Landing in Zion. Just use your own judgment and decide how far you feel comfortable going, and you should be fine!

*Photos are from 2019 on a hiking trip with my mom and I (Sydney). This area of the park was still closed due to snow on our 2023 visit!

Photo Credit: Yosemite Hikes

7. Sentinel Dome

This hike provides panoramic views of Yosemite Valley! It’s similar to the view point at Glacier Point, but we’ve heard it’s a *little* less crowded. Sentinel Dome is a great place to watch the sunset! Just be prepared to hike it back in the dark.

Sentinel Dome is a great trail for beginner to intermediate hikers who want to experience those stunning, panoramic views on a hike without doing something too strenuous.

Due to construction, Glacier Point Road was closed, so we sadly didn’t get to hike this trail.

Photo Credit: Alltrails

8. Taft Point

This is a popular spot for sunset or sunrise! You’ve probably seen the iconic photo of someone standing on the edge of Taft Point. That being said, it can be VERY busy! We’ve heard people have had to wait in line to take photos at that spot.

Due to construction, Glacier Point Road was closed so we sadly didn’t get to visit this spot on our trip.

You’ll notice the most iconic hike in Yosemite we didn’t include in this list, Half Dome. There are a few reasons for this. One, we wouldn’t recommend it to people who haven’t experienced hikers or who have trained for it. Two, we haven’t done it ourselves, and the logistics can be a little tricky with the permit, start time, the cables, etc. There are tons of blogs out there by people who have hiked it, and since it’s a unique hike that can be deadly, we would rather point you to one of those blogs!

Don’t forget to save this blog about the 8 Best Hikes in Yosemite for later planning!

Looking to visit another iconic National Park? Check out our blog about the Best Hikes in Glacier National Park!

Comments +

  1. Lisa says:

    What a fantastic read! Thanks for the great tips and sharing your amazing photos. Heard this year’s waterfalls were spectacular!

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