Hiking

hiking

There is no better way to explore all the wonders of Yosemite National Park than hiking. There are many trails throughout Yosemite and its surrounding communities and gateways, all ranging in estimated duration and difficulty, and many guidebooks to help you along the way. Find information below on the Yosemite hiking trail you might want to tackle the next time you’re visiting the Yosemite National Park area!

Yosemite Valley

Bridalveil Fall & Leaning web sizeBridalveil Fall

Distance: 0.5 miles (0.8 km) round-trip
Estimated Time: 20 minutes (leashed pets are allowed)
Difficulty: Easy, but icy in the wintertime)

Take Southside Drive towards the Valley, then turn right on Hwy #41. The parking lot for Bridalveil Falls is immediately to the left. Begin at the Bridalveil Fall parking area. A paved trail leads from the parking area to the base of this waterfall, flowing year-round. Walk back to the parking area via the same trail. Expect lots of spray in spring and early summer. You may encounter icy conditions in the winter.

Half Dome from four mile trail web sizeFour Mile Trail

Distance: 9.6 miles (15.5 km) round-trip, 3,200-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 6 to 8 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous; Closed from approximately December through May due to extremely hazardous conditions

Begin at the Four Mile Trailhead along South Side Drive in Yosemite Valley. In the summer months, take the Capital Shuttle to the trailhead. You can also reach the trail from year-round Valley Visitor Shuttle Stop #7, adding about a ½ mile to the total distance. An alternative in the summer is to purchase a bus ticket to Glacier Point and hike down. Reservations are required.

Yosemite-Falls-from-Glacier-Point4Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley

Distance: By Four Mile Trail: 4.8 miles (7.7 km) one-way; By Panorama Trail: 8.5 miles (13.6 km) one-way
Estimated Time: Four Mile Trail: 3 to 4 hours; Panorama Trail: 6 to 8 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous

Beginning at Glacier Point, it is strongly recommended that you take the hikers’ bus to Glacier Point and hike down, rather than parking at Glacier Point and planning to catch the hikers’ bus back up. The Four Mile Trail switchbacks down to Yosemite Valley, providing wonderful views of the Valley. The Panorama Trail provides a close-up view of Illilouette Fall and panoramic views of eastern Yosemite Valley before joining the Mist or John Muir Trails down past Vernal and Nevada Falls.

Half-Dome-SubDome_small_Satish-J Half Dome

Distance: Mist Trail: 14 miles (22.4 km) round-trip; John Muir Trail: 16.3 miles (26.1 km) round-trip; Mist Trail up and John Muir Trail down, or vice versa: 15.2 miles (24.3 km)
Estimated Time: 10 to 12 hours, 4,800-foot elevation gain
Difficulty: Strenuous

In order to increase safety along the Half Dome cables, all people using the Half Dome Trail above the sub-dome must have a permit in possession every day when the cables are up. The cables are taken down each October for the fall and winter seasons and put back in place in the spring, as conditions permit. Visitors are strongly advised against attempting to summit Half Dome without the cables in place as the dome can be extremely slippery and may be wet and/or icy even in seemingly dry conditions. For more information, contact the National Park Service at (209) 372-0200.

Do NOT begin this ascent if: 1) The cables are down, 2) There is ANY chance of rain, as moisture makes the granite too slick for safety, or 3) There is ANY chance of lightening.
Follow the Mist Trail (or John Muir Trail) to Nevada Fall. Continue on the trail, following the signs to Half Dome. The last 900 feet of the trail is a very steep climb up the east side of Half Dome. Cables assist hikers on the final 400 feet. They consist of two steel cables, about 3 feet apart and suspended at arms’ height from pipes set in the rock. The top of Half Dome is fairly large and level open surface. Camping is NOT permitted on top of Half Dome.

Lower Yosemite Fall

Distance: 1 mile (1.6 km) loop
Estimated Time: 30 minutes; half of the loop is wheelchair accessible
Difficulty: Easy; Icy in winter

Begin at Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead. This short, easy walk rewards with spectacular views of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. This waterfall is often dry from late July or August through October. However, expect spray in spring and early summer.

Mirror-Lake--HIke-fro-webMirror Lake / Meadow

Distance: 2 miles (3.2 km) round-trip; 5 miles (8 km) around the lake
Estimated Time: 1 hour (round-trip); 2 hours (loop around)
Difficulty: Easy

From the shuttle stop, a paved trail leads directly to Mirror Lake. At the stone bridge, you can turn right to take the five-mile loop or remain on the paved trail and continue to Mirror Lake. Mirror Lake has little water much of the year, but in spring and early summer it can grow in size. When water is calm, the lake offers beautiful reflections of surrounding cliffs. Exhibits detail the story of the area’s lake-to-meadow succession.

Nevada-Falls-and-Liberty-Cap_-SmallDan-FlickrNevada Fall

Distance: 5.8 miles (9.2 km) round-trip, 2,000-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 5 to 6 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous; Upper portion of John Muir Trail closed in winter

Hikers can reach the top of Nevada Fall by continuing 1.3 miles (2.1 km) along the Mist Trail (from Vernal Fall). The John Muir Trail also leads to the top of Nevada Fall (bypassing Vernal Fall). The portion of the John Muir Trail between Clark Point and the top of Nevada Fall is closed in the winter.

Ostrander Lake

Distance: 12.7 miles (20.3 km) round-trip
Estimated Time: 8 to 10 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous

The first half of this trail inclines gently through forest and meadow. Observe severe scars and regrowth from a 1987 lodge pole pine forest fire. A steep 1,500-foot (450 m) elevation gain opens up to views of Yosemite Valley domes, Mount Starr King, and the Clark Range. A short, final ascent leads to beautiful Ostrander Lake.

Panorama Trail

Distance: 8.5 miles (13.7 km) one-way to Valley floor
Estimated Time: 6 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous, but very difficult in winter due to significant snowfall

As its name implies, this trail offers some incredible panoramic views of Yosemite Valley. The trail crosses Illilouette Fall after 2 miles (3.2 km) and continues partially uphill along the Panorama Cliff. At the top of Nevada Fall, the trail joins the Mist and John Muir Trails to Happy Isles. In the summer, hikers may purchase a one-way bus ticket to Glacier Point and hike down. Reservations are required.

Sentinel Bridge to Yosemite Falls

Distance: 2.8 miles
Estimated Time: N/A
Difficulty: Easy

For a family hike that takes in all of the Valley’s splendor, park and then catch the shuttle to Sentinel Bridge. Start by walking across Sentinel Bridge, then at its end, turn right, get on the paved walk and head toward the park’s oldest working building – the Chapel.

To continue, walk across the Chapel and the path will join a trail that runs along the southern valley wall. Follow this to the right through dense forest that will eventually parallel the road. Cross the road at the crosswalk, then cross the bridge and you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of Yosemite Falls as it thunders down the mountainside.

Sentinel Dome and Taft Point

Distance: 2.2 miles (3.5 km) round-trip
Estimated Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

At the trailhead, turn left to head toward Taft Point and the Fissures. Your walk is easy at first, through forest and wildflower-filled meadows. Watch your step around the Fissures and at Taft Point, where you’ll enjoy magnificent views of Yosemite Valley.

At the trailhead, turn right to head toward Sentinel Dome. Once near the dome, the trail meets an old road. Follow the road to the northeast side of the dome, where the incline is less imposing. Scramble up the side of the dome and, at the top, enjoy a breathtaking 360-degree panorama.

Upper Yosemite Fall

Distance: 7.2 miles (11.6 km); 2,700-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 6 to 8 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous; Difficult in winter due to snow, especially beyond Columbia Rock
One of Yosemite’s oldest historic trails, the Yosemite Falls Trail leads to the top of North America’s tallest waterfall (2,425 feet above the Valley floor). Do not stray off the marked path, as you will find steep drops adjacent to the trail. Enjoy spectacular views from Columbia Rock located one mile (and dozens of switchbacks) from the trailhead.

Valley-Loop-Trail Valley Floor Loop

Distance: 13 miles (20.9 km) loop
Estimated Time: 5 to 7 hours half-loop
Difficulty: Moderate; May be a little snowy or icy in the winter and trail may be hard to find under the snow

This trail follows many of the Valley’s first east-west trails and wagon roads. The half-loop trail crosses the Merced River on El Capitan Bridge. Continue on to Bridalveil Fall for the full loop. The Valley Floor Loop provides solitude with occasional route-finding difficulty.
Hike through meadows, forests, and along the Merced River. Along the way, enjoy views of Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, Three Brothers, Bridalveil Fall, and Yosemite Falls.

Vernal-WebVernal Fall

Distance: 1.6 miles (2.6 km) round-trip
Estimated Time: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous; Mist Trail closed in the winter, but is accessible via the John Muir trail, which may be snowy in the winter.

You’ll find an excellent view of Vernal Fall from the footbridge at 0.75 miles (1.3 km). Beyond the bridge, at 0.2 miles, the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail diverge. To proceed directly to the top of Vernal Fall, follow the Mist Trail 0.5 miles up a steep granite stairway of more than 600 steps.

Prepare for slippery footing and a tremendous amount of waterfall spray in spring and early summer. This portion of trail is closed in winter due to risk of falling ice and rock

 

Tuolumne Meadows

cathedral peak-noel morrison (3)Cathedral Lakes

Distance: 7 miles (11.3km) round-trip; 1000-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 4 to 6 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Begin at Cathedral Lakes trailhead, ½ mile west of the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, Shuttle Stop #7. The trail climbs steadily to the Upper Cathedral Lake. Near the top of the climb, it passes a spur trail to Lower Cathedral Lake (0.5 miles to the lake). The return hike follows the same route. This is one of the busiest trails in the Tuolumne Meadows area. Since parking at the trailhead is limited, consider taking the free shuttle bus.

Dog Lake and Lembert Dome

Distance: Dog Lake: 2.8 miles (4.5 km) round-trip, 600-foot elevation gain; Lembert Dome: 2.8 miles (4.5 km) round-trip, 850-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Begin at the Dog Lake parking area (shuttle stop #2, just west of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge). The trail rises steeply for 0.75 miles to a signed junction. Turn left to reach the top of Lembert Dome for a spectacular view of the Tuolumne Meadows and surrounding peaks. To reach Dog Lake, continue straight at the junction. Allow four hours for a leisurely four mile round-trip visit to both Dog Lake and Lembert Dome. Stay off domes during thunderstorms!

Elizabeth-Lakes-SmElizabeth Lake

Distance: 4.8 miles (7.7 km) round-trip, 1000-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 4 to 5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Begin at Tuolumne Meadows Campground, park just past the group camp. The trail begins in the B loop of the campground and climbs steadily to a glacier-carved lake at the base of Unicorn Peak. The return hike follows the same route.

Gaylor-LakesGaylor Lakes

Distance: 2.0 miles (3.2 km) round-trip, 500-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Begin at Tioga Pass Entrance Station. This hike offers some of the most spectacular high-country views off of Tioga Road. From the trailhead, climb steadily to a ridge with views of the High Sierra, including Mt. Dana and Dana Meadows with its scattered ponds. At the ridge crest, the trail drops 200 feet to Middle Gaylor Lake. From here you can explore the various lakes that dot the meandering trail. Return via the same route.

Trail Tip: Keep an eye out for the abandoned silver mine in the area and fabulous wildflowers that pop out in July.

Glen Aulin

Distance: 11 miles (17.7 km) round-trip, 800-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 6 to 8 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Follow the Tuolumne River as it drops to Glen Aulin. Tuolumne Fall and White Cascade are four miles from the trailhead. Beyond Glen Aulin are California Fall (13 miles round-trip), LeConte Fall (15 miles round-trip), and Waterwheel Falls (18 miles round-trip). The return hike will follow the same route.

Harden Lake

Distance: 5.8 miles (9.3 km) round-trip, 355-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 2 to 4 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Hike along a gravel road—part of the original Tioga Road—that follows the Middle Fork of the Tuolumne River for part of the route. At a trail junction, 1.75 miles down the road, follow the signs to the lake. The trail passes by small granite domes and through a forest of red fir and lodgepole pine to reach boulder-dotted Harden Lake.

Lukens Lake from Tioga Road

Distance: 1.6 miles (2.6 km) round-trip; 200-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 1 to 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Begin at Lukens Lake Trailhead on Tioga Road 2 miles east of White Wolf Road. The trail winds through a mixed conifer forest, then over a saddle and down to a small mountain lake surrounded by a meadow. Shooting stars and dozens of other species of wildflowers abound, often through July. Please stay on designated trails to protect the meadow. The trail is wet and muddy until early August.

Lukens-Lake-small_-Allie-CaulfieldLukens Lake from White Wolf

Distance: 4.6 miles (7.5 km) round-trip; 400-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 2 to 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Follow the trail through a mixed conifer forest to Lukens Lake, a small mountain lake surrounded by a meadow. The trail crosses the Middle Fork of the Tuolumne River and is wet and muddy until early August. At the lake, shooting stars and dozens of other species of wildflowers abound, often through July. Please stay on designated trails to protect the meadow.

Lyell Canyon via the John Muir Trail

Distance: 8 miles (12.9 km) round-trip, 200-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 4 hours
Difficulty: Easy

This trail passes through Lyell Canyon, along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Early in the season, the trail can be muddy in places. There are several creek crossings, including Rafferty Creek (bridged) and Ireland Creek (unbridged). Spectacular Kuna Creek cascades down the side of the east canyon wall near the eight-mile mark.

For a shorter trip, walk ½ hour each way to the Lyell Fork and “Twin Bridges.”

May-lake1May Lake

Distance: 2.4 miles (3.9 km) round-trip, 485-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 1 to 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy

A short trail leads through a conifer forest and across granite slabs to reach May Lake. This easy hike has big rewards with views of Half Dome and surrounding mountains on the way. This is also one of the High Sierra Camps, so if you book ahead you can spend the night lakeside.

The May Lake trailhead is off the Tioga Road 28 miles from Yosemite Valley.

Mono-Pass_Small-_Jonathon-FoxMono Pass

Distance: 8 miles (12.9 km) round-trip, 1000-foot elevation gain
Estimated Time: 4 to 6 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

This historic, trans-Sierra trail climbs gently at first from the Mono Pass parking area, through wet meadows and rushing creeks. At the Spillway Lake junction, the trail climbs steadily and more steeply to Mono Pass (elevation 10,600 feet). Don’t miss the spectacular view of Mono Lake and Bloody Canyon.

Trail Tip: Keep an eye for the ghost mines that dot the trail.

North Dome for webNorth Dome

Distance: 10.4 miles (16.7 km) round-trip
Estimated Time: 5 to 8 hours
Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

Wind through a mixed-conifer forest for 0.7 miles (1 km) on a paved path, and cross Porcupine Creek. At each of several trail junctions, follow the signs toward North Dome. The trail passes through a small grassy meadow and descends along a ridge. Near the end of the hike, descend steep rock steps to the base of North Dome. Climb the dome’s rounded summit to take in a magnificent view of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.

Trail Tip: On the return trip, take a short detour on a side trail, 0.3 miles (0.5 km) to an unusual natural arch, called Indian Rock.

IMG_5802Ten Lakes

Distance: 12.6 miles (20.3 km) round trip
Estimated Time: 6 to 8 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous

Follow this trail through conifers and across granite to cross a tributary of Yosemite Creek. Take care on this crossing early in the season when the creek is high. Continue on the trail to Ten Lakes Pass, overlooking the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and the Sierra Crest. You will then descend 693 feet (211 m) into the Ten Lakes Basin, which contains a series of beautiful High Sierra Lakes. Grant Lakes is at the end of a 1-mile (1.6-km) side trail from the pass.

Trail Tip: Get a wilderness permit and plan to do this as an overnight hike. This will allow you to take your time exploring the various lakes in the area.

 

Hetch Hetchy

Lookout Point

Distance: 2 miles (3.2 km) round-trip
Estimated Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Moderate

Begin at Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station. This quick hike takes you to a view point overlooking Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Poopenaut Valley

Distance: 3 miles (4.8 km) round-trip
Estimated Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous

Begin four miles east of Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station. This trail provides quick access to the Tuolumne River, descending 1,229 feet to the river below O’Shaughnessy Dam. Four miles east of Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station

Rancheria Falls

Distance: 13.4 miles (21.4 km) round-trip
Estimated Time: 6 to 8 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Begin at the O’Shaughnessy Dam. This trail continues past Wapama Falls to popular Rancheria Falls. On the way you’ll pass two waterfalls, Wapama and Tueealala, and cross over two bridges spanning the base of these falls where the run-off enters the reservoir. Be prepared to get a little wet in the spring and early summer while crossing these bridges.

Smith Peak

Distance: 13.5 miles (21.6 km) round-trip
Estimated Time: 6 to 8 hours
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Begin at Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station. This trail takes you through forest and meadow to Smith Peak, where you get great views of the Hetch Hetchy area.

Wapama-Falls-small--Byron-HetrickWapama Falls

Distance: 5 miles (8 km) round-trip
Estimated Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Begin at the O’Shaughnessy Dam. This trail takes you to the base of Wapama Falls, passing two smaller waterfalls (during spring) on the way. This is also a good trail for wildflowers in the spring. Stay on the trail and designated bridges – fatalities occur when visitors climb over railings.

Trail tip: In spring this trail gets WET and you will too as you dart across the bridges. This is exhilarating fun but make sure you are dressed in quick dry clothes. There are some nice granite slabs to lay out and get dry on the other side of the bridge.

Wawona

Alder Creek

Distance: 12 miles (19.7km)
Estimated Time: 6 to 8 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous

Find the trailhead along Hwy 41 about 4.2 miles past the Wawona Campground, across from the the parking area at the “Backcountry Use” sign. Trail leads uphill north through an open pine forest with abundant Manzanita growing on drier slope.

chilnualnafalls-018-vmChilnualna Falls

Distance: 8.2 miles (13.1 km) round-trip; 2,400-feet elevation gain
Estimated Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous

Begin at Chilnualna Falls parking area and along cascading Chilnualna Creek for a half mile (0.8 km). A series of switchbacks then lead away from the creek into the open forest, where you’ll get views of the Wawona area.

The Meadow Loop

Distance: 3.5 miles
Estimated Time: N/A
Difficulty: Easy

Virtually flat, the Meadow Loop is perfect for children. Just park at the Wawona Hotel, cross the road at the crosswalk and continue on the asphalt road that bisects the golf course. Once you reach the forest, you will see signs for the Meadow Loop. Start walking in either direction to make a full loop of the golf course and meadow. When you are done, just hug the eastern side of the golf course and get back to the road and the Wawona Hotel.

Swinging Bridge Loop

Distance: 4.8 miles (7.6 km) loop
Estimated Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Follow Forest Drive, the paved road, two miles upstream from the store to the Seventh Day Adventist camp. At the camp, bear to the left onto a dirt road and continue a half-mile to Swinging Bridge. Cross the bridge and bear left onto the trail that becomes a dirt road, then paved Chilnualna Falls Road. This road will take you back to the Pioneer Yosemite History Center. Walk through the history center and its covered bridge to return to the Wawona Store.

Mariposa County

Briceburg-smallBriceburg Canyon

Distance: 3 miles
Estimated Time: 1 to 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Below the town of Midpines, look for the Briceburg Visitors Center on the left-hand side of the road. Part of the Merced River Wild and Scenic River Corridor, Briceburg was once home to gold mines and it’s still possible to pan in the river. Park in the Day Use parking lot, then walk across the suspension bridge. At the end of the bridge, take a right and follow the former route of the Yosemite Valley Railroad up-river. The trail continues about three miles and along the way, you’ll discover wildflowers and beautiful views of the Merced River as it rushes through the steep mountain passes.

Poppies-MSUT-CREDIT-JOE-CHRISTIANSON-200x140smallHite Cove

Distance: 2-4 miles for the best wildflower displays, or 9 miles roundtrip to Hite Cove.
Estimated Time: 2 to 5 hours
Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Hite Cove can be located about 8 miles the park’s western entrance near the town of El Portal on Hwy 140. Park your car at Savage’s Trading Post or one of the nearby turnouts and follow signs for Hite Cove. This is a legendary spot for viewing wildflowers when much of the park is still snowed in. Check it out beginning in late April through mid-May for the best displays of poppies, lupines, and shooting stars. Watch your step! This is also prime territory salamanders and newts who like to hang out warming themselves on rocks. Photo by Joe Christianson.