Yosemite has always been known as a premier destination for hikers looking for the most scenic and challenging trails in the country. For those that have already hiked up the hills and down into the valleys, picking the right trail is much easier because of their extensive knowledge of the park. On the other hand, for a family that might be traveling to Yosemite as a vacation destination or for someone who has never had the pleasure and experience of visiting the park before, picking the right trail to hike can be difficult. We have selected some of our favorite trails for various abilities to help make choosing the perfect trail easy!
The most famous hiking trail in Yosemite is Half Dome, and it is one of the hardest trails in the park. A permit is required that must be applied for in advance of your visit. At more than 15 miles round trip this is NOT the trail for a beginner or someone who isn’t in good shape. However, there is more than 800 miles of hiking trail in the park and many hikes provide as good of views or even better that of the Half Dome Trail. So skip the crowds and permitting hassle of Half Dome and take a different path.
One of our favorite trails in summer is the Cloud’s Rest Trail if you are looking for a similar view to that of Half Dome but don’t have a permit. Cloud’s Rest is actually the peak to the northeast of Half Dome, and so offers a similar view from the top of Yosemite Valley and Tenaya Canyon. This trail is accessible from the Sunrise Trailhead of of Tioga Pass. This is still a moderate to strenuous day hike.
The best place for someone with little to no hiking experience, or is planning to have small children with them, is the Meadow Loop Trail. This trail is pet-friendly as long as your pets are on a leash, and there is zero incline throughout the trail. It is located directly across from the Wawona Hotel, and it takes you through a cool forest glen that shades you from the sun on the park’s hottest days. You can expect to see all of the sights and sounds that nature has to offer and possibly even see a herd of deer. This loop takes you right past the famous Wawona golf course. The full loop trail is 3.5 miles long and should take the average walker about 2 hours to complete. This hike is on the southern entrance to Yosemite, about an hour drive from the Valley Floor.
If you have a group with mixed abilities, say with both young children and teenagers you might consider May Lake and Mount Hoffmann. Located off Tioga Pass, the first mile of the trail to May Lake is very easy and brings you to the shore of beautiful May Lake. Here is a great place to rest with the younger or less active members of your party. It’s a great place to read a book or picnic while the rest of your party carries on to Mount Hoffmann. One of the highest peaks in the park, Mount Hoffmann offers spectacular views from it’s imposing peak.
If you are looking for a more strenuous hike that involves some great uphill climbing with some of the most spectacular views from the park but that is not as difficult as Half Dome, try The Mist Trail and Nevada Fall in Yosemite Valley. This is a 5.8-mile hike that can take 5 to 6 hours round-trip with a 2,000-foot elevation gain. This uphill climb is something that should not be taken lightly; we recommend being in good physical shape for this hike. The trail is in 2 parts: The Mist Trail to Vernal Fall, and continuing an extra 1.3 miles along the Mist Trail to Nevada Falls. For a taste of this trail that is a little easier you can walk about a mile to get to the Vernal Fall footbridge to enjoy the view of the Fall with a little less difficulty.
It should be noted that these suggestions are only a few of the HUNDREDS of trails available to hike in Yosemite and the areas around the park. If there is a specific trail you want to hike, or to have more options you can browse our Featured Hikes.
Final tips for all hikers:
Hopefully this was a helpful guide to planning your hiking experience at Yosemite and the surrounding areas. We can’t wait to see you soon for your next big adventure in our historic park.
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