The changing of the seasons in Yosemite is never so stark as the shift from the busy masses of visitors that enjoy the park in June, July and August to the early fall when a quiet calm rests over the valley. The once simmering hot summer days mellow into cool mornings and gently warm afternoons. In short, it’s the perfect time to go hiking in Yosemite. Here we have selected our favorite fall Yosemite hikes:
1. Sentinel Dome and Taft Point – One of the most stunning views of Yosemite Valley is from the very famous view from Glacier Point but did you know you can get a similar view (and a lot more) from checking out Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Trails?
Both are fairly easy and short but offer amazing views. Take a head lamp and picnic dinner to enjoy the sunset.
Vernal Fall in September
2. Vernal Fall – Most waterfalls in the park dry up by the time fall arrives but Vernal Fall rarely disappoints. It’s also great for a variety of fitness levels because you can go as far as you want from a 1.6 mile roundtrip hike just the base of the falls, to a heart-pumping 2.4 roundtrip mile to the top of Vernal Fall, or if you really want a challenge push all the way to Nevada Fall, a strenuous but rewarding 5.4 mile roundtrip hike. Start at the Happy Isles trailhead (shuttle stop #16).
3. Mirror Lake – An easy 2 mile roundtrip hike brings you to Mirror Lake, which regardless of weather there is water in the little lake provides a beautiful view of Mount Watkins and a vision of Half Dome from directly below. Take shuttle stop #17 to enjoy this hike or you can even rent a bike and ride it almost to the very end of the trail where there are bike racks. This trail is also one that allows for leashed pets on the first mile, so take your furry friend along.
Bike or hike the Yosemite Valley Loop
4. Valley Loop Trail – Mostly flat, but covering more than 11 miles if you do the full loop, the Valley Loop trail offers a moderate hike that brings you past Lower Yosemite Fall, Three Brothers Rock formation, past Camp 4 and onto El Capitan. It is a fantastic year-round hike. You can start from multiple spots around the Valley but the official start is at Lower Yosemite Fall (follow signs for the Valley Loop Trail).
5. Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias – Open as long as the road to Tioga Pass is open (generally through mid-October) this trail is a 2.5 mile jaunt along a paved road to a little grove of beautiful giant sequoias. You’ll find the trailhead at the Tuolumne Grove parking lot just past Crane Flat.
Thankfully the physical impact left behind is incredibly minimal within Yosemite National Park’s boundary. Tourists can enjoy all the icons they have been dreaming to see, and most will not even be aware the event took place as they take in the famous jaw-dropping scenery.
There’s no better way to cap off the end of the year than to get away to Yosemite Mariposa County for the holidays this year.
With the seasons changing, the breathtaking sunsets over the summits and striking granite cliffs against a crisp, morning sky, capturing the perfect fall Instagram photo is easily within your grasp.