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Upper Yosemite Falls Hike

Yosemite Falls in spring
Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. Photo by Noel Morrison.
Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. Photo by Noel Morrison.
YOsemite Falls Autumn Fall
Distance: 7.6 miles (12 km) round trip
Elevation: 3,967 feet (1,347m)
Difficulty: Strenuous, steep with many switchbacks
Time: 6-10 hours
Begin at: The trailhead can be accessed near Camp 4 off Northside Drive near Yosemite Valley Lodge.

Discover Upper Yosemite Falls

Where can you go in Yosemite National Park for some of the best views afforded by nature? Look no further than one of Yosemite oldest historic trails (built 1873 to 1877), the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail. It leads to the top of North America’s tallest waterfall 2,425 feet (739 m) above the Valley floor. A word of caution: do not stray off the marked path, as you will find steep drops adjacent to the trail. Also, this trail is a strenuous (yes, really!) all day trail and should only be attempted with plenty of water. The best months to hike it are anytime when there is water in Yosemite Falls, typically May-July are best, although with the right conditions it can also be very nice in late fall (October-November) or early spring (March-April). If there is no water in the falls during your planned trip a fantastic alternative in terms of views and difficulty would be the Panorama Trail.

Cascading for more than 2,400 feet, Yosemite Fall is one of North America’s tallest waterfalls. The best time to catch it is in May, with the fall flowing typically between November and July. Yosemite Falls is actually the collective name for three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall (1,430 feet), the middle cascades (675 feet), and Lower Yosemite Fall (320 feet).

Enjoy spectacular views from Columbia Rock located one mile (and dozens of switchbacks) from the trail head. If you make the one-mile, 1,000 foot climb (via dozens of switchbacks) to Columbia Rock, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and Sentinel Rock.

Upper Yosemite Fall Hike Suggestions

Good sun exposure makes this hike a good option for hiking in the fall and winter. When you take the Yosemite Fall Hike, you want to be a visitor, not become a statistic, so plan carefully. Each summer there are numerous first aid response calls to this trail related to dehydration. Do not fail to bring enough drinking water with you for this hike. It is recommended to have at the least 3-4 liters of water per person available when the summer temperatures peak. Approaching the trail pre-dawn is highly recommenced, doing the ascent during mid-day with minimal tree coverage from the sun is unnecessarily difficult. Leaving at 6 a.m. would get you to the top during the cool morning temperatures and with less foot traffic to maneuver around.

When you’re ready to hit the trail for the better part of a day, it’s hard to beat the 7.6-mile (round-trip) Upper Yosemite Fall hike for top-notch views of breathtaking scenery, challenging climbs and memories to last a lifetime.

And, once you’ve conquered the Upper Yosemite Fall hike, be sure to check out the easy, one-mile Lower Yosemite Falls trail, which is perfect for pets and families with young children.

Ready to see what Yosemite Falls looks like? Check out this incredible live view via webcam, courtesy of Yosemite Conservancy donors.

If the Upper Yosemite Falls hike has you hooked on waterfalls, don’t fret. There are plenty more to check out, including Horsetail Fall and Bridalveil Fall, two of the most famous falls in Yosemite Mariposa County.

Topographic map of the trail 

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