Yosemite Falls flowing in spring.
The most famous and tallest waterfall in Yosemite National Park is Yosemite Falls. Visible from many vista points from around the park, it’s hard to miss this extraordinary waterfall when it’s at peak flow. This year, Yosemite Falls is expected to flow until mid-summer. If you want to get close to Yosemite Falls, there is an easy .5 mile hike to the base that is wheelchair accessible and even easy for young children. There is a great place for photos at the base of Lower Yosemite Fall. Even though it’s tempting, don’t scramble on the rocks below the waterfall, they are very slippery and the water is cold. If you are interested in a full day hike that will get your heart racing, consider hiking to the top of Yosemite Falls. This is an all-day hike with lot’s of switchbacks and is the equivalent of hiking the Empire State Building…twice! Take lot’s of water, wear good shoes and take sunscreen. You can also see a live view of Yosemite Fall on the Yosemite webcams.
Another popular way to see Yosemite’s waterfalls is by hiking The Mist Trail. If the trail is done in full, it will take you to the top of Nevada Fall. However, you can go just a little ways and still see some beautiful sites. For example, a .5 mile hike from Happy Isles will bring you to the base of Vernal Fall. If you time it to arrive around noon you will probably see some beautiful rainbows in the swirling mists below the fall. If you continue on you’ll soon find yourself at the top of Vernal Fall. Enjoy gazing at the Emerald Pool at the top, but never enter the water at the top of either of the falls. The calm pool doesn’t show the strong current below and the water is extremely swift. This is a great spot for a rest and a picnic lunch and if you still feel like you’ve got the energy you can continue to Nevada Fall. If you continue on this trail past Nevada Fall you will eventually find your self at Half Dome, but you can’t summit the peak unless you have a permit. Many people assume the granite dome to the left of Nevada Fall is Half Dome, but it’s actually Liberty Cap. Standing on the bridge above Nevada Fall you’ll have incredible views of the Valley from above. This is the place to turnaround and head back, try taking an alternate routedown via the John Muir Trail. It’s a little longer down to the Valley but it’s less steep and crowded and will provide some nice views of the Nevada Fall on your way down. It’s a great tip for saving your knees!
Another easy hike in Yosemite Valley for discovering waterfalls is the hike to Bridalveil Fall. This hike is paved, great for leashed pets and is wheelchair accessible. Just make sure you have a waterproof jacket or poncho if visiting in peak flow. Look for the turn off for Bridalveil Fall parking lot off State Highway 41 after entering the park on Southside Drive.
Waterfalls Beyond the Valley
While the most popular waterfalls are in Yosemite Valley you can find some lesser-known, but still awesome falls at other parts of the park. If you are staying towards the southern entrance of the park you should definitely check out Chilnualna (pronounced chill-na-wall-na) Fall. It’s a full day hike to multiple cascades but it’s one of the waterfalls that tend to run well into the summer so if you are coming in July when other waterfalls are starting to dry you can still enjoy Chilnualna Fall.
If you looking to explore to northern part of the park you’ll find some beautiful waterfalls at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Before the O’Shaughnessy Dam was built at the early part of the 20th century this area of the park was a valley. It was so beautiful that John Muir thought the beauty of Hetch Hetchy rivaled Yosemite Valley prior to the dam being built.
The trail leading around the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is mostly flat and you can go just a little ways to Wapama Fall or continue all the way to the cascades at Rancheria Flat.
We hope you’ll enjoy Yosemite waterfalls flowing this spring. If you are just looking for photo opportunities you can also check out our blog post on getting the best shots around the park.
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