• Rainbow over Half Dome

    Yosemite

    National Park California

Day Hikes in Yosemite Valley

 

Bridalveil Fall (easy, but icy in winter)

0.5 miles/0.8 km round-trip; 20 minutes [leashed pets allowed]

Begin at the Bridalveil Fall parking area

A paved trail leads from the parking area to the base of this waterfall, which flows 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 winter.

 

Lower Yosemite Fall (easy, but icy in winter)

1 mile/1.6 km loop; 30 minutes [half of loop wheelchair accessible] [leashed pets allowed]

Begin at the Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead (shuttle stop #6)

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.

 

Cook's Meadow Loop (easy, but may be a little snowy or icy in winter)

1 mile/1.6 km loop; 30 minutes [wheelchair accessible] [leashed pets allowed]

Begin at Valley Visitor Center (shuttle stop #5 or #9)

This short, easy walk offers stunning views of Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Royal Arches. From the visitor center, walk west along the bike path toward Lower Yosemite Fall. At shuttle stop #6, cross the street and follow the bike path, bearing left as the path forks. At Sentinel Bridge parking area, walk out onto the bridge to enjoy a classic view of Half Dome before returning to the parking area. Follow the boardwalk back across the meadow, cross the two streets, and turn right to return to the visitor center.

 

Mirror Lake/Meadow (easy, but may be a little snowy or icy in winter)

2 miles/3.2 km round-trip; 1 hour [wheelchair accessible] [leashed pets allowed]
5 miles/8 km loop around the lake; 2 hours [pets not allowed on full loop]

Begin at Mirror Lake Trailhead (shuttle stop #17)

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 to 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. This can be a good place to spot wildlife.

 

Valley Floor Loop (moderate, but may be a little snowy or icy in winter and the trail may be hard to find under snow)

Full loop: 13 miles/20.9 km loop; 5 to 7 hours
Half loop: 6.5 miles/10.5 km; 2.5 to 3.5 hours

Begin at Camp 4 (shuttle stop #7)

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 occasoinal 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.

 

Four Mile Trail (strenuous, but closed from approximately December through May due to extremely hazardous conditions)

9.6 miles/15.5 km round-trip. 6 to 8 hours; 3,200 feet/975 m elevation gain

Begin at the Four Mile Trailhead along Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley

In summer months, take the El Capitan Shuttle to the trailhead. You can also reach the trail from year-round Valley Visitor Shuttle Stop #7, adding about ½ mile to the total distance. This trail begins near the base of Sentinel Rock and climbs to the top of Yosemite Valley at Glacier Point. Although many hikers do this trail as a round-trip hike, an alternative in the summer is to purchase a bus ticket to Glacier Point ($) and hike down. Reservations are required; visit a DNC tour desk for details. You can also make a longer hike by following the Panorama Trail (below) back to the Valley. This trail closed in winter due to extremely hazardous conditions.

 

Panorama Trail (strenuous, but very difficult in winter due to significant snow)

8.5 miles/13.7 km one-way to Valley floor (via Mist Trail); 6 hours for 3,200 feet/975 m descent

Begin at the Panorama Trailhead, Glacier Point (trails ends at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley)

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 required; visit a DNC tour desk for details.

 

Upper Yosemite Fall (strenuous, but difficult in winter due to snow, especially beyond Columbia Rock)

7.2 miles/11.6 km round-trip; 6 to 8 hours; 2,700 feet/823 m elevation gain

Begin at the Yosemite Falls Trailhead, Camp 4 (shuttle stop #7)

One of Yosemite oldest historic trails (built 1873 to 1877), the Yosemite Falls Trail leads to the top of North America’s tallest waterfall 2,425 feet (739 m) 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.

 

Vernal Fall (moderate to strenuous; Mist Trail closed in winter, but access available via the John Muir Trail, which may be snowy)

Vernal Fall footbridge: 1.6 miles/2.6 km round-trip; 1.5 hours with 400 feet/122 m elevation gain
Vernal Fall: 3 miles/4.8 km round-trip; 3 hours with 1,000 feet/366 m elevation gain (via Mist Trail)

Begin at Happy Isles (shuttle stop #16)

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 mile (0.8 km) up a steep granite stairway of over 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.

 

Nevada Fall (strenuous; upper portion of the John Muir Trail closed in winter)

5.4 miles/8.6 km round-trip; 5 to 6 hours with 2,000 feet/610 m. elevation gain (via Mist Trail)

Begin at Happy Isles (shuttle stop #16)

Hikers can reach the top of Nevada Fall by continuing 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 winter.

 

Half Dome (cables are typically up from the weekend before Memorial Day to Columbus Day)

A permit is required to hike to the top of Half Dome every day when the cables are up. Learn more about Half Dome permits...

14 miles/22.4 km round-trip (Mist Trail)
16.3 miles/26.1 km round-trip (John Muir Trail)
15.2 miles/24.3 km (Mist Trail up and John Muir Trail down, or vice versa)

10 to 12 hours; 4,800 feet/1,463 m. elevation gain.

Begin at Happy Isles (shuttle stop #16)

DO NOT BEGIN THIS ASCENT IF: 1) the cables are down, 2) there is any chance of rain (moisture makes the granite too slick for safety), or 3) there is any chance of lightning.

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 (275 m) of trail is a very steep climb up the east side of Half Dome. Cables assist hikers on the final 400 feet (122 m). They consist of two steel cables, about 3 feet apart and suspended at arm's height from pipes set in the rock. The top of Half Dome is a fairly large and level open surface. Camping is not permitted on top of Half Dome.

Please visit our Half Dome hiking page for important information and additional details about this hike.

Did You Know?

Upper Merced Watershed

The Merced River above Nevada Fall and South Fork Merced River above Wawona, numerous small meadows and adjacent riparian habitats occur. Owing their existence to the river and its annual flooding, these habitats help support eight special status animal species: harlequin ducks, black swifts, bald eagles, osprey, willow flycatchers, yellow warbler, western red bat, and Sierra Nevada mountain beaver.