Yosemite Valley Loop Trail
Enjoy some solitude in western Yosemite Valley. Hike through meadows, forests, and beside the Merced River. Along the way, enjoy striking views of Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, Three Brothers, Yosemite Falls, and more.
Distance: 11.5 mi (18.5 km) full loop; 7.2 mi (11.6 km) half loop
This trail follows many of the Valley's first east-west trails and wagon roads. It offers a rare opportunity in Yosemite Valley: to hike on a fairly level trail with some solitude. While some of the trail passes near roads, much of it takes you through meadows, talus slopes at the base of the granite cliffs, and near the Merced River. You can access the trail from many places throughout the Valley; however, the mileage and description used here starts at the Lower Yosemite Fall area (follow signs for Valley Loop Trail). Route-finding can be difficult in places, so it is best to bring a map with you (even a simple day hiking brochure from the visitor center) as it will orient you with the various landforms in the Valley, which are often listed on the trail/directional signs.
From the Lower Yosemite Fall area, head west along the base of the Three Brothers rock formation, past Camp 4, eventually working your way through Yosemite Valley to El Capitan. If you are planning to hike the half loop, cross the Merced River at El Capitan Bridge and continue by heading east back toward Yosemite Village. If you are planning to hike the full loop, continue west past El Capitan toward Bridalveil Fall. While most of the trail is flat, there are some hilly sections throughout the hike. Additionally, you will find mixed trail surfaces: dirt, rocks, sand, and old pavement.
Did You Know?
At the east end of El Portal, just west of Yosemite National Park’s boundary, changing river gradients, glacial history, and powerful floods have created a boulder bar with boulders much larger than typically found in such deposits. This is no ordinary boulder bar, however, for it contains massive boulders over a meter in diameter and weighing many tons.