Day Hikes in Hetch Hetchy

Wapama Falls footbridge and trail
Footbridges at Wapama Falls

Located at 3,900 feet, Hetch Hetchy boasts one of the longest hiking seasons in the park and is an ideal place for thundering spring waterfalls and wildflower displays. Varied trails include something for everyone. Trails around the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir offer great views of the water and the valley's towering granite cliffs. Longer trips allow hikers to access vast Wilderness filled with stunning peaks, hidden canyons, and remote lakes.

Stay safe and help to protect the park. Carry and drink plenty of water and sunscreen and watch for rattlesnakes and poison oak. Carry a map and know where you're going. Pack out all trash. Do not approach or feed wildlife. Learn about and follow Leave No Trace principles.

Swimming and boating are prohibited in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in order to maintain a clean source of drinking water. Pets are not allowed on the dam or on hiking trails. Learn more about visiting Hetch Hetchy.

Trail Information

A map shows the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and a number of hiking trails and waterfalls in the area.
Hikers can travel along the Hetch Hetchy reservoir past scenic waterfalls, or access some of Yosemite's stunning wilderness.

Lookout Point Trail

2 mi (3 km) roundtrip
Elevation gain/loss: 680 ft (207 m)

This hike involves moderate elevation gain and brings hikers to a rocky outcropping overlooking the Hetch Hetchy Valley. Begin hike at the Hetch Hetchy entrance station.


Wapama Falls

5 mi (8 km) roundtrip
Elevation gain/loss: 507 ft (155 m)

This trail follows the shoreline of the reservoir with moderate up and downhill hiking. The trail includes spectacular views of both Tueeulala and Wapama Falls. To access the trail, cross the dam and pass through the tunnel.


Rancheria Falls

13 mi (21 km) roundtrip
Elevation gain/loss: 1909 ft (581 m)

The trail to Rancheria Falls continues past Wapama Falls and may be done as either a long day hike or an overnight trip. The hike to Rancheria is 6.5 miles with beautiful views of the valley and waterfalls. Backpackers can access Tiltill or Rancheria mountains and the vast northwest wilderness of Yosemite from the Rancheria area.


Smith Peak

Smith Peak (7,751 ft) is the highest point in the area and offers outstanding views. There are two trailhead options.

One route begins 6 miles beyond the entrance station and is 13 miles (21 km) round-trip with 3,700 feet (1128 m) of elevation gain. The other route begins at the entrance station and is 16 miles (26 km) round-trip with 3,300 feet (1006 m) of elevation gain. The Smith Peak trails can also be used to access the Yosemite high country.


Poopenaut Valley

2.5 mi (4 km) roundtrip
Elevation gain/loss: 1279 ft (390 m)

This trail is a steep descent to the Tuolumne River and a strenuous climb back up. Begin at the signed trailhead 4 miles past the entrance station.


Laurel/Vernon/Rancheria Loop

29 mi (47 km) roundtrip
Elevation gain/loss: 5929 ft (1807 m)

This multi-day, 29-mile hike includes spectacular views of Hetch Hetchy, beautiful high Sierra lakes, and access to the park’s north wilderness. The first
four miles of this loop follow the old Lake Eleanor Road as it climbs out of the valley. This portion may also be done as a more strenuous 8-mile day hike.
A wilderness permit is required for all overnight trips. Learn more about backpacking in Yosemite.

Last updated: August 22, 2023

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