A nature lover's paradise, Yosemite has some of the most beautiful scenery you'll see anywhere -- and the best way to experience the park is to get out onto the trails. Park rangers lead walks and hikes, and guided day treks are also available from a number of organizations.
Below is a selection of day hikes throughout Yosemite National Park. Distances and times are round-trip estimates unless otherwise noted.
Base of Bridalveil Fall
Bridalveil Fall measures 620 feet from top to bottom. In the spring, expect to get wet. This walk is wheelchair accessible with strong assistance. It's a beautiful waterfall, and easy access makes it a favorite.
0.5 miles/30 min. Easy. Drive or walk to the Bridalveil Fall parking area, about 3 miles west of Yosemite Village. Follow trail markers.
This hike mirrors the initial ascent of the Upper Yosemite Fall trail but stops at Columbia Rock, 1,000 feet above the valley. You won't get a valley view, but the sights here are still impressive. The trail is also less likely to get an accumulation of snow because it's on the sunny side of the valley.
2 miles/2-3 hr. Strenuous. Use the trail head for Upper Yosemite Fall .
Four-Mile Trail to Glacier Point
This trail climbs 3,200 feet, but efforts will be rewarded with terrific views of Yosemite Valley's north rim. Check on trail conditions before setting out; it's usually closed in winter. The trail ends at Glacier Point, where you can catch a bus with DNC ($25 adult). If you'd like to extend the hike, you can continue on to the Panorama Trail , but beware: The combined round-trip distance is 14 miles.
9.6 miles/6-10 hr. Strenuous. The trail head is 1 1/4 miles from Yosemite Village, at the Four-Mile parking area at the marker post V-18; or take the shuttle bus to Yosemite Lodge, stop 8, and walk behind the lodge over Swinging Bridge to Southeast Dr. The trail head is 1/4 mile west.
This long, steep trip, which around 1,000 hikers do each summer day, climbs nearly 5,000 feet. From Happy Isles, take the Mist Trail or the John Muir Trail past Vernal and Nevada falls, and up and into Little Yosemite Valley. Leave the John Muir Trail for the Half Dome Trail. Hiking the final 400 feet up the back of Half Dome requires the use of cables installed in the rock; a strong heart is helpful, too. Half Dome has a small level spot on top, at an elevation of 8,800 feet. It's possible to break up this long trip by camping in Little Yosemite Valley. (You'll need a wilderness permit to camp.)
17 miles/10-14 hr. Very strenuous. Happy Isles, shuttle-bus stop 16.
Lower Yosemite Fall
Lower Yosemite Fall is a 320-foot section of Yosemite Falls, but it packs the accumulated punch of the entire 2,425-foot waterfall, and from early spring to midsummer, you're likely to get wet. You can also take this trip from Yosemite Village by following the path from the Valley Visitor Center to the Lower Yosemite Fall trail head. Add another half-mile, or 40 minutes, each way. This walk is wheelchair accessible with assistance.
1 mile/30 min. Easy. From shuttle-bus stop 6, follow the paved path from the Yosemite Falls parking area to the base of this waterfall.
This paved trail climbs 60 feet along the west side of Tenaya Creek to the aptly named Mirror Lake, where overhanging rock formations are reflected in the lake's still surface. This trail connects with a delightful 3-mile loop around the lake, which is wheelchair accessible.
2 miles/1 hr. Easy. Shuttle-bus stop 17.
Mist Trail to Vernal Fall
This hike begins on the famous 211-mile John Muir Trail, a path that eventually ends on Mount Whitney in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. From the Happy Isles Bridge, the trail climbs 400 feet to the Vernal Fall Bridge, which offers water and restrooms, as well as a good view of what lies ahead. From this point, you can either take a series of switchbacks along the side of the mountain, or you can ascend the Mist Trail (our preference), which is a steep climb with 500 steps -- it's wet, picturesque, and refreshing. The Mist Trail is so named because the spray from the fall drenches anyone who tackles this route, especially in spring. Be warned -- it's slick and requires careful placement of your feet. Once you reach the top, you can relax on a series of smooth granite beaches and soak in the cool, refreshing water before hiking back down. You can continue up 1.2 miles to Nevada Fall and leave the crowds behind for a round-trip of 5.4 miles.
3 miles/2-3 hr. Moderate to strenuous. From Happy Isles, shuttle-bus stop 16, walk to the Happy Isles Bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the signs to the trail.
From Glacier Point, this trail drops 3,200 feet. At one of its prettiest points, about 1.5 miles from Glacier Point, it crosses Illilouette Fall. The path continues along the Panorama Cliff and eventually winds up at Nevada Fall, where it's a straight descent to Yosemite Valley via the Mist or John Muir trails. You can hike this trail in conjunction with Four-Mile Trail; it's also possible to take a bus to Glacier Point ($25 adult) and hike only one-way.
8.5 miles one-way/4-6 hr. one-way. Moderate to strenuous. The hike begins at Glacier Point, at the east end of the parking area.
Upper Yosemite Fall
Climb this 2,700-foot trail and you'll be rewarded with spectacular views from the ledge above the fall. Take it slowly, rest often, and absorb the scenery as you ascend higher and higher above the valley. One mile (and 1,000 ft.!) up, you'll reach Columbia Rock, which offers a good view. The rest of the trail dips and climbs, and you'll get a bit of mist from the waterfall above. The last quarter-mile is very rocky and steep, with a series of tortuous, seemingly endless switchbacks that ascend through underbrush before opening at a clearing near the top of the fall. But beware -- the view here can induce vertigo. After completing the trail, it's a worthwhile walk upstream to see the creek before it takes its half-mile tumble to the valley floor below.
7.2 miles/6-8 hr. Strenuous. Shuttle bus to stop 7; the trail head is next to Camp 4 Walk-in Campground, behind Yosemite Lodge.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.