7 Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park
Updated: Jul 10
4 Mile Trail to Glacier Point
Upper Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Point
The Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls
Half Dome Hike
For our 1 day Itinerary to Yosemite NP click HERE
1. Glacier Point
Although Glacier Point isn't classified as a hike there is so much to do there to spend some time.
Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park is one of the most breathtaking viewpoints in the world. Located at an elevation of 7,214 feet, it offers a panoramic view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and the surrounding mountains. It's a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to the park.
To reach Glacier Point, visitors can drive or take a shuttle bus from Yosemite Valley. The drive takes about an hour, and the shuttle bus operates from late spring through early fall. Once you arrive, a short hike from the parking lot takes you to the viewing platform.
The view from Glacier Point is truly awe-inspiring. The sheer granite cliffs of Half Dome and El Capitan rise majestically from the valley floor, while the Merced River winds through the meadows below. The towering waterfalls, including Yosemite Falls, are visible from miles away. Visitors can spend hours gazing at the stunning landscape, taking in the beauty of the surrounding wilderness.
We have been there many times but our favorite is watching the sunrise. It will be really quiet and there might only be a couple of other people there. Note: The road to Glacier Point is closed from Sept.-Oct. until May depending on the weather. There may be construction on the road that will create delays.
Hikes in Yosemite National Park
There are many hikes in Yosemite to fill up your 2nd or 3rd or 4th day. Pick one or more depending on your fitness and skill level.
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For Hiking Yosemite in Yosemite
2. Taft Point
The hike to Taft Point is a moderate 2.2-mile round-trip trek that takes hikers through the forested terrain of Yosemite. The trail starts at the Taft Point Trailhead, located near Glacier Point Road, and follows a well-marked path that ascends through the forest to the viewpoint. As you approach Taft Point, the trail begins to open up, and the view becomes more and more spectacular. At the endpoint, hikers are greeted with an expansive view of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and the surrounding mountains.
One of the highlights of Taft Point is its famous granite fissures, known as "The Fissures." These narrow cracks in the rock are a popular spot for adventurous hikers to walk along, offering a thrilling and unique experience.
3. 4 Mile Trail to Glacier Point
The trailhead for the 4-Mile Trail is located in Yosemite Valley, near the Swinging Bridge picnic area. From there, hikers begin a steady ascent through the forest, climbing over 3,200 feet in elevation to reach Glacier Point.
The trail winds through a variety of terrain, from shady forests to rocky switchbacks, providing hikers with diverse scenery and challenging terrain. Along the way, hikers will be rewarded with stunning views of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding mountains, including the towering Half Dome. This 9.6-mile round-trip trek is a very strenuous hike so be prepared with proper hiking gear, plenty of water, and a sturdy pair of hiking boots. The trail can be steep and rocky at times, but the views and experience are well worth the effort.
4. Upper Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Point
This challenging hike takes you up 3,000 feet in elevation gain over 7.2 miles round trip, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
The trailhead starts near Camp 4, and it's best to start early in the morning to avoid crowds and the hot sun. The first part of the hike is a steady uphill climb on switchbacks, offering views of the Yosemite Valley floor and the surrounding granite cliffs. As you continue, you'll reach the first overlook, Columbia Rock, where you can take a break and enjoy a beautiful view of Half Dome and the valley below.
From Columbia Rock, the trail becomes steeper and more challenging, with sections of steep stairs and rocky terrain. But don't let that discourage you – the views only get better as you climb higher. As you reach the top of Yosemite Falls, you'll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the waterfall cascading down the granite cliff.
Continue up the trail for another mile to Yosemite Point, where you'll be rewarded with an expansive view of the valley floor, Half Dome, and the surrounding peaks. This is a great spot to have a picnic lunch or just take a break and enjoy the view. This is a strenuous hike so be prepared and take plenty of water.
5. The Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls
The Mist Trail is a 6.5-mile round-trip hike that is known for its steep elevation gain and breathtaking views. The trail begins at the Happy Isles trailhead and winds its way up the side of the mountain. As you start the hike you can see the Vernal Falls in the distance.
There are more than 600 steps cut into the rock on the way to Vernal Falls. As you begin to approach the falls, the steps will be wet from the mist, so watch your step.
It is another 1.5 to Nevada Falls, which stands at a towering height of 594 feet. The hike to Nevada Falls is just as hard as the portion to Vernal Falls with just as many steps however the steps are not wet and slippery. The waterfall is incredibly powerful, and the sound of the rushing water can be heard from miles away. As you approach the top of the falls, the view becomes more and more stunning, and you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. It is a strenuous hike that will take 6 to 7 hours to complete so it is important to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and sturdy hiking shoes, as the trail can be slippery and rocky in places.
6. Half Dome Hike
Hiking to Half Dome up the cables is an iconic and challenging trek that offers unparalleled views of Yosemite National Park. The Half Dome hike is a 17-mile round trip with 4,000 feet of elevation gain (depending on your starting point) that takes hikers through some of the park's most breathtaking scenery. The hike to Half Dome is not for the faint of heart. It requires a permit, which must be obtained in advance, and a significant amount of physical endurance. Hikers should be prepared for a long day on the trail, with a recommended start time of 5-6 am to avoid the crowds and heat.
The hike begins at the Happy Isles trailhead and follows the Mist Trail, passing Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. After leaving the Mist Trail, at the top of Nevada Falls, (see Mist Trail Hike above) the hike levels out for a bit before it becomes steeper and more challenging as hikers approach the subdome at the base of Half Dome.
The final ascent involves climbing up steep granite slabs using metal cables for support, which can be daunting for even experienced hikers.
But the effort is worth it. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, including Half Dome's iconic shape, the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the Merced River snaking through the valley below. The summit of Half Dome is a great place to take a break, enjoy a snack, and take in the stunning scenery before descending the cables.
It is important to note that hiking to Half Dome up the cables requires a permit, which must be obtained through a lottery system. Apply here The cables are also only up from late May to early October, and hikers should always check weather conditions before attempting the hike. Check here
7. Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park is a popular destination for those looking for a scenic hike and a peaceful escape from the busy crowds. When we hiked it in March we only saw 6 other people. The hike to Mirror Lake is a moderate, 2.2-mile round-trip trail that takes about 1-2 hours to complete. The trail to Mirror Lake starts at Shuttle Stop #17, near the Ahwahnee Hotel.
From the shuttle stop, the trail winds through meadows and forests, and along the Merced River. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to see stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
When we got to the lake it was beautiful with ice on the lake and snow on the peaks.
Remember, as you plan your trip and before your visit check the park conditions Here