Yosemite Hiking Trails – Yosemite National Park is one of the most famous natural destinations in all of America – if not the world. And what better way to see these natural attractions than on foot? Yosemite is home to so many world-class hiking trails, and we’ll give you a full guide to hiking Yosemite in this article.
Yosemite Hiking Trails
Yosemite National Park is located in western California, surrounded by the Sierra National Forest and the Stanislaus National Forest. The Park spans nearly 1200 square miles, and is home to all sorts of geographical diversity. Within Yellowstone, you’ll find dense forests, large mountains, clear lakes, spanning meadows, and much more.
It’s no wonder that Yosemite is an extremely popular destination among outdoorspeople, and is home to many popular hiking trails taking you past its natural sights. We’ll cover many of these trails below.
When to Visit Yosemite for Hiking
You might think that Yosemite’s situation entirely in California means the weather is great year-round. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and Yosemite has a clear high and low season dictated by the weather.
High-season for tourism in Yosemite is during summer, when weather is warmest. Summers in Yosemite see highs around 72-80F and lows around 45-50F. It’s also when you’ll find Yosemite’s major attractions most crowded, which includes many popular hiking trails. It’s especially difficult to find lodging, campgrounds, and parking during summer months.
Shoulder seasons in Yosemite are more manageable from a tourist perspective. Trails and sights are less crowded, and accommodations are more affordable and less competitive. Spring and fall see highs around 50-65F, with lows around 30-37F.
Winters are quite cold, with frequent snowfall. In fact, many roads and trails in Yosemite close during winter, especially at higher elevations. This being said, there are still plenty of places to hike during winter.
Best Hiking Trails in Yosemite
Now that we’ve covered the logistics, let’s get to the fun stuff. We’re covering some of our favorite hiking trails in Yosemite. This being said, Yosemite is a massive National Park, so consider this a non-exhaustive list.
Mist Trail to Nevada Fall
Mist Trail is one of Yosemite’s most popular hikes, taking hikers to Vernal Waterfall, one of the top sights in the Park. The trail starts from the Mist Trail and John Muir Trail Trailhead, where there is parking (but it fills up fast).
The most popular hike takes you to Vernal Falls Bridge, which offers you a spectacular view of Vernal Falls. From there, hikers can continue along Mist Trail, climbing to the top of Vernal Falls. Once you’ve climbed Vernal Falls, the trail continues further, and you can hike to the top of Nevada Falls.
All in all, there’s plenty of elevation gain and plenty of steep staircases. If you hike all the way to Nevada Falls and back, the hike is about 5.5 miles long, and takes most hikers about six hours.
The hike to Nevada Falls is a very popular hike, but popularity does dip the further you go. It’s also a challenging hike, and recommended for experienced hikers. Mist from the waterfall can make certain parts slippery.
Yosemite Falls Trail
Yosemite Falls Trail is a winding trail that eventually takes hikers to the top of Yosemite Falls, the world’s 5th tallest waterfall! The trail meanders through Yosemite to a great viewpoint of the falls, and travellers can opt for extra challenge by climbing to the top.
Yosemite Falls Trail begins from Yosemite Falls Trailhead. There’s a parking lot, but like most parking lots in Yosemite, it fills fast, so get there early.
The hike to the top of Yosemite Falls is a 7.2-mile round-trip. Hikers go along Yosemite Falls Trail, which eventually becomes Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, and here is when the hike is most difficult. The hike up the falls is a series of switchbacks covering 2700 feet in elevation. But the spectacular views are worth it!
A world-famous destination for climbing, hikers can also reach the top of Half Dome via a popular hiking route. This is one of the most difficult, and longest, hikes in Yosemite, and is recommended for experienced hikers. The hike up Half Dome via John Muir trail is a 14-mile round trip hike that has over 1500m of elevation gain. Get there early, and be ready to work.
The hike starts at John Muir Trailhead. You’ll follow the same route to Nevada Falls that we covered above, but keep going from there. John Muir Trail eventually meets with Half Dome Trail, which takes you to the Peak.
The hike up the peak is steep and difficult, with plenty of exposed rock and treacherous terrain. Hikers reach Sub Dome, before the Peak, and use a series of cables to reach the Peak.
It’s a very difficult hike, and will take you all day, but Half Dome is one of the most iconic views in Yosemite, and is tough to miss out on.
Glacier Point Trail
Yosemite is no stranger to challenging hikes, but there’s also no shortage of laid-back nature hikes, such as Glacier Point Trail. Glacier point trail is a 0.5-mile round trip loop that is very popular amongst tourists. It’s a short, easy loop with minimal elevation that takes hikers past a waterfall, and there’s excellent views of Glacier Point from above. It’s a short hike (or walk) but it’s well worth it for the views.
Sentinel Dome Trail
Here’s another easy hike with a fantastic view. The Sentinel Dome Trail is only two miles long, and leaves from Sentinel Dome Trailhead off Glacier Point Road.
Sentinel Dome offers some of the best views in the Park. You’re about 4000 feet high, and can see into Yosemite Valley for a view of some of the Park’s most iconic sites. In terms of effort vs. reward, this one is tough to beat! Plus, it tends to be less crowded than many of Yosemite’s famous hikes, which means it’s usually easier to find parking.
Hiking in Yosemite National Park
Thanks for reading our guide to Yosemite’s best hikes. You won’t be surprised to learn that Yosemite has many more hikes than just what was on our list! Use our list for inspiration in planning your next National Parks adventure.
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