In California, deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, lives the renowned Yosemite National Park and all of its glory. With nearly 1,200 square miles of the most spectacular natural landscapes, vast wilderness areas, and gorgeous waterfalls to behold, it can be difficult to navigate where you should go if you want to explore the park. So we put together a list of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park for you- and the best part? There are trails for hikers at any level!
You don’t have to hike up the most difficult trails just to intake the most amazing views. But you also have all the opportunities to challenge yourself if you’re ready to take on those kinds of hikes. The park also features segments from the famed John Muir Trail and High Sierra Loop Trail, the well-known long distance hikes that span across larger parts of the U.S. So if Yosemite has been on your bucket list for awhile, then take this as the sign you’ve been asking for to head on out there!
Best Hikes in Yosemite: 18 Awe-Inspiring Trails for Hikers at All Levels
Best Easy Hikes
1. Bridalveil Fall Trail
Unfortunately back in 2019, this trail was closed because of reconstruction under the Bridalveil Fall Rehabilitation Project. Due to reopen in fall 2022, you can expect to take a 1.2-mile roundtrip hike to see this world-famous waterfall, especially from the popular vista known as Yosemite’s Tunnel View.
2. Lower Yosemite Fall Trail
If you want to enjoy stunning views of Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park, consider this easy 0.5-mile trail. With minimal elevation gain, this hike is a great option if you want to bring the whole family. Stroll around the vast Yosemite Valley floor below and look up to admire the immense power of the waterfall.
3. Tenaya Lake
?If you’re looking for beautiful lake views, then this 2.5-mile loop trail is a great choice. You can have a relaxing day lounging on the sandy shore or you can go rock climbing on the surrounding boulders.
4. Glacier Point
You can find the trailhead of this one-mile roundtrip hike at the end of Glacier Point Road and follow the path to watch the sunset on Half Dome. Park in the Glacier Point parking lot and avoid the difficulties of the popular Half Dome hike by taking this trail instead.
5. Mirror Lake Loop
Only 2.4-miles roundtrip from the trailhead to Mirror Lake, you’ll surprisingly realize along this trail that you’re not just trying to see a lake. Mirror Lake is actually just a big pool in Tenaya Creek, and if you continue down the path, you’ll hit Tenaya Canyon before looping back around.
6. Wawona Meadow Loop
One of the more flat loops around the edge of one of Yosemite’s largest meadows, this dreamy hike will take you on a 3.5-mile path that’s worth going down during wildflower season. It’s also one of the few trails in the park where dogs and bicycles are allowed.
7. Sentinel Dome Trail
Hikers embark on this 2.2-mile hike to visit the fallen Jeffrey pine tree, one of the most famous trees in the world made known by Ansel Adams. You’ll hike up the dome to not only find the tree at the summit, but also to behold the incredible panoramic views at the top.
8. Taft Point
This jaw-dropping trail will give you the adrenaline rush of looking down below at Yosemite Valley from high up above. Although there are frighteningly no guardrails, this 2.2-mile hike unlocks a sense of freedom at its highest point, truly a uniquely ethereal experience.
Best Moderate Hikes
9. The Mist Trail
Start this three-mile hike near the Happy Isles islands in the Merced River and follow its path to find the best views of Vernal Falls. This signature Yosemite hike leads up to the top of Nevada Falls, where you can also see the Liberty Cap and the back of Half Dome.
10. Mariposa Grove
Although probably considered an easier hike that most of these moderate trails, you’ll come across some incredible natural history on this 2.2-mile trail. Along this path, you’ll encounter the Grizzly Giant- the world’s oldest giant sequoia, California Tunnel Tree- one of the world’s largest living things, and other ancient behemoths to behold.
11. Cathedral Lakes Trail
Take this eight-mile roundtrip trail to catch both the Upper and Lower Cathedral Lakes. Hiking 1,200 feet of elevation gain, you’ll get to also catch views of one of Tuolumne’s most iconic peaks, Cathedral Peak.
12. Yosemite Falls Trail
With its trailhead at Camp 4, you’ll follow this hike two miles to Columbia Rock and another 7.2 miles to the top of Yosemite Falls. If you head east towards Yosemite Point, you’ll also catch distant views of Half Dome on one of the park’s oldest historic trails.
Best Difficult Hikes
13. Half Dome Trail
As Yosemite’s most demanding day hike, take on this trail if you’re ready for the big league. Rising nearly 4,800 feet in elevation gain, you’ll put in some leg work to get to the top of the dome, but you’ll see why it’s worth it. Keep in mind that you’ll need to get a wilderness permit in order to access the cable route.
14. Clouds Rest
As its name implies, embark on this 14.5-mile hike and climb 1,775 feet to intake one of Yosemite’s most stunning panoramic views. For obvious reasons, you might not want to go on a super cloudy day as too many clouds will fog your view. But after climbing through a series of switchbacks, you’ll be happy to see many of the iconic Yosemite landmarks in the valley below.
15. Upper Yosemite Falls Trail
If the other Yosemite Falls trails weren’t enough for you, take on this trail to get to the top of Yosemite Falls. Ideally, you’ll want to visit this trail during early summer when the waterfall is at its most intense, but make sure that this is the only trail you’re planning to hike that day. Think of this hike as nature’s own stair-master workout.
16. Four Mile Trail
This 4.7-mile trail connects Yosemite’s two most popular spots: Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point. From bottom to top, you’ll catch most of what the entire park has to offer, including views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan.
17. North Dome Hike
If you thought you saw it all at Half Dome, then you’re shockingly mistaken. North Dome offers more of a close-up view of Yosemite Valley and Clouds Rest. Just start at the parking area on Tioga Road and head towards Tioga Pass, but don’t be shocked at how empty this trail is. People tend to not see past the first uneventful four miles, losing out on the spectacular destination at the end.
17. Panorama Trail
A lesser-known gem, this trail leads to underrated park features such as Panorama Point and Illilouette Falls. You’ll have to take a shuttle bus to get to the trailhead at Glacier Point, but you have options on how you want to hike the trail. Most people wait at the shuttle stop at Yosemite Lodge to take the bus to the trailhead, but if you’re feeling risky, you can catch the shuttle bus to the valley instead and hike back up to your car parked at Glacier Point.
18. Glen Aulin Trail to Tuolumnne Falls & White Cascade
With its trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows, you’ll follow this 13-mile hike along the Tuolumne River over a series of cascades and waterfalls, to end at Glen Aulin. This trail also serves as the gateway to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and is part of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Have you embarked on any of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? Share your adventures with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!