Hiking is one of the most rewarding activities that you can do in any national park, and especially in Yosemite. Whether you are a first time visitor to the park, or a veteran visitor looking to make the most of your trip, finding one (or more!) day hikes in Yosemite is almost certainly on your to-do list. We have compiled a list of some of the most popular, most beautiful, and most enjoyable hikes in Yosemite, for hikers of all different backgrounds and experience levels. Hopefully, this list can help you find the right hike for you and your family.
First, before deciding on a hike, why should you hike in Yosemite to begin with? Well, we can tell you! Yosemite is a beautiful national park, that is larger than some European countries, and is almost the size of Rhode Island here in the states, so there is so much to explore! Whether you want to see meadows, lakes (there are over 100!), incredible waterfalls, beautiful trees, mountains, or beaches, there is something for everyone within the bounds of Yosemite.
There are over 800 miles of hiking trails within Yosemite, so there is a huge variety of them to choose from during your vacation. They have paved roads, for those looking for a convenient and comfortable hikes, and rugged trails that lead deep into the wilderness, if you want to get as far away from the world of man as possible.
Here is a short list of some of the hikes you can find in Yosemite.
The Half Dome hike is a duality. People say that this hike is one that you can’t die without doing, and the one you’re most likely to die while doing. For any thrill seekers, this hike is one that can’t be missed. Be warned: this hike definitely qualifies as extreme difficulty, and is likely the most difficult of all of the day hikes of Yosemite. There are three main routes to get to the top of the dome. The first is the mist trail, which is the shortest, and also boasts some of the most beautiful views, with 900 feet of waterfalls at the bottom.
The Muir Trail is the second most popular- it is a bit longer than the Mist Trail, but definitely less steep. It starts from the same trailhead as the Mist Trail. The final route is the Glacier Point route, which involves less climbing than the other two, but is the longest of the three by far. When you reach the dome itself, no matter which trail you take, you will be met with a very narrow cable ascent.
This part of the hike is the most dangerous part- you should be very sure of yourself, your hiking ability, and especially your grip strength before attempting this route. If you can brave it, though, the panoramic views you get at the top of the dome are absolutely breathtaking- plus, you get bragging rights!
Bridalveil Falls is a shorter hike, at 1.2 miles roundtrip. It has little elevation gain, gaining approximately 200 feet throughout the hike. If you are looking for a less grueling, but still beautiful, hike, Bridalveil might be a good choice for you. The falls get their name from the mist that comes off of them when wind blows through the area, which many people have said resembled a bridal veil.
During peak runoff season, some people have compared standing at the base of the falls to taking a shower in a tornado, so be prepared to get wet! The best time to attempt this hike is in the spring, as the snowmelt creates incredible runoff that fills the falls.
Lower Yosemite Falls
Lower Yosemite is an easy, short hike, perfect for a low effort family trip with spectacular views as the payoff. There are two potential starting points for this hike- Yosemite Village, which makes it a 1.5 mile round trip, or the trailhead, for a shorter, half mile hike.
There is very little elevation gain in this hike. Yosemite Falls is one of the most beautiful and famous sights in the park. The waterfall is so tall that there are two sections of it, the upper and lower falls. Yosemite Falls are ten times higher than Niagara! The lower falls are what can be seen on this hike.
This is the shortest section of the falls, but it still spans 320 feet. The views are spectacular from both the beginning and the end of the hike, and the hike is so easy that it is well worth a trip. The best time to visit is in the spring, when the winter runoff accentuates the falls.
Sentinel Dome ranks a 3 out of 10 on the difficulty scale, but a 10 out of 10 for beautiful scenery, so be sure to put this hike on your list! It is 2.2 miles roundtrip, with an 400 foot elevation gain(most of which is done at the end of the hike, which is short and steep.
The hike takes around 1-2 hours, depending on your experience level. Sentinel Dome is home to the fallen Jeffrey Pine, one of the most famous trees in the world, and incredible panoramic views from the top of the dome. To the west of the dome, you’ll see Yosemite Valley, and sometimes, even to Mr. Diablo. To the north, you can see El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.
To the east, you’ll see Nevada Falls, Half Dome, and Cloud’s Rest. In other words, if you want to see a significant portion of the sights that Yosemite has to offer, this hike is well worth an endeavor. The best time to visit is when Glacier Point Road is open- or, if you are a cross-country skier, even when the road is closed.
Yosemite is home to beautiful Alpine lakes, one of which is a grouping of lakes known as the Cathedral Lakes. There are upper and lower lakes in this area. Depending on which you choose to visit, your hike could be 7 miles round trip, or 8 miles roundtrip if you want to see both lakes.
This hike generally takes anywhere between 3 and 5 hours to complete, not accounting for time spent at the lakes themselves! There is between an 800 and 1000 foot elevation gain on this hike.
This hike is medium difficulty, due to the elevation gain and length, but it is well worth a little exertion to see some of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the area. The trailhead is located near Tioga road, and can be a bit crowded, so get an early start if you prefer a slightly less crowded hike.
No matter your experience level or preferred sightseeing, Yosemite has the perfect hike for you!