17 BEST Hikes in Yosemite National Park (From a Local!)

One of my first road trips as a newly crowned Southern Californian was up to Yosemite National Park for a long weekend adventure. That first incredible trip to Yosemite quickly snowballed into subsequent trips, and now, it’s one of my absolute favorite places to hike and camp in California!

With so much to do and see in Yosemite National Park, it’s easy to get confused about where to start – so that’s where I come in! I’m here to reveal the absolute best hikes in Yosemite National Park for any skill level.

Grab your backpack, a Yosemite hikes map, and some sweet hiking boots, and we will hit the hiking trails!

NOTE: the popular Yosemite trail to North Dome is not included in this list because it’s permanently closed after the fires in 2023.

If you are in a hurry

If you find yourself rushed and want to hit the best hiking trails while you’re in Yosemite, make sure to plan ahead.

Here are the top 3 hikes you don’t want to miss:

And here are the best hotels: Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn (luxury), Sierra Sky Ranch, Ascend Hotel Collection (mid-range), Yosemite Southgate Hotel & Suites (budget)

Still unsure where you want to stay? Check out our detailed list of the top 5 areas to stay in Yosemite!

I also included a map with all the trail start points, so you can find your way! Please note that the hikes on this list are ordered by difficulty, from the easiest to the most challenging.

1. Take a stroll on Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

trail surrounded by trees leading to a waterfall

📏 Distance: approximately 1.2 miles (1.9 km), loop
⏱️ Time: 25 minutes
📈 Difficulty: easy
📍 Starting point: the trailhead is located near the Yosemite Valley Lodge

One of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park due to its easy path and scenic beauty, you’ll love this 30-minute loop out to Lower Yosemite Falls Trail (see trail map). Keep in mind it gets quite crowded on this trail because of its appeal, so plan ahead and arrive early!

Enjoy the stunning waterfalls rushing down from Upper Yosemite Falls and the beauty and tranquility of the Yosemite Valley floor.

One of my favorite things about Lower Yosemite Falls Trail is that it’s right next to the adorable, charming Yosemite Village. Stop here for a bite to eat or a yummy latte.

PRO TIP: if you love a challenge, continue on to Upper Yosemite Falls (see trail map) and Yosemite Point (see trail map) – a gorgeous lookout point.

2. Enjoy a hike on Mirror Lake Trail

lake with mountains and rocks in the background at Yosemite national park in california.

📏 Distance: approximately 4.2 miles (6.8 km), loop
⏱️ Time: 2 hours
📈 Difficulty: easy
📍 Starting point: from shuttle stop #17, follow the paved trail to Mirror Lake or park near Curry Village

Mirror Lake Trail (see trail map) is definitely one of the best hikes in Yosemite! An easy, leisurely 2-hour loop, it’s extra special because the trail will lead you very close to the base of Half Dome, one of Yosemite’s most famous hikes.

On almost any day, you can enjoy the reflection of Half Dome in the clear waters of Mirror Lake.

Need to cool off? Mirror Lake is a wonderful place to take a dip or go for a nice swim.

For those extra adventurous, make this Yosemite hike longer by hiking all the way out to Tenaya Canyon!

3. Discover the beauty of Tuolumne River Trail

A hiker is walking down a rocky trail next to a river.

📏 Distance: around 3.6 miles (5.8 km), loop
⏱️ Time: 1.25 hours
📈 Difficulty: easy
📍 Starting point: the trail begins at the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center off Tioga Road

Tuolumne River Trail (see trail map) in Yosemite National Park is a gorgeous, scenic hike along the riverbed, but be warned, the mosquitoes are insane! 😨

You’ll love exploring the Tuolumne Meadows, a picturesque green space filled with wildflowers and stunning mountain vistas. Enjoy the natural surroundings, rolling rivers, bridges, swim spots, and deer spotting – Tuolumne Meadows and Tuolumne River shouldn’t be missed.

4. Get adventurous at Taft Point Trailhead

Two people standing on top of a cliff in yosemite national park.

📏 Distance: about 2.3 miles (3.7 km), round trip
⏱️ Time: 1.25 hours
📈 Difficulty: easy
📍 Starting point: the trailhead is at Glacier Point Road

A common spot for engagement photos, Taft Point Trail (see trail map), has jaw-dropping views of the surrounding natural landscape, complete with dramatic cliffs, fissures, and forest.

Taft Point Trail is a great choice if you want a taste of what Yosemite can offer but don’t want to commit to a half or full-day hike.

I love experiencing this Taft Point at dusk. The sunset views on the horizon are other-worldly – just be sure to bring headlamps, as the hike back is really dark.

5. Stroll along the Grizzly Giant Loop & California Tunnel Tree

A group of people standing under a giant sequoia tree in yosemite national park.

📏 Distance: 0.4 miles (0.6 km), out-and-back
⏱️ Time: 10 minutes
📈 Difficulty: easy
📍 Starting point: the trailhead is at the Mariposa Grove parking lot

I love that the Grizzly Giant Loop and California Tunnel Tree Trail (see trail map) is an easy, 10-minute out-and-back hike that is flat the whole way through.

There’s nothing better than getting an up-close view of the majestic giant sequoia trees, especially the infamous California Tunnel Tree – a sequoia you can actually walk through.

6. Follow along the Merced River Trail

tourists on a wooden bridge

📏 Distance: approximately 5.5 miles (8.9 km), round trip
⏱️ Time: 2 hours
📈 Difficulty: moderate
📍 Starting point: Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley

One of the most scenic moderate hikes, as well as the all-around best hikes in Yosemite National Park, Merced River Trail (see trail map), winds you along the gorgeous riverbed through a dramatic landscape, lush greenery, and the sounds of the water flowing.

This long, dirt trail gets quite hot in the blazing California sun, so be sure to prepare for the conditions: hat, sunscreen, and lots of water.

7. Climb to new heights at Glacier Point Trail

Glacier point, yosemite national park, california.

📏 Distance: around 0.6 miles (1 km), loop
⏱️ Time: 20 minutes
📈 Difficulty: moderate
📍 Starting point: the trailhead is at the Glacier Point Road parking lot

This moderate hike on Glacier Point Trail (see trail map) will lead you out to some of the most incredible vistas in all of Yosemite National Park!

A great choice for a quick hike with big views, the 137-foot (42-meter) elevation gain up to Glacier Point gives way to panoramic views of the mountains and valley down below.

8. Explore Mariposa Grove on Giant Sequoia Trail

mom and child walking through a forest with sequoia trees

📏 Distance: approximately 7 miles (11.3 km), round trip
⏱️ Time: 3 hours
📈 Difficulty: moderate
📍 Starting point: Mariposa Grove Trail begins at Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza

When visiting Yosemite National Park, I highly recommend adding Mariposa Grove (see trail map) to your list of must-do Yosemite hikes.

Be prepared for a steep elevation gain of 1,217 ft (371 m) on Mariposa Grove Trail on this amazing adventure through the giant sequoia trees of Yosemite.

If you have time, check out the Grizzly Giant Loop Trail (see trail map), as well as the California Tunnel Tree.

9. Get out on the Columbia Rock Trail

View of rocky mountains

📏 Distance: 2.2 miles (3.5 km), round trip
⏱️ Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
📈 Difficulty: moderate
📍 Starting point: the trailhead is near the shuttle stop #2 or Upper Yosemite Falls trailhead

One of the more difficult of the moderate Yosemite hikes, Columbia Rock Trail (see trail map), takes you on an elevation gain of 1,050 ft (320 m) and through some difficult conditions.

Be sure to wear appropriate footwear for Columbia Rock, as the uneven trail can get super slippery if it has rained, and bring your hiking poles as well if you have them!

The rewards are sweet – Columbia Rock has incredible views of Half Dome and the waterfalls down below.

10. Nevada Fall via Mist Trail

A man with a backpack standing next to a waterfall in yosemite national park.

📏 Distance: approximately 5.7 miles (9.2 km), round trip
⏱️ Time: 4 hours
📈 Difficulty: challenging
📍 Starting point: Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley

Another epic choice for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park, Nevada Fall via Mist Trail (see trail map) is one of the more strenuous hikes that will take you on a journey on Mist Trail out to Vernal Falls Footbridge. Stop here for a restroom break and a quick sip of water before you start the real climb.

The rock steps will lead you up to Vernal Falls. In the springtime, you’ll feel the mist of the waterfalls, hence the Mist Trail name!

Enjoy a nice elevation gain of 2,129 ft (649 m) on Mist Trail, and gaze at the amazing views below. Make sure to continue on past Emerald Pool to the very top of Nevada Falls.

Mist Trail will get you views of 2 of Yosemite’s Falls: Liberty Cap and the flowing rock walls of Yosemite Valley.

11. Explore the serenity of Cathedral Lakes

lake with rocks and trees at sunset

📏 Distance: about 8.6 miles (13.8 km), round trip
⏱️ Time: 4 hours
📈 Difficulty: challenging
📍 Starting point: the trailhead is at Tuolumne Meadows off Tioga Road

Cathedral Lakes Trail (see trail map) is one of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park for good reason, it will take you past the Upper Cathedral Lake and then Lower Cathedral Lake, opening up to incredible views of Cathedral Peak.

This Cathedral Lakes hike, while scenic and gorgeous, doesn’t have the same jaw-dropping panoramic views as some of the other Yosemite hikes on the list.

On Cathedral Lakes Trail, as the name suggests, the real attraction is the lake views.

12. Have a blast on the Four Mile Trail

rocky trail with trees and greenery

📏 Distance: approximately 9.7 miles (15.6 km), round trip
⏱️ Time: 6.5 hours
📈 Difficulty: challenging
📍 Starting point: the trailhead begins at Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley

One of the most challenging and best hikes in Yosemite, the Four Mile Trail (see trail map) has a 3,200-foot (975 m) elevation gain and tons of incredible vistas of the park.

This trail will take you up to Glacier Point, one of the most scenic spots in Yosemite.

I love the views of Yosemite Valley down below, as well as the extra challenge of getting out to Glacier Point (as opposed to the east Glacier Point Trail we previously talked about).

hikers climbing up the starts next to a waterfall

📏 Distance: about 3 miles (5 km), round trip
⏱️ Time: 2 hours
📈 Difficulty: challenging
📍 Starting point: the trailhead begins near the Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley

A top contender on the list of best hikes in Yosemite, Vernal Falls Footbridge (see trail map) will take you on an amazing journey up some steep steps to see the waterfalls.

Be prepared, this hike is challenging and requires you to bring a ton of water for your trek.

14. Traipse along the famous John Muir Trail

A group of hikers hiking up a rocky trail.

📏 Distance: around 219 miles (353 km), point-to-point
⏱️ Time: varies
📈 Difficulty: varies from an easy hike to a very difficult
📍 Starting point: various access points throughout the park

Named after John Muir, the influential naturalist who had a significant role in establishing the US park system, this unforgettable adventure could keep you occupied for 2 – 3 weeks!

While John Muir Trail (see trail map) has hikes varying in difficulty depending on the length of time you spend on the trail, I would still say it is best for more experienced hikers.

One of the best hikes in Yosemite, this trail is a small part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), sprawling over 2,650 miles (4,265 km) from Mexico to Canada.

I love that you have views of Half Dome and Cathedral Peak and the surrounding beauty of the lush forests, alpine meadows, and glacial valleys.

15. Take on the challenge of Panorama Trail

hiker at yosemite park

📏 Distance: around 9.1 miles (14.6 km), round trip
⏱️ Time: 5 hours
📈 Difficulty: challenging
📍 Starting point: the trailhead is at Glacier Point

One of the most challenging, Panorama Trail (see trail map), will get your heart pumping and your inspiration firing!

A 5-hour out & back journey with a 3200 ft (975 m) elevation gain, it’s no wonder Panorama Trail gets you out to some of the most epic viewpoints in all of Yosemite National Park.

This Yosemite hike is hot and sunny most of the way, so try your best to get to the trailhead early so you can be done by the hottest point of the day.

16. Nab a permit for hiking Half Dome

trail next to a rock

📏 Distance: approximately 16.5 miles (26.6 km), out-and-back
⏱️ Time: 10 – 12 hours
📈 Difficulty: hard
📍 Starting point: the trailhead begins at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley

As one of the most popular trails in the park, Half Dome (see trail map) requires a permit while the cables are up May-October.

A maximum of 300 hikers and backpackers are allowed on the Half Dome Trail every day beyond the base of the Subdome. Probably one of the most iconic rock formations in the National Park System and certainly Yosemite, Half Dome is absolutely amazing to see in person.

The Half Dome hike will require you to secure your permitting well in advance. It is a day hike for most and will take you most of the daylight hours to complete, so be prepared for the adventure.

If you hike Half Dome, you’ll find a rock ledge called the “Diving Board,” offering amazing views of Yosemite Valley below. It’s a great spot for a photo op, just be careful – it’s a sheer drop-off!

17. Hike the famous El Capitan

Yosemite national park in california.

📏 Distance: 10.3 miles (16.7 km), loop
⏱️ Time: 2 – 3 hours
📈 Difficulty: hard
📍 Starting point: the trailhead is located near the El Capitan picnic area

El Capitan Trail (see trail map) is world-famous, as is its iconic granite rock formation. With 5,127 ft (1,563 m) of elevation gain, El Capitan is renowned in the rock climbing world for its challenging and technical climbing routes.

The steep climb and rocky terrain require expert skill and finesse, so beginners need not apply. 😉

Unlike Half Dome, which will require you to obtain a permit, El Capitan’s base can be easily accessed by car and a short walk. So, save time to get out of the car, explore, and take some amazing photos!

Practical information on Yosemite National Park

view over a waterfall surrounded by trees and greenery

Here’s some information I thought you might find useful before your hiking adventure:

  • Park hours: Yosemite National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Always double-check the park website for closures or adjusted hours.
  • Entrance fees: private vehicles are US$35, valid for 7 days. Alternatively, purchase an annual pass for US$70, getting access to all national parks in the United States.
  • Visitor centers: Yosemite has several visitor centers to get hiking information, maps, and or speak with the rangers.
  • Accommodation options: Yosemite offers various lodging options, like campgrounds, lodges, and cabins. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during peak seasons, like summertime.
  • Camping: there are tons of campgrounds within Yosemite; some require reservations, while others operate on a first-come, first-served basis. If you plan to camp, be aware of bear safety protocols, like locking away food in bear lockers.
Road winding through the mountain
  • Weather conditions: Yosemite experiences a range of weather conditions throughout the year. Summers are generally warm, while winters are cold, with snow at higher elevations.
  • Hiking trails: Yosemite offers an extensive network of hiking trails suitable for all skill levels. From short, easy walks to challenging backcountry treks, there’s a trail for every skill level. Always carry water, snacks, and a map/tracker when hiking.
  • Wildlife safety: Yosemite is home to diverse wildlife: bears, deer, and lots of insects. Respect the animals’ natural habitats, keep a safe distance, and store food properly to prevent attracting bears to your campsite.
  • Internet and cellular connectivity: while some areas in Yosemite have limited cell service, the park does not have widespread internet coverage. Download maps and important information before arriving, and grab a physical map from the visitor center.
  • Emergency services: in case of an emergency, dial 911. Yosemite has park rangers stationed throughout the park to provide assistance and information.
  • Leave no trace: Yosemite follows the “Leave No Trace” motto. Pack out all trash and respect wildlife and other visitors.

Where to stay in Yosemite National Park

Take a look below for my best recommendations on where to stay on any budget, with prices ranging from US$150 to US$280 and above.

collage of 3 images with: a pool, bedroom and lounge

Luxury (US$320 and up)

  • Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn – close to the south gate entrance, this hotel is a wonderful hotel in the perfect location. Complete with large rooms, a warm indoor pool, and loads of mountain charm.
  • AutoCamp Yosemite – you are going to love this luxury glamping opportunity in the lush wilderness near Yosemite, complete with an outdoor swimming pool and free bike rentals.

Mid-Range (US$175 – US$250)

  • Sierra Sky Ranch, Ascend Hotel Collection – a gorgeous 1940s cattle ranch, this lovely inn has spacious rooms, an on-site restaurant, and free coffee daily.
  • Homestead Cottages – located on 160 acres (65 hectares) of stunning wilderness and minutes from the south entrance of Yosemite National Park, these cottages are spacious, clean, and equipped with kitchenettes.

Budget (up to US$175)

  • Yosemite Southgate Hotel & Suites – this awesome, modern, budget-friendly choice close to Yosemite’s south entrance boasts a beautiful outdoor swimming pool & hot tub, free WiFi, and complimentary continental breakfast.
  • Hotel Charlotte – this charming, historic Old-West hotel in downtown Groveland, CA, is just a 30-minute drive to the entrance of Yosemite National Park.

Check the rates here

FAQs about best hikes in Yosemite National Park

a sign on the side of a road that says yosemite national park

🚶 What is the most popular hike in Yosemite?

The Yosemite Falls Trail is the most popular hike in Yosemite due to its ease, accessibility, and incredible waterfall views.

💪 What is the hardest hike in Yosemite?

Some of the hardest hikes in Yosemite are Upper Yosemite Falls, Four Mile Trail, and El Capitan.

🌄 What is the most famous view in Yosemite?

The most famous views in Yosemite are of El Capitan and Half Dome.

🗓️ What is the best month to hike Yosemite?

The best months to hike in Yosemite are May through September. The winter snow has melted, and the cool breeze and warm sun provide perfect hiking conditions.

Conclusion

lake with rocks and trees in the background at sunset

Without a doubt, your adventure to Yosemite National Park will be filled with unforgettable hiking experiences and memories of panoramic vistas that will come to you in your dreams!

You know I love to hear all about your adventures, so drop me a line about your Yosemite trip below. 📲

And don’t forget to always book your priority hotels and activities in advance so you don’t miss out!

Please comment below with your favorite hikes from the list, or add one I should try next time! 💃

Aloha & safe travels,

Hayden G.


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