Yosemite National Park is a paradise for hikers! Situated in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California in the US, this National Park is a World Heritage Site that brings millions of visitors per year.
There is an abundance of hiking trails in Yosemite that range from easy to strenuous, and the park offers some of the most incredible scenery in the world! Hiking trails lead you to exceptional sights like the Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Yosemite Valley.
You’ll also find stunning flowing waterfalls like Nevada Falls, Yosemite Falls, and Bridalveil Falls. All this while walking through lush forests filled with huge redwood trees and massive ancient sequoias.
Accommodation is available in the park and you can choose between camping, staying in a lodge or even The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Whatever you choose, I have no doubt that Yosemite will surpass your expectations.
These are just a few of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park.
1. Phohono trail
This is the trail for you if you are looking for some of the best viewing points in Yosemite National Park. The Pohono Trail is commonly taken from Glacier Point to Tunnel View or vice versa. The former is the easier of the two. Some more adventurous take a full circuit route.
The hike is about 13miles long from end to end and takes about 5 to 10 hours depending on how long you feel like stopping to take in the views! I recommend taking your time on this one because they are truly breath-taking spots.
The best way to get to the trail reliably is to have two cars parked at either end. This way you will be able to have transport either way. The other option is to book a ticket on the Glacier Point Tour Bus. The bus leaves daily from Yosemite Lodge at three separate times, so you will need to make sure you finish in time to catch the last one!
The trail is fairly difficult and has many strenuous climbs along the way. In the beginning, if the trail you will be faced with a choice, you can either skip the hike up Sentinel Dome or climb! The views are so worth the extra 100 meters elevation!
You’ll come across some more stunning viewpoints along the trail so if you opt to skip the climb to the top of Sentinel Dome, you still have plenty of spots to view the Yosemite National Park from. Some of these include Taft Point, Dewey Point, and Inspiration Point!
Your best bet to the best hiking weather is May to November. This is when Glacier Point Road will be open. Summer is great but expect crowds and plenty of mosquitos – bring repellent!
2. Four-mile trail
Four Mile Trail is definitely one of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park. 10miles and 8 hours hiking take you through some incredible terrain and some of the greatest views await!
You can begin at either end of the trail. The easier route is from top to bottom, from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley. The longer and more difficult route is in the opposite direction, from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. The trail can get strenuous with many steep climbs, but it is totally worth the effort.
To get to the trail your best option is to take the shuttle from Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley or have someone drop and collect you.
The trail is good to hike any time of year except for winter. Spring and summer are your best options but make sure the weather is clear for the day otherwise you won’t have the best views that this trail has to offer.
You will want to make sure you have good hiking boots and gear and watch your footing. The terrain is quite rocky and ankle injuries are a common problem on the trails in Yosemite National Park.
Something I must recommend is getting up extra early in the morning for your hike to experience an incredible sunrise! This way you’ll also beat the midday heat.
3. Yosemite Falls hike
Now, this is one to remember and could easily be the best hike in Yosemite! This hike will take you to the top of North America’s tallest waterfall – Yosemite Falls – which drops at an incredible 2,425ft.
The Yosemite Falls hike is one of the oldest trails in Yosemite National Park and takes about 8 hours to complete. It’s 7miles long with a lot of uphill climbing so you will need a good fitness level and endurance to finish.
You’ll be following the Valley Loop Trail and as you get closer to the falls the route can get slippery so please be careful. It is a good idea to stick to the trails at all times, especially near the steeper areas.
When you reach Yosemite Creek, you’ll want to watch your footing. This little creek feeds into the Yosemite Falls! Experiencing the Yosemite Falls in person is humbling. The majestic size and beauty of the falls is something hard to describe.
You can stay overnight at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Yosemite Valley Lodge or The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. If you’re feeling up to it, there is also a camping site called Pines Campground.
If you are planning to stay overnight, you will need to get a Wilderness Permit beforehand. These are free and easiest to get on Sundays to Thursdays during the September and October months. The National Park Service site provides more information on these permits.
Spring and summer are the best times to hike this trail but when the weather is very hot, make sure to take extra precautions to protect yourself from the sun. There is little tree cover along the trail. And if you are hiking to the Yosemite Falls during spring when the falls are full and flowing rapidly, be sure to bring a rain jacket!
4. Panorama trail
The Panorama Trail is a combination of the Glacier Point and Mist Trail and probably gives you the most out of a hiking trail in Yosemite National Park. As the name suggests, you will have incredible panoramic views on this trail and it’s one of the easiest hiking trails in the park.
There are views from almost all sections and it’s easy to see why it’s one of the favorites in Yosemite National Park. You’ll hike, mainly downhill, for about 9miles and it’ll take you 7 hours to complete depending on your pace.
To get to the trail you can take the bus from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point where your hike begins. This is the easiest way to avoid parking struggles. Another option is to hike the 4mile trail in Yosemite Valley towards the Panorama Trail which extends your walking distance by 6 miles, so if you choose to do this then you’ll need to have a good fitness level.
There are plenty of forks in the trail, but it is clearly marked so it is simple to follow. You’ll hike to the crossing of Illilouette Creek towards the Mist Trail where the path descends. From here you will head towards Nevada Falls.
There is an unmarked detour along the trail to Panorama Point – keep an eye out for this because you do not want to miss the stunning views of Glacier Point, Royal Arches, North Dome as well as Half Dome. The Panorama Trail has picture-perfect views that truly takes your breath away.
Spring and Summer are the best months to hike in Yosemite National Park. For flowing waterfalls and incredible weather, your best bet is during August. Oh, and you can bring the kids! There are some difficult parts so preferably children over 10 years old, but it’s a great day out for the whole family.
5. Half dome hike
Deemed the toughest hike in Yosemite National Park, the Half Dome Hike is not for the weak. The hike is 14miles long and will take about 12 hours to complete. The trail brings you to the famous granite rock formation through spectacular surroundings filled with ancient sequoia trees and past beautiful flowing waterfalls.
The Half Dome Hike begins near Curry Village and follows the well-known Mist Trail. It will take you to a steep 400ft climb where you’ll need to use climbing cables to reach the top of the Half Dome. If you are uncomfortable with heights this can be quite difficult as you’ll be walking vertically and completely exposed. If you are really not up to it, that's okay, the hike is magnificent on its own. However, if you are brave enough to reach the top, the reward is completely worth it.
Due to its popularity, you’ll probably find the trail quite busy and you’ll also need to buy a permit. Apply at least two days in advance for the permit and it will give you access to the entire trail as well as the cable route to the top of the Half Dome. The climbing cables are in place from May to October, so this is the best time to go if you are planning on reaching the top.
When you reach the Vernal Falls, there are hundreds of steps to the top, please be careful in the areas near the falls as it gets very slippery. Make sure you check the weather beforehand; it is extremely dangerous to climb the cables when the route is wet.
Another good tip is to take plenty of water and energy-boosting snacks for the trail and take it easy. There is no rush! Heat exhaustion and dehydration can become a problem on those warmer days so just make sure to prepare well for the hike. Luckily there are locations along the way to fill up water as well.
It’s best to hike this trail early in the morning when it's cooler, but if you find yourself hiking later in the day then carry a flashlight and fresh batteries just in case you end up in the dark. Most thunderstorms happen in the afternoon and you really do not want to get caught on the trail if there’s lightning. You definitely do not want to be near to Half Dome in a lightning storm. Prepare well in advance for this hike, it's easy to underestimate.
Extend your journey to really take it all in and camp at the Little Yosemite Campground. It’s a mile from the top of Nevada Falls and the permit will allow you access to the camping grounds. This does mean that you will have to carry all your gear so pack smart!
Yosemite National Park is an incredible place to experience nature in all its glory. Black Bears roam the park during the day and at night so please be sure to keep food sealed and packed away. If you are staying overnight and have a Wilderness Permit, then you will need to have bear-resistant storage.
About 95% of the park is designated wilderness, please respect these restricted areas so that the animals and plant life can be preserved. Always be respectful of nature on your hikes and abide by the “Leave No Trace” principle.
Whether you decide to take an easier path or the more difficult trails, you will have spectacular views, see some of the most incredible waterfalls and fantastic rock formations that prove Yosemite National Park has some of the best hiking trails in the United States.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark has extensively trekked in some of the most popular mountain regions in the world. He founded Mountain IQ to share his passion for hiking with others and provide the best information on hiking destinations in Asia, South America, Europe, and Africa. Follow Mountain IQ on Facebook for the most up to date information on hiking around the world!