Heavenly beauty and adventure combined! Yosemite National Park is an outdoor adventurer's playground. Situated in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, this national park is famous for giant sequoia trees, picturesque waterfalls, granite cliffs, and more.
The creation of the park has a significant history of its own and led to the establishment of the National Park System. Abraham Lincoln first signed the Yosemite Valley Grant Act to protect the valley but it was John Muir who spearheaded the movement to create the Yosemite National Park and envisioned the path for a National Park System.
The park will re-energize a travelers’ mind, body, and spirit. It attracts millions of tourists every year and keeps the promise of fascinating everyone with its splendor.
Check out this list of the 10 best hiking trails in Yosemite National Park and go prepared for the best adventure of your life.
Top 10 Hikes in Yosemite National Park
1) Bridalveil Falls Trail
Bridalveil Falls can be seen from the park’s entrance, majestically swaying and flowing with vigor. If this waterfall is your chosen trail, the best time to visit this would be spring and early summer, when the falls gush in mesmerizing glory. And the falls become dry by late summer. The trail is open round the year and is paved, but not wheelchair accessible.
Distance: 0.5 mi (0.8 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: Approximately 80ft (24 m)
Time: 20 minutes
2) Lower Yosemite Fall Trail
Lower Yosemite Fall is part of the Yosemite waterfall — the tallest in North America. The footbridge at the waterfall’s base gets refreshing sprays from the majestic torrents in spring and early summer. Enjoy the view of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, and the Yosemite Creek from different vantage points on the trails. Begin your hike from the west to get a spectacular view of Yosemite Falls.
Distance: 1 mi (1.6 km) loop
Elevation Gain: Approximately 50 ft (15 m)
Time: 30 minutes
3) Valley Loop Trail
Yosemite Valley Loop Trail promises splendid views of the granite cliffs, meadows, and rivers. See and feel breathtakingly beautiful scenery throughout the trail. This trail is better suited for experienced hikers. Get lost in nature without the buzzing in of work calls or emails. But do make sure to have a route map of the trail as you whiz past through bridges and cross rivers.
Distance: 11.5 mi (18.5 km) full loop; 7.2 mi (11.6 km) half-loop
Elevation Gain: Mostly level
Time: 5-7 hours full loop; 2.5-3.5 hours half-loop
4) Half Dome Trail
The Half Dome Hiking Trail is high up on the list of one of the most adventurous hikes in the world. This steep trail rewards you with breathtaking views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, and many more wonders of Yosemite. It offers a panoramic view of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra. Once deemed inaccessible to humans, the peak has been conquered by many. With spirit, vigor, and fitness, the hike is an enjoyable challenge. Gear up on safety and conquer this beauty.
Distance: 14-16 mi (22-25 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: 4,800 ft (1,463m)
Difficulty: Very Hard
Time: 10-12 hours
5) Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall Trail
The hike starts from Happy Isles and passes through John Muir and Mist Trails. It offers a magnificent view of the waterfalls, river, and the entire valley throughout the trail. It also offers access to the Vernal Fall Footbridge. As the trail goes up, the Illilouette Fall can also be seen. The hike has two return-back points. Spanning through 5.4 miles, the longest trail here reaches the top of the Nevada Fall.
Vernal Fall Footbridge
Distance: 1.6 mi (2.6 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: 400 ft (120 m)
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Via Mist Trail
Distance: 2.5 mi (3.9 km) round trip
Elevation Gain:100 ft (300 m)
Time: 3 hours
Top of Nevada Fall
Distance: 5.4 mi (8.7 km) round trip (via Mist Trail)
Elevation Gain: 200 ft (610 m)
Time: 5 hours
6) Four Mile Trail
Planned through an old toll trail, this hike offers spectacular views of the valley, El Capitan, and the waterfalls. The hike is steadily steep and is meant for the experienced hiker, so make sure you stay hydrated and carry snacks. Make sure to inquire about the trail’s accessibility as it may close during some seasons.
Distance: 4.8 mi ( 7.7 km) one way to Glacier Point; 9.6 mi (15.5 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: 3,200 ft (975 m)
Time: 3-5 hours one-way; 6-8 hours round trip
7) Sentinel Dome Trail
This beautiful hike trail is fit for hikers and travelers of all skill levels. It is a guaranteed thrilling experience as it promises splendid views. The trail is lined with beautiful wildflowers. The best time to hike here is from April to the month of November. The trail starts from Glacier Point Road and ascends one of Yosemite’s tallest domes.
Distance : 5.4 mi (3.4 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: 456 ft (139 m)
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 2.2 mi (3.5 km) round-trip
Time: 2 hours
Elevation Gain: 200 ft (60 m)
Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Loop
Distance: 4.9 mi (7.9 km) loop
Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft (300 m)
Time: 3-4 hours
8) Mirror Lake Loop
Mirror Lake is one of the major tourist attractions of Yosemite National Park. The beauty of the lake is at its best in spring and early summer, when the nearby Tenaya Creek is covered in flowing snowmelt. The Mirror Lake, with its majestic beauty, is rich in history and cultural relevance, and these stories are exhibited near the lake. It is also called the mirror meadow as in summer, the lake dries up and gives way to lush grasses and sandy spaces.
Distance: 2 mi (3.2 km) round trip to the lake and back; 5 mi (8km) loop around the lake
Elevation Gain: 100 ft (30 m)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Time: 1 hour round trip to the lake (end of the paved trail); 2-3 hours for a full loop
9) Yosemite Falls Trail
This is one of the most prominent trails in Yosemite National Park and is also recognized as one of the oldest historic trails. It starts along the Valley Loop and ascends through oak woodland. And the glorious path leads to the tallest waterfall in North America. The second half is a little strenuous, but worth the climb because of the splendid view.
Distance: 2 mi (3.2 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,00 ft (328 m)
Time: 2-3 hours round trip
Top of Yosemite Falls
Distance: 7.2 mi (11.6 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: 2,700 ft (823 m)
Time: 6-8 hours
10) Cook’s Meadow Loop
This trail is fit for all tourists. It is an easy and enjoyable walk and has the perks of a great hike. The tremendous views! This route offers great views of Yosemite Park, Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Rock. It is also wheelchair accessible. Cook’s Meadow Loop is open year-round and any time is a great time to walk this trail. No matter the season, it is bound to offer the best of Yosemite and a rejuvenating walk.
Distance: 1 mi (1.6 km) loop
Elevation Gain: Flat
Time: 30 minutes
Frequently asked questions about visiting Yosemite National Park
What is the best time to visit Yosemite?
May and September are the best months to visit Yosemite to enjoy the park in full glory without much rush. Note that select trails will be closed during some seasons. Check the National Park website before planning your trip.
What is the best way to reach Yosemite?
The best way to reach Yosemite National Park is by car. It is 168 miles from San Francisco, 163 miles from Sacramento, and 178 miles from Oakland.
How to travel from San Francisco to Yosemite?
The best and cheapest option for travelers from San Francisco to Yosemite is to take an Amtrak ticket. It provides hassle-free bus and train transportation right to the Valley. The distance between San Francisco and Yosemite is 168 Miles and takes about 3.5 hours.
What is the closest airport to Yosemite?
The closest airport to Yosemite is Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT). It is at a distance of 95 miles (153 kilometers) and is 2.5 hours by road.
What are the other things to do in Yosemite?
Other than the famous hikes, the national park has many other fun activities. It includes refreshing walks among the giant, ancient sequoias, watching wildlife (especially black bears when you are lucky!), camping, rock climbing, and ranger-led activities, among so many other fun, amazing recreational activities.
What is the best itinerary for Yosemite?
The best itinerary for Yosemite National Park can be drawn according to personal preferences and experience level. Voyayge's trip planners who are experts at crafting itineraries can help you create the best itinerary for your family.