21 of the Absolute Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park to Put on Your Hiking Bucket List

21 of the Absolute Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park to Put on Your Hiking Bucket List |  Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the entire United States, and one of the best way to tour the park is via one of its many amazing hiking trails. In this post I’ve detailed 21 of Yosemites top hiking trails, ranging from difficult to easy, that give you epic views of Yosemites grand backcountry and some Yosemites most famous landmarks. You’ll only fall more in love with Yosemite after going on one of these hikes. | shedreamsofalpine.com

Yosemite National Park is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to, and experiencing the park via one of its many amazing hiking trails is probably the best way to grasp its beauty. I decided to put together a list of some of the best hikes in Yosemite so that next time you visit, you have a quick and easy guide to reference for your time exploring the park.

In the post below we will dive into these best hiking trails in Yosemite, and if you are interested in more guides for hiking in California, be sure to check out our resources at the bottom of the post. We include links to even more classic hikes in California including some of my absolute favorite California backpacking trails and favorite California 14er (14,000 foot peak) hikes.

I’ve broken out the list of Yosemite hikes based on difficulty, so if you’re looking for a harder (or easier) day hike you can skip to the section you are searching for. I decided to start with the most difficult hikes first since some of my absolute favorite hikes in Yosemite are the most difficult ones as well.

So if you are looking for the easy hikes in Yosemite, skip to the bottom, and don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of awesome easy day hikes in Yosemite as well. We have done a bit of them all!

Hiking at sunset in Yosemite National Park

Since everyone has a different gauge of “difficult” and “easy” hiking, here is how I’ve defined the list below:

1. Best Difficult Hikes in Yosemite - If a trail was over 7 miles long OR over 2,500 feet of total elevation gain, I rated this hike as “difficult”

2. Best Moderate Hikes in Yosemite - If the trail was within the 4-7 mile range OR between the 1,000 to 2,500 feet of total elevation gain, I rated this hike as “moderate”

3. Best Easy Hikes in Yosemite - If a trail was under 4 miles long OR under 1,000 feet of total elevation gain, I rated this hike as “easy”

4. The Epic-Special Trail That Runs Through Yosemite - I’ll finish with one of the most iconic Yosemite National Park trails in the United States that starts right in the heart of Yosemite. You can’t do it in a day, but it’s definitely one to put on that bucket list of yours!


Yosemite Hikes map

Many of the best trails in Yosemite in the list below can be located within Yosemite Valley, but some of the hikes are further away. Parking can prove difficult in Yosemite, so sometimes it is best to take a shuttle from the valley to your hiking trailhead.

Make sure to plan ahead for each of the hikes you choose.

Below is a Yosemite trail map showing the location of each of the best hikes in Yosemite that we discuss in detail below. Click the map below to be taken to an interactive google map to explore the locations further.

So without further ado, here are 21 of the best day hikes in Yosemite to fuel your next visit to Yosemite National Park! 


Best Difficult Hikes in Yosemite

Below you will find a list of some of the best hiking in Yosemite.

Ironically, some of the best Yosemite trails are also its most difficult hikes, which is why I decided to start with the difficult ones first. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t think you’re up for one of the difficult hikes, there are still plenty of moderate in easy hikes in the valley that offer great Yosemite Valley views.

1. Half Dome Hike

The Half Dome hike is by far one of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park

Half Dome Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: ~ 14.5 miles via the Mist Trail, ~16.5 miles round trip via the John Muir Trail, or you can choose to go up the Mist Trail (7.25 miles) and down the John Muir Trail (8.25 miles) for a round trip of around 15.5 miles. Its easier on your knees to go down the John Muir Trail, because the mist trail is stair steps the practically the whole way.

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~5000 feet of elevation gain (though, when I took my GPS, It said more around 5,600 feet of gain)

  • Difficulty: Very difficult day hike

  • Crowd Rank: Very crowded

  • Scenery Rank: Top-knotch, epic view of the Yosemite Valley

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: The closest parking area to this trailhead is actually called “The Trailhead” and is near Curry Village. This parking lot fills up very quickly since practically all the Half Dome Hikers try to park here and many of them start VERY early in the morning (which you should do too if you plan to do this hike in 1 day). However, you can also park just about anywhere in the eastern part of the valley and take one of Yosemite’s free shuttles to the trailhead. You can also find parking in Curry Village.

  • SPECIAL NOTE! You must have a permit to hike up to the top of the Half Dome! If you don’t have a permit to hike Half Dome, you can hike to the sub-dome, but then you need to turn around… and yes, there are rangers out there who will check if you have a permit or not. Respect the rules. If you can’t get a permit, there are a bunch of other great hikes in Yosemite, or hike to the Sub-Dome!

Hiking up the Half Dome Cables

Hiking Half Dome is one of the most unique hiking experiences you can get in the United States, and an epic day hiking challenge if you choose to hike this in a day. With over 16 miles round trip and over 5000 feet of elevation gain, you are in for a very long day.

Most hikers, especially those who are not used to long mileage hikes with lots of elevation gain will do well to start their hike very early in the morning. Plan to spend the whole day doing this hike unless you are in good shape.

My advice is to start by hiking up the Mist Trail. Its a brutal uphill stair-stepping workout, but its quicker and more efficient.

Make sure to bring plenty of water, particularly if you are hiking this in the summer. You will get very thirsty. There are several opportunities to fill up with water along your hike, but one of the best spots to plan on filling up is at the Little Yosemite Valley campground.

Be sure to bring a water filter, so you can filter clean drinking water here. I’d fill up on water before continuing up to Sub-Dome and Half Dome.

There’s no rest or ease to this hike as you make your way up sub-dome. If you don’t have a hiking permit for Half Dome, you cannot go beyond sub-dome. If you do, you will continue to the base of Half Dome cables.

At first you’ll hesitate, the hike up the cables is nearly vertical, and your only protection is your grip on the cables, and your footing against the planked “stairway” to the top. DO NOT attempt the cables without propper gloves or good-gripping shoes. DO NOT attempt the cables if you are very terrified of heights.

DO NOT attempt the Half Dome cables without propper gloves.

I also advise against using a “harness” system to go up the cables. In my opinion, harnesses are just a false sense of protection here, because you would need a very specific set up in order for this to actually be “safe”, and most people are not going to have that set up.

Having to fuss with carabiners and your harness system is going to do you more harm than good in getting up the cables. Just take your time, focus on going plank to plank, and hanging on with a strong grip.

There WILL be a lot of people on this hike, and really the only best way to avoid crowds would be to get there around sunset, but then you need to be prepared to do the hike down in the dark. If you aren’t comfortable with that, be prepared to share this trail with crowds.

The views are worth it though, and I think it is a super-exciting hike all-in-all. Just be smart, bring plenty of water, a water filter, plenty of food, bring gloves, have good-gripping shoes, and bring a jacket and a headlamp in case you find yourself hiking down in the dark.

Do not underestimate this hike. Its hard and it is potentially dangerous if you don’t take the right precautions. Please don’t rely on your phone flashlight to get you down in the dark.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Its probably the most classic, iconic hike of them all. One of the best hikes in Yosemite Valley! In fact, there aren’t many hikes out there that are quite like Half Dome. Its unique, challenging and fun in so many different ways.

Pro Tip: Consider taking the Mist Trail up to the top of Half Dome and then coming down the John Muir Trail. Even though the John Muir Trail will add on about an extra mile, it is much easier on your knees to go down this trail than the stair-stepping Mist Trail.

2. Clouds Rest

Clouds Rest hike provides you with some of the best views in the Valley and an epic view of Half Dome.

Clouds Rest Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and back

  • Total Milage: There are multiple trailheads, but assuming you start at Sunrise Lakes Trailhead it is around 14 miles round trip

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~2800 feet total gain according to my GPS

  • Difficulty: difficult

  • Crowd Rank: Busy, but not as crowded as the Half Dome hike

  • Scenery Rank: Amazing! Epic views of Half Dome

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: Sunrise Lakes Trailhead

Clouds Rest trail description contribution from blogger Kaelee of Seattle Bred:

If you failed to get permits to hike to the top of Half Dome, but are still hoping for a difficult hike with sweeping views of the valley, then you must check out Clouds Rest! On a clear day this hike will reward you with one of the most epic views of Half Dome.

It’s shorter, has less elevation gain, and is slightly less terrifying of a hike for those who have a fear of heights! After finishing this hike, you may wonder why anyone even bothers with the notoriously difficult lottery system for Half Dome permits.

The spine of clouds rest hike in Yosemite

There are multiple trailheads to hike to Clouds Rest, the most popular being the Sunrise Lakes trailhead on Tioga Road.

If you start at Sunrise Lakes, it’s a little under 14 miles with around 2800 ft of elevation gain. Make sure to bring plenty of water as this hike is extremely exposed and hot in summer months.

If you live closer to sea level, keep the high elevation of the Sierras in mind. You will end up at around 10,000 ft which is where some people can begin to experience altitude sickness.

The final push to Clouds Rest is on an exposed ridge, so if you have an extreme fear of heights you may want to consider another trail.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Its less crowded, but still a challenging awesome Yosemite day hike with some of the most epic views of Half Dome in Yosemite.


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3. Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

Hiking to the Top of Yosemite Falls is one of the best Yosemite National Park hiking trails.

Upper Yosemite Falls Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: ~7.6 miles roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet to the top of Yosemite Falls, you can continue further to Yosemite Point which will make your total elevation gain around 3,000 feet.

  • Difficulty: difficult

  • Crowd Rank: Since this starts in the Valley, this will still likely have a good amount of crowds, but because it is a difficult hike, you will find less people than on the easier hikes.

  • Scenery Rank: Fantastic - views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls in the same shot!

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: Your hike will start at Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead, and the best place to park would be the day-use parking lot south of Yosemite Village, but you can also grab a shuttle to the trailhead as well.

The Yosemite Falls hike is an epic-stair-master workout, but affords you some amazing views of the classic Yosemite Valley landmarks and scenery. Enjoy the opportunity of walking through the waterfall spray of Yosemite Falls and the opportunity to photograph both Half Dome and Yosemite Falls in the same shot.

The best time to do this hike would be in the summer months when the falls are in full-roar from winter run-off, but be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks because your hike is going to take some time! In the fall, this will still be a great hike, but the waterfall wont be as grand.

Views from the Yosemite Mist Trail

What makes this Yosemite hike special? Epic waterfall sprays, a great workout and amazing Yosemite Valley views.

4. Glen aulin trail to Tuolumne Falls & white cascade

Glen Aulin Trail Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: 13 miles roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~600 feet of total gain

  • Difficulty: Difficult

  • Crowd Rank: Pretty crowded and busy

  • Scenery Rank: Very Pretty!

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: Park at the Dog Lake/Lembert Dome trailhead parking lot

Now while the Glen Aulin trail hike doesn’t have a ton of total elevation gain, it is still a difficult hike due to its longer length and time commitment. The hike starts off in the dreamy Tuolumne Meadows and then meanders along the dreamy, windy Tuolumne River until it ultimately ends at Glen Aulin.

If you continue on below Glen Aulin, you’ll wind up at three beautiful ranging waterfalls in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Its long, but not too difficult and meanders along beautiful streams and meadows in Tuolumne.

5. the 4-mile trail to glacier point

The view from glacier point gives you a fantastic vantage point of Half Dome and the surrounding Yosemite Valley.

The 4-Mile Trail Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Point to Point OR Out and Back

  • Total Milage: ~4.8 miles (ONE WAY), so about 9.6 miles round trip

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~3,200 feet total gain

  • Difficulty: Difficult

  • Crowd Rank: There will likely be a lot of hikers on this trail since it connects from the Valley floor to Glacier Point (a very popular viewpoint that is also accessible via an easier hike).

  • Scenery Rank: Top-Knotch Half Dome Views

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: If you are doing this as an out and back hike, you can just park in Yosemite Valley. The trail starts just off on the right of Southside Drive. Some people opt to hike up this trail and take a bus back to the Valley from Glacier Point.

The 4-Mile trail description contribution from blogger Paulina of Little Grunts:

Glacier Point is the spot to be for unobstructed views of the iconic Half Dome and its sheer, steep face. The Four Mile Trail takes you from the valley floor to Glacier Point, gaining 3,200 feet of total elevation gain.

Despite its name, this trail is actually not 4 miles long, and is 4.8 miles to the top. In the summer, you can retrace your steps or hop on a shuttle back to Yosemite Valley.

The Four Mile Trail is best hiked when Glacier Point Road is closed, but before winter hits Yosemite Valley. You’ll have this crowded spot all to yourself. Check before you go because this trail does get closed around December due to treacherous conditions.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Its a great way to challenge yourself, get a good workout and end with some of the best views of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley.

6. North dome hike

The North Dome hike is one of the best Yosemite trails and gives you a unique view of the face of Half Dome.

North Dome Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: ~8.8 miles roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~1,800 feet of total gain

  • Difficulty: Difficult

  • Crowd Rank: Less crowded

  • Scenery Rank: Awesome views of the face of Half Dome

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: Park at the Porcupine Creek lot on Tioga Road

Awesome up front views of the face of Half Dome, and unique views of the popular Clouds Rest hike.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: The North Dome offers you an awesome perspective of Half Domes big granite face

7. the pohono trail

You can start your Pohono trail hike at Tunnel view.

The Pohono Trail Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Point-to-Point

  • Total Milage: 13 miles one way

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~3700 total feet of elevation gain if you include Sentinel Dome

  • Difficulty: Very Difficult.

  • Crowd Rank: Parts of this trail can be very crowded

  • Scenery Rank: A highlight of Yosemites Best landmarks and scenery

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: There are parking lots at both Glacier Point and Tunnel View that should be easy enough to grab a spot at with some patience.

You can choose to hike this trail from Glacier Point to Tunnel View (most popular) or from Tunnel View to Glacier Point. Both directions are difficult to hike and require uphill cardio.

Tunnel View to Glacier Point, however, is more difficult than Glacier Point to Tunnel View.

You can only do this trail as long as Glacier Point Road is open, typically between May to November.

Highlights on this trail include: Glacier Point, Taft Point, Crocker Point, Stanford Point, Dewey Point, and Inspiration Point. You’ll also get to pass along Sentinel Dome and end (or begin) at the popular tourist stop, Tunnel View (seen in the photo above).

Most people don’t attempt to do this trail as a roundtrip hike, but I suppose you could if you were up for the 26 mile challenge.

If you opt to do this one way, you will have to figure out your transportation scenario. This is probably the most complicated part of this hike, so do some research and planning in advance of your trip to make sure you have it all detailed out.

There are some great details in this post on your transportation options for this hike

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: A long epic hike with a great tour of Yosemite Valley’s most famous landmarks.

8. Panorama Trail

The Panorama Trail hike takes you along many unique Yosemite landmarks, including a view of Vernal Falls.

Panorama Trail Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Point to Point OR Out and back

  • Total Milage: ~ 8.5 miles one way, or 17 miles roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~3,200 feet total gain

  • Difficulty: Difficult

  • Crowd Rank: Medium to High

  • Scenery Rank: Fantastic Views of Yosemite’s classic landmarks

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: If you decide to go from Glacier Point down to the Valley, then park in the Valley and take the Glacier Point bus from Yosemite Lodge to the Glacier Point Trailhead.

Most people start the Panorama Trail hike going one way from Glacier Point down to Yosemite Valley. The Panorama Trail starts and ends at two very popular trails in Yosemites, Glacier Point and the Mist Trail.

So not only will you get to hike through these Yosemite hiking trail classics, you’ll also pass by lesser-known landmarks such as  Illilouette Falls and Panorama Point.

Be sure to make the side-trail stop up to Panorama Point to catch amazing views of Glacier Point, North Dome, and Half Dome. However, you’ll have to be on the lookout for this side trail because it us unmarked, but it is definitely worth the short detour!

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: More amazing views of Yosemite’s epic landmarks, and an extra special lesser-known viewpoint called Panorama Point!


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Best Moderate Hikes in Yosemite

Below you will find a list of awesome moderate hikes in Yosemite National Park.

9. Mist Trail to Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall

Hiking up the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls in Yosemite National Park.

Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: ~1 mile to Vernal Falls Footbridge, or 3.5 miles to the top of Nevada Falls. If you hike all the way to Nevada Falls, your total round trip mileage will be about 7 total miles.

  • Total Elevation Gain: 300 feet gain to Vernal Falls Footbridge, and 1,900 total feet gain to the top of Nevada Falls from the trailhead

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Crowd Rank: This trail is VERY popular, expect to share this trail with a lot of park visitors

  • Scenery Rank: This hike is very scenic! This Yosemite hike includes 2 iconic Yosemite Valley waterfalls.

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: The closest parking area to this trailhead is actually called “The Trailhead” and is near Curry Village. This parking lot fills up very quickly since a lot of Half Dome Hikers park here as well. If you’re really hoping to park at this trailhead then make sure to get there VERY early. However, you can also park just about anywhere in the eastern part of the valley and take one of Yosemite’s free shuttles to the trailhead. You can also find parking in Curry Village.

To Vernal Falls Footbridge:

Vernal Falls footbridge trail description contribution from blogger Mary Beth of MB Sees:

One of my family’s favorite Yosemite hikes is the trail to Vernal Fall Footbridge. It’s just under 2 miles roundtrip, but part of the larger High Sierra Loop Trial – so if we get a wild hair and decide to go farther, we can!

While this section of trail is both paved and (relatively) short, there’s a pretty healthy elevation change that not everyone is willing to tackle – so it allows you to get away from the larger crowds of tourists.

You gain 300 feet in the quick mile up to the bridge, so it definitely gets your heartrate up. Hike with your baby on your back, like we did, and it’s a real workout!

If you choose to hike to Vernal Falls footbridge, you’re in for an easier hike, but still amazingly beautiful views of Yosemite!

But the reward at the end is worth it – a peek-a-boo view of Vernal Fall on one side of the bridge, and a view of the valley below from the other.

If you choose to climb to the top of Vernal Falls instead of just stopping at the footbridge, you’ll end up gaining about 1,000 feet of total elevation gain, but well worth the effort!

To Nevada Falls:

Many people turn around at Vernal Falls, but if you choose to challenge yourself a bit and continue onward to the top of Nevada Falls, you’re in for a continued, great stair-stepping workout and even more amazing views!

This trail is no joke of a workout, but it doesn’t fail to disappoint. Just keep your eye on the prize and make your way slowly but surely to the top. It’s one of the valleys most rewarding and beautiful hikes.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: The Mist Trail is one of the most well known hikes in the valley, and is the trail many hikers choose to take when going to the top of Half Dome.

It’s a classic, iconic Yosemite Valley hike.

Pro Tip: Visit when the waterfalls are in their full glory, around April to June when snow is melting and flowing into the Valley.

All smiles hiking in Yosemite

10. Mono Pass Trail

Mono Pass Trail Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: 7.4 miles roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~900 feet of total gain

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Crowd Rank: Low compared to what you’ll find in Yosemite Valley

  • Scenery Rank: Beautiful in its own right and a different scene then most of the hikes you will do in Yosemite Valley

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: There is parking for about 20 cars or so at Mono Pass Trailhead

The Mono Pass trail is a relatively low key trail crowd wise when compared to the hikes in the heart of Yosemite Valley, and this trail offers unique views and landmarks outside the classic famous Yosemite Valley scenery.

Starting at the Mono Pass Trailhead, you’ll climb your way up between beautiful meadows and streams toward Mono Pass.

If you continue past Mono Pass a short ways you’ll also sneak a peak at the Eastern Sierras and Mono Lake.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Sneak away from the chaos of the valley to hike this beautiful trail bordering the Sierra Nevadas.

11. Cathedral lakes trail

Cathedral Lakes Trail is one of the best hikes in Yosemite due to its views and epic shots of Cathedral Peak.

Cathedral Lakes Trail Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: 8 miles roundtrip if you go to both Upper and Lower Cathedral Lakes

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~1,200 feet of total elevation gain

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Crowd Rank: Fairly Busy, this area is popular for hikers and climbers alike

  • Scenery Rank: Stunning!

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: You can park at the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead parking lot, or on the shoulders of the road near the trailhead. The parking lot fills up quickly as this is a very popular hiking area for both climbers and hikers.

The Cathedral Lakes Trail is by far one of the top hikes in Yosemite, and is one of my absolute favorite areas.

I’ve gotten to hike to this area via many different routes, but if you take the moderate Cathedral Lakes Trail you’ll swing by both Upper and Lower Cathedral Lakes (as the name suggests) and you will sneak stunning views of Cathedral Peak.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Relatively moderate hike into 2 stunning lakes with views of one of Tuolumne’s most iconic peaks, Cathedral Peak.


Best Easy Hikes in Yosemite

12. Lower Yosemite Falls Hike

Lower Yosemite Falls is a nice and easy day hike in Yosemite Valley, easy to take children and family on.

Lower Yosemite Falls Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Variety of Options

  • Total Milage: ~0.5 miles

  • Total Elevation Gain: Minimal

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Crowd Rank: Naturally crowded to the proximity to Yosemite Village.

  • Scenery Rank: Beautiful view of Yosemite Falls

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: Park at Yosemite Village and walk to the trailhead

The Lower Yosemite Falls hike is a must-do, chill hike for families and solo adventurers alike.

Even though the hike is relatively short and easy going, you’ll still enjoy the stroll around the Valley floor and enjoy standing below Yosemite Falls looking up in awe.

I like to grab a coffee from the cafe in Yosemite Village and take a strong around here to enjoy a nice easy walk while I drink my coffee.

The perfect easy day hike in Yosemite Valley, especially if you are really pressed for time.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: If you spend any time at all in Yosemite Village, make sure to stop by to get an epic view up at Yosemite Falls.

13. Bridalveil fall hike

Bridalveil Fall is one of the best Yosemite short hikes.

Bridalveil Falls Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: 1.2 mils roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~200 feet total gain

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Crowd Rank: Very Crowded

  • Scenery Rank: Up-close and personal views of Bridalveil Falls

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: Bridalveil Falls Trailhead

This can be a fun hike to go on in the peak of the waterfall flowing season when the falls are in full rage.

Be prepared to get a little wet from the spray, but that is part of the fun!

This is a very easy hike, which also makes it a pretty crowded hike. Still a great one to see if you’re looking to grab a short hike in while your exploring the Valley.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Bridalveil Falls epic waterfall spray!

14. Tenaya Lake

The beautiful blue Tenaya Lake area offers some amazing easy day hiking in Yosemite.

Tenaya Lake Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Loop

  • Total Milage: ~2.5 miles round trip

  • Total Elevation Gain: Minimal

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Crowd Rank: Medium

  • Scenery Rank: Beautiful Lake views the entire hike

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead:

Tenaya Lake is super accessible and is an awesome place to come and spend the day to explore.

Hike this beautiful loop around the lake or enjoy a lazy day on its sandy shore (or do both!). It’s an excellent place to spend the day.

For those in your group who are feeling more ambitious, the Tenaya Lake area is also the starting trailhead for the epic Clouds Rest hike!

There is even some rock climbing in the surrounding boulders above the lake that make some fun, less crowded bouldering locations.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Tenaya Lake is beautiful and easily accessible.

15. Glacier Point Short Hike

If you are looking for great views but don’t have a long time to hike, then drive up to glacier point and hike a short distance for an awesome view of Half Dome at Glacier Point!

Glacier Point Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: 1 miles roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: Minimal

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Crowd Rank: Very popular

  • Scenery Rank: One of the best in Yosemite to view Half Dome

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: Glacier Point parking lot

If you aren’t up for one of the more difficult hikes that takes you to Glacier Point, then you can drive up to the Glacier Point Trailhead and still enjoy this epic view with a very minimal hike.

This is an excellent spot to drive to at the end of the day and watch the sunset on Half Dome in the distance.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: This view of Half Dome is probably the best in the valley.

16. Mirror Lake Hike

Mirror lake is a beautiful easy day hike, and one of the best easy Yosemite Valley hikes

Mirror Lake Hike Quick Facts

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: 2.4 miles roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~100 feet or less

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Crowd Rank: Popular

  • Scenery Rank: Beautiful Yosemite Valley reflected back at you

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: You can park in the valley and take one of the free shuttle busses or if you start your hike in the valley, park near Curry Village.

The mirror lake hike makes for a great easy day hike in the valley and takes you up close to the base of Half Dome (or about as close as you can get from the valley floor).

If you look for the right spot, you can even see the top of Half Dome reflected back at you in mirror lake. People also enjoy coming to mirror lake to swim in the summer.

You can make this a longer hike by hiking all the way out to Tenaya Canyon (about 4 miles round trip) or by starting your hike in Yosemite Village instead of taking a shuttle to the trailhead (which adds on about another 1.5 miles to the total trip miles).

What makes this Yosemite hike special? Get an extra special view of Yosemite Valley reflected back at you via Mirror Lake

Views of Yosemite National Park

17. Wawona Meadow Loop

Wawona Meadow Loop Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Loop

  • Total Milage: ~ 5 mile loop

  • Total Elevation Gain: Minimal

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Crowd Rank: Low

  • Scenery Rank: Meadows, but lower on the scenery scale due to the golf course

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: The trailhead is across the road from the Wawona Hotel parking lot, where you can look for parking.

The Wawona Meadow Loop makes it on the top hikes in Yosemite list because not only is it a nice easy day hike, but it is also relatively uncrowded compared to many of Yosemites other hiking trails.

There is however a 9-hole golf course around this hike, which is interesting, but not what you’d expect in a National Park.

This trail can make for an extra-beautiful hike in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming and also in the fall when the fall leaves are turning.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Low crowds, and a golf course, if you’re into that kind of thing. Pet’s and bicycles are also allowed on this trail since its paved.

18. Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge

Looking for an easy day hike in Yosemite? Check out the soda springs and parsons lodge hike!

Soda Springs and Parson’s Lodge Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Loop

  • Total Milage: 1.5 miles roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: very minimal

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Crowd Rank: On popular weekends you might find a lot of people here since it is so easy to access, but it isn’t as bad as some areas in Yosemite.

  • Scenery Rank: Beautiful views! Less elevation gain though, so most of your views are going to be the surrounding scenery and Soda Springs.

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: Lembert Dome parking area (Shuttle Stop #4)

Trail description contribution from blogger Katherine of Bright Lights of America:

We were lucky enough to book a campsite at Yosemite, even though I had a hip issue that stopped me from being able to hike very far at all.

We were determined to get at least one hike in, and the trail past Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge was perfect. It was a relatively flat, wide path at Tuolumne Meadows, easy to get to using the park shuttle (stop #4), and a short loop that took in a beautiful bridge and river.

On our way out we saw lots of little critters scampering through the meadows, from chipmunks to ground squirrels and a family of deer.

We stopped at what’s left of the Soda Springs Cabin, built back in 1889. The cabin shelters the most prolific of the springs – carbonated water bubbling from the ground – but there are also a few springs outside its walls as well.

Carry onto Parson’s Lodge, which is used for exhibitions during the summer, but was first built as a memorial to a member of the Sierra Club back in 1915. We managed to catch an author’s reading and book signing as we passed through.

The last beautiful stop on this hike is Tuolumne Meadows footbridge, a low wooden bridge where you can sit and watch the water rush by after a soaking rain.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Although the hike is short and sweet, you’ll get to pass through 3 unique landmarks: the Soda Springs Cabin, Parson’s Lodge, and the Tuolumne Meadows footbridge.

19. Sentinel Dome Trail

Capture great views of Half Dome from the base of Sentinel Dome.

Sentinel Dome Trail Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: 2.2 miles roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~ 400 feet of total gain

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Crowd Rank: Medium

  • Scenery Rank: Very scenic!

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: The parking lot for Sentinel Dome Trail shares the same space with the Taft Point trailhead (another popular hike in the Park). The lot is fairly small, so you may need to park your car on the shoulder of Glacier Point Road.

The hardest part about the Sentinel Dome Trail hike is the final bit up Sentinel Dome itself, otherwise, you’ll find this a nice easy Yosemite day hike with epic panoramic views of the valley.

On the summit of Sentinel Dome you’ll find a dead Jeffery Pine tree which became famous when Ansel Adams took a very well-known picture of it. However, the tree died in a drought in 1977 and is now dead on the summit.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Epic views in all directions with relatively easy hiking.

20. Taft Point

Short hike to Taft Point, but epic views of Yosemite Valley

Taft Point Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Milage: ~ 2.2 miles roundtrip

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~ 200 feet of total gain

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Crowd Rank: Medium

  • Scenery Rank: Epic sweeping views with unique photo ops

  • Best Place to Park to Access Trailhead: The parking lot for Taft Point shares the same space with the Sentinel Dome trailhead (mentioned above). The lot is fairly small, so you may need to park your car on the shoulder of Glacier Point Road.

This hiking spot is a very popular location for hikers and photographers alike.

It provides amazing views of Yosemite Valley, including the grand El Capitan.

This area gets a bad reputation because people are known to push their luck getting close to the edge for the “perfect photo”.

Use common sense when hiking here, and stay a safe distance away from the edge. There are no guardrails here so you go at your own risk. Regardless of the potential danger, this is a great little easy hike in Yosemite.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: Classic Yosemite photo opportunity with relatively easy hiking.


yosemites most epic trail

21. John Muir Trail

john-muir-trail

John Muir Trail Hike Quick Facts:

  • Type of Trail: Thru Hike

  • Total Milage: 211 miles long

  • Total Elevation Gain: around 46,000 total feet of elevation gain!

  • Difficulty: Difficult, multi-week backpacking trip

  • Crowd Rank: Very Popular, but the trail can feel secluded when you get away from the entry hubs and out further into the backcountry of the Sierras.

  • Scenery Rank: The most epic scenery you’ll find in California.

  • Trailhead: You can start in Yosemite or Whitney Portal.

Ok so, the John Muir Trail isn’t entirely located in Yosemite, BUT the trail does start (or end depending on which direction you’re hiking) in the heart of Yosemite Valley.

The John Muir trail is one of the most epic and iconic California hikes, and is one of the most sough after thru-hiking achievements in the United States.

Hikers compete for permits every year to spend 2-6 weeks backpacking this 211 mile long hike.

Or, if you live in California, you can choose to hike the John Muir Trail in Segments, which is what I’ve been doing. You can check out a few of my trail guides on sections of the John Muir Trail below:

Regardless of which way you do this hike, its one to put on the bucket list, and if you’d like a little taste of the John Muir Trail you can start your hike up towards Half Dome hiking up the John Muir Trail instead of the Mist Trail.

What makes this Yosemite hike special?: It’s California’s most well-known thru-hike and a larger portion of the trail is also part of the larger thru-hike known as the Pacific Coast Trail.

Hiking the Clouds Rest Trail


So how many of the hikes above have you done? Are any of these still on your Yosemite National Park hiking bucket list?! Did we miss any of your favorite Yosemite hikes? Let us know in the comments below! 

Cheers,

Allison - She Dreams of Alpine

 
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