Best Hikes in Yosemite


Looking for the absolute BEST hikes Yosemite National Park has to offer? Believe me when I say, Yosemite is one of the most jaw-dropping places I’ve ever been. There is a reason it quickly becomes a top National Park for many of its visitors (including myself). I’ll never forget my first time standing at Glacier Point overlooking the vastness of the park. Or my first time driving through the tunnel and seeing Yosemite valley in all it’s grandeur. Truly, the list goes on and on. There simply aren’t words to describe the emotions that a place like Yosemite stirs up; and quite frankly the pictures don’t even do it justice! Can you tell I feel deeply connected to Yosemite?! Alright enough about how much I love this park – let’s get into the good stuff!


One thing to know before you go, is that the park is enormous. If you’ve visited smaller, more accessible National Parks, a place like Yosemite can be overwhelming. Especially if proper planning is not done in advance. When you factor in popular destinations being hours apart, large crowds, and numerous options for activities, it’s best to arrive with a plan. One important part of the planning process is deciding on your must-do hikes! This will give you a pretty good idea of where in the park you will need to be on a given day and how to plan out each day a little better. Depending on how long you will be spending in the park, you may not be able to do all of these hikes. I’m listing quite a few with a big variety of difficult + length, so pick and choose based on what fits your schedule/ability level.



*Keep in mind that during the winter months, some roads to certain trailheads may be close due to snow*


Map of Yosemite for Reference


 

EASY HIKES


Tenaya Lake Trail-

Length: 3.5 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 200 feet

Area of park: Northeast corner of the park

Considerations: Features a lake with beach access – ideal for a more relaxed day. Mostly shaded.




Mirror Lake Trail-

Length: 2 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 100 feet

Area of park: Yosemite Valley

Considerations: Paved trail for all ability levels – one of the few dog + stroller friendly trails in the park. Keep in mind that in late summer the lake may be completely dried up, so plan accordingly.




Sentinel Meadow Cook’s Meadow Loop-

Length: 2.3 mile loop

Vertical gain: roughly 100 feet

Area of park: Yosemite Valley

Considerations: Partially paved trail for all ability levels – one of the few dog + stroller friendly trails in the park. Iconic view of the Yosemite Valley meadows. Not a lot of shade so plan accordingly.



Sentinel Dome-

Length: 2.2 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 500 feet

Area of park: Near Glacier Point

Considerations: You can begin this hike either at the Taft Point trailhead OR the Glacier Point Trailhead. The distance is the same but it is slightly more challenging from Glacier Point. Highly recommended at sunset, as it’s one of the best sunset views in the park! Just be sure to pack that headlamp.




Taft Point + The Fissures-

Length: 2.3 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 375 feet

Area of park: Near Glacier Point

Considerations: In my opinion, the BEST sunset spot in the park. Arrive about an hour before sunset to get an optimal spot because it gets crowded and bring a headlamp for the hike back. There are extremely dangerous drop-offs at Taft Point and near the Fissures to proceed with caution.




The Four Mile Trail from Glacier Point-

Length: 4 mile point to point

Vertical gain: roughly 200 feet

Area of park: Glacier Point

Considerations: Not much shade cover, so plan accordingly during summer months. This hike is only easy if you descend down into Yosemite Village from Glacier Point. To do the reversed route would be very difficult and all uphill. Plan ahead for transportation once you reach the bottom!




Dog Dome and Dog Lake-

Length: 3 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 650 feet

Area of park: Near Tuolumne Meadows

Considerations: Stunning views and a lake destination. Not much shade cover so plan accordingly.


 

MODERATE HIKES


Mount Watkins-

Length: 6 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 1100 feet

Area of park: In the Northeast corner of the park

Considerations: Incredible views of Half Dome, Clouds Rest and Tenaya Canyon. It’s noted to be one of the most underrated hikes in the park, and is less crowded than the more popular trails.


Illiouette Falls via Panorama Trail-

Length: 5 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 1500 feet

Area of park: Near Glacier Point

Considerations: This trail is all downhill on the way to the falls, but will be challenging on the way back up. Most of the year the waterfalls views and Illiouette Falls will be flowing, however late summer the falls may be dried up.




Mirror Lake via Valley Look Trail-

Length: 6 mile loop

Vertical gain: roughly 400 feet

Area of park: Yosemite Valley

Considerations: While Mirror Lake can be accessed from a shorter, paved trail (listed above), this route is slightly longer and will provide more viewpoints along the way. Keep in mind that in late summer the lake may be dried up.





Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Loop-

Length: 5 mile loop

Vertical gain: roughly 1100 feet

Area of park: Near Glacier Point

Considerations: This trail loops together two of the most iconic viewpoints in the park! Sentinel Dome offers 360 views of the park while Taft Point is the most iconic sunset view of the valley.



Lembert Dome Loop-

Length: 3.7 mile loop

Vertical gain: roughly 900 feet

Area of park: Near Tuolumne Meadows

Considerations: This trail is in a less popular area of the park, so it’s quite ideal if you’re looking to avoid the crowds. It includes reaching the top of Lembert Dome and enjoying panoramic views of the park.


Inspiration Point Trail-

Length: 2.5 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 1100 feet

Area of park: Near Tunnel Views

Considerations: This trail is rated moderate simply due to the steep climb over the 1.25 miles up. You will enjoy soaking up the valley from above Tunnel View. I recommend doing this trail around sunrise for best views and lighting!



 

DIFFICULT HIKES


Vernal Falls-

Length: 4 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 1300 feet

Area of park: Yosemite Valley

Considerations: Very strenuous uphill hike- I recommend starting early before it gets too hot. As of Fall 2021, the Mist Trailhead is closed so you will need to begin the hike at the John Muir trailhead.





Upper Yosemite Falls Trail-

Length: 7.6 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 3200 feet

Area of park: Yosemite Valley

Considerations: One of the most intense uphill hikes in the park. Prepare to get soaked by the falls and hike uphill on slick rock. This hike is no joke! Keep in mind that during late summer months the falls may be dried up.




Clouds Rest via Tenaya Lake-

Length: 15 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 3200 feet

Area of park: Near Tuolumne Meadows

Considerations: Prepare to start at 8 AM at the latest. This is a long, strenuous hike with steady uphill climbing to the top. The sun is very intense in the heat of the day so plan accordingly. You will want to bring a lot of water and sun protection.This trail is considered to have one of the very best views in the whole park, looking down on half dome with panoramic views of the rest of the park!



Half Dome-

Length: 16.5 mile out + back

Vertical gain: roughly 5300 feet

Area of park: Yosemite Valley

Considerations: Permits are required and they are not easy to acquire – plan WAY ahead for the lottery. While it’s certainly the most difficult and dangerous hike in the park, it’s also a bucket list hike for many! There is a chains section that scales up the side of Half Dome which is quite strenuous. Plan to leave as early as 4 AM, bring a headlamp, and pack TONS of water.



 

If this is helpful for you, please drop me a comment! I'm toying with the idea of ALSO doing a 3-day Yosemite Itinerary - if you're interested in that let me know. Enjoy the GOAT of all National Parks and the very best hikes in Yosemite!


Happy Trails,


Bradee XOXO


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