Yosemite National Park Hiking Trail Pictures
Yosemite National Park was set aside in 1864 by Abraham Lincoln in order to allow the public to enjoy Yosemite Valley's high waterfalls, deep cliffs, open meadows, and oak woodlands as well as the Mariposa Grove's massive and ancient giant sequoias. When Yosemite became a national park in 1890, it was expanded to include Tuolumne Meadows and the high country.
There are miles of hiking trails located throughout Yosemite National Park and adjacent state forest. These trails are beautiful as well as potentially dangerous: caution and common sense are advised.
Easy 20 minutes
0.5 mi / 0.8 km Wheelchair With assistance
Start: Lower Yosemite Fall shuttle bus stop (across the street from Yosemite Lodge and 0.5 mi / 0.8 km from Yosemite Village).
This short walk up a paved trail to the bottom of Lower Yosemite Fall provides great views of all of Yosemite Falls, plus a close-up view of the lower fall. (Note: this waterfall is often dry from August through October.)
Easy 20 minutes
0.5 mi / 0.8 km Wheelchair With assistance
Start: Bridalveil Fall parking area, at the beginning of the Wawona Road (Highway 41) in Yosemite Valley. This short walk to the bottom of Bridalveil Fall provides a great view of the fall.
Easy 1 hour
2 mi / 3.2 km Wheelchair With assistance
Easy 2 hours
5 mi / 8 km loop No
Start: Mirror Lake trailhead shuttle bus stop (just east of the Valley Stables, about 0.5 mi / 0.8 km from Curry Village). The walk to Mirror Lake/Meadow is a leisurely walk either along an old, paved road or along a slightly longer dirt trail. The "lake" is really a large pond in spring and a meadow the rest of the year. Despite this, you're still right at the bottom of Half Dome, and you have a great view of it from Mirror Lake/Meadow. You can also hike all the way around the lake. Valley Floor Loop
Moderate 2 to 4 hours
6.5 mi / 10.5 km No Wheelchair
Moderate 5 to 7 hours
13 mi / 21 km No
Start: Lower Yosemite Fall shuttle bus stop, behind the bathroom. Walking along the valley floor is a great way to see Yosemite Valley in slow motion (compared to driving around it). While this trail remains close to the road for parts of the hike, you will not see very many hikers on the trail.
To take the short version of this hike, be sure to cross the bridge just east of El Capitan Meadow (the large meadow at the base of El Capitan). This trail is very difficult to follow if there is snow on the ground (approximately December through March).
Vernal Fall (Mist Trail)
Moderate 1.5 hours to bridge
1.6 mi / 2.6 km No Wheelchair
Strenuous 3 hours to the top
3 mi / 4.8 km No Wheelchair
Start: Happy Isles shuttle bus stop (about a half mile south of Curry Village). This hike is nearly all uphill, but once you get to the Vernal Fall footbridge, you get a view of 317 foot (97 m) high Vernal Fall. The further you go on this trail the better the views become.
If you continue past the footbridge, you can go all the way to the top of this waterfall. The trail becomes so steep that it takes a staircase of 600 granite steps to get to the top. In spring and early summer, expect to get wet.
This trail is closed from the junction with the John Muir Trail (just beyond the Vernal Fall footbridge) from November through April due to falling ice and rock. An alternate route (via the John Muir Trail) is available.
Nevada Fall (Mist Trail)
Strenuous 5 to 6 hours
7 mi / 11.2 km No Wheelchair
Start: Same as for Vernal Fall.
If you continue past the top of Vernal Fall, you'll get to see Nevada Fall from near its base and, if you continue up even more granite steps, you reach the top of Nevada Fall.
Strenuous 6 hours
8.5 mi / 13.7 km No Wheelchair
Start: Glacier Point.
The Panorama Trail is full of panoramic views and includes close-up views of three waterfalls (including lesser known Illilouette Fall). The trail continues down the Mist Trail and ends at Happy Isles.
From late May or early June through October, a fee-based hikers bus will take you up to Glacier Point. Alternatively, if you are interseted in a long day hike, take the Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point.
Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point
Strenuous 6 to 8 hours
9.6 mi / 15.5 km No Wheelchair
Start: Four Mile Trailhead just west of Swinging Bridge picnic area.
This trail takes you up switchbacks to the Glacier Point, along the rim of Yosemite Valley. The trail offers spectacular views up and down Yosemite Valley (not to mention what you get to see when you get to Glacier Point).
If you are interested in a long day hike, return to Yosemite Valley via the Panorama Trail. The Four Mile Trail is closed from approximately December through sometime in May due to hazardous conditions.
Upper Yosemite Fall
Strenuous 2 to 4 hours
2 mi / 3.2 km No Wheelchair
Strenuous 6 to 8 hours to the top
7.2 mi / 11.6 km No
Start: Camp 4 (near the Camp 4 shuttle bus stop).
This switchbacking trail takes you to the top of 2,425 foot (739 meter) high Yosemite Falls. The trail provides great views of Half Dome and eastern Yosemite Valley.
If you do not have the time (or energy) to make it to the top, you can hike about one mile to railed-in Columbia Rock, which itself has great views. If you continue about a half-mile beyond Columbia Rock, along a relatively easy section of the trail, you can get spectacular views of Upper Yosemite Fall.
Very Strenuous 10 to 12 hours
17 mi / 27.4 km No Wheelchair
Start: Happy Isles shuttle bus stop (about a half mile south of Curry Village).
Many visitors consider this hike to be the ultimate Yosemite hike. The cables that assist hikers up the last 900 ft (274 m) along the side of Half Dome are only up from late May through early October: ascending Half Dome when the cables are not erected is dangerous and strongly discouraged. Do not ascend to the top of Half Dome if thunderclouds are visible anywhere in the sky. Visit the Conditions Update page for the latest information about the Half Dome Cables.
During the summer of 2005 trail work will be continuing on the subdome and shoulder portions of the Half Dome Trail. A closure will be in effect during work hours. Work will most likely begin in July. Keep this in mind when making permit reservations and planning trips. When a complete schedule has been completed we will post it here.
Yosemite National Park provides a variety of recreational opportunities in a splendid natural setting. Yosemite is home to countless waterfalls. The best time to see waterfalls in in the spring. Peak runoff typically occurs in May or June, with some waterfalls (including Yosemite Falls) often only a trickle or completely dry by August.The most famous among them are:
Yosemite Falls (2,425 ft) flows from winter through early to mid-summer. It is usually dry by sometime in August. Look for the ice cone at the base of the upper fall during winter and for roaring peak runoff in May or June. Yosemite Falls, one of the world's tallest, is actually made up of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall (1,430 ft), the middle cascades (675 ft), and Lower Yosemite Fall (320 ft). You can walk to Lower Yosemite Fall in just a few minutes. A hike to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall is a strenuous, all-day hike.
Bridalveil Fall (620 ft). flows all year and is often the first waterfall seen by visitors entering the park. In spring it thunders; during the rest of the year look for its characteristic light, swaying flow. You can walk to the base in just a few minutes.
Vernal Fall (317 ft) flows all year, though by mid- to late summer it narrows and separates into one, two, or three falls as water flows decrease. It is best seen from Glacier Point or by hiking up alongside it via the Mist Trail.
Nevada Fall (594 ft) flows all year and is best seen from Glacier Point or by hiking up alongside it. Nevada Fall is located above Vernal Fall in an area known as the "giant staircase."
Ribbon Fall (1,612 ft) flows during the spring only. It is located just west of El Capitan and is best seen from near the bottom of Bridalveil Fall.
Horsetail Fall (1,000 ft) flows in the winter and early spring. It is famous for appearing to be on fire when it reflects the orange glow of sunset in mid-February. It falls off of the east side of El Capitan and is best seen from just east of El Capitan.
Staircase Falls (1,300 ft) flows in spring, cascading down various ledges from near Glacier Point to Curry Village. Rock formations & Yosemite Valley Yosemite Valley, about 3,000 feet deep and just a mile or two wide, is known for its landmark rock formations. The best place to appreciate this depth is Glacier Point (late May or early June through sometime in November) or at Tunnel View, on the Wawona Road (Highway 41).its deep valleys. Some of the more popular ones are:
Half Dome is perhaps the most recognized symbol of Yosemite. Rising over 4,000 feet above the Valley floor, it is one of the most sought-after landmarks in Yosemite. Some people even hike or rock climb to the top! Half Dome can be seen throughout eastern Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point.
El Capitan is a favorite for experienced rock climbers. Rising almost 3,000 feet above the Valley floor, it is the largest monolith of granite in the world. El Capitan is opposite Bridalveil Fall and is best seen at the far west end of Yosemite Valley at Bridalveil and El Capitan Meadows.
Cathedral Rocks and Spires form the eastern side of the canyon through which Bridalveil Creek flows. Some people think these rocks, just opposite of El Capitan, are even more impressive than El Capitan!
The Three Brothers are located just east of El Capitan. It is made up of Eagle Peak (the uppermost "brother"), and Middle and Lower Brothers. It is best viewed from Southside Drive or the Merced Rive just east of El Capitan. Sentinel Rock, like a sentry, overlooks Yosemite Valley, along the opposite side of the Valley From Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Point, prominently just out just east of Yosemite Falls. Those hiking to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall can continue on a half-mile to this spectacular viewpoint.
Glacier Point is perhaps the most famous viewpoint in Yosemite. It is most spectacularly seen from Curry Village...though the view from its top of world renowned. Glacier Point is accessible by car, or by hiking up either the Four-Mile or Panorama Trails.
Massive and ancient giant sequoias live in three groves in Yosemite National Park. The most easily accessible of these (spring through fall) is the Mariposa Grove near the park's South Entrance, off of the Wawona Road (Highway 41). Two smaller--and less visited--groves are the Tuolumne and Merced Groves near Crane Flat.
There are far more vistas in the park than we could ever list, but here are the top 15:
Glacier Point, some would say, is the most spectacular vista anywhere. Most people agree that its views of the high country and breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley, including Half Dome and three waterfalls, are the most spectacular in the park. Washburn Point, just south of Glacier Point has similar views, though the views of Vernal and Nevada Falls are a bit better. The road to Glacier Point is usually open late May to early June through sometime in November, though some people prefer to ski there in the winter. Olmsted Point, along the Tioga Road, looks down on Yosemite Valley from the east--and from a very different angle. Though you might not immediately recognize Half Dome, it is one of the most prominent peaks you can see from Olmsted Point. The Tioga Road open to vehicles from late May or early June through sometime in November.
Tunnel View is one of the most famous views of Yosemite Valley. From here you can see El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall rising from Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in the background. This vista is at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel along the Wawona Road (Highway 41). El Portal View, 2 miles up the Glacier Point/Badger Pass Road from Chinquapin (intersection with the Wawona Road). Look down the Merced River Canyon, below Yosemite Valley, and see the Coast Ranges (if visibility is good). O'Shaugnessy Dam, at the west end of Hetch Hetchy Valley, provides a vista of the Valley's waterfalls, rock formations, and reservoir. The Hetch Hetchy Road is open all year, though it may close for periods during the winter.
The Cascades vista, along the El Portal Road (Highway 140), provides a great view of The Cascades waterfall, especially during spring when runoff is high. As it approaches Yosemite Valley, turnouts along the Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) near the tunnels provide a great view of El Capitan and Half Dome, along with a glimpse of the Merced River far below. Pothole Dome, at the west end of Tuolumne Meadows, along the Tioga Road, affords many visitor's first view of Tuolumne Meadows.
Similarly, the base of Lembert Dome, at the east end of Tuolumne Meadows, provides another great view of Tuolumne Meadows.
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Yosemite is home to a variety of animals, though they're not always easy to find. Find a quiet spot during early morning or early evening and you may catch a glimpse of wildlife in action.
Bears are hard to find in Yosemite, though you'll most often see them in forests and meadows along roads and trails. They tend to avoid people, so you are not likely to see them in developed areas. Deer are most often seen in Yosemite, especially in meadows early in the morning and in the late afternoon or evening. Coyotes, like bears, are typically shy and avoid people. The most likely spot to see a coyote is trotting through a meadow. Birds are also best seen in meadows, along the Merced or Tuolumne Rivesr, and in forests adjacent to meadows. Wildflowers When wildflowers are blooming it is usually easy to find spectacular variety along the side of the road and in meadows. They typically start blooming in May at the lower elevations, moving up to the higher elevations in June or July.
Museums, historic buildings, and cemeteries
Yosemite National Park is rich in cultural history. Visit some of these locations and learn about Yosemite's past.
The Yosemite Museum, next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, has displays that interpret the cultural history of Yosemite's native Miwok and Paiute people from 1850 to the present. Demonstrations of basket-weaving, beadwork, and/or traditional games are presented. The reconstructed Indian Village of Ahwahnee behind the museum is always open. The art gallery is open in summer and often exhibits pieces from the Yosemite Museum collection.
The Nature Center at Happy Isles is a family-oriented nature center that features natural history exhibits (with an emphasis on wildlife), interactive displays, and a bookstore geared to nature-exploring families. Nearby are short trails focusing on the area's four different environments: forest, river, talus, and fen.You can also see substantial evidence of the huge 1996 rockfall from the Glacier Point cliff far above the Nature Center. The Center is a short walk from the Happy Isles shuttle bus stop, and is open late May through September.
The LeConte Memorial Lodge, Yosemite's first public visitor center and a National Historic Landmark, is operated by the Sierra Club from May through September and features a children's corner, library, and a variety of environmental education and evening programs.
The historic Yosemite Cemetery is located across the street and just west of the Yosemite Museum. People buried here include Native Americans, casual park visitors, and people who played important roles in the development of what is now Yosemite National Park. A Guide to the Yosemite Cemetery is available at the Valley Visitor Center.
The Ansel Adams Gallery offers work of Ansel Adams, contemporary photographers and other fine artists. In addition, a wide selection of handcrafts, books, gifts, and photography supplies is available. The Gallery, formerly known as Best's Studio, has been operating in the park since 1902.
The Ahwahnee, a famous hotel and National Historic Landmark, is popular even for those not staying there. Completed in 1927, It was built in a rustic style with American Indian motif. Historic paintings of Yosemite, stunning stained-glass windows, and woven tapestries grace the walls. The Great Lounge and Dining Room are architectual examples of rustic elegance. Tuolumne Meadows
Parsons Memorial Lodge and Soda Springs is a good place to discover the natural and human history of Tuolumne Meadows and hike to the place where John Muir and Robert Underwood Johnson conceived the idea of establishing Yosemite National Park.This area is an easy 1-mile (30 minute) walk from Lembert Dome parking area or from the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center. (Open late June through early September.) Wawona & Mariposa Grove
Visit the Pioneer Yosemite History Center to see horse-drawn wagons, walk across a covered bridge, and visit historic buildings out of Yosemite's past. A visit to the Center will explain how Yosemite was the inspiration for national parks across America and throughout the world. The Center is always open, and explanatory signs and brochures are available. The diminutive Wawona Cemetery is in a lesser known, tucked-away corner of Wawona. Ask at the Wawona Information Station for location.
Mariposa Grove Museum offers giant sequoia displays, books, maps, and information. The museum is accessibly only by foot or by going on the 1-hour tram tour of the Grove. (Open May through September.)
Lakes & rivers
Very few lakes are easily accessible in Yosemite National Park. Tenaya Lake is one of the easiest to get to (when the Tioga Road is open, late May or early June through sometime in November) and is quite popular for picnicking, swimming, and canoeing. Mirror Lake (in Yosemite Valley) is famous for its reflections of Half Dome when the water level is high enough (in spring). Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, created by damming the Tuolumne River, is another lake that's easy to get to.
Rivers flow through Wawona, Yosemite Valley, and Tuolumne Meadows and numerous seasonal creeks flow in places throughout the park. Take a look at the park map for details.
Sunset & sunrise
Sunset is a beautiful time in Yosemite. Enjoy the sunset itself or the effects of the alpenglow on rock formations at:
Glacier Point, Washburn Point (on the Glacier Point Road just before Glacier Point), or Sentinel Dome. El Portal View (2 miles up the Glacier Point/Badger Pass Road). Olmsted Point (along the Tioga Road). Sentinel Bridge (in Yosemite Valley). Tunnel View (along the Wawona Road).
When the moon is full, Yosemite Valley is bright even during the night. The effect can be particularly interesting when the Valley floor is covered with snow. During summer, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite operates a ranger-led moonlight tour in an open-air tram. Many people enjoy walking around in the bright moonlight or visiting Glacier Point or one of the other overlooks. During the winter, the full-moonlight illuminates the often-snow-covered Valley walls. In spring, you might be lucky enough to see a lunar rainbow as the full moon hits Lower Yosemite or Vernal Falls.
Far from city lights, Yosemite has a dark sky, kept bright by the countless stars visible. Some believe Glacier Point to be the premiere stargazing spot in Yosemite. During summer weekends, amateur astronomers often set up telescopes and share their knowledge.
Meadows are many things to many people: to some, they are the most diverse parts of Yosemite's ecosystem--nearly all the wildlife living in Yosemite depends in whole or in part on the meadows, to others, meadows are places to view the surrounding landscapes. Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, and Wawona have some of the more popular meadows in the park, but you can find meadows throughout the middle and upper elevations of the park.
In 1984, Congress designated over 95% of Yosemite National Park as Wilderness. According the the 1964 Wilderness Act, Wilderness is "in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Yosemite Valley serves as a gateway to wilderness travelers, with the 211-mile John Muir Trail (which ends at Mount Whitney) originating from Happy Isles. There are over 800 miles of wilderness trails in Yosemite National Park.
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