Hikes in Yosemite National Park
Yosemite hikes are an unrivalled experience, and it seems that most outdoor enthusiasts agree, as this iconic Californian pearl is one of the United States’ most popular national parks, attracting over four million visitors each year. And no wonder – Yosemite boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country, with soaring peaks and lush valleys that will make your heart soar. This epic hiking destination should be on every adventurer’s bucket list, and there are a variety of Yosemite hikes for all to enjoy.
The names of Yosemite’s most famous monuments instantly cast a thrill into every hiker’s heart. From the smooth, deadly contours of Half Dome to the imposing presence of El Capitan, these are peaks that demand to be conquered. With craggy ridge walks and tall summits offering panoramic views over the park, there’s no shortage of incredible Yosemite hikes on offer.
However, Yosemite is more than its tall, granite peaks. You’ll find yourself walking through lush valleys and past pristine alpine lakes, basking in the sunshine next to the water, or getting a soaking from the mists that rise from Yosemite Falls. Wherever you go, and whatever you do, this vast, natural wilderness will steal your heart and leave you with unforgettable memories.
Yosemite is the ultimate bucket list adventure, and to help you enjoy it to its full potential, we’ve put together a list of the best Yosemite hikes in the park. Happy hiking!
The 10 Most Stunning Hikes In Yosemite National Park
There’s something in Yosemite to please all tastes, from the lush valleys to the towering granite monuments of Half Dome and El Capitan. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker looking for a challenge, or a family on a relaxing holiday, you’ll find the perfect trail.
Yosemite has long attracted climbers to its imposing peaks, and some of the most challenging hikes here involve at least a little scrambling. Whether it’s edging little by little up the chains at Half Dome, or climbing high to the summit of Mount Dana, there’s plenty here to test even the most experienced hikers.
However, if you’re looking for something altogether more relaxing, or you’re travelling with children, Yosemite hikes don't have to be strenuous. The Yosemite Valley offers plenty of low-elevation trails in lush, glorious scenery, with stellar views of the peaks and rocks that this national park is so famous for.
1. Lembert Dome Hike: Looking for a killer viewpoint without the need for a steep climb? This lovely trail is an easy way to access magnificent views across Yosemite National Park, and it won’t wear our your legs. Passing through lush forest, and then along a rocky ridge, you’ll arrive at the summit of Lembert Dome in no time, with gorgeous views over Tuolumne Meadows.
2. Yosemite Valley Hike: This beautiful route along the Yosemite Valley showcases some of the best scenery the park has to offer, and is a wonderful, flexible trail that can be adapted according to your schedule, making it ideal for families. Enjoy the towering peaks and imposing granite rocks that Yosemite is famous for, as well as walking through old growth forest and across expansive meadows. Don’t miss the spectacular views from the meadows near the Merced River.
3. Mount Dana Hike: The trek to the summit of Mount Dana, the second highest peak in the region, is one of the most rewarding day hikes in Yosemite National Park. You’ll enjoy some truly epic views from the high point, at 4000m above sea level. Mount Dana is right on the edge of the park, offering a lovely vista down to Lee Vining and Mono Lake.
4. Panorama Trail Hike: If there’s one hike in Yosemite that you absolutely must do, it’s this tough but rewarding trail to Glacier Point. The route rises up the Mist Trail, and then passes along the Panorama Trail, where you’ll have a wonderful view of Half Dome. Passing by both the Vernal Falls and the Nevada Falls before ascending to Glacier Point, this varied route is one of the best challenging hikes in Yosemite National Park.
5. Mount Hoffman Hike: This wonderful hike can only be accessed once the snows have completely melted, meaning you’ll only have a short season to enjoy it! The high plateau at the top offers a panoramic view over the whole park, making you feel as though you’re floating on top of the world. This is one of the classic Yosemite hikes!
6. Sentinel Dome to Glacier Point Hike: This easy walk is a good way to experience some fabulous Yosemite scenery if you’re short on time or energy. There’s a short ascent near the beginning but after Sentinel Dome the path winds gently downwards, until you come to the stunning Glacier Point viewpoint. This is an excellent place to get a view of Half Dome, but try to start early to avoid the crowds.
7. The Mist Trail Hike: Looking for a refreshing hike for a hot day in Yosemite? As the name suggests, the Mist Trail will take you up to two beautiful waterfalls, where the spray is so intense it creates a fine mist that is impossible to escape! This is the ideal place to retreat in the heat of summer, when you can enjoy the thundering falls and humid atmosphere to its full advantage.
8. Clouds Rest Hike: This challenging day trek is one of our favorite hikes in Yosemite National Park. Beginning on the southern edge of Tenaya Lake, the trail rises steeply over a number of minor peaks. The view from the summit, however, is worth the tough ascent – on a clear day you’ll have an unparalleled view stretching as far as Hawaii and Nebraska. You’ll also be able to grab some stellar snaps of Half Dome, Merced Lake, Mount Hoffman and El Capitan.
9. Cathedral Lakes Hike: Cathedral Lake is, quite simply, one of the prettiest lakes in Yosemite National Park, and this route allows to you experience it in all its majesty. The trail is often waterlogged, and you’ll need to navigate a meadow dotted with marshland, streams and canals. Once you’ve reached the lake, sit back, get out a picnic, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
10. Yosemite Falls Hike: This gorgeous trail is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park, and offers fabulous views of the Yosemite Falls. The best news? You don’t have to hike all the way to the top for the best viewpoint, so you can go at your own pace and cut the hike short if you want a more relaxed trek. Try to arrive early in peak season to avoid the crowds and see the falls at their best.
When Is The Best Time To Hike In Yosemite National Park?
The best time to hike in Yosemite National Park is in May or September, when the trails are accessible, but the park isn’t too crowded. Yosemite is one of the most popular destinations in the US, and in the peak months of July and August, many of the popular trails and viewpoints can be packed with visitors. You’re likely to be jostling for space in the campgrounds, and many destinations will be booked up in advance.
Late spring and early autumn also offer the best weather conditions, as temperatures are cooler than in the peak of summer, and in May, the rivers and waterfalls will be gushing with melt water from the snow-covered mountains. The fall colors are glorious to behold, and this can be a wonderful time to explore the park. Once the snows hit, many of the hiking routes and roads are closed off, limiting access to most parts of the park.
Other Outdoor Activities In Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is one of California’s most popular outdoor destinations, and there are plenty of outdoor activities in Yosemite National Park that will keep adventure hunters happy! In addition to hiking and backpacking, visitors can try their hand at cycling, fishing, horseback riding, rafting, canoeing and boating, and wildlife watching. The park is a particularly popular spot for rock climbing, and you’ll find routes to suit all ability levels all over the park. In winter, you’ll also be able to try your hand at downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing!
How To Plan A Trip To Yosemite National Park
If Yosemite is the destination for your next hiking adventure, we’ve got all the information you need. Make sure to check out our guide to planning a trip to Yosemite National Park, where you’ll find advice about the park’s major attractions, advice on when to go and where to stay, and our very best insider tips. We’ve also put together tips for the perfect day in Yosemite, or the ideal winter weekend in Yosemite. What are you waiting for? Grab your gear and head for this unique natural wonder!
Frequently-Asked-Questions About Yosemite National Park
Do you need a permit to hike in Yosemite?
You won’t need a permit to hike in Yosemite if you’re just planning to stay for the day, or in frontcountry campgrounds, but you will need to obtain a permit for wilderness camping or backpacking trips.
Is the Half Dome hike dangerous?
Half Dome is one of the most iconic Yosemite hikes, and also one of its most challenging. Yosemite’s Search and Rescue team respond to a relatively large number of calls from hikers on Half Dome, and it has been the site of a number of fatalities over the years. It’s true that if you’re not well prepared, this can be a dangerous route. The last part of the ascent involves a series of tough cables, ascending a near-vertical slope, so you’ll need a head for heights! For a successful, safe summit of Half Dome make sure you are sufficiently fit and well prepared for the trail, stay hydrated, take your time, and make sure to follow local weather conditions very carefully.
Are there bears in Yosemite?
Yosemite is home to a large population of black bears, so you’ll need to seek local information and make sure you are prepared in case you meet one on the trail. Backpackers should have adequate food storage, or use bear-proof lockers available throughout the park. Note that bear spray is forbidden in Yosemite, so you’ll need to check with local rangers to find out best practice if you happen to meet one, although human encounters with bears are very rare.
Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park
Columbia Rock Trail
Climb up the sheer cliffside of Yosemite Valley on the Columbia Rock Trail. This epic excursion ascents the vertigo-inducing terrain to Columbia Rock, which exhibits breathtaking panoramas of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley below. If you are not afraid of heights, then this trek is a must!
Lukens Lake Trail
The Lukens Lake Trail is a short and scenic adventure in Yosemite that makes for an epic spontaneous escape into the fresh air. Get out of the car and stretch your legs as you wander through meadows packed with wildflowers, and through old-growth pines to the picture-perfect lake.
Artist Point Trail
The Artist Point Trail guides adventurers up to a scenic overlook of Yosemite Valley. This short and scenic trek exposes breathtaking panoramas of the National Park’s most famous landmarks including El Capitan, Half Dome, and more. For the minimal amount of required effort, this is one you won’t want to miss!
Ten Lakes Trail
Hike up the Ten Lakes Trail to the picture-perfect lakes so famously described by John Muir as “a glacier basin with ten glassy lakes set all near together like eggs in a nest”. This scenic adventure travels through conifers and over several Yosemite Creek tributaries up to the breathtaking Sierra lakes. If you can handle the long distance, make sure to add this one to your bucket list!
Wawona Meadow Loop Trail
The Wawona Meadow Loop Trail is a lovely nature walk through lush meadowlands and enchanting forests. Compared to other hikes in Yosemite, this trek is easy-going, level, and accessible year-round. Stretch your legs and let the fresh air fill your lungs.
May Lake via Tioga Pass Road
The May Lake via Tioga Pass Road is an awesome adventure in Yosemite that hikers of all skill levels can enjoy. Wander through conifers and up to the glittering lake surrounded by granite bluffs, where you can sit along the shoreline and admire the Sierra Nevada peaks that decorate the landscape.
Tuolumne River Trail
The Tuolumne River Trail is a stunning adventure through Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. Wander through the grassy meadowlands often decorated with grazing deer and vibrant wildflowers. As you hike along the river, the sounds of the babbling waters will lull you into a state of relaxation.
Dewey, Crocker, and Stanford Point via Pohono Trail
The Dewey, Crocker, and Stanford Point via Pohono Trail is a breathtaking adventure in Yosemite that exhibits the beauty and grandeur of the granite landscape. Admire the famous features that characterize the park including Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and more. This trek is a must add to your Yosemite itinerary!
Dewey Point via McGurk Meadow Trail
The Dewey Point via McGurk Meadow Trail is an awesome adventure along the southern rim of Yosemite Valley. Wander through lush woodlands and soft moss to the Dewey Point Overlook that boasts breathtaking panoramas of El Capitan.
McGurk Meadow Trail
The McGurk Meadow Trail is an unassumingly scenic adventure that weaves between lush meadowlands and enchanting forests. Wander this easy-going path to a rundown log cabin that was historically a cattle rancher shelter. Both outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs will enjoy this hike!
Dog Lake Trail
Hiking the Dog Lake Trail is an easy-going adventure through mixed pine woodlands and impressive granite outcrops that will take you to the shimmering lake. This trek makes for an excellent half-day hike in Yosemite, exhibiting the sights of the Sierra Nevada Range along the way!
Kibbie Lake Trail
The Kibbie Lake Hike is an amazing adventure through Yosemite’s high country. Wander through lush woodlands adorned with granite domes and over several snowmelt streams to the shimmering lake. Though demanding, the views this trek boasts are well worth the sweat!
Pothole Dome Hike
The Pothole Dome Trail is an awesome adventure that hikers of all ages will enjoy. Scramble up the immense granite dome that looms above Tuolumne Meadows and you will be rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the vibrant meadowlands below!
Rancheria Falls Trail
The Rancheria Falls Trail is a must-add to your Yosemite hiking itinerary. Wander over the O’Shaughnessy Dam, through an eerie tunnel, and past not one, but four incredible cascades in Hetch Hetchy Valley. We love this trek, and we know you will too!
Yosemite Point Hike
The Yosemite Point Hike is an amazing adventure that humbles its conquerors with vertigo-inducing views of the dramatic landscape. Featuring waterfalls, valley floors, and granite domes, this trek definitely packs a punch! This hike will surely reveal if you have a harbored fear of heights.
The Washburn Trail is a scenic route that connects the Mariposa Welcome Center and the Mariposa Trailhead. As there is no parking at the trailhead, visitors either have to take the seasonal shuttle to the trailhead or wander the Washburn Trail up the sequoia grove.
Inspiration Point Trail
Seeking an amazing overlook of Yosemite Valley and its famous landmark features? The Inspiration Point Trail is an amazing adventure that will take you past the Wawona Tunnel and up to the scenic vista point of the dramatic landscape. Be sure to charge your camera, this trek provides breathtaking, unparalleled panoramas.
Taft Point via Glacier Point Hike
The Taft Point via Glacier Point Hike is an epic excursion that boasts knee-buckling views of Yosemite Valley and the famous granite features that adorn the landscape. Wander through mixed pine forests and get a workout in as you follow along the southern rim of the canyon.
Yosemite Grand Tour
The Yosemite Grand Tour is an epic adventure that stretches from the valley floor all the way up to the southern rim. Though demanding, this trek rewards intrepid explorers with breathtaking views of Yosemite’s famous features, such as Half Dome, El Capitan, Nevada, and Vernal Falls.
Upper Yosemite Falls and Snow Creek Hike
Ascend one of North America’s tallest waterfalls along the Upper Yosemite Falls and Snow Creek Hike. This demanding one-way adventure wanders from the base of Yosemite Falls to the summit of North Dome and back down into the valley. Complete this trek as a challenging day hike or epic overnight expedition.
Essential Tools for Any Adventure
This page may include affiliate links. We may get a small commission for the purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you.
We only recommend tools we personally think are great.