Yosemite Falls hike
Don't hike to the top of Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park. Spend your time only on the best and see both falls and avoid the challenging final ascent to the top of the Upper Falls (where there is no real view of the stunning cascades anyways!).
Follow the signs for Yosemite Valley, and park at the parking lot just past the Yosemite Falls Trailhead or in the Yosemite Village Parking lot. We prefer the Yosemite Falls Trailhead as it avoids the traffic jam around the Village.
|When to do|
June through October
Out and back
Route Description for Yosemite Falls
For the lower falls, walk up a wide paved path with no elevation gain for about a kilometer from the village. The trail is excellently marked, and if you have any confusion just follow the crowds. Come back down and continue west on a paved path parallel to the road towards the Upper Yosemite trailhead. You will pass the famous camp 4, a climber’s camp, and turn right to start the hike.
Start climbing, but don’t worry; you will not be going to the top. The best views are only approximately 2.0km along the path. Remarkably, the view from the top isn’t that great – this isn’t a view like Vernal or Nevada Falls!
The path switchbacks up in the shade for several kilometers. We saw many people with little to no water on the trail – a very dangerous sight indeed.
The best views along the trail are at the end of the shaded section where there is a guardrail and beautiful views of half dome. A little further on the views of the upper falls (from the bottom) are absolutely spectacular.
We did continue on to the top. It is a nice hike, but you can spend your scarce time elsewhere more effectively. Going to the top will triple the elevation that you have already climbed – it’s like climbing an 800m skyscraper with pure switchbacks. Be extremely careful on hot days, as the majority of the climb is completely exposed to the sun. We saw a number of people struggling with the climb and the heat (they were not happy). Remember to wear light clothing and a hat.
Once you get to the top, there is a viewpoint where many people opt to stop and eat their lunch. Going left from the edge there is a sign that leads to the official viewpoint. This is a very exposed route with few guardrails that directs you to a very underwhelming overlook. Ironically there are no good views of the falls from the top.
Be careful descending in the heat. If the streams are running, dunk your hat or an extra sweater in the water and wrap it around your neck to cool you off. It can be a godsend midday in August.
Check out more amazing hikes in Yosemite.
You don’t need to get to the top for the best views on this hike.
Take water, this route can be hot and exposed!
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