Yosemite Valley hike
Walking along the Yosemite Valley is one of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park. Savor the moments exploring this iconic natural landscape with enormous mountains and spectacular scenery.
Follow the signs for Yosemite Valley, and park anywhere in the valley. We prefer parking near the Yosemite Falls Trailhead as there are often major traffic jams around the village.
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Route Description for Yosemite Valley
This is a nice, flat stroll along wide paths through the valley that gives imposing views of massive granite slabs and distant mountains. Park anywhere in the valley to start this hike, but near Yosemite Falls it is the easiest, as it gives quick access out of the park in the busy afternoon.
Once parked, find the Valley Floor Loop trail and take this, feel free to meander, stop, start and explore. There’s no uphill or time limit today. The major highlights to see are Yosemite Falls, the tranquil views of the Merced River, the various meadows – El Capitan and Half Dome.
Starting near Yosemite Falls you can scamper up the wide paved path from the village to see the lower falls with ease (less than a kilometer will no elevation gain).
Returning to the valley, walk west along the river on a wide, smooth path, and surround yourself with great views of El Capitan and the Merced River. This meandering trail can be a bit loud with traffic, which is why it is great to start very early. Soon you come to El Capitan. It’s absolutely worth the extra 0.6km to get to the base of this meadow and bask in the vertical 900m of rock – a truly imposing site.
From here, return to the valley and cross over the river. Continue walking along the river for a short while, then cross the river again and explore more of the forest. This is an interesting walk to see the typical flora of Yosemite, as well as some extremely large trees.
As you hike on the south side of the Merced, across the road, you will notice the falls on your left peeking out. Along the trail you will come to a boardwalk going over meadows. Take this and when you get to the river, take the left-hand side (west). Continue along the dirt path right beside the river. Look behind you to see some of the most magnificent views of Half Dome reflected in the Merced River surrounded by gorgeous mountain meadows.
Cross the river on a pedestrian bridge and then continue left on a dirt path. This is a nice way back to the car, however there is only a faint path across the meadows. Again, great photos in all directions.
There are some amazing views from the meadows near the Merced River. Definitely get off the main path to see these.
If you are doing the full valley, including Curry Village, then consider taking your swimming trunks and going for a swim in the public pool there!
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