Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park

Check out the 16 best hikes in Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, Glacier Point, and Mariposa Grove

Yosemite National Park has some of the most iconic and best hikes in the National Park system. From waterfalls to giant sequoias to jaw-dropping summit views, there is something for every type of hiker exploring Yosemite. The park has everything from easy, paved walking trails to very strenuous trails that climb up and out of Yosemite Valley, and we cover the entire hiking spectrum in this trail guide so you can easily plan your next trip.

Before planning your Yosemite hikes, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide for visiting Yosemite National Park.

Need help choosing hiking trails for your Yosemite trip? This guide to the best hikes in Yosemite National Park has you covered!

As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage, being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established rules.


Yosemite National Park Layout

Yosemite National Park covers nearly 1,200 square miles, which means preplanning your hikes is essential to maximize your time on trails instead of spending a ton of time in the car. Yosemite can be broken down into the following sections: 

  • Yosemite Valley
  • Glacier Point Road
  • Mariposa Grove
  • Tuolumne Meadows
  • Crane Flat
  • Hetch Hetchy

In this guide, we focus on the most popular Yosemite hiking areas — Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road, Mariposa Grove, and Tuolumne Meadows. Follow these links to read more about hiking in Crane Flat and Hetch Hetchy.


Map of the Best Yosemite Hikes

All of the Yosemite hikes listed below can be found on this map:


Yosemite Valley Hikes

Yosemite Valley features the most popular Yosemite hikes, as most are accessible year-round and include iconic viewpoints of the park.

Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls

  • Distance: 7.2 miles roundtrip
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 2,217ft
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead start: Happy Isles Trailhead 
Vernal Falls via Mist Trail // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Vernal Falls via the Mist Trail

As Yosemite’s most popular hike, the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls shouldn’t be missed during your trip. This hike ascends up close to both waterfalls – in spring, be prepared to get soaked from the mist coming from the falls and pack a rain jacket. The stairs leading up to Vernal Falls can be slick, so take your time and wear sturdy hiking boots. Vernal Falls typically has a rainbow in the spray during spring and summer.

The hike from Vernal Falls to the top of Nevada Falls gets pretty challenging when you hit the long set of stone steps that take you up and out of the valley alongside the waterfall. Once you reach the top of Nevada Falls, you can rest by the Merced River and take in the Yosemite Valley views before heading back down. You can go back the same way you came, but I recommend crossing the bridge over Nevada Falls and taking the John Muir Trail back down to the Valley since it’s a more gradual descent than the stairs and will loop you around for different views of Nevada Falls and the valley below.

We highly recommend getting an early start for this hike when there are fewer people on the trail, as it gets very busy in peak hours.

Yosemite Falls Trail: Lower and/or Upper Falls 

  • Distance: 1.2 miles (Lower Falls), 3 miles (bottom of Upper Falls) or 7.7 miles (top of Upper Falls) round trip
  • Time: 30 minutes (Lower Falls), 2-3 hours (bottom of Upper Falls) or 5-6 hours (top of Upper Falls)
  • Elevation Gain: 59ft or 3,323ft
  • Difficulty: Easy (Lower Falls), Challenging (bottom of Upper Falls) or Hard (top of Upper Falls
  • Trailhead start: Camp 4 Area
Upper Yosemite Falls // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
View from the bottom of Upper Yosemite Falls

Did you know that Yosemite is home to one of the tallest waterfalls in the world? Yosemite Falls (which is actually made up of 3 separate waterfalls), cascades down 2,425ft between Lower Yosemite Falls, middle cascades, and Upper Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Falls Trail is a perfect “choose your own adventure” – you can stop at the lower falls for an easy hike, head to the bottom of Upper Yosemite Falls for a moderately strenuous uphill hike, or continue to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls for a real strenuous, stairmaster of a hike.

If you choose to hike all the way to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls, I recommend tacking on Yosemite Point as well. This only adds on roughly 30 minutes and 300ft elevation gain, and it was one of my favorite viewpoints in the park (it was also way less crowded than Upper Yosemite Falls). The hike to reach Upper Yosemite Falls is incredibly steep, so I highly recommend trekking poles.

Mirror Lake Trail

  • Distance: 2 or 6 miles round trip
  • Time: 1 to 2.5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 200ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead start: Mirror Lake Trailhead
Mirror Lake // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Mirror Lake Hike In Yosemite

Mirror Lake is a beautiful, tranquil, mostly flat walk along Tenaya Creek. Mirror Lake has little water most of the year, but spring and summer offer fresh snowmelt. When the water is calm, the lake reflects the beautiful surrounding canyons, hence the name. During summer, you can expect more grassy and sandy areas around Mirror Lake. You can hike out to the lake (2 miles out and back), or complete the full 6-mile loop. I recommend packing a picnic lunch and relaxing near Mirror Lake in the afternoon.

Half Dome

  • Distance: 16.3 miles round trip
  • Time: 10-12 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 5,318ft
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead start: Happy Isles Trailhead
The cables on the Half Dome Hike in Yosemite

The iconic Yosemite Half Dome hike is not for the faint of heart – rising 5,000ft above Yosemite Valley, it takes minimum 10-12 hours to complete, with the last 400ft requiring you to ascend steep cables. This section is challenging, both physically and mentally, but the reward is worth it. You should aim to get a very early start to beat the crowds and the heat. We also recommend wearing gloves on the Half Dome cable section to prevent blisters and also improve your grip.

On the hike to Half Dome, you will get amazing views of Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, Half Dome, and sweeping views of Yosemite Valley. The cables for Half Dome are usually placed the week before Memorial Day and come down in mid-October, but these dates vary based on conditions. 

Hiking Half Dome requires a permit, with one preseason lottery happening every March. Hikers can apply from March 1-March 31 each year, and you will receive confirmation by mid-April. If you are not successful in the preseason lottery, you can try for the in-season daily lottery, which in 2021, happens two days prior to the hiking date. For example, if you want to hike Half Dome on a Saturday, you would apply on Thursday and be notified that evening). For more information about hiking Half Dome and the permit process, click here.

Four Mile Trail

  • Distance: 9.6 miles roundtrip
  • Time: 6-8 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 3,200ft
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead start: Four Mile Trailhead
Four Mile Trail // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Four Mile Trail in Yosemite

The Four Mile Trail climbs from the Valley floor to the top of Glacier Point, with stunning views of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls on your way up, and panoramic views of Half Dome and the Sierra mountains at the summit. There is the option to tack on Union Point about two-thirds of the way up which offers an amazing view of Yosemite Valley.

You can choose to hike back to Yosemite Valley by reversing your route, or by taking the Panorama Trail, which brings you to the Happy Isles Trailhead (increasing the total mileage to 16.3 miles). Since Glacier Point Road will be closed in 2022 for road repairs, the Four Mile Trail will be one of the only options to access Glacier Point.

Valley Loop Trail

  • Distance: 7.2 (half loop) or 11.5 miles (full loop)
  • Time: 2.5-3.5 hours (half loop) or 5-7 (full loop)
  • Elevation Gain: flat
  • Difficulty: Easy or Moderate
  • Trailhead start: near Lower Yosemite Falls (head west along the bicycle path until you see signs for the Valley Loop Trail)
The Valley Loop Trail in Yosemite offers incredible views of El Capitan

The Valley Loop Trail offers a rare opportunity in Yosemite Valley: mostly solitude and soaking in valley views up close, and at a much slower pace than driving around the Valley floor. The trail weaves through many of Yosemite’s first wagon roads and while some of this trail parallels the road, you will also walk through beautiful meadows and the base of granite cliffs near the Merced River. You can start the Valley Loop trail at many locations throughout the park but it can be easy to lose this trail, so bring a map (or just the visitor center hiking brochure to orient yourself).


Glacier Point Road Hikes

Glacier Point Road is a seasonal road that typically opens between late May and early June and closes sometime in November, depending on conditions. Starting hikes from Glacier Point Road (vs. hiking from the valley floor) typically means less elevation gain, but amazing views of Yosemite Valley. 

Please note that Glacier Point Road will be closed to all traffic in 2022 for road construction. The only way to access Glacier Point, or any viewpoints along Glacier Point Road, will be hiking the Four Mile, Panorama, or Pohono trails, all of which are strenuous hikes. For the most up-to-date road information, click here.

Sentinel Dome to Taft Point Loop

  • Distance: 5.1 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,122ft
  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead start: Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trailhead
Taft Point // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Taft Point is an iconic viewpoint on the Sentinel Dome Trail

The hike from Sentinel Dome to Taft Point leads you to a large granite boulder first (Sentinel Dome), then through the forest to the stunning Taft Point. Rising 3,500 feet above the valley floor, Taft Point is actually 300 feet taller than Glacier Point and is totally exposed with sheer dropoffs. If you are short on time, I recommend skipping Sentinel Dome and hiking to Taft Point as an out & back (2.3 miles roundtrip).

Sentinel Dome offers different vantage points of Yosemite Valley and is less crowded than Taft Point. For the loop, I recommend starting counterclockwise, hitting Sentinel Dome first, and having a slight downhill hike to Taft Point. Additionally, you can add on a flat 2 miles by hiking to Glacier Point from Sentinel Dome (vs. driving to Glacier Point) before looping back to Taft Point. I really enjoyed not having to fight for a parking spot at Glacier Point and that section of the trail was totally empty.

Dewey Point via McGurkin Meadow Trail

  • Distance: 8.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,269ft
  • Time: 4-6 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead start: McGurk Meadow Trailhead
Dewey Point // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Dewey Point via McGurkin Meadow Trail in Yosemite

Within the first mile of the Dewey Point via McGurkin Meadow Trail, you will find an old cabin that belonged to a shepherd named John McGurk. During summer, expect to see tons of wildflowers in this area. Continuing on, you will run into the Pohono Trail, where you will turn left to head to Dewey Point for unique views of El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, Half Dome, and the Yosemite high country. 

Ostrander Lake

  • Distance: 11.4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,500ft
  • Time: 8-10 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead start: Ostrander Lake Trailhead
Ostrander Lake // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Ostrander Lake

If you’re looking for more solitude on your Yosemite hikes, Ostrander Lake is the perfect high country spot. This trail gently winds through forest and meadow before a steep climb, opening up to views of granite domes, Mt. Starr King, and the Clark Range. You will reach the beautiful Ostrander Lake at the end. This route can be done as a day hike, or you can backpack in and camp near the lake. Permit information can be found here.


Mariposa Grove Hikes

Did you know that you can see giant sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park? With over 500 sequoia trees in the park, Yosemite hikes in Mariposa Grove are perfect for anyone wanting to hike beneath these massive trees.

Please note that at the time of writing in June 2021, shuttle busses to Mariposa Grove are not running, so add on a 2-mile walk (each way) from the parking lot to the distances listed below. For the most up-to-date information, click here.

Grizzly Giant Loop Trail

  • Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 300ft
  • Time: 1.5-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead start: Mariposa Grove Arrival Area
Grizzly Giant Tree // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Grizzly Giant sequoia tree in Yosemite

The Grizzly Giant Loop Trail takes you past giant sequoia trees such as The Bachelor and Three Graces, Grizzly Giant, and the California Tunnel Tree. The Grizzly Giant Tree is one of the oldest trees in the world, estimated at 2,995 years old. This is an easy loop trail with not much elevation gain – perfect for anyone looking for a shorter, scenic hike in the park.

Mariposa Grove to Wawona Point

  • Distance: 7 miles roundtirp
  • Elevation Gain: 1,200ft
  • Time: 4-6 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead start: Mariposa Grove Arrival Area
Mariposa Grove // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Mariposa Grove in Yosemite

The Mariposa Grove to Wawona Point Trail weaves through the grove and forest to see giant sequoias such as The Bachelor and Three Graces, Faithful Couple, and the Clothespin Tree. Continuing on to Wawona Point, you are almost guaranteed to have the trail and viewpoint to yourself. From Wawona Point, you can see the South Fork of the Merced River, Wawona Meadow, and across the valley to Wawona Dome. As of June 2021, this trail has many downed trees, so just be aware that you might have to do some scrambling in sections.


Tuolumne Meadows Hikes

All of these hikes start from Tioga Road, which is a seasonal road that typically opens in late May or early June and closes sometime in November. You can still expect wet and/or snowy conditions on the trails early in the season. Hiking in Tuolumne Meadows is one of Yosemite’s best-kept secrets, as most people never make it to this section of the park. If you are looking to escape the crowds, these are the best Yosemite hikes to do so.

Clouds Rest

  • Distance: 12 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 3,100ft
  • Time: 6-8 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead start: Sunrise Lakes Trailhead
Clouds Rest // one of the best hikes in Tuolumne Meadows from Tioga Road in Yosemite
Clouds Rest in Yosemite

Clouds Rest is the perfect alternative for those who don’t win permits to hike Half Dome (or who are afraid of the cables on Half Dome). This strenuous hike has jaw-dropping views and at 9,931ft, it’s actually taller than Half Dome. With similar stunning views of Yosemite Valley, you’ll have far fewer people on the trail. Clouds Rest can be done as a day hike, but if you are looking for an epic Yosemite backpacking adventure, tack on Sunrise Lakes to make this a 23-mile multi-day loop.

North Dome

  • Distance: 9.5 roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 2,100ft
  • Time: 5-7 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead start: Porcupine Creek Trailhead
North Dome // one of the best hikes in Tuolumne Meadows along Tioga Road in Yosemite
View of Half Dome from North Dome

North Dome offers one of the most up-close views of Half Dome in the entire park and since you start outside of Yosemite Valley, the crowds are typically much slimmer on this trail. There is a .3 mile side trail to Indian Rock you can take along the trail. Please be advised that this trail is fully exposed, so be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen.

Cathedral Lakes

  • Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,000ft
  • Time: 4-6 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead start: Cathedral Lakes Trailhead
Cathedral Lakes // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Lower Cathedral Lake offers gorgeous reflections of Cathedral Peak on a calm day

On this hike, you have the option of exploring two different lakes, making the Cathedral Lakes Trail the perfect summer Yosemite hiking destination. This is the most popular hike along Tioga Road, but it is still much less crowded than other Yosemite hikes. Still, like the other popular hikes in Yosemite, we recommend getting an early start.

The elevation gain is steepest at the beginning, then gradual enough to not be super strenuous. Either way, it’s enough to get your blood pumping and provide a good workout. Eventually you clear from the forest into a beautiful meadow with wide open views of the granite peaks. Hang a right to go to the Lower Lake, which is the nicer of the two Cathedral Lakes in our opinion if you are short on time. You’ll have to hop across a few rocks, and once you are at the lake, we recommend skirting around the right side for some epic views of Cathedral Peak.

Dog Lake to Lembart Dome

  • Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 915ft
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead start: Lembart Dome Parking Area
Dog Lake // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Dog Lake

Dog Lake to Lembart Dome is a scenic 4 mile out and back trail that has panoramic views of Tuolumne Meadows and the surrounding high country. This is a great hike to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at Dog Lake. Lembart Dome is extremely exposed, so be sure to check the weather to avoid being on top during a thunderstorm.

Mono Pass

  • Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,000ft
  • Time: 4-6 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead start: Mono Pass Trailhead
Mono Pass // Looking for the best hikes in Yosemite National Park? We’ve got you covered with detailed trail guides for the park, including a map.
Mono Pass Trail

This trail climbs through tranquil meadows and flowing creeks to Mono Pass (elevation 10,600ft). This trail requires a few river crossings, so be prepared to take off your shoes to cross. From Mono Pass, you can take in gorgeous views of Bloody Canyon and Mono Lake. From the peak, you can hike a bit farther to Upper Sardine Lake. Even during peak summer season, expect for this trail to be relatively empty and totally gorgeous with wildflowers, lakes, and mountain views.


Are you planning a trip to Yosemite National Park? What hikes in Yosemite are you looking forward to?

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Written by Courtney Stephenson

Courtney is an avid hiker, yogi, and music lover who left her corporate career in fashion to pursue a life on the road. She's backpacked throughout Europe and Southeast Asia and is currently traveling the US in a converted Ford E150 van. Courtney is a freelance writer focused on the outdoors and sustainable living.

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