Half Dome in Yosemite National Park
Hiking

Best Hikes in Yosemite: Your Ultimate Guide to the Park’s Most Stunning Views

Sharing is caring!

Yosemite National Park does not disappoint when it comes to beautiful scenery and jaw-dropping views.

With over 800 miles of hiking trails, Yosemite has something for everyone.

Whether you are a non-hiker who prefers a short stroll or an expert hiker looking for a challenge at altitude, Yosemite has a trail for you! A few trails are even paved and wheelchair accessible. Click To Tweet

Visiting Yosemite & wondering which trails you should hike?

This post covers the best hikes in Yosemite, ranging anywhere from easy strolls on a flat, paved trail to strenuous, all-day subalpine hikes.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through a link, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

20+ best hikes in yosemite
best hikes in Yosemite

Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park

Ground Rules

Before we dive into the best hikes in Yosemite, I want to briefly go over some tips to help you have a good hiking experience.

Tip #1: Take PLENTY of water on the trails. It’s better to have more than you need than not enough. Don’t be the guy at the top of Yosemite Falls begging strangers for water because you only brought one 16oz. water bottle. (True story.)

Tip #2: Invest in some good hiking boots. They don’t have to be super expensive. Fortunately, I’ve found some hiking boots I love and have been able to snag them on sale for $45!

Tip #3: Do your research. Research the trail. Know what you are getting yourself in to. Know your limits. Don’t be the girl who’s pregnant, hiking the Mist Trail in flip-flops. (Also a true story.)

Alright, now on to the hikes!

waterfalls and trees

Lower Yosemite Falls

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 1-mile roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 50′
  • Hiking Time: 30 min
  • Location: Yosemite Valley, Shuttle stop #6

This heavily trafficked paved loop reveals many beautiful vantage points of the lower falls. Leashed pets are allowed on this trail. Be prepared for crowds, as this is the most visited trail in Yosemite!

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Distance: 7.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 2600′
  • Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
  • Location: Yosemite Valley, Shuttle stop #7, by Camp 4

This hike is one of the oldest in the park and is a Yosemite favorite! Upper Yosemite Falls Trail consists of 135 switchbacks, but it is well worth the time and effort. Make sure to visit in spring or early summer, as the falls can completely dry up by mid-summer. Make sure you wear good hiking boots and bring PLENTY of water! And if your knees are bad, bring trekking poles for coming back down the trail. Read my blog post on hiking to Upper Yosemite Falls for more info!

trees and mountain
Half Dome from Olmsted Point – 1” by jarekt from Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Olmsted Point

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 0.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: minimal
  • Hiking Time: 15 min
  • Location: Tioga Road near Tenaya Lake

Olmsted Point Trail provides maximum views for minimal effort. On this trail, you will get gorgeous panoramic views of Cloud’s Rest, Half Dome, and Tenaya Lake.

rock
Half Dome. Photo from Pixabay by fancycrave1.

Half Dome

  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Distance: 16 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 4800′
  • Hiking Time: 10 hours to 2 days
  • Location: Yosemite Valley, Shuttle stop #16

The trek to Half Dome is not for the faint of heart. This trail is probably the most difficult day hike in the park. While it is possible to do in one day, it will take ALL day. Some make the journey a two-day adventure & stay overnight in Little Yosemite Valley.

Permits are mandatory to climb up Half Dome. Wilderness permits are needed to camp in Little Yosemite Valley. For more information, visit https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/halfdome.htm.

If you are physically fit & have enough stamina, Half Dome is one of the best hikes Yosemite has to offer. Click To Tweet

Related: 5 Reasons You Should Visit Yosemite National Park


valley between mountains
View from Four Mile Trail

Four Mile Trail

  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Distance: 9.6 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 3200′
  • Hiking Time: 5-7 hours
  • Location: Yosemite Valley shuttle stop #7, or El Capitan shuttle stop #5

This trail will take you from the Valley floor to the beautiful Glacier Point, where you will get jaw-dropping views of the Valley, Half Dome, Vernal Falls, and Nevada Falls.

You may be wondering why it’s called “Four Mile Trail” since it’s clearly longer than 4 miles. The original trail was 4 miles long (one way), but it was rerouted several years later.

rocky mountains
View on the Panorama Trail” from Flickr by Chris Brooks. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Panorama Trail

  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Distance: 8.5 miles one way
  • Elevation gain: -3200
  • Hiking Time: 5-7 hrs
  • Location: Glacier Point

Panorama Trail will lead you from Glacier Point, past Nevada & Vernal Falls, all the way down to the Valley floor. Unless you want to return the way you came, you must arrange for a ride back to your car at Glacier Point. There are no regularly scheduled buses to and from Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley.

However, you can purchase a one-way ticket to Glacier Point via the hikers’ bus. This way, you can park in the Valley, take the bus to Glacier Point, then hike back down to the Valley.

More information on the bus here.

If you are driving & cannot arrange a ride or bus, you can just hike to Nevada Falls then return back up to Glacier Point.

mirror reflection in lake
Mirror Lake. Photo by David Mark on Pixabay.

Mirror Lake

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 2.3-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 140′
  • Hiking Time: 1-2 hours
  • Location: Yosemite Valley, Shuttle stop #17

Mirror Lake is one of the most photographed spots in Yosemite. This hike is prettiest during the spring! By fall, it has turned into a creek or sometimes is completely dried up.

mountains
View of Upper Yosemite Falls from the Pohono Trail

Pohono Trail

  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Distance: 13.8 miles one-way
  • Elevation gain: -3700′
  • Hiking Time: 7-9 hours
  • Location: Glacier Point or Tunnel View parking lot

This trail is best (and most commonly) hiked starting at Glacier Point and ending at the Tunnel View parking lot. Arranging car/bus rides proves to be difficult, as the Glacier Point hikers’ bus stops at Glacier Point, but not at the Tunnel View parking lot. That aside, this hike provides spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Falls, Taft Point, Inspiration Point, and much more.

mountains
Photo is “Artist Point” by jb10okie on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Artists Point

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 500′
  • Hiking Time: 1 hour
  • Location: Tunnel View parking lot

This is one of the most beautiful places in Yosemite, in my opinion. It was definitely one of my favorite spots! You won’t see as much of Half Dome from this perspective, but it is still a phenomenal view.

blue lake
Lower Cathedral Lake” from Flickr by ccharmon. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Cathedral Lakes

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1300′
  • Hiking Time: 4-7 hours
  • Location: Tioga Road, Tuolumne Meadows shuttle stop #7

Part of the John Muir Trail, this trail is moderately trafficked and provides you with views of two beautiful lakes. Most agree that the lower lake is more scenic. Remember to bring bug spray!

lake and mountains
Glen Aulin trail” from Flickr by Navin75. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Glen Aulin

  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 800′
  • Hiking Time: 6-8 hours
  • Location: Tioga Road at the Lembert Dome trailhead, Tuolumne Meadows shuttle stop #7

The Glen Aulin Trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail and winds along the Tuolumne River. It is best hiked in late summer when the wildflowers are in bloom. Varies spots along the trail provide opportunities to swim.

rock cliff
Taft Point” by Joe Shlabotnik from Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Taft Point

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 2.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 250′
  • Hiking Time: 1 hour
  • Location: Glacier Point

Taft Point allows you to look down on Yosemite Falls and the giant El Capitan! But be cautious, as Taft Point is at the edge of a 3000′ cliff. People have fallen off and died.

Clouds Rest

  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Distance: 14.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 3100′
  • Hiking Time: 6-7 hours
  • Location: Tenaya Lake parking area (west side)

This trail gives you a phenomenal 360-degree view, including that of Half Dome, North Dome, El Capitan, and Glacier Point. If you bring some binoculars, you can watch people climb the Half Dome cables! There are various trails that lead to Clouds Rest, but starting at Tenaya Lake is the shortest.

rock
North Dome. Photo from Pixabay by Max Waidhas.

North Dome

  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Distance: 9.1 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1750′
  • Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
  • Location: Tioga Road, at the Porcupine Creek trailhead lot

Best hiked in late summer or early fall, this trail gives you one-of-a-kind views of Half Dome and Clouds Rest. On the way back, take the 0.3-mile detour to Indian Arch. If Tioga Road is closed, you can also get to North Dome and Indian Rock via the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail.

blue lake in mountains
Yosemite – Gaylor Lakes” by johnnycochran on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Gaylor Lakes

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 750′
  • Hiking Time: 2 hours
  • Location: Tioga Pass entrance station

This less-popular trail dives right into making you sweat with switchbacks that have you gaining 750 feet in just half a mile. The trail flattens out, then descends to middle Gaylor Lake. Make sure to check out the old mine past Upper Gaylor Lake!


Related: 2 Days in Yosemite National Park: Make the Most of Your Trip!


rock mountains
Glacier Point.

Glacier Point

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 1-mile roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 135′
  • Hiking Time: 30 min
  • Location: Glacier Point parking lot

Glacier Point gives you amazing views of Half Dome, Vernal Falls, and Nevada Falls. This trail is paved, wheelchair accessible, and is leashed-pet friendly. It is also a great place to watch sunset!

rocks and mountains
Sentinel Dome Summit” from Flickr by William Warby. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Sentinel Dome

  • Difficulty: easy/moderate
  • Distance: 2.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 370′
  • Hiking Time: 1 hour
  • Location: Glacier Point

This short but steep hike gives you a beautiful 360-degree view of Yosemite. You can see almost the entire park from the top. Sentinel Dome gives you similar views as Glacier Point, except here you won’t be able to see the valley floor.

mirror reflection of mountains in lake
Tenaya Lake. Photo from Pixabay by Piero Di Maria.

Tenaya Lake

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: minimal
  • Hiking Time: 1 hour
  • Location: parking lots at either end of Tenaya Lake

This beautiful, level walk trails the south shore of one of Yosemite’s largest lakes and provides many photo opportunities along the way. Check out the beach on the east side of the lake.

rock and waterfall
Nevada Falls. Photo from Pixabay.

Mist Trail

Many people will tell you this is one of the best hikes in Yosemite! With the option to hike just to Vernal Falls or continue on to Nevada Falls, the Mist Trail is one of the most visited trails in the park. This moderately strenuous trail is slippery & steep near the end at Nevada Falls. A few people have died from falling, so be careful!

Vernal Falls

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1000′
  • Hiking Time: 3-5 hours
  • Location: Yosemite Valley, Shuttle stop #16

Nevada Falls

  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1900′
  • Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
waterfall
Bridalveil Falls

Bridalveil Falls

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 1.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 100′
  • Hiking Time: 1 hour
  • Location: Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Falls trailhead parking lot off Wawona Road

This easy trail will lead you to the 620-foot tall Bridalveil Falls. Prepare to get wet from the spray if you hike this trail! You may want to bring a light rain jacket. The trail is paved but NOT wheelchair accessible. Leashed pets are allowed.

meadow and trees
Meadow loop” from Flickr by Natasha de Vere & Col Ford. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Wawona Meadow Loop

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 3.6-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 200′
  • Hiking Time: 1-2 hours
  • Location: Wawona Road near Wawona Visitor Center

This flat, shaded loop around the meadow is one of the few trails where you can bring your (leashed) dog. The trail is especially beautiful when wildflowers are in bloom. Watch out for horse manure!

meadow
Mono Pass Trail by Tom Hilton on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Mono Pass

  • Difficulty: moderately strenuous
  • Distance: 7.4+ miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 900′
  • Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
  • Location: Mono Pass Trailhead off Tioga Road; Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle stop #4

Mono Pass was once a Native American trading route nestled between Mt. Gibbs and Mt. Lewis. You have the option to continue on another 0.25 miles to above Upper Sardine Lake where you can also look down on Mono Lake.

Note that you will be hiking at an elevation above 10,000 feet, so make sure you bring plenty of water!

Alright, that’s your list of some of the best hikes in Yosemite! Whether you’re spending 2 days in Yosemite or 2 weeks, this list should help you plan some awesome hikes!

What are your favorite Yosemite hikes? Let me know in the comments below!

melissa of dogwoods & driftwood travel blog
Pin for later
best hikes in Yosemite

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.