Do you know why Yosemite National Park in California attracts over 4 million visitors every year? Is it just because the park was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO? Of course, not! Located on the Sierra Nevada mountain slopes, spread across a huge area, impresses people from far and wide with its mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, meadows,lakes and some of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park.
A short trip to Yosemite can be tricky, as the Park has so many attractions to make you drool that you can find yourself very short of time to check out some of the best hikes in Yosemite.But worry not ,if you are yet to witness the grandeur of this park in California,we got you sorted with, 15 of the best hikes and things to do that might compel you to pack your bags soon.
15 Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park
Hike to Yosemite Falls
For most visitors at Yosemite National Park, the highest waterfall in North America (read it as Yosemite Falls) beckons them first. It comprises three layers of waterfalls. If you do not want to get to the highest point (total of 15 km), which is indeed challenging, trekking up to the lowest level (12 km) of the falls is a good and easy option.
However, for the less-adventurous ones, the good news is that you can capture some striking photographs of the majestic waterfalls even while you are standing at its base.
Livingit Tip – Try planning your trip during late spring to get the best view of the Yosemite Falls and if you have your lucky cap on, you might see a rainbow welcoming you on your morning hiking trail in Yosemite, to the falls!
Walk to Bridalveil Falls
Considered one of the most remarkable waterfalls in Yosemite National Park, Bridalveil Falls is a must-see. Whether you want to engage in bird watching or trekking or just enjoying a leisurely walk, this year-long waterfall will satiate your desires.
Unlike the gigantic Yosemite Falls, this is a short, 0.6 miles neatly marked hiking trail in Yosemite , along a paved way (Yes, wheelchairs can also be taken on this route!) and most visitors, including children and elderly people, make it a point to reach its base.
Livingit Alert – Avoid hiking on the Bridalveil trail during winters. You might encounter adverse icy conditions, making you prone to slipping and falling along the trail.
Experience the Royal El Capitan
If rock climbing has been on your bucket list since long, the “Nose” of El Capitan is the destination for you. This 3000-feet high vertical granite rock formation is not for the faint hearted to trek. For those who would just like to admire the massive piece from a distance, get your smartphones out and click a selfie, keeping El Capitan as the backdrop.
However, if you are a first-timer and just can’t stop yourself from touching the peak, do not let your adrenaline fuel you. Take it slow, enjoy your time, travel light and wear your most comfortable and durable pair of shoes.
Livingit Tip – Keep two ropes, a few carabiners, metal stoppers, and pitons handy if you are looking forward to climbing the “Nose”.
Confused about the type of backpack to choose on your way to the best hikes in Yosemite? Read up on How to Select the Best Hiking Backpack .
Get a Glimpse of Cathedral Peak
Whether you climb it or not, Cathedral Peak (4 miles round trip) with its perfect white rock, standing tall amidst the alpine meadows of Yosemite National Park, will amaze you.
With numerous cracks on the face of the rock, experienced climbers may not find it too big a deal to touch the peak; for those who do, it is an experience of a lifetime, while you breathe in the beauty of nature and capture the best views.
Livingit Tip – If you are climbing Cathedral Peak for the first time, remember to be at ease while descending, avoid panicking, and allow yourself that extra time to explore your way down.
Visit Half Dome
There aren’t too many sightseeing spots whose fame has resulted in limiting visitors to the spot. Surprisingly, Half Dome (13 km via cable route) is one such landmark in Yosemite National Park where, owing to its increasing popularity amongst hikers across the globe, an upper limit of 300 hikers per day has been set.
To add to it, there is a lottery system to get a permit for hiking. You can either go for their daily lottery or check out the pre-season lottery to have a more planned itinerary.
This iconic dome is also a photographer’s paradise – be it sunrise, sunset, or even a storm, you are sure to click some of the best photos here.
Just in case you aren’t confident of clicking the best shots, here are 7 Tips to Capture the Right Picture .
Enjoy Nature’s Extravaganza from Taft Point and Sentinel Dome
Among the many Yosemite hikes, ways leading to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome (3.5 km each) are considered the easiest by most tourists. Both these attractions are situated next to each other. Don’t be surprised if you are greeted by a few squirrels and chipmunks up there.
Once you reach the top of Taft Point, admiring the picturesque scenic beauty surrounding you will take up most of your time. In fact, the experience is such that no camera will ever be able to do justice to the spots through mere photographs and videos.
Livingit Alert – If you suffer from acrophobia, stay away from the cliff of Taft Point, although there is a small rail for support.
Stop at Tunnel View
To get the most vivid views of Yosemite Valley with El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls as part of the sight, you can’t afford to miss visiting Tunnel View, located close to Wawona Road. If you are going during the summer months, plan an early morning trip to avoid excess crowd.
If snow-capped mountains fascinate you, wait for winters to visit Tunnel View, when the granite rocks are adorned with snow. Don’t forget to carry your cameras to click picture-perfect memories that you’ll cherish later.
Relax at Olmsted Point
If one were to shortlist the finest landscapes in the world, Olmsted Point would definitely rank high on the list. Full of granite slabs, this place is the ideal spot to rest and gaze at the sky in between long walks in the park.
Surrounded by Clouds Rest and Half Dome on the west and Tenaya Lake on the east, Olmsted Point is packed with visitors throughout the year. Although most people marvel at the point from the parking lot, you have the option to go on a short hike up a dome, right opposite the parking area.
Not only will you be able to get a better view of Olmsted Point and the entire park from there, but you will also get to enjoy some tranquil space away from the crowd.
Join Hands with Nature at Tuolumne Meadows
If you are on a one-day trip to Yosemite National Park and wondering about what to do in Yosemite, taking a stroll on the Tuolumne Meadows will certainly rejuvenate you for the next few days. Situated along the Tuolumne River, this place is ideal for hikers and backpackers who wish to spend a few nights exploring the place.
You can either book a tent in Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, if you are visiting the place during summers, or set up your own camp on Tuolumne Meadows camp ground. A romantic date with the sparkling stars is not a bad idea after all!
Livingit Tip – Do not travel to Tuolumne Meadows between December and March as it remains closed during winters.
Unwind at Cook’s Meadow
To de-stress after hectic work schedules and regular domestic chores, there aren’t too many options better than ambling along Cook’s Meadow. If you reach here early in the morning, the serenity and colorfulness of nature is sure to mesmerize you.
Listening to tree frogs, exchanging greetings with red-winged blackbirds, and watching ducks and ducklings swimming in the ponds aren’t something we do every day, do we? Plus, you also get a sneak peek into the major attractions of Yosemite National Park including Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.
Livingit Tip – In case you are venturing out to the meadows after dusk, ensure you have your mosquito repellent on!
Chill Out at Tenaya Lake
If you are wondering what’s in a lake, come to pine tree-walled and granite dome-surrounded Tenaya; you’ll get your answer in a jiffy! Right from swimming across this stunning lake to kayaking in the largest High Country lake to just wetting your feet in the pristine, cool waters, you have it all.
And the most thrilling of the lot is the option to go for ice skating on the frozen lake during the winter months.
Drench Yourselves at the Vernal and Nevada Falls
The famous Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park leads you to two powerful waterfalls, namely the 317-feet high Vernal Falls (4.8 km hike round trip) and the gigantic Nevada Falls (11 km hike round trip). A hike along the trail offers amazing views of the Yosemite Valley.
Spring is the best time to enjoy the waterfalls when the water levels are optimum. Ensure you carry enough drinking water with you, especially if you plan to hit the top of Nevada Falls. Also remember to wear anti-skid shoes.
But before you buy an expensive pair of so-called “hiking shoes” for the best hikes in Yosemite or elsewhere, know more about the Best Trekking Shoes for a Comfortable and Enjoyable Trek Experience .
Livingit Tip – Carry a raincoat as part of your backpack just in case the mighty falls soak you up thoroughly!
Hike to Lembert Dome
To get a perfect view of Tuolumne Meadows with the Tuolumne River flowing in front, go for a short hike of 4 miles (round trip) to Lembert Dome.
The top of this dome is quite flat and not as crowded as the rest of the sightseeing spots in Yosemite National Park. Do not attempt a hike on this trail between October and May as this is the time when Tioga Road and the Lembert Dome trail remain closed.
Livingit Alert – Remove or secure your fancy hats once you reach the top of the dome as it is extremely windy up there.
Visit Glacier Point
To relish the true flora and fauna of Yosemite, keep a couple of hours aside to drive to Glacier Point and revel in the splendid panoramic views of the valley. For the more zealous group of tourists, there is the Four Mile Trail, taking you straight up to the Glacier Point.
If you feel your energy levels are not as high as your enthusiasm, it is a good option to take a one-way bus ticket from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point and hike down the trail. Not to forget, if you wish to get a wallpaper-worthy photograph from this point, sunset is the best time, when Half Dome is all decked up in pink.
Meet the Three Brothers
After making your way to Yosemite National Park, it is impossible for you to not notice the Three Brothers, situated on the eastern side of El Capitan. If you want to get a close view of these three granite peaks, hike half way along the Valley Floor loop.
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you may want to touch the Eagle Peak (uppermost peak) before heading home. While you put on your hiking shoes, remember it’s a 7-mile return route along the Lower Yosemite fall trail. Definitely not for amateurs!
With a platter full of attractions,visit-worthy places and hiking trails, in Yosemite National Park, no one can blame you, if you develop itchy feet all of a sudden.Go on the various ranger-led programs for informative walks across the park.
Now that you know the best hikes in Yosemite what are you waiting for? Check your schedules, mark the calendar,check with the best places to stay in Yosemite and treat yourself with a prized trip to Yosemite, and once back, do share your experience with us of your best hikes in Yosemite!
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