September 10, 2021 6 min read

Do you know there is a place you can go hiking over and over and have a new experience each time? California’s Yosemite National Park offers some of the most exhilarating, diverse, and adventurous hiking in the world.

Outdoor lovers can attest that hiking is an unmatched experience; just being present in the open air brings peace and tranquility to all. Yosemite National Park’s atmosphere is crisp and refreshing—its silence broken only by nature’s sounds of chirping birds, whooshing winds, and flowing waters.

A transcending and meditative experience, trailing excursions at one of Yosemite's hiking trails will surely get you fit and help recollect your thoughts. 

Before we get into discovering the top 5 Yosemite hike trails to add to your bucket list, let’s get acquainted with the park.

Getting to Know Yosemite National Park

The exemplary Yosemite National Park is a gem appreciated worldwide, attracting millions of people each year. The park is celebrated for its many trekking courses and stunning, breathtaking scenery. 

The whole park spans across 800 miles of hiking trails cutting through the beautiful landscape of Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and Tuolumne Meadows where visitors can marvel at the many lakes, waterfalls, and even beaches.

This area was once under a glacier, and today is nothing short of awe-inspiring. With majestic sequoias towering up from the valley floor, Yosemite National Park is home to the magnificent Yosemite Falls with its astounding 2,425-foot drop, as well as the Half Dome, Tunnel View, the El Capitan vertical rock formation, and Mariposa Grove, which is home to a 1,800-year-old Grizzly Giant sequoia.

With such diverse terrain, Yosemite offers some of the best hiking in the world. To gain access to the park, visitors have the choice to pay an entrance fee for each entry or use an unlimited pass at any gate. Any hiker who wants to explore more than just one of best trails to hike in Yosemite National park should opt for the latter option.

Common Questions About Yosemite National Park

How big is Yosemite National Park?

The entire park stretches approximately 800 miles and offers a total of 255 trails from just 1 mile to 211 miles. The five that we will highlight barely scratch the surface of all the park has to offer.

All 255 trailing paths offer tremendously exciting experiences that accommodate hikers of all levels. Both newbies and pros stand an equal chance of enjoying the park. Kids can also have a fantastic time on the trails and at the Yosemite Valley camps, such as Camp 4, Wawona, and the Crane Flat.

How challenging is Yosemite to hike?

The difficulty of hiking Yosemite depends on the trail you choose. You’ll find the routes classified as easy, moderate, and challenging. One of the most leisurely hikes in Yosemite, called the Trail to Glacier Point, is 1 mile long, with a very shallow elevation gain of only 167 feet. You will barely feel the strain as you walk the 20-minute trail, but the view is spectacular.

If you're looking for more of a challenge, one of the most difficult hikes is the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, with a 3,018 feet elevation gain. This hike requires experience as well as excellent hiking shoes and possibly even walking sticks to complete.

Can I Camp Out at Yosemite?

Yosemite National Park is 95 percent designated as wilderness and has 13 campgrounds, so whether you want to backpack with a hammock (don’t forget your hammock compatible sleeping bag) or you plan to bring your backpacking tent, you’ll be set to spend your nights sleeping under the stars. Just be sure to remember to pack an ultralight down sleeping bag if you plan to camp in a tent. 

What COVID-Related Restrictions Are in Place? 

As of early March 2021, Yosemite National Park has ended its day-use reservation system that was put in place in 2020 to manage the flow of traffic during the height of the pandemic. Visitors are now allowed to enter the park without any pre-required paperwork or reservations, however they still are required to take pandemic safety precautions when visiting Yosemite, including social distancing on trails and wearing a face mask.

For those planning to camp, campgrounds that do not allow for social distancing between campers are still closed, and advance registration is required. 

Now let's move on to uncover the five must-hike trails in Yosemite.


The Top 5 Yosemite Hike Trails 

Here are the five best trails to hike in Yosemite with the most amazing views:

1. The daring Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls course 

Of all Yosemite's hiking trails, this is one you don’t want to miss, especially if you are looking for a challenging trail that will push your limits.

Nevada and Vernal Falls via the Mist Trail stretches 8.8 miles with looped trek roads near the Yosemite Valley. It’s one of the most physically demanding treks, so you really should be an experienced hiker to take up this route.

The elevation gain of Nevada and Vernal Falls is 2,191.6 feet. This course is a one-way loop that starts a few feet past the overpass under the Vernal Falls. Continue toward the John Muir Trail nearing the Nevada Falls’ top and then head back to complete the loop at the bridge.

Here you will savor over a grand overview of the Half Dome at the Nevada Falls pinnacle alongside the bewitching terrain below the waterfall. You can set up camp here if you wish. 

2. The phenomenal Upper Yosemite Falls trekking course

The Upper Yosemite Falls trekking course is a tough trail that stretches 7.6 miles with an elevation gain is 2,600 feet. The course type is an out and back, which means the trail starts and ends at the same location but can have single or multiple routes back to the source.

This is yet another challenging Yosemite trek that only experienced trekkers ought to approach. If bird viewing and spotting gorgeous sites amuses you, then this is one you should explore if you can.

You will also enjoy exceptional views of Yosemite Falls, which is of the most extraordinary features of the park. It consists of three dropping levels on Upper Yosemite Falls, then the middle cascade, and the lower falls. Most hikers reach the lower falls, but you are guaranteed a far more incredible thrill if you get to the peak.

Plan ahead and bring your backpacking gear, including a backpacking tent, so you can relax under the stars after exploring the challenging Upper Yosemite Falls.

3. The invigorating Glacier Point Trail

This is the best trail to hike in Yosemite if you are a beginner; it’s only 0.6 miles, and the elevation gain is a mere 167 feet. Your dog or child can tag along with you on this easy looping path. 

As you walk the path, you will get a three-quarter view of fantastic landscapes, including the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. You will also set your eyes on the Half Dome, the Vernal Fall, and the Nevada Falls. You may think you are missing out because of its shortness, but it’s still as enchanting as the other trails. 

Yosemite Glacier Point

4. The inspiring Sentinel Dome trek

This 2.1-mile out and back route is another must-hike trail for beginners will relish is the Sentinel Dome, a 

Just 456 feet in elevation, the Sentinel Dome trek offers a clear, full-circle panorama view of the park's vast landscape. Hikers can appreciate the reverse Tunnel View of the Yosemite Valley on the westside and get a sighting of the Merced River Canyon, too. 

Beyond that, the El Capitan, Nevada Falls, the Half Dome, and the beautiful Clouds Rest will paint your east and north panoramas.

5. The inviting Columbia Rock Trail

This inviting trail is a 2.1-mile out and back moderate course favorable for both newbies and intermediate hikers. The elevation gain is 948 feet. Undoubtedly one of the best views in the park, the Columbia Rock Trail has several camping sites, including the Sunnyside campground. 

The course is well sheltered, and it takes about 60 minutes to get to the end to enjoy a pause at the Upper Yosemite Falls. One of the great things about this hike is that you can keep going higher past the trail if you wish to get more nuanced perspectives of Glacier Point, Ahwahnee Valley, the Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls upper side.

Wrap Up

While you should definitely include these five hikes on your outdoor adventure bucket list right away, there are hundreds more awe-inspiring hikes and trails in Yosemite National Park to keep you returning over and over again. 

What’s your favorite Yosemite site? Let us know in the comments. 

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