Few places on Earth evoke images of high-alpine adventure among majestic mountain scenery as Yosemite National Park. While known for dramatic big wall rock climbing and extensive multi-day backcountry treks, you can get a sense of the true essence of the park on many easy day hikes. There are many different elements the park, so here are some of our favorite easy hikes in Yosemite that will give you a glimpse of them all.
Tour a forest of ancient giant sequoias, the most massive living things on Earth! This hike will take you through a grove of famous specimens, including the Bachelor, Grizzly Giant, and the California Tunnel Tree. Opportunities abound for exploration of everything from the intricacies of the 2-foot thick bark at the base of one of these giants, to the tranquil silence of the forest, to the trees’ unique relationship with wildfire – all in the span of 2 hours.
Yosemite Valley is the heart and soul of Yosemite National Park, and for good reason. Plunging waterfalls, towering and iconic cliff faces, and pristine riverside pine forests all take part in making this place so special. Choosing a single “best” short hike in the Valley is a nearly impossible task. Luckily, there is one where you can see it all: the Valley Loop Trail. At 11.5 miles, it is long, but mostly flat, and can easily be done in a day. If you want to cut the hike short you can do the half-loop which is 7.2 miles.
The best part is that you’ll have options to focus on what you’d like! From this trail you can get up close to the base of Yosemite Falls, picnic along the banks of the Merced River, and bask in the true glory of Yosemite in Bridalveil Meadow at sunset. Start anywhere along the route to make a full- or half-loop and experience the true essence of Yosemite.
In 1961, the paving of Tioga Road was completed. In doing so, it opened up a classic Sierra high country landscape to the world: Tuolumne Meadows. While many backpacking routes begin here, you can get a feel for the quintessential granite landscapes along Lyell Fork. This is an out-and-back hike that will take you up the canyon along a cascading stream as far as you want to go. Head out for a half-mile to get away from the parking lot or trek 8 miles to Kuna Cascade for true solitude. Either way, you’ll be fully immersed in high alpine beauty! There is only about 200 feet of elevation gain. Give yourself anywhere from 1 to 4 hours depending on how far you decide to go.