Plan A Yosemite Hiking Trip

National Parks
Oct 2019
Hiking group climbs rocky trail toward Yosemite waterfall.

Named a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite National Park is located in the pristine granite mountains of California’s Sierra Nevada. Consisting of 1,168 square miles, about 95% of the park is a designated wilderness. Here you can marvel at El Capitan, the largest known granite monolith in the world, Half Dome, the iconic and mesmerizing inspiration for The North Face logo, Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America at 2,425 feet, and more. Yosemite is home to 10 perennial waterfalls and countless others that appear with rain and snowmelt. It is also home to the largest known living organisms on the planet: the Giant Sequoias. The Yosemite hiking trails are breathtaking, coursing through a landscape punctuated by plentiful clear creeks and rivers, crystaline alpine lakes, and soft pine needles underfoot. There are many options for hiking in Yosemite National Park whether in the bustling Yosemite Valley or further out into the high country. Yosemite offers many opportunities for day hiking and overnight backpacking trips.



Smiling Yosemite National Park tour guide in forest.
Hikers overlook canyon on Yosemite National Park tour.

Best Hikes in Yosemite Valley

Most people that go to Yosemite only visit Yosemite Valley, but luckily there are some really great day hikes beginning in Yosemite Valley that you can put together over a few days to create a great Yosemite hiking tour for yourself and your group.

1. Upper Yosemite Falls Hike

This hike begins at the Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead. It is a challenging uphill hike that leads to incredible views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.

  • 7.6 miles round trip, 2600 ft elevation gain

2. Four Mile Trail (Glacier Point hike)

Although you can drive to the Valley’s rim to see the view from Glacier Point, it’s much more rewarding after this strenuous hike up the Four Mile trail. If you have a friend or family member who is not interested in hiking, plan for them to drive around to the top and meet you there if you want to avoid the hike back down.

  • 9.6 miles round trip, 3,200 ft elevation gain

3. Mist Trail

One of Yosemite Valley’s most classic hikes, the Mist trail offers beautiful waterfall views and can be made into a loop by connecting into the famous John Muir Trail.

  • 3 miles to Vernal Falls (1000 ft elevation gain), 7 miles round trip to Nevada Falls (1900 ft elevation gain)

To read about more of the best hikes in Yosemite, check out this blog.

Things to do in Yosemite

With so many overlooks and magical places to visit, a traveler might get more out of their time by taking a guided hike in Yosemite. As you might imagine with a park this big, there is a wide array of options for all activity levels.

Bus Tours of Yosemite

For the less walking intensive, you can take a bus tour and enjoy an informative talk by a national park ranger.

  • Ride the Green Dragon through the Valley for an interpretive talk from one of Yosemite’s park rangers.
  • Take a national park service bus tour to Glacier Point or Tuolumne Meadows.

Ranger Presentations

For those who want more fresh air and enjoy Yosemite Interp and lore, the rangers provide free evening presentations at small amphitheaters around the park. These occur almost every night and last about one hour. Don’t forget to bring your headlamp! The schedule can be found here or at the ranger stations.

The rangers in the Valley also lead a night hike called the “Night Prowl.” A naturalist will take up to 24 participants for 1-1.5 hr stroll through the woods and geek out about things like nocturnal wildlife, navigation at night, plant life, and the stars. It’s $10 per participant and tickets must be reserved in advance at any Yosemite Tour & Activity Desk or by calling 209-372-4386.

For more news on the things to do in Yosemite check out the park’s 2019 Yosemite Guide.

View of tree line and mountains at Yosemite National Park.

View of forest at Yosemite National Park.

Hiker pauses on stone steps to view Yosemite waterfall.