Yosemite National Park is a true gem of the Sierra Nevada, offering some of the best hikes in Yosemite. The park is famous for its waterfalls, granite domes, and spectacular meadows. It’s one of the most visited national parks in the country, and it’s no wonder – there’s enough to see here to fill a lifetime. However, the best way to explore Yosemite is on foot. There are hundreds of hiking trails in Yosemite park, ranging from short nature walks to longer backpacking trips. Let’s delve into five of them.
Best Hike in Yosemite 1: Yosemite Fall Trails
The Majestic Yosemite Falls are a sight to behold and one of the most popular hiking trails in the park. The trail features breathtaking views of Nevada and Vernal falls along with many other smaller waterfalls. This hike is 7.2 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 2,700 feet on well-maintained and relatively flat trails which is perfect for those who want to go on hiking with kids.
It’s not too crowded, but you’ll want to get an early start if you want to beat the heat. There is an alternative trailhead option if you want to avoid the parking bottleneck at the small Yosemite Village lot. You can also stop at Swinging Bridge and see the Merced River up close with no extra hiking distance.
Hike in Yosemite 2: Half Dome Height
The most popular trail in Yosemite Valley is to climb up Half Dome. This challenging trail takes you up 4,800 feet to the summit of Half Dome, which at 8,842 feet is the highest point in Yosemite National Park.
The hike is extremely strenuous and should only be undertaken by hikers in top physical condition with previous hiking experience. But even novice hikers can enjoy the view by taking a hike along the Mist Trail to Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, and Little Yosemite Valley. The backside of the Half Dome is steep and relatively exposed, and only 300 experienced people are given a chance to hike up to Sub Dome.
Best Hike in Yosemite 3: Mirror Lake Trail Hike
Mirror Lake Trail is one of the most prevalent hikes in Yosemite National Park, and for a good reason. It winds through gorgeous meadows to a peaceful lake that reflects the peak of Half Dome in the distance. The hike itself has a slight elevation gain of roughly 600 feet, but it’s easy enough that even people who are hiking with kids can make it up with time to spare to enjoy the lake at the top of Vernal Falls. You’ll find this trailhead located on the north side of Mirror Lake, about two miles east of Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley.
A spur trail will take you along the Merced River and past Nevada Falls, offering spectacular views of the glacier-carved valley and surrounding peaks that are reflected in the still water of this glacial lake. The entire hike is about 2.4 miles roundtrip, making it an easy day hike for beginners or those looking for a leisurely stroll through one of America’s greatest national parks and undoubtedly one of the best hikes in Yosemite.
4: Sentinel Dome Trail Hike in Yosemite
The Sentinel Dome Trail is a 2.2-mile hike in Yosemite National Park that leads from the Valley Floor to the summit of Sentinel Dome. This trail will take you through some very beautiful scenery and past some geologic formations that are stunning.
You get an astonishing view of Half Dome and Nevada Falls from the top of the dome, which makes it well worth the effort of climbing up those 1,700 feet to get there. This hike has a total elevation gain of 7,700 feet, and it takes most hikers between 1-2.5 hours to complete.
5: May Lake Trail and Mount Hoffman Hike
If you’re looking for a Yosemite hike but want to avoid the crowds, Hike on May Lake Trail is the perfect option. This 2.5-mile hike, which can be completed in about 3 hours, provides stunning views of not one but two lakes and a glimpse of Mount Hoffman. The hike starts at the May Lake trailhead parking lot and takes you through some stunning places. Towards the end, you’ll find yourself in a beautiful sub-alpine forest with wildflowers, granite boulders, and crystal-clear lakes. The May Lake sits at 9,270 feet above sea level and there is a great rocky beach with fine sand on one side of the lake.
Additionally, you can also swim or sunbathe on the beach or just relax and enjoy the serenity of this beautiful location. After spending time at May Lake, you can continue to follow the trail as it climbs to an elevation of 8,800 feet at Mount Hoffman, which has spectacular views overlooking Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. The total hike summit of May Lake Trail and Mount Hoffman is almost 7 miles. Hikers have an option to return back down May Lake Trail or take the slightly longer (about 1 hour) Panorama Trail back down to Yosemite Valley. Once you take in the view, you will surely agree that it is one of the best hikes in Yosemite.
The Yosemite Valley is indeed a sight to behold, with every bend revealing a new perspective on the towering snow-capped peaks, and to completely immerse yourself in this park, you must take advantage of the best hikes in Yosemite. Not sure what to pack? Please check out my ultimate list here. Though the well-known fall color is undeniably gorgeous, winter hiking in Yosemite is perhaps even more magical. Snow covers the valley floor, hiding fallen leaves and debris from sight, and envelopes all that remains in a fresh coat of white. Amidst these scenes lies Half Dome; once you see it covered in snow, you may realize that it’s truly the perfect time of year for a visit! So, take your time, remember to breathe deeply, and enjoy the journey!