The author McKenna Mobley posing for a photo in John Muir Trail, one of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park

21 Best Yosemite Hikes (By a California Local)

A trip to Yosemite National Park isn’t complete without hitting the hiking trails. There are trails rated for all fitness levels with great wildlife spotting opportunities. Yosemite hikes will take you to rushing waterfalls, through giant sequoia groves, and up steep granite walls.

Yosemite is home to some of the best California hikes with almost 300 hiking trails to choose from.

As a California local and a Yosemite fanatic, I have put together this list of my favorite hikes in Yosemite National Park to help you plan your upcoming trip.

Let’s lace up our hiking boots and get started!

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21 Best Hikes In Yosemite National Park

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

View of a falls in Upper Yosemite Falls Trail during sunrise

🥾 Difficult | 7.6 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Los Angeles: 5 hrs | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

With 2,600 feet of elevation gain, the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail is not for beginners. The postcard views attract many hikers but only experienced outdoors people should hike this trail.

This hike is similar to a Stairmaster workout at the gym but with views of the entire Yosemite Valley below. Visit this Yosemite waterfall in the late spring and early summer when it is roaring.

Park near the Yosemite Village or the Yosemite Lodge and prepare to hike one of the most challenging hikes in the national park.

👉 My Favorite Gear: Because this hike is so steep, you will want to pack light. Check out this Salomon vest to hike light without foregoing the essentials.

Half Dome

The author standing at the edge of Half Dome's summit
I’m standing at the edge of Half Dome’s summit during wildfire season

🥾 Expert | 15 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from San Francisco: 3 hrs, 15 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

The Half Dome hike is perhaps the hardest hiking trail in Yosemite National Park. It requires a permit to climb, which you can apply for in March from Recreation.gov.

This hike is long, grueling, and steep. It starts at the Mist Trail Trailhead and passes Nevada and Vernal Falls along the way. Once you get to the Half Dome cables, your endurance and strength are put to the test.

Hiking the cable portion of Half Dome requires upper body strength, as you will need to pull yourself up the nearly 90-degree slab slope. The views from the summit are the best in all of Yosemite National Park, don’t miss out on the incredible photo opportunities waiting for you at the top. 

👉 Pro Tip: Bring rubber gardening gloves to help you grip the slippery cables better when you hike Half Dome. There are fatalities on this climb every year and you will want to be as cautious as possible.

Clouds Rest

Clear blue sky over the Clouds Rest
The view from my Clouds Rest hike during a small fire in Yosemite Valley

🥾 Difficult | 12.2 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Fresno: 1 hr, 20 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

Clouds Rest is an iconic hike in Yosemite National Park. It is one of the most popular Yosemite hikes and the photos from the top are well worth the 12 miles.

For the best hiking experience, hike Clouds Rest before sunrise to beat the crowds on this incredibly busy trail. I started my hike around 4 am and was the first person on the summit. 

Hikers love Clouds Rest because the summit brings you 1,000 feet over the distant Half Dome. Make sure to bring your professional camera for the perfect sunrise photo of the famous landmark.

👉 Pro Tip: A reservation is required from Recreation.gov to enter Yosemite National Park during the peak times of 6 am-4 pm from May 20-September 30, 2022

John Muir Trail

The author posing for a photo in John Muir Trail
Me, posing on the endpoint of the John Muir Trail- Mt. Whitney

🥾 Difficult | 210 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Los Angeles: 5 hrs | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

The John Muir Trail is not for the faint of heart. Spanning over 200 miles, this thru-hiking trail requires serious physical endurance and strategic planning. 

The John Muir Trail typically takes 14-21 days and most hikers start at the Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite National Park. Backpackers then journey through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sequoia National Park, the Ansel-Adams Wilderness, and cross-sections of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The hike ends on Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in California. If you don’t have time for a 210-mile hike, you can also section-hike the JMT for a few days at a time. Apply for a backcountry permit to camp in Yosemite ahead of time. 

North Dome

A rock mountain in Fresno
North Dome’s Indian Rock Arch

🥾 Moderate | 8.8 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from San Francisco: 3 hrs, 15 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

North Dome is a moderate hike in Yosemite National Park with exceptional views of both Half Dome and Yosemite Valley. The crest of the dome’s summit lies parallel to Half Dome, making it one of the best viewpoints in Yosemite.

At 8.8 miles round trip, the North Dome hike takes hikers through the beautifully wooded sequoia forest on a gradually inclining trail. Take a 0.6-mile detour to visit Indian Rock Arch to maximize your North Dome experience.

👉 Pro Tip: North Dome is only accessible when Tioga Road is open from June-November each year.

Vernal Falls & Nevada Falls

The author admiring the view on the stairs of the Vernal & Nevada Falls climb
On the stairs of the Vernal & Nevada Falls climb

🥾 Difficult | 6 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Fresno: 1 hr, 20 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

This Yosemite Falls trail is perhaps the most popular hike in Yosemite. Starting at the Mist Trail Trailhead, this 6-mile trail is one of the harder hikes in Yosemite.

The trail is 3 miles round trip to Vernal Falls and 7 miles round trip to the upper Nevada Falls. Extra parking is located at the nearby Curry Village, which is convenient but adds an extra 1.5 miles to the hike.

There are great views of Liberty Cap and Half Dome from the Vernal Fall footbridge, making this a classic Yosemite hike.

👉 Pro Tip: Visit these Yosemite Falls from April-June when they are full to witness them in their full glory.

Glacier Point Trail

The author's hand holding a coffee mug and the Glacier Point Trail view from the background
Posing with my coffee mug at Glacier Point during dusk

🥾 Easy | 0.6 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from San Francisco: 3 hrs, 15 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

Follow Glacier Point Road from the Tioga Pass entrance to reach the easy Glacier Point Trail. Only a 20-minute hike, the Glacier Point Trail is one of the best places to view Yosemite Valley.

This 0.6-mile trail is one of few wheelchair-accessible hiking trails in the park. Take a Glacier Point photo on top of the sheer cliff drops into the valley to stun your family and friends back home. 

Keep in mind that Glacier Point Road is only open from June-November, depending on the snow conditions.

Sentinel Dome

Scenic view from the Sentinel Dome
Views of Half Dome can be seen from Sentinel Dome

🥾 Moderate | 2.1 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Los Angeles: 5 hrs | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

The 2.1-mile hike to the top of Sentinel Dome is the easiest way to witness some of the most incredible views in Yosemite National Park. On a clear day, you can see Half Dome, the Yosemite Valley floor, Clouds Rest, and many more Sierra peaks.

Try to hike the Sentinel Dome trail in the spring to see vibrantly colored mountain wildflowers and witness the delicious vanilla scent of Jefferson Pines.

This is one of the best hikes in Yosemite to see 360-degree views of one of the best national parks in California.

Tioga Peak

The Tioga Peak under the clear blue sky
The Tioga summit from the trail

🥾 Moderate | 5.4 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Fresno: 1 hr, 20 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

Tioga Peak is one of the shorter Yosemite hikes but offers a quick route to an incredible summit viewpoint. 

Technically just outside of Yosemite National Park on Tioga Road, Tioga Peak passes through a babbling creek and leads to the Gardisky lake trail before the final climb to the summit. 

The summit offers breathtaking views of surrounding peaks like Mt. Dana and Mount Hoffman, among other high sierra peaks that retain snow almost year-round. 

You will likely encounter very few people, if any, on your Tioga Peak hike, which makes this trail somewhat of a hidden gem.

Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

View of a waterfall in Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

🥾 Easy | 1 mile | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from San Francisco: 3 hrs, 15 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

At only 1 mile round trip, the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail is one of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park for the whole family. This panorama trail takes you to the base of a 2,425-foot waterfall, one of the tallest in North America.

The short Lower Yosemite Falls Trail leads to a viewpoint of the bottom 320 feet of the major waterfall. You will get sprayed at the Lower Falls lookout, which feels heavenly during the summer when the waterfall is roaring thunderously.

👉 My Favorite Gear: If you visit the falls in the spring, the combination of the cool air and the cascade mist may be too cold. Stay warm and dry with this rain jacket.

Little Yosemite Valley

View of a cliff in Little Yosemite Valley

🥾 Difficult | 7.4 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Los Angeles: 5 hrs | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

The Little Yosemite Valley hike in Yosemite National Park follows the Mist Trail past Vernal and Nevada Falls and leads to a valley plateau. 

This hike is a part of the John Muir Trail and a lot of thru-hikers can be seen on the Little Yosemite Valley trail. It is also on the way to the Half Dome cables. 

Set up camp along this trail right next to the calm Merced River and take a nap in the tall grass with towering sequoia trees overhead. This is one of the prime backcountry camping spots in Yosemite National Park. 

Mount Hoffman

Overlooking view from the Mount Hoffman trail
Views from the Mount Hoffman trail

🥾 Difficult | 5.6 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Fresno: 1 hr, 20 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

This short, 6-mile round trip hike takes you to 10,845 feet. From the top, snow-crested Sierra Nevada mountains can be seen in all four directions.

Pass the jagged granite cliffs at May Lake overlooking Tioga Road to an almost empty Mount Hoffman summit. You will also be able to see Half Dome and Clouds Rest from a unique perspective in the distance.

The short hike to Mount Hoffman’s summit is steep and rocky. You may have a slow pace on the ascent due to the slippery shale. 

👉 My Favorite Gear: I recommend using these hiking poles on the trail to prevent potential injuries.

Lembert Dome 

A family of deer and the Lembert Dome on their background
A deer family in front of Lembert Dome

🥾 Moderate | 2.8 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from San Francisco: 3 hrs, 15 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

The Lembert Dome hike is short but steep, climbing 850 feet in only 1.4 miles. The trail offers spectacular views of the famous Tuolumne Meadows and the surrounding Sierra Nevada peaks.

Because the Lembert Dome hike is located on Tioga Road, it is only open June-November due to winter road conditions. It is one of the shorter hiking trails in Yosemite and is the perfect excursion for individuals with a short time to explore Yosemite National Park.

Check out my article on the best parts of the year to visit California to be up-to-date with the weather conditions.

Mount Dana

An RV parked near Mount Dana
I camped just outside of the national park to hike Mount Dana before sunrise

🥾 Difficult | 6.1 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Los Angeles: 5 hrs | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

The second highest peak in Yosemite National Park, Mount Dana gains 3,150 feet in 3 miles. This challenging panorama trail will take you to the high point of 13,057 feet.

Because Mount Dana’s summit is so tall, you should only attempt to climb this mountain if you are experienced in high-altitude climbing. If you have never been above 13,000 feet before, you may experience some serious side effects of altitude sickness. 

This is one of the best hiking trails in Yosemite National Park because it showcases beautiful summer wildflowers, alpine meadows, and unreal views of surrounding mountain peaks.

👉 Pro Tip: If Mt. Whitney (14,508 feet) is your next hiking adventure, Mount Dana is the perfect mountain to climb to get used to high altitude. 

Valley Loop Floor Trail

Overlooking view from the Valley Loop Floor Trail
Yosemite Valley

🥾 Easy | 20.1 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from San Francisco: 3 hrs, 15 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

This long trail may seem off-putting and too strenuous, but the majority of the trail is actually flat and along the Yosemite Valley floor. This 20-miles round trip hike is easy and will likely take a whole day to complete in Yosemite National Park.

You can start in the west with great views of El Capitan or near the Half Dome Village for views of Half Dome, North Dome, and Glacier Point. Bring your binoculars because this Yosemite Valley hike is one of the best to see wildlife. 

Wawona Meadow Loop

Scenic view from the Wawona Meadow Loop under the clear blue sky
The beautiful Yosemite meadow

🥾 Easy | 3.6 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Fresno: 1 hr, 20 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

Starting at the Wawona Hotel, this easy hike only takes 1.5-2 hours to complete. This hike is more like a relaxing stroll through the national park.

Even though the trail is near one of the busiest national park entrances, it receives far less foot traffic than other popular Yosemite hikes. The trail is mostly shaded and is a cool escape from the beating summer sun.

The Wawona Meadow Loop Trail takes you around the only golf course in the national park. Watch out for fly-away golf balls.

Mirror Lake

View from the Mirror Lake in California

🥾 Easy | 4.4 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Los Angeles: 5 hrs | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

Located in Yosemite Valley, this trail sees its fair share of visitors in the summer months. The best view from the Mirror Lake hike is the looming Mt. Watkins above Tenaya Creek.

This four mile trail can be combined with Tenaya Canyon to make the perfect moderate Yosemite hike. With only 100 feet of gain to Mirror Lake, the hike is easy enough for individuals of all fitness levels. 

The trail is paved to Mirror Lake, which provides easy access for wheelchairs and bikes. This lake is the biggest swimming hole in Yosemite National Park so make sure to bring your bathing suit.

Cathedral Lakes

Overlooking view from the Cathedral Lakes

🥾 Moderate | 8.5 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from San Francisco: 3 hrs, 15 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

Cathedral Lakes is one of the most impressive high sierra lakes in Yosemite National Park. Nestled at the foot of Cathedral Peak, this lake is the perfect place to have a picnic and soak in the high-elevation sunshine.

It is also one of the most popular hikes in Tuolumne Meadows and you are likely to see rock climbers scaling the granite walls in this area. 

Plan on this hike taking 4-6 hours, and more time if you want to stop at Cathedral Lakes to relax or go for a dip.

El Capitan Trail

View from the El Capitan Trail during sunrise
The great and mighty El Capitan sticks out of Yosemite Valley like a sore thumb

🥾 Difficult | 15.4 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Fresno: 1 hr, 20 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

Hike to the top of a Yosemite icon, El Capitan, for an incredible experience. The hike is 19.4 miles round trip and typically takes 8-12 hours to complete. 

The El Capitan trail follows the steep Upper Yosemite Falls Trail and offers the option to make a side trip to visit Eagle Peak. The hike begins at Camp 4, a tent camping site that requires a reservation ahead of time from Recreation.gov.

Once you’ve passed the steep sections of the hike and have made it to the top, take at least an hour to enjoy the incredible views and truly soak in the majestic scenery.

👉 Pro Tip: There is a creek 0.5 miles from the summit where you can refill your water bottle with a water filter.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

View from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

🥾 Moderate | 6.2 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Los Angeles: 5 hrs | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is located near Wawona at the Southern Entrance. Here you can view the largest grove of sequoia trees in the national park, two of which are among the 30 largest sequoias in the world.

With over 500 giant sequoia trees in the area, add the Mariposa Grove to your Yosemite itinerary to take beautiful photos of the national park giants.

👉 My Favorite Gear: I do a lot of solo hiking and this tripod has helped me capture some of my favorite photos when I’m alone.

Yosemite Point

View from the Yosemite Point during a wildfire
The view at Yosemite Point during a wildfire

🥾 Difficult | 8.5 miles | 📍 Google Maps | Park Website | Drive Time from Fresno: 1 hr, 20 mins | Cost: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance

Yosemite Point is just past the Yosemite Falls trail. With 3,700 feet of vertical elevation gain, this hike is not for beginners.

The trail starts at Camp 4 near the Yosemite Lodge and takes hikers through a long series of switchbacks. One of the best viewpoints on the entire hike is Columbia Rock, where you can capture both Half Dome and the falls in the same photo.

This is an out-and-back hike, so just retrace your steps to get back to the trailhead. And always hike with the top hiking essentials to ensure your safety in the outdoors. 

FAQs About the Best Yosemite Hikes

Does Yosemite require lots of hiking?

While there are hundreds of hikes in Yosemite, you are not required to hike anything if you don’t want to. Hiking is recommended because it is the best way to see Yosemite National Park. There are short and easy trails for all fitness levels.

Is Yosemite Falls hike hard?

The Yosemite Falls hike is hard. It has over 3,200 feet of elevation gain and takes an average of 5-6 hours to complete.

What is the most popular hike in Yosemite?

The Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls is the most popular hike in Yosemite. Other popular hikes are the Glacier Point Trail and Yosemite Valley hikes.

Where should I hike in Yosemite?

Check out Yosemite Valley for great hikes in Yosemite. Tuolumne Meadows also houses peaceful hikes in Yosemite with beautiful scenery and good wildlife spotting opportunities.

How much does it cost to hike Yosemite?

The hikes in Yosemite are free but there is an entrance fee to get into the park. The rates are: $35 car/ $30 motorcycle/ $20 bike, foot, horse, $70 annual Yosemite pass, $80 annual U.S. national parks pass, Free handicap & military entrance.

***

Hiking is a must when visiting Yosemite National Park, so plan ahead and explore all of the best hiking trails Yosemite has to offer. Up next, check out my picks for the best places to visit in California.

I hope I’ve helped you find the best Yosemite hikes for your trip!

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