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10 of the Best Yosemite Hiking Trails, California, USA

By | Last Updated : 12th December 2018

California’s Yosemite National Park stands proudly in the western Sierra Nevada mountain range, guarded by the Sierra National Forest from the southeast, and the Stanislaus National Forest from the northwest. The park is studded with different types of natural hiking trails, starting from the easy, child-friendly sites, to even the most deadly ones that adventure-seekers would love to explore!

Yosemite Hiking Trails

1. El Capitan Trail, Yosemite National Park, CA

Yosemite Hiking Trail El Capitan National Park CA

El Capitan Yosemite National Park CA Hiking Trail El Capitan Hiking Trail Yosemite National Park CA

The historical El Capitan Trail is a moderately trafficked out and back trail close to California’s Mariposa. This giant rock is a playground for the rock climbers. Though rated difficult, once you manage to reach, we bet, the entire trail will soothe your eyes with acres of enchantingly colorful flowers growing in the wild. Also, the trail flattens out near the top, and you will get the choice of a number of activities.

The best time to hike here is between April and October. This famous trail made it on the news when one Alex Honnold became the first person to free-climb the trail without using a rope. Though the trail is well-trodden, it is quiet, with a possibility to come face to face with a bear, you never know! Be updated about the weather and keep the trail map handy.

Length: 13.3 miles

Type: Difficult

How to Get Here

2. Mist Trail and Vernal & Nevada Falls, Yosemite

Yosemite Hiking Trail Mist Trail Vernal and Nevada Falls

Mist Trail Vernal and Nevada Falls Yosemite Hiking Trail Mist Trail Vernal Yosemite Hiking Trail Nevada Falls

Mist Trail is said to be the signature hike of Yosemite. The reason is that, while the other associated trails are known for some specific view, this trail has a panorama of captivating views scattered all along it that are sure to enchant your senses.

The most striking part about this trail is the two spectacular waterfalls that jump down from a height of more than 900 feet (270 meters). Plus, you get to see the Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap, and the back side of the Half Dome trail. The best time to visit is between April and June.

Length: 7 miles

Type: Moderate

How to Get Here

3. Half Dome Trail, Sierra Nevada, CA

Yosemite Hiking Trail Half Dome Sierra Nevada CA

Half Dome Sierra Nevada Yosemite Hiking Trail 

First of all, this trail is said to be very dangerous at an elevation of 8,836 feet, and it is advisable to go through the precautions & guidelines thoroughly before you decide to make a trip. The Half Dome is basically a granite dome and it is actually strenuous to make your way through this site. It would take anything between 8 and 12 hours for covering the trail, so, it’s better you start very early in the morning, immediately after sunrise.

In order to access the cable section of the trail, you’ll need a permit which you can win through a lottery held at the end of March (additional lotteries of around 50 permits are also awarded per day; has to be acquired two days in advance). If you take the Mist Trail route (mentioned above), you will get to see the two falls. The entire trail is long and steep from the beginning to the end.

Also remember, this hike is closed in winter, and reopens in around March. Interestingly, on a 1-10 scale, the trail has been rated as 11! So, you can well understand why it is sometimes called the most difficult of all the Yosemite hikes – yet, the ‘most demanding’!

Length: 14 miles

Type: Extremely Difficult

How to Get Here

4. Glacier Point Trail, Yosemite West, CA

Glacier Point Yosemite Hiking Trail West CA

Yosemite West Hiking Trail Glacier Point CA Glacier Point Trail Yosemite West Hiking Trail

From Glacier Point, you can have a wide view of much of the Yosemite National Park; or in fact, the entire site itself. It is simply stunning! From here, you will get to see almost all the trails around the park, including the Upper and the Lower Yosemite Falls, the Yosemite Valley below, the Half Dome trail, Clouds Rest, as also, the Vernal and the Nevada Falls.

This trail is only one kilometer in length and is heavily trafficked out. The back trail is located near California’s Mariposa, and it features a subtle waterfall. It is a good option for beginners, you can also take your kids and your dog. Offering a number of activities, the best time to visit this place is from May until October.

Length: 0.62 miles

Type: Easy

How to Get Here

5. Panorama Hiking Trailhead, Yosemite

Panorama Yosemite Hiking Trailhead

Panorama Yosemite Hiking Trail Trailhead Yosemite Panorama Hiking Trailhead

The Panorama trailhead is at the southern end of the Glacier Point area (mentioned above), which is near the amphitheater. Once you are on the trail, you will find at least three forks to explore through. The trail is somewhat rocky in different places, and hence, descending the stair steps along the Mist Trail route can be hard on your knees.

The scenery of the surrounding mountains is stunning, however, the view of the waterfalls of the Mist Trail are at their best during springtime and early summer, when you get to see the most water pouring over these astounding waterfalls.

Length: 8.5 miles

Type: Moderate

How to Get Here

6. Mirror Lake & Tenaya Canyon Trail, CA

Yosemite Hiking Trail Mirror Lake Tenaya Canyon CA

Mirror Lake Tenaya Canyon Yosemite Hiking Trail Mirror Lake & Tenaya Canyon Yosemite Hiking Trail CA

The very name of the lake is self-explanatory of its beauty! While treading through the trail, you will find paved service road in the first couple of kilometers, directly leading to the Mirror Lake. You might as well want to access the loop trail from where the paved path ends. The loop heads to the Tenaya Creek beyond the Mirror Lake crossing a pair of bridges beyond the Snow Creek Trail junction.

Though much of the year, the lake holds little water, nonetheless, it seems to be pleasant at any time. The water is the fullest during springtime and early summer, fed by the waters of the Tenaya Creek that freely flows with its fresh snowmelt. The calm water of this blissful lake gifts you with the astounding reflections of the surrounding mountain cliffs and the bountiful greeneries.

Length: 2 miles (5 miles for loop around the lake)

Type: Moderate to Easy

How to Get Here

7. John Muir Trail, Mariposa, California

John Muir Yosemite Hiking Trail Mariposa California

John Muir Mariposa California Yosemite Hiking Trail Yosemite Hiking Trail John Muir Mariposa California

This is a very long trail that would take lots of patience and it is recommended for experienced trekkers only. It is, however, another one of the most favorite trails of the adventure lovers from where you can get an excellent view of much of the Yosemite Park.

The trail is located between the Clark Point and the Nevada Falls footbridge, and from here you can see the Liberty Cap, the backside of the Half Dome summit, as also, the Nevada Falls. John Muir Trail offers a number of activity options, and the best time for trailing here is May to October.

Length: 203 miles

Type: Very Difficult

How to Get Here

8. Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Trail, CA

Tuolumne Meadows Yosemite Hiking Trail

Yosemite Hiking Trail Tuolumne Meadows CA Tuolumne Meadows CA Yosemite Hiking Trail

This site will actually give you some peace of mind. Take your family, kids, and pets along with, and enjoy the acres of stretched-out greeneries of the grassy meadow. The trail is about 3.2 km in length, with the river Tuolumne passing by it.

The entire trail is studded with granite peaks and domes, full of wildflowers, and moreover, the site is pretty throughout the year, even in the winter months of December and January, and there is no best time to visit this visitor-friendly trail.

Even though this is a very popular site and is visited by many people around the year, it is never overcrowded since this is a very big meadow, and there are fewer chances for you going elbow to elbow with the others. If you are looking for an overnight stay or a restroom, you can get the updates at the visitor information center across the road from the Tuolumne Meadows.

Length: 2 miles

Type: Moderate Easy Difficult

How to Get Here

9. Artist Point Trail, Yosemite Park, CA

Yosemite Hiking Trail Artist Point Park CA

Artist Point Trail Yosemite Park Hiking CA Yosemite Hiking Trail Artist Point CA

This trail is good for beginners for a good practice. The entire trail gives you a mind-blowing of the surroundings, plus, if you visit at a time when sunset is approaching, or at a time when there are large, cotton-clouds hovering through the mountain tips, consider yourself lucky.

If you are a photographer, you will be happy to find some comfortable corners to stand your tripod and get loads of amazing pictures of nature here. Probably, this is the reason why they named the trail so!

Considering the stunning views you will get, as also, the relatively less time it would take to reach the peak, we can say that it’s probably one of the most less-visited places in the Yosemite National Park.

Length: 2 miles

Type: Easy to Moderate

How to Get Here

10. Happy Isles Trail, Merced River, Yosemite Valley

Happy Isles Yosemite Hiking Trail Merced River

Happy Isles Yosemite Hiking Trail River Merced Happy Isles Trail Merced River Yosemite Hiking

The scenic beauty here is sitting pretty, waiting to appease your mind. This trail is actually a pair of islands, for which it is named so, in the Merced River, located at the extreme eastern side of the Yosemite Valley, and is close to the Mist Trail trailhead. This is a perfect family-friendly trail, where you can even take someone who needs a wheelchair.

Much of this trail is paved, except for the bits across the river on the actual Happy Isles. Late summer to fall is the best season to visit. You can also visit the Happy Isles Art and Nature Center, nearby, between April and October.

Length: 0.5 miles

Type: Easy

How to Get Here

Adventure knows no limit, and the spirit of an adventurer can never be kept subdued under any circumstances or pressure, whatsoever. Keeping this in mind, we are here to help you with the list of the top hiking trails in Yosemite National park, along with all the useful details, hiking trails map, description of the site, and so on. So pick up your backpack and friends, and drive straight ahead to the national park to discover the most exciting trailing spot waiting for you!

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