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Hiking Trails Near Yosemite

The many hiking trails near Yosemite range from easy to extremely challenging, providing hikers of all levels with the ultimate high.

But with only so much free time and so much ground to cover, it's essential to have a plan in hand before you get started.

Among the Many Hiking Trails Near Yosemite:

Hiking Tuolumne Meadows and Grove Area:

Cathedral Lakes Trail
Distance: 7.0 miles
Est. Time: 4-6 hours
Start: Cathedral Lakes Trailhead, on the Tioga Road (it is recommended that you take the shuttle bus due to limited parking at the trailhead).The trail climbs steadily (1,000 ft / 305 m) to Upper Cathedral Lake. Near the top, it passes a spur trail to Lower Cathedral Lake.

Dog Lake Trail
Distance: 2.8 miles
Est. Time: 3 hours
Start: Dog Lake/John Muir Trail parking area. The trail goes up steeply and crosses the Tioga Road, then continues up for 0.75 mi (1.2 km) to a signed junction. Continue straight to Dog Lake. Enjoy fishing and picnicking from this high country lake.

Elizabeth Lake Trail
Distance: 4.8 miles
Est. Time: 4-5 hours
Start: Above the Tuolumne Meadows Group Campground. From the campground, the trail climbs steadily to the glacier-carved lake at the base of Unicorn Peak.

Gaylor Lakes Trail
Distance: 2 miles
Est. Time: 2 hours
Start: Gaylor Lakes Trailhead, at the Tioga Pass Entrance Station. The trail climbs steeply in the first 0.5 mi / 0.8 km (1,000 ft / 304 m elevation gain) to a ridge with views to both sides. At the ridge, the trail drops 200 ft / 61 m to a lake and meadows, which can be explored with side trails (not included in the 2 mi / 3.2 km roundtrip length).

Glen Aulin Trail
Distance: 11 miles
Est. Time: 6-8.hours
Start: Park along the road to the Tuolumne Meadows Stables and follow the gravel road as it loops behind Soda Springs. The trail begins at Soda Springs and drop to Glen Aulin. The route is noted for scenic cascades, particularly Tuolumne Falls, located 4 miles from the trailhead.

John Muir Trail through Lyell Canyon Trail
Distance: 8 miles (one way)
Est. Time 4 hours
Start: Dog Lake/John Muir Trail parking area on the road to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. The relatively flat trail (only 200 ft / 61 m elevation gain over 8 mi / 12.9 km) wanders through Lyell Canyon, mostly alongside the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Begin across the road from Dog Lake parking area, where the trail heads upstream alongside the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River, crosses it, and subsequently arrives at the Lyell Fork.

Lembert Dome Trail
Distance: 2.8 miles
Est. Time: 3 hours
Start: Dog Lake/John Muir Trail parking area on the road to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. The trail goes up steeply for 0.75 mi (1.2 km) to a signed junction. The trail to the left goes to the top of Lembert Dome. Expect a spectacular panoramic view of Tuolumne Meadows, Cathedral Peak, and Unicorn Peak.

Mono Pass Trail
Distance: 8 miles
Est. Time: 4-6 hours
Start: Mono Pass Trailhead, 6 mi / 4.4 km east of Tuolumne Meadows on the Tioga Road. The trail climbs gently at first (1,000 ft / 304 m elevation gain) to a junction with Spillway Lake. The left fork then steeply climbs to Mono Pass, at 10,500 ft / 3,200 m. From the pass, Upper Sardine Lake is another 0.75 / 1.2 km down the pass to the east.

Soda Springs & Parson's Lodge Trail
Distance: 1.5 miles
Est. Time: 1 hour
Start: Lembert Dome parking area on the Tioga Road. Follow the gravel road northwest past a locked gate. The Soda Springs are protected within a log enclosure. Carbonated water bubbles up through the ground, but drinking the water is not recommended due to possible surface contamination. Continue along the trail to historic Parson's Memorial Lodge, which offers exhibits. A path winds to the bridge below and continues to the visitor center.

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, Lake, and Pass Trail
Distance: 15.8 miles
Est. Time: 6-8 hours
Start: Dog Lake/John Muir Trail parking area on the road to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. The first 2 mi / 3.2 km, along the John Muir Trail, are relatively level. The Rafferty Creek Trail then splits off and begins a 1,200 ft / 366 m ascent to Tuolumne Pass, followed by a 160 ft / 49 m climb to the High Sierra Camp. You can continue to Vogelsang Lake (0.5 mi / 0.8 km further) and spectacular Vogelsang Pass (1.5 mi / 2.4 km further).

Glacier Point Area Day Hikes

McGurk Meadow, Bridalveil Creek, & Dewey Point
Distance: 7 miles
Est. Time: 3-5 hours
Start: McGurk Meadow trailhead parking area, just west of the Bridalveil Creek Campground turnoff along the Glacier Point Road. The trail leads downhill to an old cabin built by John McGurk and a large meadow. Continue east (right) at the trail junction to get to Bridalveil Creek (4 mi / 6.4 km) or continue west to a Dewey Point (7 mi / 11.2 km), which has a spectacular view of western Yosemite Valley.

Mono Meadow
Distance: 3 miles
Est. Time: 2-3 hours
Start: Mono Meadow trailhead parking area, 2.5 mi (4 km) east of Bridalveil Creek Campground, along the Glacier Point Road. The trail descends steeply to Mono Meadow, an area which is wet, particularly early to mid summer (be sure to stay on the trail, even if it is muddy). Shortly after you leave Mono Meadow, you will arrive at an unmarked clearing with views of the Clark Range, Mount Starr King, and Half Dome.

Ostrander Lake
Distance: 12.7 miles
Est. Time: 8-10 hours
Start: Ostrander Lake trailhead parking area, 1.3 mi (2.1 km) east of Bridalveil Creek Campground, along the Glacier Point Road. The first half of this hike gains little elevation; the second half gains about 1,500 ft (450 m). As you climb, you gain views of the Clark Range and, eventually, you arrive at Ostrander Lake.

Sentinel Dome
Distance: 2.2 miles
Est. Time: 2 hours
Start: Sentinel Dome/Taft Point trailhead parking area, 6 mi (9.6 km) east of Bridalveil Creek Campground, along the Glacier Point Road. This relatively easy hike takes you to the base of Sentinel Dome, where you can scramble up the granite slope of the dome (it is not especially steep on its northeast side). From the top, you have a spectacular 360° view of Yosemite Valley (including Yosemite, Vernal, and Nevada Falls) and parts of the high country.

Taft Point
Distance: 2.2 miles
Est. Time: 2 hours
Start: Sentinel Dome/Taft Point trailhead parking area, 6 mi (9.6 km) east of Bridalveil Creek Campground, along the Glacier Point Road. This relatively easy hike takes you to the edge of Yosemite Valley. As you approach Taft Point, keep your eye out for fissures— deep cracks that extend hundreds of feet downwards. At railed-in Taft Point, you have a breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley, 2,000 feet (600 m) below. 
 
Sequoia Groves Area - Mariposa Grove
Destination                 Distance from Trailhead       Elevation Gain in Feet
Fallen Tunnel Tree       2.5                                         1,000
Grizzly Giant               0.8                                          400
Grove Museum             2.1                                          800
Wawona Point             3.0                                          1,200 

Valley Area - Day Hikes

 

Bridalveil Fall
Distance: 0.5 miles
Est. Time: 0.25 hours 
Start at Bridalveil Fall Parking Area, easy; wheelchair accessible with assistance. This short walk to the bottom of Bridalveil Fall provides a great view of the fall. 

Glacier Point 4 Mile
Distance: 9.6 miles
Est. Time: 6-8 hours 
Four Mile Trailhead just west of Swinging Bridge picnic area. This trail takes you up switchbacks to the Glacier Point, along the rim of Yosemite Valley. The trail offers spectacular views up and down Yosemite Valley (not to mention what you get to see when you get to Glacier Point). If you are interested in a long day hike, return to Yosemite Valley via the Panorama Trail. The Four Mile Trail is closed from approximately December through sometime in May due to hazardous conditions. 

Half Dome
Distance: 17 miles
Est. Time: 10-12 hours 
Begin at Happy Isle/Shuttle Stop # 16. Very strenuous 4,800 ft elev. gain; cables route closed mid-Oct to late May. Yosemite's most distinctive feature, Half Dome, dominates the valley view. Half Dome rises 4,733 feet from the valley floor and at 87 million years old, it is the youngest plutonic rock in the valley. A hike to the top of Half Dome provides the physically fit with a strenuous walk, intimidating climb and rewarding view. This trek is not to be undertaken without care and preparation. 

Lower Yosemite Fall
Distance: 0.5 miles
Est. Time: 20 minutes 
Begin at Yosemite Falls Shuttle Stop #7. Easy, wheelchair accessible with assistance. This short walk up a paved trail to the bottom of Lower Yosemite Fall provides great views of all of Yosemite Falls, plus a close-up view of the lower fall. (Note: this waterfall is often dry from August through October.)
 
Mirror Lake / Meadow
Distance: 2 miles / 5 miles
Est. Time: 1 hours / 2 hours
Begin at Mirror Lake Shuttle Stop # 17. Easy, vehicle access available with placard. The walk to Mirror Lake/Meadow is a leisurely walk either along an old, paved road or along a slightly longer dirt trail. The "lake" is really a large pond in spring and a meadow the rest of the year. Despite this, you're still right at the bottom of Half Dome, and you have a great view of it from Mirror Lake/Meadow. You can also hike all the way around the lake. 

Nevada Fall (Mist Trail)
Distance: 7 miles
Est. Time: 5-6 hours 
Begin at Happy Isle/Shuttle Stop # 16. Strenuous 1,900 elev. gain; check conditions at Visitor Center in winter. If you continue past the top of Vernal Fall, you'll get to see Nevada Fall from near its base and, if you continue up even more granite steps, you reach the top of Nevada Fall. 

Panorama Trail
Distance: 8.5 miles (one way)
Est. Time: 6 hours 
Start at Glacier Point. The Panorama Trail is full of panoramic views and includes close-up views of three waterfalls (including lesser known Illilouette Fall). The trail continues down the Mist Trail and ends at Happy Isles. From late May or early June through October, a fee-based hikers bus will take you up to Glacier Point. Alternatively, if you are interested in a long day hike, take the Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point. 

Top of Yosemite Fall
Distance: 7.2 miles
Est. Time: 6-8 hours
Sunnyside Campground Shuttle Stop #8. Very strenuous 2,700 elev. gain, check conditions at Visitor Center in winter. 

Upper Yosemite Fall
Distance: 7.2 miles
Est. Time: 6-8 hours 
Sunnyside Campground Shuttle Stop #8.This switchbacking trail takes you to the top of 2,425 foot (739 meter) high Yosemite Falls. The trail provides great views of Half Dome and eastern Yosemite Valley. If you do not have the time (or energy) to make it to the top, you can hike about one mile to railed-in Columbia Rock, which itself has great views. If you continue about a half-mile beyond Columbia Rock, along a relatively easy section of the trail, you can get spectacular views of Upper Yosemite Fall. 

Valley Floor Loop
13 miles full loop / 5-7 hours
6.5 mile half loop / 2.5-3.5 hours 
Begin at Yosemite Falls Shuttle Stop #7. Walking along the valley floor is a great way to see Yosemite Valley in slow motion (compared to driving around it). While this trail remains close to the road for parts of the hike, you will not see very many hikers on the trail. To take the short version of this hike, be sure to cross the bridge just east of El Capitan Meadow (the large meadow at the base of El Capitan). This trail is very difficult to follow if there is snow on the ground (approximately December through March). 

Vernal Fall
Distance: 1.6 miles to bridge / 3 miles to top
Est. Time: 1.5 hours / 3 hours 
Begin at Happy Isle Shuttle Stop #16. This hike is nearly all uphill, but once you get to the Vernal Fall footbridge, you get a view of 317 foot (97 m) high Vernal Fall. The further you go on this trail the better the views become. If you continue past the footbridge, you can go all the way to the top of this waterfall. The trail becomes so steep that it takes a staircase of 600 granite steps to get to the top. In spring and early summer, expect to get wet. This trail is closed from the junction with the John Muir Trail (just beyond the Vernal Fall footbridge) from November through April due to falling ice and rock. An alternate route (via the John Muir Trail) is available. 

Wawona & Mariposa Grove Day Hiking

Alder Creek
Distance: 12 miles
Est. Time: 6 hours
Start: Alder Creek trailhead parking area, 0.4 mi (.6 km) up Chilnualna Falls Road. The trail climbs northward through an open pine forest with abundant manzanita on the drier slopes.

Chlnualna Fall
Distance: 8.2 miles
Est. Time: 5 to 6 hours
Start: Chilnualna Fall trailhead parking area, 2 mi (3.2 km) up the Chilnualna Falls Road. This pleasant hike takes you near past cascades of Chilnualna Fall and all the way to the top of the fall.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Distance: 1.6 miles
Est. Time: 1 hour
(to Grizzly Giant)
Distance: 6.0 miles
Est. Time: 3-4 hours
Start: Mariposa Grove parking area. (From May through September, it is highly recommended that you take the free shuttle bus.) Various trails exist throughout the grove. To reach the Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Tree, follow the trail that begins at the far end of the parking area. To reach Wawona Point, continue on the trail past the Grizzly Giant into the upper grove. The old road ascends to Wawona Point from near the Galen Clark Tree.

Swinging Bridge Loop
Distance: 5 miles
Est. Time: 2 hours
Start: Pioneer Yosemite History Center or Wawona Store. The paved road, Forest Drive, leads 2 mi (3.2 km) upstream from the history center to the end of the paved road. Continue on the dirt road for a short distance until you get to the swinging bridge (which really does swing). Cross the bridge and bear left onto the dirt road, which soon becomes paved Chilnualna Falls Road. When you reach the Wawona Stable, walk into it towards the Covered Bridge, where you started this hike.

Wawona to Mariposa Grove
Distance: 6 miles
Est. Time: 3 hours (one way)
Start: About 50 yards uphill of the Moore Cottage at the Wawona Hotel (look for the "Two Hour Ride Trail" sign). This generally viewless hike gets you to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. From late April through September, you can take the free shuttle bus from the grove back to Wawona.

Wawona Meadow Loop
Distance: 3.5 miles
Est. Time: 1-2 hours
Start: Golf course across the street from the Wawona Hotel. Walk up the paved road through the golf course and take the first left. This is a pleasant, shady stroll on a fire road around the Wawona Meadow.

Hetch Hetchy Day Hiking Area

Poopenaut Valley
Distance: 3 miles
Est. Time: 2 hours
Start: Four miles from the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station (look for the small turnout on the right), along the Hetch Hetchy Road. This trail provides quick access to the Tuolumne River, descending 1,229 feet (735 m) to the river below O'Shaugnessy Dam.

Rancheria Falls
Distance: 13.4 miles
Est. Time: 8-10 hours
Start: O'Shaugnessy Dam. This is a popular trail for overnighters but it makes for a good day hike as well. You will see Hetch Hetchy Valley from various perspectives.

Smith Peak
Distance: 12.5 miles
Est. Time: 6 hours
Start: Hetch Hetchy Ranger Station. This trail takes you through forest and meadow to Smith Peak, where you get great views of the Hetch Hetchy area.

Wapama Falls
Distance: 5 miles
Est. Time: 2-4.0 hours
Start: O'Shaugnessy Dam. This easy trail will take you right to the bottom of Wapama Falls (and Tueeulala Falls in spring). Watch for rattlesnakes and poison oak!

Yosemite Valley Walks

Loop Trail
Distance: 0.5 miles
Est. Time: 0.75 hours
Easy. Take shuttle to base of Yosemite Falls, cross bridge and follow loop trail through woods back to shuttle.

Ahwahnee Hotel to Mirror Lake
Distance: 3 miles
Est. Time: 0.75 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Ahwahnee Hotel to Yosemite Falls
Distance: 3 miles
Est. Time: 0.75 hours
Difficulty:  Moderate

Yosemite Lodge to Bridalveil Falls
Distance: 7.0 miles
Est. Time: 0.75 hours
Difficulty: Easy, flat.