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Yosemite National Park Hiking Trails

Yosemite waterfallsThe entrance to Yosemite is only about 45 minutes north of Mammoth Lakes. We share the same set of mountains but the weather can be quite different. If you are traveling around the month of May it would be advised to check to make sure the gate is open as it is often closed due to snow. When it has melted... they open. These are great day hikes in Yosemite National Park. You are always hiking at your own risk, so be smart, check in with the local ranger station, carry a map and verify your trails before you start out.


Lower Yosemite Fall - Easy - .5 mi. Round trip - 20 minutes.
Begin hiking Yosemite Fall parking area (shuttle stop # 7). A paved trail leads from the Yosemite Fall parking area to the bridge at the base of the falls. Expect a magnificent view of the waterfall and lots of spray in spring and early summer.

Bridalveil Fall - Easy - .5 mi. Round trip - 20 minutes.
Begin at the Bridalveil Fall parking area. A paved trail leads from the Bridalveil Fall parking area to the base of the falls. Look for rainbows in the waterfall in late afternoon. Expect lots of spray in spring and early summer.

Mirror Lake/Meadow - Easy - 2 mi. Round trip to lake - 1 hour; 5mi. loop around lake - 2 hours.
Begin at shuttle bus stop # 17. A paved trail follows the west side of Tenaya Creek to Mirror Lake and the base of Half Dome. The loop trail continues past the lake, crosses the bridge over Tenaya Creek and returns along the east side of Mirror Lake. The lake offers beautiful reflections of surrounding cliffs as well as opportunities to see wildlife and a lake-to-meadow succession.

Valley Floor Loop - Moderate - 13 mi. for full loop - 5 to 7 hours; 6.5 mi. for half loop - 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
Begin hiking at Lower Yosemite Fall parking area (shuttle bus stop # 7) OR 50 yards behind the Yosemite Chapel (shuttle bus stop # 11). The half loop trail crosses the valley near the El Capitan Meadow cross-over road. This trail follows many of the first valley east-west trails and wagon roads. The valley floor loop is not often traveled and offers solitude with occasional route-finding difficulty. The trail offers striking views of Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, the Three Brothers, Yosemite Fall and the Merced River.

Panorama Trail - Moderate - 8.5 mi. one way to valley floor - 6 hours; 3,200 ft. total descent.
Begin hiking at Glacier Point. The trail crosses Silhouette Fall after 2 mi. and continues partially uphill along the Panorama Cliffs. At the top of Nevada Fall, the trail joins the Mist and John Muir Trails to Happy Isles. This trail offers many scenic views.

Vernal and Nevada Falls - Moderate to Strenuous (winter route marked). 1.6 mi. round trip to Vernal Fall footbridge - 1.5 hours; 400 ft. elevation gain.
3 mi. round trip to Vernal Fall - 3 hours; 1000 ft. elevation gain.
7 mi. round trip to Nevada Fall - 5 to 6 hours; 2000 ft. elevation gain.
Begin at Happy Isles (shuttle bus stop # 16). This trail begins the famous 211 mi. John Muir Trail to Mt. Whitney. Enjoy an excellent view of Vernal Fall from the Vernal Fall footbridge. Two tenths mile beyond the bridge, the Mist Trail and John Muir Trail diverge. To diverge. To proceed directly to the top of Vernal Fall, follow the Mist Trail .5 mi. up a very strenuous granite stairway of over 600 steps. Prepare for slippery footing and a tremendous amount of waterfall spray in spring and early summer. The top of Nevada Fall may be reached by continuing 2 mi. along the Mist Trail. Nevada Fall may also be reached via the John Muir Trail (bypassing Vernal Fall).

Four Mile Trail
- Strenuous (Closed in winter). 9.6 mi. round trip to Glacier Point - 6 to 8 hours; 3,200 ft. elevation gain.
Begin hiking at the Four Mile Trail parking area located on South-side Drive. This trail climbs the southern valley wall beginning near the base of Sentinel Rock. An alternative return to the valley is to connect with the Panorama Trail at Glacier Point (total trip is 13 mi.). This scenic trail provides views of both the eastern and western portions of the valley. Glacier Point offers spectacular views of Half Dome, Tenaya Canyon, and the Clark and Cathedral Ranges.

Upper Yosemite Fall - Strenuous - 7.2 mi. round trip - 6 to 8 hours; 2,700 ft. elevation gain.
Begin hiking at the Sunny-side Campground parking area. One of Yosemite's oldest trails (built 1873-1877), this trail leads to the top of the world's fifth tallest waterfall, 2425 ft. above the valley floor. Do not stray off the marked trail as steep drops exist adjacent to the trail. Enjoy spectacular views from Columbia Rock located one mile up the trail.

Half Dome in Yosemite at Sunset Half Dome - Very strenuous - (Half Dome cables up late-May to mid-October). 17 mi. round trip - 10 to 12 hours; 4,800 ft. elevation gain.

Begin hiking at Happy Isles (shuttle bus stop # 16). Follow the Mist Trail or John Muir Trail to Nevada Fall. Continue on the trail by following the Merced River to Little Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. The last 900 ft. of trail is a very steep climb up the east side of Half Dome. Cables assist hikers on the final 400 ft. They consist of two steel ropes about three feet apart and suspended at arm's height from pipes set in the rock.


To reduce traffic congestion, ride the free Tuolumne shuttle, which serves many trailheads and facilities in the Tuolumne area.

Exploring Tuolumne Meadows: Soda Springs/Parsons Lodge
Easy - 1.5 mi. round trip 1 hour.
Begin at the Lembert Dome parking area, adjacent to the Tioga Road. Walk north-west along the gravel road and continue straight, past the locked gate (signed Glen Aulin and Soda Springs).

Soda Springs, where carbonated water bubbles up through the ground, is found inside a wooden enclosure. Although many people drink this water, health officials advise against it due to possible surface contamination. Ahead, historic Parsons Lodge offers exhibits (limited hours). A path winds to the bridge below and continues on to the visitor center.

Dog Lake and Lembert Dome - Moderate/Difficult - 4 mi. round trip Elevation gain to Dog Lake, 600 ft.; to Lembert Dome, 850 ft. Park at Dog Lake parking area. The trail begins 200 yards along the road to the east. The trail goes up steeply for ¾ mile to a signed junction. The trail to the left takes you to the top of the dome for a spectacular view. Never climb domes during thunderstorms. The trail to Dog Lake goes straight ahead.

Glen Aulin - Moderate to Strenuous. 11 mi. round trip 6 - 8 hours. 600 ft. elevation gain on the return trip.
Trail begins at Soda Springs, dropping to Glen Aulin. Route is noted for scenic cascades. Tuolumne Fall and White Cascade are 4 miles from trailhead. Past Glen Aulin are California Fall, 13 miles round trip, LeConte Fall, 15 miles round trip and Waterwheel Falls, 17 miles round trip Return via same route.

Elizabeth Lake - Easy to Moderate. 4.8 mi. round trip 4 - 5 hours. 900 ft. elevation gain. Trail starts in Tuolumne Meadows Campground (group camp area) and climbs steadily to the glacier-carved lake at the base of Unicorn Peak. Return via same route.

Cathedral Lakes - Moderate. 7 mi. round trip, 4 - 6 hours (statistics given for Upper Cathedral Lake). Limited parking at trailhead. Trail begins on Tioga Road, ½ mile west of Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, climbing steadily (1000 ft. elevation gain) to Upper Cathedral Lake. Near top, it passes spur trail to Lower Cathedral Lake. Return via same route.

The John Muir Trail through Lyell Canyon - Easy. 8 mi.
Flat trail (only 200 ft. elevation gain in 8 miles) wanders through canyon, mostly alongside Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. No destination; return at any time. Begin across road from Dog Lake parking area (see Dog Lake hikes, above) where trail heads upstream alongside Dana Fork of Tuolumne River, crosses it, and subsequently arrives at the Lyell Fork.

Mono Pass - Moderate. 8 mi. round trip, 4 - 6 hours.
Trail climbs gently at first, (1000 ft. elevation gain) from signed trailhead on Tioga Road 6 miles east of Tuolumne Meadows. At junction with Spillway Lake fork, trail climbs steadily and more steeply to Mono Pass (10,500 ft. elevation). From the Pass, Upper Sardine Lake is another ¾ miles. Return via same route.

Gaylor Lakes - Moderate to Strenuous. 2 mi. round trip, 2 hours.
500 ft. elevation gain in first half mile. Trailhead begins at parking area just west of Tioga Pass Entrance Station and climbs steadily to a ridge, with rewards of many over-the-shoulder views of Dana Meadows with its scattered ponds. At ridge, trail drops 200 ft. to lake and meadows which can be explored with side trails (not included in 2-mile trip length). Return via same route.

Vogelsang area and Young Lakes
are destinations of approximately 14 - 16 miles round trip, STRENUOUS day hikes in length as well as elevation gain. Check an area map or Visitor Center for details of these routes.


McGurk Meadow and Bridalveil Creek - Easy to Moderate - 4 mi. round trip to Bridalveil Creek. 2 - 3 hours. Begin at the McGurk Meadow parking area (.2 mi. west of turnoff to Bridalveil Creek Campground). The trail leads downhill .8 mi. to McGurk meadow and an old cabin which belonged to John McGurk. 1 mi. beyond the cabin are trails west to Dewey Point and east to Taft Point, Glacier Point and Bridalveil Creek.

Taft Point - Easy to Moderate. 2.2 mi. round trip - 2 hours.
Begin at the Taft Point parking area (6 mi. east of turnoff to Bridalveil Creek Campground). Follow the Taft Point trail from the parking area. After an easy walk through the forest, the trail leads to an open area and small railing on the edge of a cliff. Enjoy magnificent views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls and the wonder of granite fissures - narrow 2000 ft. drops between huge granite masses just beneath your feet. Watch your step!

Ostrander Lake - Moderate to Strenuous. 12.7 mi. round trip 8 - 10 hours.
Begin at the Ostrander Lake parking area (1.3 mi. east of turnoff to Bridalveil Creek Campground). The first half of this hike gently inclines through forest and meadow. Observe severe scars and regrowth from a 1987 lodgepole pine forest fire. A steep 1500 ft. elevation gain opens up to views of Yosemite Valley domes, Mt. Starr King and the Clark Range. A short final ascent leads to beautiful Ostrander Lake.

Mono Meadow to view of Mount Starr King
- Strenuous. 3 mi. round trip 2 - 3 hours. Begin at the Mono Meadow parking area (2.5 mi. east of turnoff to Bridalveil Creek Campground). The trail descends steeply to Mono Meadow - an area which is very wet throughout summer. Expect log crossings over creeks and lots of mud. Follow the trail from the east end of the meadow .5 mi. to an unmarked clearing. From here enjoy magnificent views of the Clark Range, Mt. Starr King and Half Dome.


Wawona Meadow Loop - Easy. 3.5 mi. round trip 1 hour 30 minutes.
Begin at the Wawona Hotel. Walk across the Wawona Golf Course on the paved road. Once across the golf course, take the first left. The trail is an unpaved fire road which loops around the meadow and returns to the Wawona Road.

Swinging Bridge Loop
- Moderate. 4.75 mi. round trip 2 hours.
Begin at the Wawona Store/Pioneer History Center parking area. The paved road, Forest Drive, leads 2 mi. upstream from the Pioneer History Center to the Seventh Day Adventist Camp. At the camp, bear left onto the dirt road and continue ¼ mi. to the Swinging Bridge. Cross the bridge and bear left onto the trail which becomes a dirt road and then Chilnualna Falls Road. This road will return to the Pioneer History Center at the stables. Cross the covered bridge to return to the parking area.

Wawona to Mariposa Grove - Moderate. 6 mi. to the Grizzly Giant in the Mariposa Grove - 3 hours.
Begin at the Wawona Hotel or the Wawona Store. The trail begins behind the last uphill building of the Wawona Hotel - Moore Cottage. Look for the trailhead 50 yards uphill marked by the sign, "Two Hour Ride Trail".

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias - Moderate. 1.6 mi. round trip to the Grizzly Giant Tree - 1 hour. 6 mi. round trip to Wawona Point - 3 - 4 hours. 6.9 mi. for Outer Loop Trail - 4 - 5 hours.
Various trails exist throughout the Grove. To reach the Grizzly Giant, follow the trail which begins at the far end of the parking area. To reach Wawona Point, follow the road to the Galen Clark tree in the Upper Grove. Continue for .5 mi. beyond the tree down a spur road. To take the Outer Loop Trail, begin on the uphill side of the parking area.

Alder Creek - Moderate. 6 mi. round trip to Alder Creek - 3 hours.
Begin at the Alder Creek parking area located .4 mi. up the Chilnualna Falls Road. The trail begins across the street from the parking area at the "Backcountry Use" sign and leads uphill north through an open pine forest with abundant manzanita growing on drier slopes.

Chilnualna Falls - Strenuous. 8.2 mi. round trip - 5 hours; 2,400 ft. elevation gain.
Begin at the Chilnualna Falls parking area located 2 mi. up the Chilnualna Falls Road. A trail leads from the bottom of the parking area across the road and along Chilnualna Creek for .5 mi. A series of switchbacks lead away from the creek and into open forest.

For More Information
Yosemite National Park: (209) 372-0200
Wilderness Office: (209) 372-0740

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