”Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer, and give strength to the body and soul alike.” John Muir
Yosemite National Park, knows as ”The crown jewel of wild spaces” is probably the most beautiful National Park I’ve ever been to. Hiking in Yosemite National Park is the best way to see wildlife, magnificent scenery and escape the crowds. I was constantly in awe. It offers arguably the most scenic hiking in the country. The only challenge? Picking which trail to hike. With autumn in full swing, here are the 8 greatest hikes in Yosemite National Park, tried-and-true options which we loved! You will also find some information on accommodation in Yosemite National Park at the end of this post. Happy hiking!
Vernal Falls Trail
Best For: Short uphill hiking with waterfall views
Distance: 2.4 mi (3.9 km) round trip (via Mist Trail)
This is a beautiful reasonably short hike but strenuous hike is not far from Camp Curry and Yosemite Village with pretty waterfall views. We did it in autumn when there isn’t much of a waterfall, more of a trickle but its still a lovely walk and boy does it get those legs aching. You also get to hike on a small part of the John Muir Trail, which is nice. Past Vernal falls the trail continues to Nevada Falls, another misty cataract.
Best For: Feeling Small
Distance: 2.2 miles (3.5 km) round trip for the lower grove; 5 – 6 miles (8 – 10 km) round trip for both the lower and upper groves
Unique to California, the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove are stunning in autumn time. Among the old-growth redwoods, there are countless nooks and tunnels, as well as a walk through trees to explore. While the Californian Redwoods we saw in Humboldt Redwood State Park may be taller these giants are wider. You can do a variety of easy hikes here from 30 minutes to 3 hours.
If you’ve never seen giant sequoias this place is definitely worth a hike however comparing it to our hikes through the Humboldt Redwood State Park up in Northern California where there is more density of trees and less people, here feels more touristy with less giant trees. However it is one of the last pockets of sequoias around today so it’s so worth it never the less.
The grove is actually partially responsible for Yosemite’s conservation. President Theodore Roosevelt camped under the well-known Grizzly Giant with John Muir. Roosevelt created the national park not long after.
Don’t forget to hug one of these giants while you’re here.
Taff point and Fissures
Best For: Posing on the edge of cliffs
Distance: 2.2 miles return
A gorgeous hike through shaded pine trees, past small patches of fern meadows where you can see deer tip toeing around which lead to the most astonishing views.
I heard a rustle in the trees and for a moment I got ready to run thinking it was a bear but luckily it was just a deer and her two babies. Just before the fissures you get to an open area which leads along a path where you to walk right up close to the edge of them so you can peer over. My heart was in my chest as I glanced over trying to appreciate the view but really wanting to get the hell out of there.
Then it’s a few hundred metres to Taff point where you get amazing views of Yosemite Valley from the other way with El Capitan dominating the right hand side. I decided to be brave and teeter on the edge of a cliff overhang and admired the view before me. In that moment worries seemed to melt away and it was so peaceful. I felt so grateful at that very moment to be there, experiencing such a unique sight.
Best for 360-degree views
Distance: 2.2 miles return
A lovely hike down the road from glacier point where you hike on top of a dome over looking 2 valleys with half dome down the middle so it offers you 360′ panoramic views. You feel like you’re on top of the world. You can combine this hike with the Taff Point and Fissures hike to make it a 4.4-mile hike.
Best For: Quiet Meditation
Distance: 4-Miles top to bottom
If there is just one thing you do in Yosemite, hike or drive up here. If I was an artist I would paint this view – it’s the best view in all of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding high country. Simply breath taking and have never seen anything like it. You not only see half-dome in all its glory leaning over the glacial carved valley below and 180-degree views either side. Make sure you take time to take it all in.
For the hike, take the hikers’ bus up to Glacier Point and then hike the Four Mile Trail back down to Yosemite Valley.
Try going earlier in the morning before the hoards arrive and find a quite spot to sit and contemplate life.
Valley Floor Loop
Best For: Wildlife Viewing
Distance: 13-mile loop
doing the Valley Floor Loop is possibly the best way to see all the highlights of Yosemite in a single day. The 13-mile trail passes Bridal veil and Yosemite falls, and then winds along the crystal-clear Merced River and through many of the valley’s meadows. The views of Half Dome, El Capitan, Three Brothers, and Cathedral Spires aren’t bad either. I didn’t do the whole trail but portions of it and both days I was in the valley I spotted bears. One day the mama bear and the other day the mama bear with her two cubs. Amazing! Some of the bears are tagged for monitoring purposes. In the absence of huge summer crowds, the valley’s population of deer, bobcats, and coyotes seem most at ease: just don’t get too close.
Best For: Refreshing Icy swims and picnics
Distance: 2.5-mile loop around the lake.
Said to be the most beautiful lake in Yosemite, and I agree beckons a dip after any hike. We set down our chairs, made our lunch and relaxed on the beach under the rocky mountains enjoying the view over looking the lake. Even though it was freezing it was exhilarating and refreshing jumping in which we all did with lots if squeaks and shrieks, we then basked in the sunshine drying off. Perfect.
Gaylor Lakes Trail
Best For: Solitude
Distance: 3 miles round trip give or take a bit
We actually never found Gaylor lakes as I think we got lost haha however it was a beautiful hike nevertheless, especially because of the solitude. On all the other hikes we did there were so many people crowding up the paths, on this one we didn’t see a soul and it was lovely just walking in silence hearing the crunch of pine needles under your feet and the trickle of the river alongside you. If you do it, make sure you know your starting point as this hike isn’t very well sign posted.
So there you have 8 awesome hikes to do in Yosemite. Another one I’d recommend in Half Dome, however not having done it I cant say what its like but its on our bucket list for when we come back.
When you get to Yosemite, head to a visitor centre and get a leaflet with all the hikes in Yosemite and you can pick and choose from there too.
We didn’t hike half dome as we weren’t organised enough but this is every hikers dream. We are definitely coming back to do this one. Make sure you organise permits at least 2 days in advance if you’re thinking of doing it. We heard its a tough 10 hour day but so worth it.
Best Yosemite View Point
Best for: View of Yosemite Valley
Tunnel View provides one of the most famous views of Yosemite Valley. From here you can see El Capitan and Bridal veil Fall rising from Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in the background. This viewpoint is at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel along the Wawona Road (Highway 41).
Yosemite National Park Lodging:
We glamped in Curry Village for 3 nights in a tent cabin followed by 2 nights camping in upper pines. Curry Village is a fantastic hub to stay at with tent cabins, cabins, restaurants, shops and free Wi-Fi in the middle of Yosemite. It’s also a major parking area for day-trippers and overnight backcountry enthusiasts. It is the best lodging value ($89.00 to $220.93) in the park besides camping. The tent cabins are nestled under big trees and include bear lockers as no food is allowed in the tents. We made sure we stuck to the rules as we saw a bear and her cub strolling nearby the village one morning looking for food. Also make sure you leave no food in your car as they regularly have cars getting ransacked by bears if there is food inside.
We saw quite a bit of other wildlife there including a bobcat hoping around the tents and plenty of deer, so although it’s pretty busy, there is a fair bit of wildlife around. Bare in mind it is noisy, crowded but it’s a great deal.
Camping in Yosemite National Park is one of the best ways to see wildlife and save money too. There are loads of campsites available but super booked up most of the year so try booking in advance if you can. We stayed in Upper Pines, which was a lovely site alongside the river under the trees. The sites were very spacious and included bear lockers.