As you have probably heard, one of the best ways to explore Yosemite National Park is on foot. However, the park has more than 800 miles of trails. How on earth do you pick the right ones? Do not worry. You do not have to be a master hiker with camping gear and knowledge on how to test if river water is safe to drink. There are lots of easy hikes that give you a true taste of Yosemite without all the hassle.
- The One That Starts with a Beach: Tenaya Lake boasts a sandy beach on the east end and unbeatable views of granite promontories from the west end. The trail is a 2.5-mile loop around one of the most beautiful lakes in the park.
- The One Where You Can Walk Through the Middle of a Tree: The Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias is exactly as the name implies. A couple dozen majestic beauties are at the end of 1.25mile downhill hike on a paved path. (“Paws on Pavement” means leashed dogs are allowed). The hike is especially beautiful in autumn. The hike is smooth and easy but make sure to save a little energy for the return hike of 400 feet elevation gain back to the trailhead.
- The One with Stunning views from the End of the Hike AND from the Parking Lot: Olmsted Point features views of Clouds Rest, Half Dome, and Tenaya Lake. From the parking lot you can see slopes decorated with boulders that have been moved by glaciers. The quarter mile trail takes less than 30 minutes and certainly gives you a lot of bang for the buck.
- The One Where You Will Be Glad You Brought Your Tripod on the Trip: Artist Point rivals the famous Tunnel View. From this vantage point you can see Clouds Rest, Bridalveil Meadow, and Royal Arches, along with partial views of North Dome, Ribbon Fall, and Merced River. The first part of the hike is a little steep but the entire thing is only 2 miles round trip. Visit as sunset approaches and capture the clouds on the eastern sky.
- The One You Can Access Without Paying to get in the Park: The trailhead for Carlon Falls is outside of the Yosemite National Park. The 20-30-foot-high waterfall empties into a popular swimming hole. If you prefer to visit when it is less busy, go early or late on a weekday. The river along the trailhead is a favorite spot for fisherman looking to catch rainbow and brook trout. This is one of the longer hikes on the list at 3.8-miles round trip but it is a great way to visit the park without going through a manned entrance gate.
- The One with the Least Crowded Waterfall: Located in the Hetch Hetchy Valley, The 1400-foot Wapama Falls are best visited in spring when the falls are at their fullest. There are bridges across the falls but be aware of spray and water levels before trying to cross. If conditions are right, and the weather is a bit warm, walk across one of the bridges below the falls for a free shower. The hike is 5.5-miles round trip and you might see only a few hikers along the trail.
- The One with the Most Variety: Pothole Dome and Tuolumne River boasts views across Tuolumne Meadows from Pothole Dome, then the opportunity to cross cascades in the Tuolumne River, and lastly epic views of the mountains reflected in the Tuolumne. You get all of that in a short 2.5-mile round trip hike. The trail feels easy and allows for elevation views without having to trek up difficult elevation gains. If you decide to climb to the top of the Dome itself, the 360 degree view is breathtaking.
- The one that gets you close to Half Dome without really working for it: Mirror Lake is one of the most popular swimming spots in Yosemite depending on the water level and time of year.
Need a reason to visit Yosemite again in 2023? These four hikes will not be accessible via car in 2022
because of road construction. Make plans now to come back for a few more easy hikes:
Glacier Point features a 3,000 foot sheer drop into Yosemite Valley alongside views of Half Dome and
- McGurk Meadow allows for a casual stroll through a meadow with a brook and wildflowers.
- Taft Point is an easy way to test your fear of heights. It has been described as “Glacier Point
without the guardrails.” (See 3,000 foot sheer drop below)
- Sentinel Dome provides the opportunity to see the fallen remains of one of the most famous
trees in the world and a wonderful 360 degree view of the Yosemite High Country.
Please refer to yosemitehikes.com for 1) best time to visit, 2) scenic factors and 3) the crowd factor.