You can spend days in Yosemite National Park and only experience a small portion of its countless wonders. Spanning three counties and 747,959 acres, Yosemite is as massive as it is beautiful. With granite peaks, thundering waterfalls, sprawling meadows, ancient Sequoias, alpine lakes, and rich biological diversity, Yosemite is the ultimate National Park experience. The best way to explore everything that Yosemite has to offer is by hitting the trails for a hike. That’s why we have compiled a list of the 5 Best Day Hikes in Yosemite. Yosemite offers a wide variety of hikes for all skill levels. Whether you are an advanced hiker looking for a challenge or someone who prefers a scenic 2-miler, you’ll find the perfect hiking adventure for you. We’ve organized the list from easiest to most difficult, starting with lovely Artist’s Point and ending with the famous Half Dome. These aren’t just some of the best hikes in Yosemite, they are some of the best hikes in the world.
1. Artist’s Point
This 2 mile out-and-back trail is the perfect way to get away from the crowds at Tunnel View without sacrificing spectacular vistas. Park at the Tunnel View lot and take the Pohono Trail for the first half mile. Instead of following the trail all the way to Glacier Point (a 12 mile trip), turn left onto the old stagecoach road. Follow this wooded trail for another half mile until you reach a clearing. Then, the entire valley will open up before you, allowing you to soak in the beautiful sequoia trees, striking granite peaks, and beautiful wide skies.
2. Taft Point
At just 2.2 miles, this short, manageable hike takes you to an outcrop that offers panoramic views of El Capitan and the surrounding Yosemite Valley. We highly recommend you time it so that you hike this route just as the sun starts to set. The sight of the Yosemite Valley bathed in a warm, sun-soaked glow will truly make your heart soar.
3. Cathedral Lakes
People tend to use religious terms when they talk about Yosemite. John Muir wrote, “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” Thomas Starr King said, “A passage of scripture is written on every cliff.” So why not visit the cathedral of this hallowed park, Cathedral Lakes? The 7-8 mile Cathedral Lake hike is actually part of the famous John Muir Trail. It will take you to a beautiful high Sierra lake surrounded by striking granite peaks. Relax on the shores, soak up the sun, and go for a swim before heading back to the trail head.
4. Upper Yosemite Falls
Be warned: this 6-8 mile hike is fairly strenuous, with about 2,700 feet of elevation gain from start to finish. But if you are up for a challenge, we promise it is worth the sweat and sore limbs. You’ll catch several striking views of Yosemite Falls during your climb to the top. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with an up-close look at the thundering falls as well as a natural swimming pool where you can cool off before your trek back down the mountain. Perhaps due to the steep climb, this trail tends to have sparser crowds than other routes in the park. You can either start the hike at Camp 4 or hop on the park’s shuttle.
5. Half Dome Via the Mist Trail
This trail is the Granddaddy of Yosemite Hikes. Half Dome is Yosemite’s most iconic landmark and the Mist Trail is one of the park’s most famous (and difficult) hikes. Many people break this 14-mile hike up into two days, but it is equally common to tackle the trail in just one day. Just make sure you get started early and pack lots of water and sunscreen. It is absolutely worth the effort. Along the way, you’ll pass Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, two of the park’s best waterfalls. When you reach the top of Half Dome, you will be rewarded with an awe-inspiring panorama of the entire park, including the Yosemite Valley, Clouds Rest, Mt. Starr King, and the Cathedral Range. Finishing this hike is certainly an achievement you will always remember. Which of these hikes will you choose on your next Yosemite adventure?
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