Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range is treasure like no other and it remains one of the best places in the world to get out and meet nature on your own two feet. If you are planning an excursion to the Park in the near future, give some careful thought to your hiking preparations. There are tons of different trails and trips available at Yosemite and it would take weeks to see them all. Here are four of the best places to hike while in Yosemite National Park in our opinion.
4 Scenic Yosemite National Park Hiking Adventures
1. The Mist Trail (Vernal & Nevada Falls)
This is the perfect springtime Yosemite day hike. This loop takes you along both the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail with a breathtaking stop on the granite slabs adjacent to Nevada Fall. You will be able to spot many of the park’s most iconic features along this route, including Yosemite Falls, Illilouette Fall and the massive, Liberty Cap.
You can hike this loop in either direction, but it is generally easier to ascend via the Mist Trail and take the John Muir Trail down. There is plenty of hardscrabble granite on the Mist Trail and it is gentler and safer to tackle it going uphill rather than downhill.
2. Cathedral Lakes
If you visit Yosemite in the summer or fall, take the time to get out of the Valley itself and enjoy this pleasant excursion to the Tolumne Meadows on the north side of the park. The trail starts about a mile west of the Visitor Center and leads you back towards the Valley. You will ascend a relatively gentle seven-mile stretch of the John Muir Trail under the brooding mass of Cathedral Peak. The lower lake offers up one of northern Yosemite’s best vistas where the water is cradled in a symmetrical bowl with a breathtaking view down towards Tenaya Lake.
The lower lake can easily be reached in two hours if you are in shape and the trail is not too crowded. If you want a greater challenge, the ascent to the upper lake will add another mile to your trip and reward you with another stellar view.
3. The Panorama Loop
This ambitious hike is a “greatest hits” tour of Yosemite that will take you to most of the park’s most famous falls. It is ideal for early summer trips when the snowmelt-powered falls are at their finest. The hike starts near the Mist Trail trailhead and takes you around the valley on a 13-mile adventure. This is definitely an all-day hike. Plan your route with care as you’ll need to swap trails more than once along the way.
The full loop starts with Vernal Falls and takes you up the Panorama Trail with great views of Glacier Point. The downhill course runs mostly along the Four Mile Trail and offers some much needed shade on the second half of your trip. There is a one-way version of this hike that starts at Glacier Point if you are looking for a less challenging excursion.
4. Half Dome
Ascending Half Dome is the iconic Yosemite experience. While tons of people make this excursion every year and park rangers make it easy by installing guide cables and stepping boards, it is still a very steep and very challenging climb. It begins at the apex of the Mist Trail and takes you more than 4,000 feet up to the top of the dome. Here you will find the absolute best vantage point to take in all the splendor of the Park, including the pulse-quickening look down the sheer western face into the Valley below.
Plan your trek up the mighty Half Dome carefully. Access to the cable route requires a permit that must be obtained in advance. Check the Park Service’s website for this year’s details. While the entire trip can be made in a day with an early start, you may prefer to stay the night at the Little Yosemite Camp to give yourself a rest. Expect to run into plenty of other hikers as this is far and away the park’s most popular trip.
Whether you elect to take one of these hikes, choose another route, or even blaze a trail of your own, there is little chance of disappointment in the natural beauty that is Yosemite. This jewel of northern California remains one of the country’s finest national parks for hiking.