A pair of paved paths lead to a viewing bridge below Lower Yosemite Fall, creating a 1.2-mile loop to the foot of the tallest waterfall in North America, and the fifth tallest in the world. The western side of the loop is laid out in a line with Yosemite Falls to provide absolutely eye-popping, jaw-dropping, imagination-defying, awe-inspiring views of the 2,425-foot waterfall. This is a mandatory hike for all visitors to Yosemite National Park.
- To see more of Yosemite Falls, take the challenging trek to Upper Yosemite Fall on Yosemite Falls Trail
From the Yosemite Falls Shuttle Stop (#6) in Yosemite Valley, head to the left past the bathrooms to the wide paved trail heading straight toward the falls. The trail exhibits Lower and Upper Yosemite Fall in perfect alignment, causing you to look up in amazement as you hike. This is one of the most impressive views to be found in a park that is packed full of impressive views.
Yosemite Falls is split into three sections. The tallest is on top, the spectacular 1,430-foot Upper Fall. Next comes the Middle Cascades, a frothy stretch that drops another 675 feet. The final section is Lower Yosemite Fall, a 320-foot plunge.
Just over half a mile from the shuttle stop, you will arrive at the viewing deck for Lower Yosemite Fall. During the spring, a mist sprays out from the bottom of the falls that provides visitors with the shower of a lifetime. In winter months, a cone of frasil ice can form at the bottom of the falls as water cools into ice crystals on the journey down the mountain.
Alongside the observation area, a bridge crosses Yosemite Creek, allowing the trail to loop back to the shuttle stop. A short distance from the falls on the east side of the loop is a junction with Valley Loop Trail, which passes behind Yosemite Village and Ahwahnee Hotel toward Mirror Lake, a charming seasonal pool a few miles away.
The views on the east half of Lower Yosemite Fall Trail are not as impressive, so feel free to turn around at the bridge return the way you came. On the other hand, the forest along the east side of Yosemite Creek is pleasant to walk through, so doing the loop makes sense too.
This wheelchair-friendly trail has just a hundred feet of elevation change, so everyone is capable of seeing Lower Yosemite Fall. If you travel to Yosemite National Park, Lower Yosemite Fall Trail must be on your itinerary. The paved trail is a short distance from the park visitor center, making it a perfect place for your first Yosemite memory. Just to the west, Yosemite Falls Trail ascends toward Upper Yosemite Fall from Camp 4, offering exceptional views of Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Valley.
Like all waterfalls is Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls is most impressive in the spring and early summer as it diligently melts away the snowpack above. By autumn, Yosemite Falls can be trimmed to ribbon that is elegant, but lacks the command the waterfall carries at full strength.
After wet winters, Yosemite Fall thunders down the mountain, hurling as much water into the valley as possible. In the month of May, Yosemite Falls is typically mesmerizing. The fluid white pillar courses down the grey granite gallery, delivering water from mountain ceiling to valley floor at a reckless speed. Water bursts into vapor, smacking visitors with gusts of invigorating droplets. Yosemite Falls puts the full power of nature on display.
To get to the trailhead: Drive into Yosemite Valley and park at either Curry Village or the park visitor center. Take the free park shuttle to stop number 6, which is the trailhead for Lower Yosemite Fall Trail. To get to the trail on foot from the park visitor center, follow the well-marked bike path across Yosemite Village. Roadside parking at the trailhead on Northside Drive is limited.
Trailhead address: Northside Drive, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
Trailhead coordinates: 37.745347, -119.594777 (37° 44′ 43.24″N 119° 35′ 41.19″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Sierra Nevada trails and campgrounds.
|Yosemite Falls Trail |
This 3.5 to 7.1-mile hike rises from Yosemite Valley past Columbia Rock to unforgettable views of Upper Yosemite Fall.
|Columbia Rock |
This 2.2-mile hike up the start of Yosemite Falls Trail reaches a perch with a sweeping perspective across Yosemite Valley that includes Half Dome.
|Bridalveil Fall Trail |
This easy paved half-mile trail visits the base of a 620-foot single-drop waterfall on the south side of Yosemite Valley.
|Mirror Lake |
This 2 to 2.8-mile hike visits a reflective pool on the east end of Yosemite Valley.
|Happy Isles |
This easy 0.75-mile hike explores a pair of islands in the Merced River at the east end of Yosemite Valley.
|The Mist Trail to Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall |
This 1.8 to 6.1-mile hike takes an exciting course past two of Yosemite's prize waterfalls.
|Half Dome |
This epic 16-mile hike climbs 4,800 feet on one of Yosemite's most popular and most challenging trails.
|Taft Point Trail |
This 2-mile round trip hike visits an overlook on the south wall of Yosemite Valley with fascinating rock fissures carved into the exposed granite.
|Chilnualna Falls Trail |
This 8-mile round trip hike ascends 2,200 feet past a raucous string of cascades to the top of a waterfall alongside Wawona Dome.
|Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias |
This 1.6-mile hike (or longer) visits the biggest trees in Yosemite.
|More trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains |
Explore other destinations in Yosemite National Park and the rest of the range.
|Yosemite National Park Campgrounds |
Thirteen campgrounds with over 1,600 total sites are spread throughout the park to facilitate your visit, including Camp 4.
|Housekeeping Camp |
What's not a hotel and not a campground? Housekeeping Camp offers a different type of lodging in the middle of Yosemite Valley.