Two 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 has been constructed in line with the waterfall to provide an absolutely eye-popping, jaw-dropping, imagination-defying, awe-inspiring view of the 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls. This is a mandatory hike for all visitors to Yosemite National Park.
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 Middle Cascade, 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.
A bridge alongside the observation area 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, there 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 return the way you came.
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.
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 a wet winter, Yosemite Fall thunders down the mountain, hurling as much water into the valley as possible. In May of 2011, the waterfall was mesmerizing. The fluid white pillar coursed down the grey granite gallery delivering water from mountain ceiling to valley floor at a reckless speed. Water burst into vapor, smacking visitors with gust of invigorating droplets. It was 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.
|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.
This 2 to 2.8-mile hike visits a reflective pool on the east end of Yosemite Valley.
|The Mist Trail to Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall|
This 1.8 to 5.5-mile hike takes an exciting course past two of Yosemite’s prize waterfalls.
This epic 16-mile hike climbs 4,800 feet on one of Yosemite’s most popular and most challenging trails.
|Taft Point Trail|
This 4-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.