Best hiking trails in Yosemite National Park

Posted on February 6, 2020

If you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and run into nature, explore the woods and find your solace under the blue sky or the stars, AND you live in the U.S.A especially the great state of California, you will find precisely what you are looking for in Yosemite National Park.

Covering a ridiculous 748,436 acres, the Yosemite National Park is visited by an average of 4 million people each year and is run by the National Park Service of America. The seven square miles of forests and trails in the Yosemite Valley is the heart of the park and sees the highest tourist traffic all year round.

With the Sierra National Forest on the South-East and the Stanislaus National Forest on the North-West, the park sits precisely in the Western Sierra Nevada of California.

It spreads all the way out to four Counties. Most of the Park grounds are in Tuolumne and Mariposa. It covers the Southern and Eastern parts of Mono and also reaches the Northern parts of Madera County.

The park has some interesting lore behind it. Earlier known as Ahwahnee’ by the native people, it was home to a very violent and murderous tribe that went by the name of Yosemite,’ and the word itself roughly translates to killer’ or violent.’ Their atrocious behavior and practices caused them to be hunted down and exterminated by the Mariposa Battalion’.

All of the trails in this Park lead to one magnificent destination or the other. So if you are up for a hike through the trails and woods of Yosemite National Park, you will find the following list of most famous locations super useful and full of interesting facts:

[PLEASE NOTE THAT THE TIOGA ROAD IS SCHEDULED TO REMAIN CLOSED FROM DECEMBER 2019 TO MARCH 2020 ON ACCOUNT OF HEAVY SNOW]

The Half Dome

Be warned this is not a trail for the meek and the weak. This is a very famous rock formation that gets its name from its peculiar shape. On one side, the hill has a steep drop against a very vertical face whilst on the remaining side, the formation is oddly round and smoothened out, giving it the appearance of a dome that has been cut in half.

The view of the Half Dome from Glacier point is slightly famous in itself as it serves as the logo for Sierra.

Josiah Whitney of the California Geological Survey had declared the Half Dome as absolutely inaccessible in the late 19th century, but just five years later, George G, Anderson built a route on the smooth granite face of the structure by drilling in metal eyebolts and reached the summit.

Thus he paved the way for thousands of hikers over the years to climb to the summit and even the construction of newer paths to it.

If you want to climb the stairs to the top you have to follow an 8.5-mile trail from the Yosemite valley floor the base of the Half Dome, and from there it’s another 2 miles up the several granite stairs that have been cut into the hill, and this is an extremely rigorous and physically tasking journey.

You will be met with sheer physical exhaustion and the effects of elevation as you are climbing up to a little over 8000 feet.

For the daredevils and brave-hearts with their souls thirsting for adventure and that rush of adrenaline, the rock climbing route on the steep vertical side of the dome called the Regular North-West Face is for you.

This route was found by Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick, and Jerry Gallwas in 1957 as the scaled the hill for five days making the first Grade VI climb ever made in the United States of America.

Fear, not the humble hikers who wish for adventure and to see the sights as well, just not in any severely potentially life-threatening falling off the side of a cliff kind of way. For you can travel the Cable Route Hike that starts to form the base of the Yosemite Valley and runs for a little over 8 miles through the Mist trail.

Be wary of elevation effects because you will be gaining about 4800 feet reasonably quickly. Although early on, this trail was less traveled, nowadays, almost a thousand hikers take this route.

El Capitan

best hiking trails in yosemite

This vertical rock formation sitting opposite to the Half Dome is a beautiful and majestic Granite Monolith. It was named so by the Mariposa Battalion when they explored the Yosemite Valley in the middle of the 19th century, a few decades prior to being forced to exterminate the ruthless Yosemite tribe.

A coarse-grained granite structure formed completely almost a hundred million years ago comprises most of the rock formations in the valley.

The El Capitan has a rather sad history of BASE JUMPING concerning multiple fatalities and deaths with the National Park Service, finally having declared it illegal to attempt any form of Base Jumping from the Capitan.

The El Capitan trail starts at Tamarack campground. To get there, you have to take the Tioga Road and go a little distance about 45 minutes away from Yosemite Valley and then turn right to enter the Big Oak Flat Road. This is a difficult trail to travel.

It has an elevation gain of about 1269 feet, and there is a slight threat concerning encounters with Bears. Note that they are largely afraid of groups of people but might be curious enough to approach a lone hiker.

Do not approach the animals because if they feel threatened, they will probably attack, and even if you hit the gym every day, you won’t last very long against a wild bear.

The Yosemite Valley is thick with beautiful and enormous Pine trees, and this trail is full of them. The rays of sunlight shooting through the canopy and by the trunks make for some fantastic photo opportunities.

After hiking 3 miles along this path, you will reach a reasonably steep path ascending through the forest and suddenly opening up into exposed terrain and then descending back into the forest once more. The summit of El Capitan should have a stunning view from here that will make this rather tough hike worth it.

The Yosemite falls

best hiking trails in yosemite

This is the highest waterfall in Yosemite national park, and it drops from 2,425 feet. Springtime sees the highest influx of hikers following the Yosemite Falls trail to see the water flow at its peak. This place has some of the best local legends that can turn into the best campfire stories as you roast some tofu on sticks.

The people of the Ahwahneechee feared the Yosemite Falls to be home to the spirits of a coven of Witches called the Poloti,’ and they called it Cholock’. A well-known legend exists about a young mother who had trespassed into the territory of the Poloti’ and was punished by being drowned in the plunge pool with her newborn baby.

This hike is another one recommended for only the experienced adventurers. It is probably best not to make this the start of your hiking adventures. One of Yosemite’s oldest and historic trails, this one starts at Camp 4 by the Valley Loop Trail, and the climb begins immediately after, through the Oak forest.

The climb will take you above the trees, and as you enter the exposed plateau, you will be rewarded with some of the most fantastic views of the valley, the Half Dome and Sentinel Rock. It is repeatedly stressed that you MUST exercise caution, and under no circumstance should you stray off the maintained path because the adjacent drop is very steep and fatal.

The topmost part of the trail is rocky and steep, and in winter months as now it is full of snow and slippery, so wear spiked boots. The journey is difficult and perhaps slightly perilous, but to the heart of an adventurer, the end is hugely rewarding with the most magnificent views.

The creek feeding the waterfall will come into view, and again please be very cautious so as not to fall in. Keep a healthy distance from the edge of the creek.

The Bridalveil falls

best hiking trails in yosemite

A very popular destination this one, but as most of you have already guessed, its name has no special story behind it. Bridalveil or Bride’s Veil are names travelers often award to beautiful waterfalls on account of how similar to the drapes of a brides veil the water looks like as it plummets into a plunge pool.

This is a relatively short trail, just a 1.2-mile round trip but it takes you through the Mist Trail, and this is a real spooky adventure that might give you an eerie sensation or a feeling of the macabre as you walk the trail through a thick mist that is blown from the falls by the constant breeze that flows.

This is perhaps the most popular of all the other points of interest simply because it’s a very easy and comfortable hike. First-time adventurers will definitely love the sights but know that because of its popularity, this waterfall is quite packed with people, especially during peak runoff times.

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