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10 Easy(ish!) Yosemite Dayhikes

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Yosemite has more than hundred lakes, dozens of meadows, waterfalls as tall as skyscrapers, majestic mountains – there are even a few beaches! In short, it’s an Action Hub paradise. Nestled amongst all these wonders of nature, you’ll find more than 800 miles of trails, ranging from super easy to ‘only try this if you’re an expert’ territory. No matter if your preference is paved trails or remote paths, there’s something for everyone.

But if you’re the type that’s just starting to hit the trails, we’ve put together ten easy hikes that you can complete within a day. They’re still a little challenging, but they’re suitable for beginners (note: we’re talking beginners, not complete couch potatoes!). And if you happen to be an experienced trekker, these routes are still worth checking out for the views alone.

Yosemite: an Introduction

Yosemite is divided into various regions.  The Yosemite Valley is the most popular hiking spot, and a lot of the famous landmarks are located here, including El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, and the Half Dome. It’s the most populated area, so if you choose to hike here, you will encounter a lot of tourists. Tioga Pass Road is a versatile destination that offers alpine lakes, a giant sequoia grove, granite peaks and a few hikes. Southern Yosemite is populated with giant sequoias in the Mariposa Grove along with the famous California Tunnel and Grizzly Giant trees. Glacier Point Road is home to many trails with scenic views, but they’re usually reserved for the more experienced hikers, as they are very high climbs.

Some of the best hikes that Yosemite has to offer, no matter your experience level are:

  1. Bridalveil Fall Trail

Trail Overview

Distance: 1.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 20 – 40 minutes

Start at: Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead

Bridalveil Fall is one of the easiest and shortest trails that you can do while visiting Yosemite. It’s only 1.2 miles roundtrip, with an elevation of only 80 feet. It will take you approximately 20 to 40 minutes to reach the waterfall at the end of the trail.

However, it’s well worth the short excursion to see the 620 feet Bridalveil fall, as it is a wonder to behold no matter the season. One of the most famous aspects is the mist that wafts off it when the breeze is blowing and gets its name from the resemblance to a bridal veil. If you visit during spring, you will see it thunder, and you can see it sway and flow during all other seasons. The trail to reach is paved, but not wheelchair accessible.

When to Visit

The trail to the waterfall is open year-round, but we recommend visiting in the springtime, where you experience the snowmelt roaring over the falls – expect a lot of spraying!

Bear in mind that this is one of the most crowded areas of Yosemite, so expect a lot of people arriving in droves.

Beware of

Slippery rocks! The constant mist makes the paved trail and the rocks along it somewhat treacherous. During rainy days, there is also water flowing over some parts of the trail.

Water

You will not have access to drinking water, so bring your own!

Restrooms

Restrooms will be available in the parking area.

  1. Lower Yosemite Fall Trail

Trail Overview

Distance: 1 mile

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 30 minutes

Begin at: Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead

You can enjoy the fantastic views of the entirety of Yosemite Falls, and get the chance to walk to the base of the lower fall. The Yosemite Falls waterfall is extremely high and at 2,425 feet it’s the tallest waterfall in North America. The lower fall, which you will be able to see up close, is still an impressive 320 feet high.

The waterfall volume peaks during spring and early summer, so expect to be sprayed with water when you’re standing on the footbridge. It’s an easy and short walk where you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. There are many exhibits along the area showing you the cultural and natural history of the area, so take advantage of this learning opportunity.

When to Visit

The trail is open year-round, though we recommend visiting in the spring when the water flow is at its peak. During late summer and early fall the waterfall has pretty much dried up, so it might be best to avoid visiting during this time. If you want to check how much water is currently flowing, you can visit the Yosemite Falls webcam. It only shows you the upper falls, but you can bet that if those falls are dry, the lower falls will also be dry.

If you want to learn more about this area, check out this video podcast about Yosemite Falls.

Water

There is a drinking fountain available in the western trail.

Restrooms

The only available restrooms can be found along the western trail.

  1. Cook’s Meadow Loop

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Trail Overview

Distance: 1 mile

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Begin at: Yosemite Valley Visitor Center

This is an easy and flat hike where you can enjoy views of the Half Dome, Royal Arches, Yosemite falls and Sentinel Rock. It’s an excellent introduction to what hiking in Yosemite is like, especially if you just arrived in the area and need to decompress.

There are a lot of things to experience, including the meadows you’ll be hiking through you’ll see Yosemite Falls from various backgrounds.

When to Visit

This trail is open year round and a visit is recommended at any time, as you will always be welcomed with great views. Bear in mind that the path may be icy or covered in snow during winter. However, late April to mid-June is a fantastic time to visit as the flowers are blooming, the falls are filled up to the brim with water, and the meadows are green.

Beware of

Slippery boardwalks, and mosquitoes! Make sure to bring along lots of insect repellent when hiking through the meadows.

Water

There is no water available throughout the trail. You can find a drinking fountain at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center and near the Lower Yosemite Fall restrooms.

Restrooms

No restrooms can be found along this trail. The nearest restrooms are located at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

  1. Mirror Lake Trail

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Trail Overview

Distance: 2 miles (3.2 km) round trip to lake and back; 5 miles (8 km) loop around lake

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Time: 1 hour round trip to the lake; 2-3 hours for full loop

Begin at: Mirror Lake Trailhead

This trail will reward you with views of Mount Watkins, Tenaya Canyon, and Washington Column. Mirror Lake is not a lake per se; it’s more of a large pool in Tenaya Creek. It’s the closest you will get to the base of Half Dome and offers fantastic reflections of the surrounding cliffs. You can learn the story of how Mirror Lake turns from a lake to a meadow through the exhibitions along the way, as well as some of the areas cultural history.

When to Visit

Mirror Lake Trail is open year-round. If you want to swim in its waters, aim to go when there is warm weather. Otherwise, any time of year is a great time to visit, but expect large crowds during the summer.

Beware of

Slick conditions during early spring and winter, as it can be easy to slip and fall, as there’s an absence of natural barriers to hold on to. Make sure to stay on the trail at all times, as you might be tempted to rock-hop over what seems like shallow waters, but turns into dangerous whitewater. You can learn more about the dangers by watching the parks preventive search and rescue swift water videos.

Water

No drinking water is available during the trail. Bring your own!

Restrooms

There are vault toilets available in some parts of the trailhead.

  1. Yosemite Valley Loop Trail

Trail Overview

Distance: 11.5 mi (18.5 km) full loop; 7.2 mi (11.6 km) half loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Time: 5-7 hours full loop, 2.5-3.5 hours half loop

Begin at: Lower Yosemite Fall

While hiking this trail, you will be able to enjoy the solitude of the western Yosemite Valley. This hike takes you through forests, meadows and beside the Merced River. Some of the striking views you will be able to enjoy include Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Valley Loop Trail follows many of the valleys wagon roads, enjoying the solitude of not hiking near or on the road.

When to Visit

You can go throughout the year, as this trail is open year-round. You might find snow and ice on the trail during wintertime, so take more caution as you will find traction more difficult. During spring, some flooding may occur near the creeks.

Water

There is no drinking water available during the trail. You can find a drinking fountain at the start of the trail, near the Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead.

Restrooms

Toilets can be found at the trailhead, near the start of the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail.

  1. Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall Trails

Trail overview

Distance: 3 miles to Vernal Fall, 7 miles to Nevada Fall.

Difficulty: Moderate

Time: 2 – 5 hours, depending on the distance you travel

Begin at: Happy Isles

This is called Yosemite’s ‘signature hike’. On these trails, you will be able to climb a natural giant staircase and be rewarded with fantastic views of numerous geological features, and two waterfalls. This hike can be a bit more rigorous, as it is mostly uphill and the stretches beside Nevada and Vernal falls can be quite steep. However, the views of Vernal Fall are worth it, as it is a 317-foot waterfall. If you are looking for an easier hike, you can just go as far as the upstream looking bridge.

When to Visit

Both waterfalls can be hiked up to all year. However, bear in mind that you will only be able to use one route during winter, as some trail sections are closed down for this season. During winter, a lot of trail sections may be snowy or icy, so be very cautious if you go during this time. Current trail conditions may be viewed on the park’s website.

Beware of

Make sure you stay on the trail, swimming or wading in the river, while tempting, is very dangerous. It’s a fact that this is where most people die when hiking through Yosemite due to the unyielding currents. They are tough to overcome, so please be very careful not to go into the river.

Since this can be a long trail depending on the route you take, pack a headlamp in case you get caught hiking in the dark. Parts of the trail are loose rocks, so be mindful of slipping and getting a sprained ankle.

Bear in mind that you will get soaking wet while hiking this trail, so bring rain gear and appropriate footwear.

Water

Drinking water is only available at the shuttle stop near the trailhead, so make sure to carry along plenty of your water. Plan to take at least 3 liters of water, especially if you are planning on completing the whole trail.

Restrooms

Some restrooms are available near your hike. You can find them near the trailhead, at the and beyond the top of Vernal Fall.

  1. Yosemite Falls Trail

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Trail Overview

Distance: 7.2 miles (11.6 km) round trip

Difficulty: Strenuous

Time: 6-8 hours round trip

Begin at: Camp 4 area

This is a steep climb, but you will be rewarded with fantastic views of Upper Yosemite Fall and other Sierra mountain peaks. You will be able to delight with a bird’s eye view of the Merced River and Yosemite Valley’s meadows. Yosemite Falls trail is one of the oldest trails, leading to the tallest waterfall in North America.

The upper half of the trail may be rocky and steep, but the fantastic views are awaiting you at the top make it well worth it.

When to Visit

This trail is open year-round, with varying conditions depending on the season. During spring, you will get a beautiful hike and even get wet from the waterfalls spray. In the summertime, you will encounter hot and dry conditions, with wet trails and not much water. During winter, some portions of the trail are under direct sunlight so that you can enjoy snow-free hiking.

Beware of

If you are hiking during the summer, start your hike early to avoid being in the sun during mid-day as a lot of the trail areas are directly under the sun. Make sure to bring lots of water and snacks with you to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion. Do not meander off the trail, as there are a lot of steep drop-offs and ledges.

Water

No drinking water can be found along the trail, although a drinking fountain is available near the trailhead. If you are planning on hiking to the top of Yosemite Falls, bring along at least 4 liters of water.

Restrooms

No restrooms are available along the trail.

  1. Snow Creek Trail

Trail Overview

Distance: 9.4 mi (15.1 km) round trip

Difficulty: Strenuous

Time: 6-7 hours

Begin at: Mirror Lake Trailhead

This trail can be a grueling hike with a steep elevation, but also offers fantastic views throughout the hike. You start in Mirror Lake Trail, and then start climbing Tenaya Canyon, which offers great views of Clouds Rest, Quarter Domes, and Half Dome. The views tend to get progressively better as you keep climbing and you enter the forest.

When to Visit

This is a favorite winter trail for backpackers to get in touch with nature and experience the wilderness. During this time, the lower portion of the trail can be icy and snow covered, with the upper portion receiving plenty of sun making it snow free.

Beware of

It’s common for hikers to experience knee injuries and sprained ankles due to the loose and rocky terrain, so wear appropriate footwear and take careful and measured steps. Watch out for rattlesnakes! They are widely found in this area, so watch where you step and where you sit during rest breaks.

Water

No drinking water is available along the trail or trailhead, so plan ahead and take plenty of water with you.

Restrooms

Some vault toilets are available throughout the trail; one is 0.5 miles from the trailhead and another 1 mile from the trailhead.

  1. Happy Isles

Trail Overview

Distance: 0.5 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 30 minutes

Begin at: Curry Village

Happy Isles are a pair of islands in the Merced River. It’s a lovely and easy hike that allows you to get to know the area without too much effort. This trail can be the jumping off point for more strenuous hikes that may last a few days.

When to Visit

We recommend a visit during late summer and early fall, where you will enjoy a more tranquil atmosphere with lower water levels. If you are keen to visit the Nature Center, keep in mind, it’s open from June throughout August.

The Nature Center is a great place for kids, as they can learn about natural exhibits. You will find The Rockfall Exhibit here, with placards that discuss rocks and their different formations in this area.

Water

Nothing available on the trail, so take some with you.

Restrooms

Bathrooms are available at the start of your hike; no other toilets are available along the hike.

  1. Turtleback Dome

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Trail Overview

Distance: 1.2 miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Time: 2 hours

Begin at: Glacier Point

In the Turtleback Dome trail, you will be able to experience fantastic views of the High Sierra, The Cascades, a 600-foot waterfall, and various towers and sheds. If you are into botany, then you will be able to find Yosemite Lewisia (Lewisia disepala), one of Yosemite’s most striking wildflowers.

When to Visit

You can access the dome year round, but some of the best views are during Spring. If you are lucky, your visit will coincide with a storm clearing, and the mist is rolling through the area. If you want to see the Lewisia in bloom, we recommend visiting in February or early March.

Restrooms

Vault toilets can be found at the Bridalveil Fall parking area.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of ActionHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.