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Central California Life Magazine

Must-Do Hikes in Yosemite National Park

Apr 22, 2016 10:05AM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Dog Lake

The week (April16th-April 24th) is National Parks Week, where all National Park entries are free! So why not kick off the season with a guide to some of the Must-Do hikes in Yosemite National Park? Here we have compiled a list of hikes that are rated from easy to strenuous, highlighting certain hikes in each category. Happy hiking! 

Yosemite Valley

Bridalveil Fall 

The hikes within Yosemite Valley are plush with waterfalls and meadows, not to mention views that go for miles. If you are looking for a day hike, Yosemite Valley is the perfect place to visit.  

Bridalveil Fall Trail | Easy | 0.5 miles round trip 

A short walk will lead you to the base of Bridalveil Fall, allowing you to get an up close view of this often-windswept waterfall. 

For more detailed information about this hike, visit this website. 

Lower Yosemite Fall Trail | Easy | 1 mile entire loop

Cook's Meadow Loop | Easy | 1 mile

Mirror Lake Loop | Easy to Moderate | 2 miles lake & back | 5 miles entire loop

Valley Loop Trail | Moderate | 6.5 miles half loop | 13 miles full loop

Vernal Fall & Nevada Fall Trails | Moderate to Strenuous | 1.6 miles-8 miles round trip

Yosemite Falls Trail

Yosemite Falls Trail (left) | Moderate to Strenuous | 2 miles round trip or 7.2 miles round trip        

Snow Creek Trail | Strenuous | 9.4 miles round trip

Four Mile Trail | Strenuous | 4.8 miles one way

Half Dome | Strenuous | 14 mi-16.4 miles round trip


Glacier Point

Typically opening in May or early June, Glacier Point Trails is the spot to be once the weather conditions improve. Explore spectacular views of Yosemite Valley while elevating your heart rate.

Glacier Point | Easy | 300 yards

McGurk Meadow | Easy | 1.6 round trip

Dewey Point | Moderate | 8.2 round trip

Sentinel Dome and Taft Point
Taft Point & The Fissures | Moderate | 2.2 miles round trip

In July, this hike is filled with wild flowers covering meadows, peeking through thicks forests. The end of this hike has views that span for miles over Yosemite Valley. 

For more information about this hike, click here

Sentinel Dome | Moderate | 1.8 miles round trip

Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Loop | Moderate | 4.9 mile loop

Four Mile Trail | Strenuous | 4.8 miles one way

Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley

Panorama Trail | Strenuous | 8.3 miles on way

Mt. Starr King View | Strenuous | 3 miles round trip

Ostrander Lake | Strenuous | 11.4 miles round trip

Pohono Trail | Strenuous | 12.9 miles one way



Wawona trails offer scenery of meadows, forests, and unique bridges that set these trails apart from the others. Designed for leisurely hiking, these easy trails are meant to showcase the simple beauty nature has to offer. 

Wawona Meadow Loop
| Easy | 3.5 miles loop

This meadow Loop trail is an ideal Springtime hike, It's during this time that the grasses are plush and the wildflowers are blooming. There is also a 9-hole golf course you can enjoy while appreciating the surrounding beauty.

For more information about this trail, visit this website. 

Wawona Swinging Bridge

Swinging Bridge Loop (left) | Easy | 4.8 miles loop

Wawona to Mariposa Grove | Moderate | 12 miles


Hetch Hetchy

Hidden in Yosemite National Park’s peaceful northwest corner, Hetch Hetchy Valley is a treasure worth visiting in all seasons. In spring, two of North America’s tallest waterfalls plummet spectacularly over thousand-foot granite cliffs. Be sure to visit and challenge your hiking standards. 

Lookout Point | Moderate | 2 miles round-trip

Wapama Falls | Moderate | 5 miles round-trip

The best time to visit is during the spring, when the falls are full and falling rapidly. Cross the bridge below the falls and enjoy the sprays. 

For more information on this hike, visit 
this website. 

Rancheria Falls | Moderate | 13.4 miles round-trip

Smith Peak | Moderate to Strenuous | 13.5 miles round-trip

Poopenaut Valley | Strenuous | 3 miles round-trip


White Wolf

These hikes are enjoyable both night and day alike. see views of the starts with this Lukens Lake trail, or relax by the breathtaking Harden Lake. 

Lukens Lake from Tioga Road | Easy | 1.6 miles round-trip

Lukens Lake from White Wolf | Moderate | 4.6 miles  

Harden Lake | Moderate | 5.8 miles round-trip  
Harden Lake

Harden Lake is a quaint lake without any mountains surrounding it, with views of trees and greenery along the horizon. There is a small meadow at the near side of the lake that is filled with wild flowers during the spring.

For more information about this hike, visit this website. 

May Lake | 2.4 miles round-trip                                                          

North Dome | Strenuous | 10.4 miles round-trip

Ten Lakes Trail

Ten Lakes | Strenuous | 12.6 miles round-trip

This strenuous hike leads to the beautiful Ten Lakes. Take a dip after a long trek in one of the lakes to cool off. 

For more information on this hike, visit this website. 


Tuolumne Meadows

Spring is the ideal time for these trails, though year-round is also encouraged. The meadows are filled with lush wildflowers that surround the lakes on these trails. If a canyon view is more your scene, spend the day along the Lyell Canyon for an easy, but extensive, hike. 

Tuolumne Meadows: Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge | Easy | 1.5 miles round-trip

Lyell Canyon via the John Muir Trail | Easy | 8 miles round-trip

Elizabeth Lake | Moderate | 4.8 miles round-trip

Gaylor Lakes | Moderate | 2 miles round-trip
Gaylor Lake 

This moderate hike offers some of the most spectacular high-country views off of Tioga Road. From the trailhead, climb steadily to a ridge with views of the high Sierra including Mt. Dana and Dana Meadows with its scattered ponds. At the ridge crest, the trail drops 200 feet to Middle Gaylor Lake.

For more information about this hike, visit this website.

Cathedral Lakes | Moderate | 7 miles round-trip

Mono Pass | Moderate | 8 miles round-trip

Glen Aulin | Moderate | 11 miles round-trip

Dog Lake

Dog Lake | Moderate | 2.8 miles round-trip

The trail rises steeply for 0.75 mile to a signed junction. Head to the top of Lembert Dome for a spectacular view of Tuolumne Meadows and surrounding peaks. Plan for a four hour, leisurely four mile roundtrip visit to both Dog Lake and Lembert Dome.

For more information about this hike, visit this website or this website.

Lembert Dome | Moderate | 2.8 miles round-trip

Dog Lake and Lembert Dome | Moderate | 4 miles round-trip

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp | Strenuous | 13.8 miles round-trip

What are your plans this season? Do you plan on hiking through Yosemite? 

Information and images courtesy of, and