California’s famed Yosemite National Park sees millions of visitors annually. If you aren’t one of those, then it should absolutely be on your bucket list! With seemingly limitless outdoor activities under the shade of the giant sequoias, you’ll never be short on things to do!

In this post, we’re going to review our top 10 hikes in Yosemite National Park. We include hikes for every skill level and give you a good idea of what to expect so you can get the most out of your trip.

So, grab your gear, head on over to Travellers Autobarn for your fully-loaded campervan rental, and prepare for the trip of a lifetime!

Some of Yosemite’s best-known hikes are quite challenging, however, you don’t have to be an expert to appreciate the beauty of this park! While summer is arguably the best time to be at Yosemite, it is also the busiest, with 75% of its annual visitors coming during the summer and early fall months. So if you plan to be at Yosemite anytime from May to October, expect to have to plan for crowds, especially during the peak of summer.

Home to approximately 90 species of mammals, Yosemite is full of life in all corners of its land! While there is no guarantee you’ll run into bears (black and brown), mountain lions, or wolverines, they are in the park. It’s more likely that you’ll see deer, squirrels, or wild mice, but it is still incredibly important that you’re prepared should you see a large animal on your hikes.

As always, plan ahead. Check for safety advisories and pack the necessary gear and provisions. Give the wildlife space and take all the pictures you can safely get. A safe hike is a happy hike!

Mountains and water in Yosemite

GLACIER POINT TRAIL

A great intro to Yosemite, this half-mile trail is suitable for almost any hiker and rewards you with a spectacular view at the end. While most of the trail is flat and simple, the last 500 feet or so can be a bit treacherous as there is some steeper uphill hiking. This trail is partially paved, but the trail’s entirety may be difficult to access via wheelchair.

Difficulty Level: Easy
Distance: 0.6 miles
Total Elevation: 167 feet
Type: Loop

LOWER YOSEMITE FALLS TRAIL

Merced River of Yosemite

If seeing the highest waterfall in North America sounds interesting to you, it’s only about a mile away! This short, approachable loop trail takes you to see Yosemite Falls cascading water from 2,450 feet in the air. While it’s the highest in North America, there are also only four waterfalls in the entire world that are larger. So there’s probably no better return on investment in the park than this trail!

Difficulty Level: Easy
Distance: 1.2 miles
Total Elevation: 59 feet
Type: Loop

SENTINEL DOME TRAIL

If you don’t plan to scale El Capitan but still want to see it, the Sentinel Dome Trail offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Yosemite from its peak. At the top of this trail, you can look out and see some of Yosemite’s best-known features. Once you crest this trail, you’ll see why famous American photographer Ansel Adams was so enthralled by it!

Difficulty Level: Easy
Distance: 2.1 miles
Total Elevation: 456 feet
Type: Out and Back

COLUMBIA ROCK TRAIL

Starting off the moderate effort options is an approachable 2 mile out and back where most of the work will be in the elevation gained. Views of the Yosemite Valley greet you as you go, and the trail usually has good shade, making hiking uphill relatively comfortable. Those who want a longer adventure can continue to Upper Yosemite Falls, which will roughly double the length of the hike.

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 2.1 miles
Total Elevation: 948 feet
Type: Out and Back

GLACIER POINT TO UNION POINT TRAIL

While you may have to take your time on this trail, this out and back promises views worth the work. The first half of the trail is easier than the second half, so don’t get too ahead of yourself! Also, with Yosemite closing their famous Glacier Point Road during the summer of 2022 for renovations, you’ll want to get this hike in while you can conveniently get there!

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 3.7 miles
Total Elevation: 1,040 feet
Type: Out and Back

MIRROR LAKE VIA VALLEY LOOP TRAIL

hiker in Yosemite taking a break by the water

A longer trail at just over 6 miles, the amount of elevation gained is much lower than either of the previous moderate trails. Although this trail isn’t located as close to Yosemite lodging as many of the others, it draws fewer hikers throughout the year. However, if you’re willing to head out a bit further, some relative peace in a busy park is in store for you!

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 6.1 miles
Total Elevation: 337 feet
Type: Loop

MARIPOSA GROVE OF GIANT SEQUOIAS TRAIL

Mariposa Grove is home to some of the world’s oldest Sequoia trees, and you have to see them in person to believe their size! So naturally, you’ll want to start early to beat the crowds, but a morning walking through the Sequoia trees is more than worth the early wake-up. Prepare for some steady uphill walking, but most hikers should be able to manage if you get up early enough to beat the heat.

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Distance: 6.2 miles
Total Elevation: 1,213 feet
Type: Loop

VERNAL FALLS TRAIL

At just 4 miles long, this may not seem like a difficult trail at first, but with the elevation gained, you’ll want to make sure you’re adequately prepared. You may run into closures for trail maintenance and some detours when looking to take this hike. Also, you’ll likely need to start on the John Muir Trail to reach the Vernal Falls Trail, so make sure you’re aware of closures before starting!

Difficulty Level: Hard
Distance: 4 miles
Total Elevation: 1,279 feet
Type: Out and Back

VERNAL AND NEVADA FALLS VIA THE MIST TRAIL

Vernal Falls Yosemite National Park

If the Vernal Falls Trail sounded fun to you, but you’re looking for something a bit longer, consider the Nevada Falls as well! You’ll be greeted with two waterfalls for your effort. This popular 7-mile loop is a great taste of the park as a whole. If you’re short on time but still looking for a challenge, this may be your best bet! As with the Vernal Falls Trail, check for closures ahead of time just in case.

Difficulty Level: Hard
Distance: 7.2 miles
Total Elevation: 2,217 feet
Type: Loop

UPPER YOSEMITE FALLS TRAIL

Last but certainly not least is this seven and a half-mile out and back. If you want to see Yosemite Falls but get a challenge that the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail doesn’t offer, this is the hike for you. Note that this trail, while beautiful, is quite difficult and Yosemite recommends it only for experienced adventurers. If that sounds like you, you’ll want to cross this off your hiking bucket list!

Hopefully, this article has helped you pick out the trails you want to hike on your next journey to Yosemite National Park! If you’re thinking about heading to Yosemite this summer, consider renting a campervan for your travels! Make sure you’re rested every night so you can tally up the miles as you venture through one of the United States’ most famous national parks!

As always, have a great trip, and please recreate responsibly!

Looking to hike all over North America?  Here are some other articles you might enjoy.

The 10 Best Hiking Trails in Yellowstone National Park

8 Epic Campervan Hiking Road Trips

The Van Life Guide to Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park

The Narrows Hike—The Ultimate Zion Campervan Getaway

Top 10 Hikes in Glacier National Park

About the Author

Bastian Graf

Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.

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