5 Classic Day Hikes In Yosemite
Make the most of your visit with these unforgettable hiking tours in Yosemite National Park.
With more than 800 miles of established trail within its boundaries, there’s no shortage of phenomenal day hikes in Yosemite National Park. Over the past 25 years of guiding tours in Yosemite, we’ve hiked every inch of trail on offer, and narrowed in on a short-list of the best trails in Yosemite for every type of visitor. Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking to immerse yourself in secluded high country terrain, or a first-time visitor wanting the most iconic Yosemite experience, there’s a Yosemite hike here for you!
Length: 11.5 miles total (hike as much or as little as you want)
Highlights: Iconic sites, waterfalls, granite walls
Of all the trails and tours in Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley is a must-see for every first-time visitor. A popular destination credited for 90% of the Yosemite photos on Instagram, Yosemite Valley is home to the Merced River, iconic campgrounds, and the historic Ahwahnee Hotel. The Yosemite Valley Loop Trail is a flat and easy 11.5-mile trail that circles the floor of the mile-wide valley, and can be hiked in full or in small sections.
From the Valley Loop Trail, hikers can stop off at picturesque grasslands like El Cap and Stoneman Meadow, which are great viewing areas for the 3,000-foot vertical walls of granite that surround the Valley, and the rock climbers attempting to scale them!
A visit to the Valley in spring or early summer also yields an up-close view of fabled waterfalls like Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Fall—the tallest free-falling waterfall in North America! For the casual visitor or Yosemite first-timer, the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail is a perfect starting point.
Length: 7.2 miles
Highlights: Waterfalls, rainbows, panorama views
For waterfall lovers that don’t mind an uphill climb, the Mist Trail & Nevada Fall Loop are an unrivaled Yosemite experience. One of the most popular hikes in Yosemite, the Mist Trail winds up the Merced River Canyon, crossing the river back and forth and passing two famous waterfalls—Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall—with spectacular views along the way.
About a mile in, a grandiose granite staircase carries hikers past the base of Vernal Fall, where mist pluming from the basin douses all passers by during waterfall season (bring a raincoat!).
That same mist creates fairytale rainbows that stretch from wall to wall across the canyon, and further up the trail, Nevada Fall stands 594 feet tall—nearly twice the height of Vernal! Upon reaching the top, take in the expansive panorama view over Nevada Fall before looping back down via the John Muir Trail for a satisfying 7.2-mile circuit that deposits hikers back in Yosemite Valley.
Length: 2 miles
Highlights: Massive Old-growth Sequoia Trees!
This leisurely, wheelchair-accessible trail immerses visitors amongst the oldest and largest living beings on earth—the giant sequoia trees!
These trees, which grow up to 30 feet wide and 200 feet tall, are some of the last remaining old-growth forest in the Sierra Nevada.
Stepping among them, visitors are transported into a prehistoric scene with some trees being more than 3,000 years old! A 45-minute car ride up to Highway 120 from Yosemite Valley, this trail can easily be finished in half a day, and makes a great option for folks who are new to hiking or looking to keep it casual. Easy access to surreal natural marvels puts this moderate day hike at the top of our list for first-time visitors.
Length: 14.5 miles
Highlights: 360-degree views, alpine lakes, High Sierra summit, wildflowers
Take a gorgeously scenic 1-hour drive from Yosemite Valley up to Tioga Road, and pull off at Tenaya Lake to begin one of our guides’ favorite hikes in the high country. A better option for more experienced hikers with higher fitness levels, this route begins at the iconic Tenaya Lake and travels up the Sunrise Trail, passing creeks teeming with wildlife, and in spring, a stunning array of wildflowers! After a challenging mile-long uphill section of switchbacks, the trail tops out above Sunrise Lakes before meandering through the trees toward the target destination—the Clouds Rest summit!
Known for hosting one of the very best views in Yosemite, the Clouds Rest summit looks south upon Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon, and North over the Yosemite high country.
Getting there requires an exhilarating jaunt up Clouds Rest’s “spine,” so beware if you’re afraid of heights!
Length: 5 miles
Highlights: Alpine lakes, breathtaking views, geographical center of Yosemite
Mount Hoffman is one of Yosemite’s lesser known peaks, despite offering one of the best panorama views in the high country. The hike to get there begins in the May Lake parking lot and takes travelers past the serenely blue May Lake at 9,329 feet of elevation, adjacent to the May Lake High Sierra Cap. From May Lake, the trail winds away from the lake and above the tree-line toward the peak of Mount Hoffman, which happens to be the geographical center of Yosemite National Park.
While the Hoffman summit is approachable with a guide, getting there requires a stint of off-trail hiking complete with a 150-foot scramble up the boulders at the top!
Mount Hoffman is also known for being one of John Muir’s favorite views within all of the park, and for visitors who make it to the top, it’s easy to see why!