With more than four million visitors each year, Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular in the country. Created in 1890, this California park boasts a canyon that spans a mile wide and seven miles long with a river running through it. Unsurprisingly, this makes for beautiful hiking opportunities. Picking just five of the top ones was a little difficult, but we narrowed it down the best of the best.
This 8-mile hike generally takes between three to five hours to complete and is considered moderate. The trail takes you up to Upper Cathedral Lake and then returns following the same route. Though busy, it’s absolutely worth the effort. Near the turnaround point, there’s an offshoot trail to Lower Cathedral Lake that’s just a short half mile. This is possibly one of Yosemite's most impressive lakes. Keep in mind that the trailhead parking is limited and you’ll need to get there early in the day to ensure a spot.
At only a half mile round trip, this is the shortest hike on this list. The trail is open year round and accessible to many fitness levels, though since it’s not paved wheelchairs are not able to make the trip. Bridalveil Falls is one of the first views you’ll have when you visit the Yosemite Valley. It’s an especially strong waterfall in the spring, but it’s still a lovely trail in the other seasons.
The name of this trail is pretty misleading, but as long as you know what you’re getting into it’s absolutely worth the trek. It’s a little under five miles to Glacier Point (9.6 miles round trip). Considered a difficult hike, this is a full day adventure. A steep climb takes you up an old toll trail with amazing views of El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome. The turnaround point is at Glacier Point, complete with some restrooms and even snacks for purchase during the summer months.
Want to see North America’s tallest waterfall? Come check out this 7.2-mile hike! As with many of the hikes in Yosemite National Park, you’re in for a climb. There are switchbacks and you’ll get so high up the trees will start to thin as you get to the more exposed plateaus. The high elevation means that you have an excellent view of the valley and its natural beauty. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, tack on side trips to North Dome or Eagle Creek.
We finally found a hike that doesn’t have too much elevation gain, though it makes up for it in distance. This is an 11-mile round-trip relatively flat hike that follows along the Tuolumne River as it winds its way to Glen Aulin. The farther you go, the more waterfalls you’ll see. Tioga Road to the trailhead is only open June through October, you’ll need to check the National Park Service website to make sure it’s all clear when you want to go through.