13 Best & Easy Hikes In Yosemite National Park

Outdoor enthusiasts, nature observers, and granite lovers are always welcome to Yosemite National Park in California.

Also, hiking up the hills to see the Yosemite sunrise or beautiful sunset spots is another great feeling you can experience. Yosemite National Park has a lot to offer!

easy hikes in Yosemite

California is home to some of the most beautiful hiking spots. For a beginner, hiking in Point Reyes National Seashore, hiking in Santa Cruz, and hiking in Lake Tahoe is a nice start. 

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However, if you want to see rushing waterfalls and huge granite rocks, I would recommend you start with the easy hikes in Yosemite National Park.

California is known for its diverse culture, scenic beauty, technological innovations, entertainment industry, and agricultural productivity. You’re in a lucky place!

So, let’s dive into the list of the 13 best and easy Yosemite hiking trails.

Easy Hikes in Yosemite Map

I know, the beautiful terrain is overwhelming and intimidating, so let me help you out! To explore Yosemite National Park you do not have to go to the gym regularly. 

Also, for a one-day budget itinerary in Yosemite, hiking is a free entertainment opportunity to enjoy nature. 

Here are some of the easiest trails I love to hike in Yosemite. Let me take you through it.

Easy Hikes in Yosemite Near Glacier Point

1. Glacier Point Trail

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Time: 20 min
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

Hear me out… Glacier Point is one of the incredible hikes in Southern California with extraordinary and un-imaginary views of nature. 

My friend told me you would be crazy if you were skipping this! Also, the roads are 6 ft. wide paved and have plenty of space for vans and people to pass and walk respectively. 

I knew hiking Half Dome was not my cup of tea, for once I thought to skip it. More than viewing, my health was important. 

It was then I got to know that Glacier Point is an easy alternative to witnessing Half Dome rather than climbing it. Isn’t that great? I decided to hike!

I was speechless to see – Yosemite Falls, Clouds Rest, Curry Village, Half Dome, Merced River, Nevada Falls, and Vernal Falls. Oh, yes, I saw El Capitan too! 

Tips:

  • Glacier Point is un-accessible in winter and spring because of snow. Accessible only from May to late October (depending on weather)
  • Plan to watch the sunset and a 270-degree view
  • Do not hike via 4-Mile or Panorama Trails, it will take time
Easy Hikes In Yosemite National Park_Glacier point trail
Glacier Point Trail

2. Sentinel Dome

  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Time: 1 hour 5 min
  • Elevation Gain: 450 feet

It’s not a climb, it’s a steep walk up! Sentinel Dome attracts world-class rock climbers to walk over exposed granites, trees, sun, and well-trodden dirt to reach the top.

Hearing this, I thought how can Sentinel Dome consider an easy hike in Yosemite? Little did I know, I was wrong. I heard I can see Sierras, so I did it!

There is some narrow passage, but nothing difficult. The summit is flat and so wide that more than 4 people lie down. And, finally, the view from the top is spectacular.

The crowd is fewer, however, please skip it if it’s raining because the granite will be very slippery. One of my friends did the hike on a full moon night, he said it was magical!

Tips:

  • While climbing down, be very careful, about the roads and direction
  • Bring plenty of water because the trail is mixed – with shades and no shades
  • Sentinel Dome is not Half Dome. Moreover, it is a more satisfying hike for a first-timer
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Sentinel Dome
Sentinel Dome

3. Taft Point

  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Time: 1 hour 3 min
  • Elevation Gain: 367 ft

Like Sentinel Dome, Taft Point is an easy family hike in Yosemite that cannot be missed. I took the Pohono Trail, taking photos while doing the hike.

However, I was warned by my friend to be cautious near the edges. I was also aware that Traft Point holds the top 10 positions for easy day hikes in Yosemite.

Here, you’ll spot so many trees and get that earthy smell that you only get in the forest. On the way, you’ll see high granite rocks, giant fissures, and rocky surfaces.

While coming back, the only thought I had was today I saw something which is beyond explanation! Nature is magical! The view of the valley and El Captain is mesmerizing. 

You only see the tiny rock ledge and a person standing out posing but believe me, Taft Point is so much more than that. It’s beyond Instagram.

Tips:

  • Till June 2023, the roads are closed
  • I hiked during the late afternoon and was spellbound to reach the point and witness the different colors of the sun in the sky while setting off!
  • Cary your headlamps if you want to hike Traft Point in the evening
Taft Point
Taft Point

Yosemite National Park Easy Hike

4. Lower Yosemite Falls

  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Time: 30 min
  • Elevation Gain: 50 feet

Yosemite Falls breaks into the section on its way down the granite walls of Yosemite Valley before ending its flow. The base of the waterfall is the best place to hike.

There is a reason why I want to rank Lower Yosemite Falls as the kid-friendly hike in Yosemite. Here, I saw more than 12 kids less than 14 years old hiking.

I was having fun jumping from one rock to another and walking on flat land. The shades and temperature were all by my side. I was hiking in Lower Falls.

Unfortunately, my Benji was at home, but you can bring your four-legged best friend as Lower Yosemite Falls is ranked as a dog-friendly hike in Yosemite.

If you’re in search of easy trails in Yosemitemade of wooden boardwalks, then Lower Yosemite Falls is like leisurely strolling through nature. 

Definitely, worth the hike! You don’t even need hiking jackets

Tips:

  • If the waterfall is gone, you can see the big rock which lay underneath the water normally. Please do not try to climb those rocks, it is very slippery
  • Come to Lower Yosemite Falls in early summer as you can witness the tallest waterfall in North America. In late July through October, you will see the fall trickle down only
  • The eastern part of the loop is handicapped accessible
Lower Yosemite Falls
Lower Yosemite Falls

5. Washburn Point

  • Distance: Only 20 steps
  • Time: 20 min
  • Elevation Gain: Mostly level

Washburn Point is another easy hike at Yosemite National Park in September!

If the spectacular view of Yosemite Valley isn’t enough of an enticement, then prepare yourself to visit Washburn Point where you can see Half Domes and 3 waterfalls. It’s so beautiful!

A lot of people will tell you, Washburn Point is not worth easy hikes in Yosemite, but trust me it is one of the spots in Yosemite worth exploring.

I was amazed to walk through a coniferous forest and get such a unique perspective of the great Yosemite landscape. By the way, it sits at 7,450 feet.

Moreover, the profile angle of Half Dome is similar to Washburn Point. You must click a picture with Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, and Illilouette Falls in the backdrop. 

Washburn Point,
Washburn Point

6. Mirror Lake

  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Time: 1 hour 5 min
  • Elevation Gain: 100 feet

I was awe-struck to see the Half Dome’s reflection on Mirror Lake, it seemed like someone was wearing a crown. The view of Mt. Watkins is so calming! 

Come early morning, to see this. It sits at the mouth of Tenaya Canyon! During rain, the Tenaya Canyon, floods and gives birth to some crystal swimming lakes. 

Some hikes in Yosemite National Park are beyond explanation! One day, ideally I went for a morning stroll with Rohina, my friend chit-chatting along the way.

However, Mirror Lake is seasonal. If you’re coming here in late August, then you’ll find only rocks, meadows, and no lake. The views are tremendously beautiful!

Apart from Mirror Lake, if you’re searching for easy Yosemite hikes, you might go for The Cook’s Meadow Loop to witness Yosemite Falls too.

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Tips:

  • In winter the roads are icy. Do not do horseback riding during this time
  • You can take Yosemite Valley Shuttle to Stop 17, start hiking along the paved road up to the lake
  • Leashed pets are allowed
Mirror Lake, hikes in Yosemite National Park
Mirror Lake

7. Bridalveil Fall

  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Time: 20min
  • Elevation Gain: 80 ft

When I came to Bridalveil in the spring, I saw the most intense waterfall plunging down 620 ft onto the valley floor with all its force and glory.

One more thing, I would rate the Bridalveil Fall trail as the easiest waterfall hike in Yosemite as it only took a half-a-mile round trip journey.

I heard, if you’re coming here in September, then you can enjoy a little shower as the fall becomes very low. Worry not, you’ll find water. 

Interesting fact on Bridalveil Fall: Wet years in Spring, as the wind blows the mist wafts off making it look like a white wedding veil. The mist is so heavy that it can make you wet. You‘ll feel like someone sprayed on you. “The veil-like pattern” of the mist makes the place so unique.

Tips:

  • If you’re climbing the stones, be very careful. Also, wear hiking boots with a good grip, or else get ready to visit the hospital.
  • The trail is icy in winter
  • Leashed pets are welcomed
  • No shuttle service is available
  • If you come at the beginning of the year Bridalveil Fallis the best waterfall in Yosemite
Bridalveil Fall trail, easiest waterfall hike in Yosemite
Bridalveil Fall trail

8. Mist Trail via Vernal Fall Footbridge

  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Time: 50 min
  • Elevation Gain: 400 ft

Once I heard there is a hiking trail that can be accessed only through stone staircases, I wanted to do it. If you’re lucky you can witness a lunar rainbow too!

In my opinion, The Mist Trail is an easy to moderate hike in Yosemite where you can witness the fast-flowing waterfalls and forces of nature.

Remember, the place is heavily misted. 

It is the best fall hike in Yosemite because you can gain the most intimate experience of Nevada Fall, and Vernal Fall coursing down the Merced River. 

However, you need an hour to complete the whole trail. Nevada Falls is the endpoint, therefore, stand at the Vernal Fall Footbridge to enjoy nature’s show!

Tips:

  • You can reach The Mist Trail on Yosemite Valley shuttle stop 16
  • Make sure you cross the cluster of trees and staircases cautiously 
Mist Trail via Vernal Fall Footbridge, best fall hike in Yosemite
Mist Trail via Vernal Fall Footbridge

Easy Hikes in South Yosemite

9. Mariposa Grove

  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 300 feet

If you want to see a living example of the terms giant, tallest, and widest, come to Mariposa Grove to see the Sequoia trees. You can see 2,000-year-old 500 mature Sequoia trees. 

The best way to explore the Grove is to hike. So, here comes Grizzly Giant Loop Trail, a famous short hike in Yosemite. The trail starts just right off the California Tunnel Tree.

Before starting the hike, I did not know that the Grizzly Giant is a tree aged more than 3,000 years with 209 feet in height, and 25.4 feet wide. Can you imagine?

Please hike further to see the Faithful Couple, Mariposa Grove Cabin, Clothespin Tree, The Bachelor, Three Graces, the Fallen Monarch, and many more. 

Tips:

  • Make your Mariposa Grove hiking memorable by planning it in winter
  • There are a lot of bugs
  • Dogs are not allowed on this trail
  • Some section is handicapped-accessible
  • For a small hiking trail – take the Big Trees Loop
  • Start walking from Wawona Visitor Center
Mariposa Grove
Mariposa Grove Trail

10. Wawona Meadow Loop

  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Time: 1 hour 16 min
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

For Wawona Meadow Loop, I have only one thing to say – inhale as much oxygen as you can! It is one of the best easy hikes in Yosemite with a dog in the morning.

I would recommend coming here in Spring to spot wildflowers lining the trail, aromatic plants, and stunning scenery. Also, get an amazing view of the gorgeous alpine meadow. 

The area is surrounded by iconic cliffs, mountainous terrain, and solitude. Wawona Meadow Loop is a great place to relax, walk, run or bicycle with your friends. 

Tips:

  • You might see some of Wawona’s horses
  • The old fire roads are unpaved with dust
Wawona Meadow Loop, dog friendly easy hikes in Yosemite
Wawona Meadow Loop

Best Hikes in Yosemite Valley

11. Cooks Meadow

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Time: 40 min
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal
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For a nice nature walk and spotting milkweeds, red-shouldered hawks, tarantula hawks, wolf spiders, and monarch butterflies, Cooks Meadow is an easy Yosemite hike in winter.

Also, it is the flatter hike in Yosemite National Park where you should come with your photographer friend to click the golden picture of yours at “golden hour”. 

After checking out Ansel Adams’ photo of Half Dome on the internet here, I was head bound to come here and explore this place. The Royal Arches are worth watching.

Cooks Meadow, flatter hike in Yosemite National Park
Cooks Meadow

12. Cathedral Lakes

  • Distance: 3.5 mile
  • Time: 2 hours 50 min
  • Elevation Gain: 1000 feet

No other hiking trails can match the hugeness of Cathedral Lake, the gorgeous glacial lakes in the Yosemite Wilderness, granite domes, and scenic nature.

Cathedral Lake trail is on the northern side, it was my last-minute plan to hike this trail. If you ask me what is the best thing to do in Yosemite, I would say, hike!

The view of Tuolumne Meadows leading through the trodden trail, and the uneven path was not what I expected. Moreover, forested canyon and rocky ridges are the best part of this hike. 

Cathedral Lake, gorgeous glacial lakes in the Yosemite Wilderness
Cathedral Lake

Easy Hike in Yosemite in Tioga Pass

13. Tuolumne Meadow to Soda Springs

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Time: 40 min
  • Elevation Gain: 50 feet

An easy hike in Yosemite for summer has to be Tuolumne Meadows. The trail runs along the flat meadows, meandering streams of the Pacific Crest Trail, and alpine lakes.

The spectacular sights of mountains ultimately leading to Soda Springs and Parson’s Lodge is well worth the effort. 

Wooden paths and bare granite make the trail raw and challenging to your feet and legs! Hence, rest often to reach the top.

Tuolumne Meadows
Tuolumne Meadows

Is it Dangerous to Hike in Yosemite?

Dangerous hikes are those that people explore without following the rules, regulations, and guidelines. 

I have seen many people still going to the edge to click photos even if the sign says “Stay Back from the edge”. Now tell me, isn’t that dangerous? 

Therefore, follow these points to make Yosemite hiking safe – 

  • Follow the signboards
  • Follow the hiking trails, do not try to find your own way
  • Carry a good map and download an offline map
  • Inform your friends about your location
  • Carry a headlamp
  • There is a Yosemite Valley Medical Clinic, in case of emergencies please visit here 

Conclusion

Traversing along the dramatic granite rock, translucent blue lakes, canopies, and wildflowers, these above hiking spots in Yosemite National Park are eye-popping.

Few hiking trails in Yosemite are very popular whereas few leads to adventure, high adrenaline rush away from the crowds into the wilderness. 

Believe me, whichever you choose from my list of easy hikes in Yosemite you’ll come across diverse habitats and wildlife. So, plan your hiking adventure soon!

Read more about hiking trails:

FAQ:

1. How long does it take to hike Yosemite?

A: To complete the whole of Yosemite Falls including – Upper Yosemite Falls, Middle Yosemite Falls, and Lower Yosemite Falls you will take a minimum of 7 hours and a maximum of 10 hours. 

2. Is Yosemite beginner friendly?

A: Yes, Yosemite National Park has many beginner-friendly hiking trails. Yosemite includes many easy hiking trails like – Mirror Lake, Sentinel Dome, Lower Yosemite Falls, and Soda Spring.

3. Which two trails in Yosemite are most popular?

A: The best and most popular Yosemite hiking trail is Glacier Point Trail and Taft Point. The trails offer dramatic vistas of nature and a gorgeous view of Half Dome. 

4. Which Yosemite entrance is less busy?

A: Yosemite is crowded in summer, therefore, if you want to take a less busy entrance then take the Tioga Pass and Hetch Hetchy entrance. Personally, I prefer Tioga Pass, as it sits on the east side of the park with very less tourists.

5. What is the hardest hike in Yosemite?

A: Upper Yosemite Falls is the hardest hike in Yosemite. The trail is steep with plenty of elevation gain, exposed to the sun with edgy sides. Also, the roar of the fall will surely give you goosebumps. 

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