Yosemite Falls Trail, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389
The Tallest Waterfall in North America.
Three Options for Seeing a Beautiful Waterful
Want to see the tallest waterfall in North America? You can take in this beauty from a variety of hikes.
The easiest, shortest, and most kid-friendly is the hike to the Lower Fall. It’s a short ½ mile, relatively flat stroll. The best time of year to see the waterfall is in the spring during peak snow runoff. It’s fun and refreshing to feel the mist on your face and the wind of the water falling. By late summer and into fall, and especially during droughts, the waterfalls really lose a lot of their “oomph.”
If you want to soak in 180-degree views of the valley, hiking about 1/3 of the way up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail (2 miles roundtrip from Camp 4 area, 1000 feet of elevation gain) will bring you to Columbia Rock. This portion of the trail is mostly switchbacks climbing to the viewpoint which can be a bit of a lung and leg burner, but the views over the valley here are really stunning and worth it. Keep in mind though, you won’t see the falls on this part of the trail. If you want to see the falls from the trail, you’ll have to keep hiking a bit farther before you decide to turn around.
If you are up for a serious climb and some additional mileage, do the full hike to the top of the Upper Yosemite Fall which is 7.6 miles roundtrip, and 2,600 feet of elevation gain. We’ve seen school-age kids manage the hike, but we would only recommend it for experienced hikers. If you have little kids, we really only recommend attempting the full climb if you can manage to carry them in a hiking pack for the majority of the hike. Just count on a SERIOUS workout, otherwise, you might not enjoy yourself.
Make sure to wear shoes/boots with good traction, as the rocks can get slippery when they are wet. We also recommend a hat and sunscreen as this hike receives a lot of direct sun. Dressing in layers, even if the air is chilly, is a good idea as the climb will warm you up. You will need your layers again when you take in the view at the top.