Picture taken during one hike in Half Dome.

Best day hikes in Yosemite National Park

This is a guest post from Mark Bennett is a writer and traveler, whose major inspiration has been camping with his father ever since his childhood. He aims to visit 75 countries before he’s 30. You can also follow his adventures on his site outdoorily.com. If planning a day hike, enjoy this article about the best day hikes in Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park in the Nevada mountains of California, is a dream for backpackers. The stunning landscapes, the scenic views, the pinewood trees, waterfalls and the lakes, all make it a hike worthy destination. While there are numerous trails for all levels of hikers in Yosemite National park, let’s take a sneak peak into some of the best.

The Best Yosemite Day Hikes 

Half Dome

Picture of Half Dome, one of the best trails in Yosemite.

A hike to the Half Dome is one of the most challenging hikes in Yosemite National Park, and is definitely not the one for beginners. Though being strenuous, the hike is very popular because of the iconic sceneries you get through the trail, and also for the thrill for conquering something difficult and feeling victorious at the end of it.

The cables up the Half Dome are open only from June through October as the weather in the other months might be dangerous for the hikers.

The hikers usually begin the hike very early in the day to be able to return back on the same day, and it is a wise decision. The Mist Trail to the Half Dome is the recommended one as you get to witness spectacular waterfalls through the trail and also because it is efficient and quick.

As you make your way up the Mist trail, you pass through two gorgeous waterfalls - Vernal and Nevada Falls after which you arrive at the sub dome. The toughest part of the hike begins here - the climb from sub dome to the half dome.

Make sure to carry proper backpacks, gloves, shoes and other gear for climbing the cables, and take one step at a time, very very cautiously.

After getting to the top of the Half Dome, you have finally made it. In addition to the views from the top, conquering this unique and challenging hike gives you a sense of joy! Soon after spending some time on the top, make your way down soon so you can reach the trailhead before dusk.

Note: The hike to the Half Dome requires a permit, without which you can only hike up to the sub dome.

Distance: 14.5 miles

Difficulty level: Difficult Day Hike

Trail name: Mist Trail

TIme Taken: 9 - 10 hours

What about a camping adventure in Yosemite? This is a 3 day camping excursion not to miss! 

Yosemite Falls

Picture taken in Yosemite Falls of Nevada Falls

The hike to the Yosemite Falls is one of the oldest and best day hikes at Yosemite and a difficult one. Ideally, the best time to do this hike is either in the spring or in the summer because the waterfalls won’t be as full in the fall and winter.

The trail starts at the Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead from where it is a long and steep climb, starting from the valley floor up to the valley rim. If you are not someone who prefers climbing stairs, this hike may be a little more difficult for you. Starting from the Yosemite valley, you climb to a point where you can get drenched by the Upper Yosemite Falls. Reaching the Upper falls is the first milestone of the hike, and you get to see iconic views of the Yosemite waterfalls with the Half Dome as the backdrop. It’s quite a sight to behold.

You could either return back from this point, or continue your hike up to the highest elevation on the North Rim, the Yosemite Point. From the Yosemite Point, you get views of the Eagle Peak and closer views of the Half Dome. This is definitely one of the best day hikes in Yosemite.

Distance: 7.6 miles roundtrip

Difficulty level: Difficult

Trail name: Lower Yosemite Falls trail

TIme Taken: 6 - 7 hours

Nevada Falls

Picture of Nevada Falls, a trail to do winter hikes.

The Nevada falls is above Vernal falls, and the hike to the top of the fall is a total of 7 miles roundtrip. This can be done through the Mist trail or the Muir Trail. Out of the two, the more scenic one is the Mist Trail and the easier one, the Muir Trail.

As you start your hike from the trailhead, you reach the Vernal Falls Footbridge which is a moderate level climb, after which the climb to the top of Vernal Falls is a distance of 2 miles and is strenuous. A little hike further up takes you to Nevada Falls, from where you get to enjoy the stunning views of the Half Dome.

Distance: 7 miles roundtrip

Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate

Trail name: Mist Trail

TIme Taken: 4 - 5 hours

Cathedral Lakes

Picture of Catedral Lakes, Yosemite.

The Cathedral Lakes Trail is an easy to moderate level hike, but also a very popular one owing to its stunning views of the two lakes - The Upper Cathedral Lake and the Lower Cathedral Lake. From both the lakes, you get to view the Cathedral Peak. The Lower Cathedral Lake is a granite wrapped High Sierra lake and is very pretty!

The trail begins at the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead from where the first mile would be steady and steep climb, and then you reach a point where the path diverges into two trails. One to the Upper Cathedral Lake and the other to the Lower. The Lower Cathedral Lake is the most visited lake out of the two.

After reaching either of the lakes, you could spend some time there basking in all of the beauty around, and then start back.

Distance: 8 miles roundtrip

Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate

Trail name: Cathedral Lakes Trail

TIme Taken: 3 - 5 hours

So, that’s it for the article guys! There are plenty of hikes, trails and destinations in the Yosemite National park, and though I have not covered all of them, I have shared some of the best hikes that I’ve enjoyed the most till date.

Have fun and most importantly be safe and carry lots of water to keep yourselves hydrated through the trek! Also, since bears are prevalent in the Yosemite National Park, make sure to check out this Yosemite hike guide before you plan your trip.

If camping isn't for you, and you need a place to stay near by there are all kinds of options, check out the dates and availabilities with our favorite partner accommodation partner Booking.com below.


Let us know in the comments if you have gone hiking in Yosemite National Park and which are the best Yosemite National Park hikes you've experienced.

Traveling in Yosemite with kids? Check out this helpful Yosemite guide for families

For more stories, and tips about traveling in the United States, you can find them all here in this link. And if you love hiking you got to try out this incredible hike in your lifetime. 

Best hikes in Yosemite National Park

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