5 Top Hikes in Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite is probably my favourite National Park I’ve ever visited in the U.S.A.  There is no place like it, especially in Summer! I have explored much of the Park on numerous visits, several times a year. Here are my top 5 hikes in Yosemite National Park.

1. Four Mile Trail

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Distance: 4.8 miles one way to Glacier Point. 9.6 mile round trip.
Elevation: 3,200 ft elevation gain
Difficulty: Strenuous
Time: 3-4 hours one-way, 6-8 hours round trip
Begin at: Four Mile Trailhead along Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley

This trail begins near the base of Sentinel Rock and climbs to the top of Yosemite Valley at Glacier Point. Spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and, eventually, Half Dome await those willing to tackle this strenuous trail.

The Four Mile Trail ends at Glacier Point. You could hike back down to Yosemite Valley the same way you came up or you could continue on the Panorama Trail, which brings you to the Happy Isles Trailhead in another 8.5 miles.

The Four Mile Trail typically opens for the season sometime in May. I recommend starting your hike early, this trail can become very hot mid-day. By starting as early as possible, you will be able to spend more of the hike in shade and less in the sun.

Here are some of my pictures from last July on the 4 mile Trail. It’s a very scenic trail with incredible views of Half Dome and the Valley. This is my favourite hike so far in Yosemite National Park.

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2. Clouds Rest

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Distance: 14.4 Miles round trip

Elevation: 2800 ft elevation gain

Time: 8-10 hours

Difficulty: Strenuous

Begin at: Sunrise Lakes trailhead. Drive to the southwest end of Tenaya Lake (CA 120) The trailhead is across the street from the lake on the south side.

The Summit of Clouds Rest is the best seat in the house for enjoying Yosemite Valley and the country around it. This hike is all about the destination, from which you’ll have spectacular views in every direction, including, the star of the show, Half Dome. Around you you’ll be able to see any number of Yosemite landmarks, including Tenaya Lake, Mt Hoffman,  Sentinel Dome,  North Dome, plus Merced Lake and dozens of peaks.

The season to hike this trail is during Summer, whenever the Tioga Road is open.

The actual summit is not advised for those with a fear of heights or lack of confidence with their balance/walking narrow ridges. It’s a long and narrow knife edged ridge,very high and exposed. Don’t even think about this hike if there is a chance of a thunderstorm. Start this hike as early as you can,it’s a long way for a day hike.

Here are a couple of my pictures from the Clouds Rest hike. (I plan to update pictures in the future months when I re-do this hike!) 🙂

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3. Sentinel Dome

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Distance: 2.2 miles out and back

Time: 2-4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation change: 400 feet

Season: Spring, Summer, or Fall, depending when the Glacier Point Road is open.

Start: Taft Point/Senitinel Dome Trailhead

To find the Trailhead, drive 13 miles up Glacier Point Road from Chinquapin. Parking and the marked trailhead are on the left.

Here’s your chance to clim one of Yosemite’s famous domes! Although not a particularly long hike,and certainly not without crowds,it is a very worthwhile hike to some fantastic views, a 360 degree sweep of almost the entire park! The trail starts off flat and slowly ascends up the Dome.

You will have views of the valley, Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, North Dome, Tenaya Canyon, the iconic Half Dome and Clouds rest just beyond it, to name a few of the sights you will enjoy from the Summit.

The dome is steep and slippery so wear good sturdy shoes for this hike- no smooth soled sandals!

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4. Taft Point and the Fissures

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Distance: 2.2 miles out and back

Time: 2-4 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation change: 250 feet

Seasons: Spring, Summer, or Fall depending when Glacier Point Road is open.

Start: Taft Point/ Sentinel Dome Trailhead

To find the trailhead, drive 13 miles up Gracier Point Road from Chinquapin. Parking and the marked trailhead are on the left.

Taft Point overlooks Yosemite Valley from the South Rim accessible by only a short hike. This hike is not to be missed! In place of rounded domes and polished rocks there are jagged, broken granite crags and soaring spires. On the way you can glance at the amazing fissures, cracks in the cliff only inches wide and thousands of feet deep. You can see all the way to the valley floor below.

This hike is not recommended for unrestrained small children. This is an upside down hike, downhill to get there and uphill to get back. Taft Point is exposed so take precautions against the heat. Enjoy the hike and the views!!

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5. North Dome

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Distance: 8.8 miles out and back

Time: 6-9 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain: 900 feet

Seasons: Summer and Fall

Start: Porcupine Creek Trailhead

To find the trailhead, on Tioga Road (CA 120) drive 14 miles west of Tuolumne Meadows, or 23 miles east of Crane Flat. The trailhead and parking area are on the south side of the road.

North Dome is one of the most photographed features of the park. It is smooth and rounded,more symmetrical than Half Dome. The is as very fun full day outing on the North Rim,and it’s also a very popular one! The views are everything you would expect from such a vantage point and as an added bonus you’ll get to see the famous granite arch atop Indian Ridge,accessible only by foot.

Allow more time than you think you’ll need for this hike. There are lot’s of ups and downs,and the rock is sometimes slippery. Wear comfortable boots and take your time. Enjoy!

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