Hike to Upper Yosemite Falls

Valley View Parking Lot

Strenuous 6-8 mile round trip hike with 2,700 feet of elevation gain. This trail has very sparse crowds compared to some other more well-populated hikes in the Yosemite Valley. Go early in the spring time to see the waterfall at its maximum flow.

You can find the trailhead to Upper Yosemite Falls near Camp 4. There is plenty of free parking here and you can also take a shuttle to stop #7. Be sure to start this hike early in the day as it is strenuous and can get really hot as the day goes on. Bring plenty of water and snacks and take many short breaks due to the steep ascent on the way up. The first mile of the hike is pretty much exclusively switchbacks. This first mile should take about an hour at which point you’ll reach Columbia Rock. At the top of Columbia Rock, enjoy sweeping views of the Yosemite Valley highlighting Half Dome and Awahnee Meadow.

After a relatively easy half mile, you’ll reach the first view of the bottom of Upper Yosemite Falls. At this point, the trail gets much steeper as you must ascend many switchbacks on your way to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls. Be aware of loose gravel on the trail. While most of this part of the hike is exposed to the sun, there are occasional shaded areas to rest and enjoy the many different vantage points of Upper Falls and Half Dome in the distance. Hike for another 1.5 miles and follow the signs to Upper Yosemite Falls Overlook.

When you finally reach the top, soak in the stunning panoramic view of the Yosemite Valley. Go to the left and follow the guardrail down to the mouth of the falls. If you’re lucky you’ll even be able to catch a rainbow in the thundering falls while peering over the edge. Walk back up the railing and have lunch by the natural pools. To return to the trailhead, exercise caution as you return the same way you came. Please note that the National Park Service forbids swimming in the falls. 

Pack List

  • Water
  • Daypack
  • Camera
  • Food
  • Hiking shoes
  • Sun protection
  • Bathing suit
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RT Distance 8 Miles
Elevation Gain 2700 Feet
Activities Photography, Swimming, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Scenic
Waterfall
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Extremely Rewarding Hike

This hike was by far my favorite I have ever done. Yosemite is a beautiful place and this hike only proved that further. Strenuous, but highly rewarding as you reach several views of the valley floor, Halfdome, Upper falls and other peaks. Highly recommend. Bring water and pack light!

Rewarding Struggle

We did this hike mid-April. After the insane amount of rain California got this winter and early spring, there's definitely still snow at the top of this trail, but it's melting quickly. It's basically 3 or so miles straight up, so the hike is challenging, but the rewards are worth reaping. Along almost every switchback is a breath-taking view of Yosemite, and a great trail where you can get up close to the falls.

Worth the trek

Even though I was in Yosemite in November, the weather was quite warm and the park was still busy. Because of this I decided to do a head lamp start and I highly recommend it. Most people thought I was crazy (even the friends I dragged along) to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning and start this hike. But let me tell you the benefits definitely outweigh disadvantages: 1. There is no one on the trail. 2. Its truly quiet. 3. Its cool. Trust me climbing those 2700ft sure works up a sweat. 3. You can get to the top for sunrise. 4. You have the whole place to yourself. 5. The way back down is way easier in the sun.


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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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