Hike to Upper Yosemite Falls
Yosemite › Valley View Parking Lot
Added by Tiffany Nguyen
Strenuous 6-8 mile round trip hike with 2,700 feet of elevation gainNatural swimming pool at the top of the falls to cool off before the trek down the mountainThis trail has very sparse crowds compared to some other more well-populated hikes in the Yosemite ValleyGo 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, cool off and take a plunge before heading down. To return to the trailhead, exercise caution as you return the same way you came.
- Hiking shoes
- Sun protection
- Bathing suit
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Hiking, Photography, Swimming
Spring, Summer, Autumn
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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.
Amazing view around every switchback turn!
We started at sunrise to take advantage of the cool temperature and the serenity of the park (do bring insect repellent). A light windbreaker is all needed in the July days. The falls will be visible after a short hike, and the view constantly changes as you ascend through the switchbacks. Drink before you need to! After the first mile, you will actually descend for about 1/4 mile before ascending again. Don't be concerned, because you are going in the right direction. The view from the top of the falls is spectacular! Pay attention when climbing the steps at to the lookout point. There is railing, but narrow steps. From the top, continuing to Eagle Peak (3.2 mi) is totally worth it. The hike along the way is not exciting, but serene (and lots of mosquitoes). This section of the hike is not crowded at all. Only saw two groups along the way, just crossing our path. At Eagle Peak, you will have an amazing view of Half Dome and the valley in the foreground. A great place to have lunch before heading back down. Round trip from Camp 4 to Eagle Peak is approx. 12 miles, and 8 hours (with breaks). Strenuous hike so plan accordingly. Going back down is hard on the calves since the rocks can be slippery, so good hiking shoes are highly recommended. Bring at least 100 ounces of water per person for this trip.
Dangerous but amazing
Great guide, minus the swimming part. More than 48 people have died in the falls at Yosemite, don't get in the falls! We were only at the river at upper falls for an hour and watched 2 people carelessly lose their water bottles in the river/only 2 seconds later to go OVER the falls. We backpacked up and it took us 4-1/2 hours to get up there, and 3-1/2 hours to get down. The rocks on the trail are covered in sand in most areas, and we both slipped and fell twice. This is a dangerous hike. Please be careful and think about every step you take.
Great Snow Hike in Winter
We did the Upper Yosemite Falls hike in early January. The first bit was easy enough, and leads you to some really incredible viewpoints of the valley. The higher up you get though, the deeper and deeper the snow gets. By the time we got to the top of the switchbacks we were absolutely exhausted from slipping and sliding our whole way up, but it was all worth it for a picnic at the top of the falls overlooking a snow-covered Yosemite Valley. If you're going to do it in the winter though, I would definitely recommend crampons! We didn't have any and that made it quite the chore to make the ascent during some of the icier portions of the hike.
Backpacking Upper Yosemite Falls
Many people do this as a strenuous day hike, but it can also be done as a backpacking trip with a permit (reserved ahead of time or picked up the day of at the Wilderness Center). Once you get to the top of the trail you'll see a sign for "Yosemite Valley 3.2 miles". Instead of crossing the creek here toward Yosemite Point, continue along the creek toward Eagle Peak. Once you reach the fork in the trail, with more signs, find a good place to set up camp! Then spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the rim!
5 Star Views
The views from this trail are simply amazing! Be sure to leave early in the morning, the last 1.5 miles is pretty exposed so you don't want to do it in the beating sun! Not sure about the "natural swimming pool" suggestion... There is definitely NOT a safe space to swim in above the falls. NPS makes it pretty clear that you should never swim in the waters above any of the waterfalls in the park. But definitely continue another 1 mile to Yosemite point for even more amazing views of Half Dome and the valley!
If you want to see an incredible view of Upper Yosemite Falls and Half Dome in the background, this is the hike to do. About halfway up the trail is an incredible viewpoint. You will know it when you see it. And of course, the top of the falls... breathtaking....
This place is pretty rad AF, actually the whole park of Yosemite is superb! Hiking Upper Yosemite Falls is challenging never the less is beautiful. Any angle you're going to get a rainbow during daylight. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes while going and bring lots of water and snacks. Happy Hiking! Instagram @jnblvnco
Love the report but have to point out an irresponsible suggestion. The spot where swimming is recommended is not safe and people get swept over almost routinely. Be careful near waterfalls, they run harder than you'd think.
If you've already made it this far to the falls, why not go a little farther! You can you can extend your hike east to Yosemite Point (follow signs for North Dome; adds 1.6 miles round trip to this hike). It offers direct views to Half Dome and a stunning panorama of other High Sierra peaks.
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