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 gain
  • Natural swimming pool at the top of the falls to cool off before the trek down the mountain
  • 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, cool off and take a plunge before heading down. To return to the trailhead, exercise caution as you return the same way you came.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Daypack
  • Camera
  • Food
  • Hiking shoes
  • Sun protection
  • Bathing suit
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

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

Share

Activities:

Hiking, Photography, Swimming

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

8 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2700 Feet

Rating:

Features:

Easy Parking
Scenic
Swimming Hole
Waterfall

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

5 months ago

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.

5 months ago

6 months ago

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.

6 months ago

7 months ago

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.

7 months ago

7 months ago

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!

7 months ago

7 months ago

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!

7 months ago

about 1 year ago

Spectacular Viewpoints!

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....

about 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

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

over 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

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.

over 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

Amazing views! Start early and make sure to look up from your next step to take in your surroundings.

over 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

Somewhat strenuous hike, but totally worth it. Spectacular views from the top.

over 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

Always bring more water than you think you are going to need. You never know, you might meet a climber on the way down who could use a little extra after a long climb.

over 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

Takes some endurance, but the reward is SOOO worth it!

over 1 year ago

almost 2 years ago

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.

almost 2 years ago

almost 2 years ago

Hi, this is Orlando from Venezuela :) Do you offer this trip?

almost 2 years ago

Added by Tiffany Nguyen

Email: tiffpenguinphoto@gmail.com

More Adventures Nearby

Backpack to Big Bird Lake & Moose Lake

Yosemite / Alta Peak Trailhead

This trip requires a wilderness permit. You can get one at the Lodgepole Visitor Center where you can also rent a bear canister or use the bathroom before heading out.

Leslie Chang
2 Saves

Backpack to Vogelsang and Merced Lake High Sierra Camps

Yosemite / Lyell Canyon Trailhead

If you love the idea of backpacking to remote mountain destinations, but shudder at the thought of carrying a heavy pack and digging a hole to poop in, the High Sierra Camps are a great option.

Julie & Brian
7 Saves

Backpack Gem Lake Loop in Emigrant Wilderness

Yosemite / Crabtree Trailhead

The Gem Lake Loop is located in Emigrant Wilderness, which borders Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park, and offers incredible views, smaller crowds, and diverse terrain.

Nancy Lappetito
5 Saves