Hike to Upper Yosemite Falls



8 miles

Elevation Gain

2700 ft

Route Type


Added by Tiffany Nguyen

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. 

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Know for

Easy Parking
Swimming Hole



Leave a Review

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.

🥈 Contributor

almost 5 years 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!

🥈 Contributor

almost 5 years 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!

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