Yosemite Falls

Yosemite National Park, California, USA

About Yosemite Falls


Hiking Distance: roadside; 1/2 mile round trip to base; wheelchair; 7.2 miles round trip to top
Suggested Time: 20 minutes (base); 4-6 hours (top)

Date first visited: 2002-05-30
Date last visited: 2017-06-16

Waterfall Latitude: 37.75253
Waterfall Longitude: -119.59686

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Along with Half Dome, Yosemite Falls is the iconic symbol of the grandeur and beauty of Yosemite National Park.

We think the falls is practically synonymous with the incomparable Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite_Valley_012_06032011 - Yosemite Falls from Swinging Bridge
Yosemite Falls from Swinging Bridge

And for something this grand and beautiful, we had to put the falls in both our Top 10 Waterfalls of the USA List and our Top 10 Waterfalls of the World List.

The Historical Significance of Yosemite Falls

I had read that Yosemite Falls had featured on early drawings made by Thomas Ayres back in the Gold Rush days, which then found their way into print.

Consequently, that popularized and attracted tourists from across the country in the latter half of the 19th century.

With such a ground swell of visitation and interest, this established the chain of events that would ultimately result in The Yosemite becoming a California State Park in 1864.

Yosemite_Valley_17_017_06162017 - The Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls seen together from the famous trail to its base
The Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls seen together from the famous trail to its base

It was the first such act of government of its kind, where land was set aside for public use and enjoyment.

Thus, I have to believe that the historical significance of the falls was such that it could very well have been the catalyst that sparked the conservation movement.

It was also the model by which the eventual protection of lands and whole ecosystems would manifest themselves in reserves that would eventually be known as National Parks eight years later.

Attributes of Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls drops in three major stages.

Pohono_Loop_008_05222004 - Looking down at all the stages of Yosemite Falls
Looking down at all the stages of Yosemite Falls

The first stage is the Upper Fall, which is said to plunge 1,430ft.

The second stage is the Middle Cascades, which tumbles down a height of reportedly 675ft.

The final stage is the Lower Fall, which is said to drop 320ft.

Thus, Yosemite Falls is widely reported to have a cumulative drop of 2,425ft making it one of the highest waterfalls in the world.

Yosemite_Valley_17_077_06162017 - Approaching the base of Yosemite Falls in 2017.  It's understandable why this path is so busy
Approaching the base of Yosemite Falls in 2017. It’s understandable why this path is so busy

Since the falls faces out towards a wide open valley, it also happens to be one of the easiest waterfalls to both see and access.

I think it’s this accessibility coupled with its immense beauty that makes Yosemite Falls a world class tourist attraction in a place that is full of them!

Indeed, we were able to see some or all of the waterfall from various locations throughout Yosemite Valley both from within the valley itself and from the rim of the valley in the High Country.

Yosemite Falls and the Seasons

Yosemite Creek, which feeds the waterfall, drains a very large area of the High Country (reportedly 43 square miles).

Yosemite_Valley_13_013_20130217 - Yosemite Falls as seen during the Winter Time
Yosemite Falls as seen during the Winter Time

Generally, snow pack accumulated from Winter storms provide the falls most of its water.

The water would remain locked up as snow and ice until the warmer climate of Spring and early Summer converts all that solid water into liquid water.

The falls flows most vigorously during the Spring snow melt.

We’ve seen the peak of this snowmelt occur during the early- to mid-Spring months during low snow pack years.

Yosemite_Valley_17_149_06162017 - Yosemite Falls as seen during the early Summer of a high snowpack year
Yosemite Falls as seen during the early Summer of a high snowpack year

On the other hand, we’ve also seen the peak of the snowmelt occur as late as June in high snow pack years.

Yet despite the large drainage area feeding Yosemite Creek, the waterfall does dry up when its snow pack has completely melted away (which typically occurs by mid- to late Summer).

Then, the falls remains bare until the next round of significant storms in the late Autumn or Winter months brings it back to life and repeats this cycle.

The Various Ways to experience Yosemite Falls

Over the years, we’ve photographed Yosemite Falls too many times to count.

Yosemite_Lodge_17_003_06162017 - Yosemite Falls as seen from the village near the Yosemite Lodge
Yosemite Falls as seen from the village near the Yosemite Lodge

So naturally, we have lots more photos of Yosemite National Park’s crown jewel that we’d like to share with you, which are shown in the photo gallery further below on this page.

Indeed, we’ve experienced the falls in a variety of ways, and in this page, we’ll break down all the ways that we’ve done it.

We think it’s worth doing as many of these as you can, because you’ll automatically visit parts of Yosemite National Park that you might not have considered otherwise.

And thus you’ll gain a better appreciation of your time spent in Yosemite in addition to a better appreciation of the waterfall itself.

Experiencing Yosemite Falls – the walk to the base of the Lower Falls (Difficulty: 1.5)

Yosemite_Valley_033_06032011 - The paved walkway to the base of Yosemite Falls in early June 2011, which was a heavy snowpack year
The paved walkway to the base of Yosemite Falls in early June 2011, which was a heavy snowpack year

This is the most straightforward way of getting close to Yosemite Falls.

The walk begins right across the Northside Drive from Yosemite Lodge.

It’s pretty much paved almost the entire way (roughly a quarter-mile) so there’s even wheelchair access to see the Lower Yosemite Falls.

There’s also a footbridge providing great open views of the lower waterfall though it can get quite misty there depending on Yosemite Creek’s volume.

Lower_Yosemite_Falls_007_02252006 - The base of Yosemite Falls with rainbow in February 2006
The base of Yosemite Falls with rainbow in February 2006

In any case, what we enjoy most about seeing experiencing Yosemite Falls this way is the view of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls from the paved walkway.

To see the giant waterfall framed by tall trees flanking the walkway is truly a sight to behold, and we frequently find ourselves taking photos almost every step of the way.

Proceeding further along the walkway, our grand view of the full height of the falls eventually gives way to just the lower waterfall as the views of the upper waterfall become blocked.

Although there’s a path leading from the east at the other side of the footbridge at the lower waterfall, it’s not as atmospheric as the direct path from Yosemite Lodge.

Yosemite_Valley_17_056_06162017 - The base of Yosemite Falls in very high flow in June 2017
The base of Yosemite Falls in very high flow in June 2017

You just don’t get to see the entire waterfall together as much as you would if you did it the way I’m advocating. However, you would access the Yosemite Visitor Center going that way.

So given the fact that this super easy walk lets just about anyone get up close to the mighty Yosemite Falls, we found ourselves sharing this waterfall with people at all times.

Indeed, you’re most likely not going to have neither this trail nor the falls to yourself.

That said, this waterfall alone could induce many more people to become a lover of waterfalls like us. And that’s not a bad thing!

Yosemite_Valley_17_041_06162017 - It can get very busy by the bridge before the Lower Yosemite Falls even as people get sprayed by its mist
It can get very busy by the bridge before the Lower Yosemite Falls even as people get sprayed by its mist

As for logistics, there used to be a parking lot on the north side of Northside Drive, but now it’s pedestrians only.

These days, there’s day use parking lot behind Yosemite Lodge with other parking locations by Curry Village as well as Yosemite Village (both further to the east).

There’s also pullouts alongside Northside Drive and some of the intermediate roads since parking was not easy to find, especially in the Summer months and on the weekends.

If parking near the falls isn’t successful, there’s generally some parking space at Curry Village (signpost V22 in the eastern end of the valley).

Yosemite_Valley_17_031_06162017 - The kids love playing in the water. But while Yosemite Creek would be very turbulent at the base of the Lower Yosemite Falls, there's plenty of calmer spots where Yosemite Creek is kid-friendly well downstream from the falls
The kids love playing in the water. But while Yosemite Creek would be very turbulent at the base of the Lower Yosemite Falls, there’s plenty of calmer spots where Yosemite Creek is kid-friendly well downstream from the falls

Then, you can take the shuttle bus towards Yosemite Lodge.

And if that’s not successful, then you’d have to resort to trying to find roadside parallel parking wherever you can.

The Yosemite Road Guide says the wheelchair-friendly pedestrian path is by signpost V3 (or is it V4?).

That said, I don’t remember if that signpost is still there as this area has seen quite a transformation over the years to alleviate the crowds and traffic congestion.

Experiencing Yosemite Falls – hiking to the top of the Upper Falls (Difficulty: 4.5)

Upper_Yosemite_Falls_075_04302005 - Looking down from the brink of Yosemite Falls
Looking down from the brink of Yosemite Falls

We definitely had to be in pretty good shape in order to experience the waterfall in this manner!

Just the fact that it was a long and tiring hike with some serious elevation gain made us appreciate just how tall this waterfall really was!

All told, we ended up doing about 7.2 miles round trip with about 2,700ft of elevation gain.

Most of the walk was exposed to the sun since it was on the south-facing cliffs of Yosemite Valley.

El_Capitan_Falls_007_03212004 - The trail to the brink of the Upper Yosemite Falls began from Camp 4 or the Sunnyside Campground, which was near the signpost V5
The trail to the brink of the Upper Yosemite Falls began from Camp 4 or the Sunnyside Campground, which was near the signpost V5

So we definitely needed to bring lots of water, stamina, and sunscreen.

I’d recommend getting an early start especially if you’re doing this hike on a relatively warm day.

My mom and I once started this hike in the early afternoon, and it was almost dark by the time we finished.

And to underscore how strenuous this hike was, there were moments of self-doubt as I was battling leg cramps before reaching the destination.

El_Capitan_Falls_003_03212004 - Looking towards 'El Capitan Falls' or 'Columbia Cascade', which backed Camp 4 or the Sunnyside Campground, where we started the hike up to the Upper Yosemite Falls
Looking towards ‘El Capitan Falls’ or ‘Columbia Cascade’, which backed Camp 4 or the Sunnyside Campground, where we started the hike up to the Upper Yosemite Falls

Given the relentlessly uphill climb we had to make, in addition to all the aforementioned things about coming prepared, it would also be wise to take your time and listen to your body.

Especially pay attention when it starts to complain about something.

The trail began behind Camp 4 (also known as the Sunnyside Campground).

This camp was well known in the rock climbers circle (because it’s where you’d base yourself for a climb up El Capitan’s vertical face) as well as park veterans (because it’s a walk-in campground).

Upper_Yosemite_Falls_016_04302005 - Looking back at the context of the uphill trail to the Upper Yosemite Falls with 'El Capitan Falls' or 'Columbia Cascade' in the background
Looking back at the context of the uphill trail to the Upper Yosemite Falls with ‘El Capitan Falls’ or ‘Columbia Cascade’ in the background

It was about a 1/4-mile west of the walkway to Lower Yosemite Falls.

Since we couldn’t conveniently park in Camp 4 unless we somehow secured a camping spot there, we had to count that extra 1/4-mile distance as part of our hike.

I suppose if we really wanted to save that extra 1/2-mile round trip distance between trailheads, we could’ve waited for a shuttle to drop us off at the Sunnyside Campground one stop beyond Yosemite Lodge.

The Yosemite Road Guide had the trailhead near signpost V5.

Upper_Yosemite_Falls_019_04302005 - The stream crossing and waterfall was a hazard when we did the hike in April 2005, which was an unusually high snowpack year
The stream crossing and waterfall was a hazard when we did the hike in April 2005, which was an unusually high snowpack year

Once we found the correct trail, it almost immediately climbed up in earnest. This climb persisted until we got up to the Columbia Point Lookout at about the 1.2-mile point.

During this stretch, we had to cross the stream coming from “El Capitan Falls“, which I’d imagine only persisted during high snowpack/snowmelt years.

When we did this hike in April 2005, which was an unusually high snowpack year, that crossing presented a mild slip-and-fall dropoff hazard.

In any case, once we were at the Columbia Point Lookout, we were able to take a short break while looking down at Yosemite Valley, across at Sentinel Rock and Sentinel Falls, and further east towards Half Dome.

Upper_Yosemite_Falls_034_03202004 - The vista from Columbia Point towards Half Dome, North Dome, Washington Column, and a sliver of the Royal Arch Cascade
The vista from Columbia Point towards Half Dome, North Dome, Washington Column, and a sliver of the Royal Arch Cascade

For many people, this would be a suitable turnaround point (making it roughly under 4 miles round trip). But if you’re going to the top of Yosemite Falls, then there’s still quite a ways to go!

Next, the trail went up a grueling set of switchbacks on a sandy surface before leveling out.

That sandy surface lacked enough traction that for each step we took, we would slide a short distance downhill.

So we didn’t gain all the uphill distance for each stride we took (making this already strenuous stretch even more brutal).

Upper_Yosemite_Falls_012_03202004 - Approaching Upper Yosemite Falls from beyond Columbia Point
Approaching Upper Yosemite Falls from beyond Columbia Point

The trail then made a turn and headed closer to the Upper Yosemite Falls.

It was from this stretch of the trail that we managed to get a closer look at the Middle Cascades.

By the time we got right up to the rock wall nearly adjacent to the plunge of the Upper Yosemite Falls, we had to go up yet another series of long granite steps and switchbacks.

I’d consider this part the most grueling stretch of hiking since it was basically a non-stop ascent on the unforgiving granite surface.

Upper_Yosemite_Falls_036_04302005 - Looking across Upper Yosemite Falls towards Half Dome and North Dome as the trail was making its most grueling ascent yet
Looking across Upper Yosemite Falls towards Half Dome and North Dome as the trail was making its most grueling ascent yet

I recalled even cramping up towards the end of this stretch.

Ultimately, the trail reached the top where it junctioned with some high country trails.

During our April 2005 hike, this area was still under snow.

Fortunately, we spotted signposts that directed us to keep right and follow that trail to the top of the falls.

Upper_Yosemite_Falls_058_04302005 - Braving our fear of heights as we approached the lookout right at the brink of Yosemite Falls
Braving our fear of heights as we approached the lookout right at the brink of Yosemite Falls

Right near the top of the falls, we did have to face some mild cliff exposure, which tested our fear of heights.

That said, there were some railings to help reassure us.

Yet despite the infrastructure, we were still getting some butterflies, especially near the cliff edges at some of the more exposed parts of the trail.

I guess such sensations were our body’s natural reaction to the threat of falling, especially since it was a long way down!

Upper_Yosemite_Falls_089_04302005 - Mom making the long return hike after having her fill of the brink of the Yosemite Falls
Mom making the long return hike after having her fill of the brink of the Yosemite Falls

After having our fill of the Upper Yosemite Falls, we finally got to return the way we came on an almost all-downhill hike.

However, this hike was brutal on the knees given each bone-jarring step on the granite surface sections of the trail.

Experiencing Yosemite Falls – the view from Swinging Bridge

This is probably one of my favorite vantage points for photographing Yosemite Falls.

That’s because we were able to see the falls reflected in the Merced River from a sturdy footbridge (totally not indicative of its name) as well as a more direct view from a spot just east of the bridge.

Swinging_Bridge_17_058_06162017 - Yosemite Falls reflected in the Merced River from near the Swinging Bridge
Yosemite Falls reflected in the Merced River from near the Swinging Bridge

We’ve generally found that the river was most calm with the most favorable lighting in the morning.

The parking for this spot is at signpost V17.

This is a couple of stops after Bridalveil Fall.

Or, it’s one stop after the bottom of the Four Mile Trail (to Glacier Point), which is also a spot to see Sentinel Falls.

Swinging_Bridge_17_046_06162017 - Kids playing in a shallow part of the Merced River on the other side of Swinging Bridge
Kids playing in a shallow part of the Merced River on the other side of Swinging Bridge

After parking the car, we walked a short distance to the swinging -err sturdy bridge.

On the other side of the bridge, there were trails following the north banks of the Merced River and eventually leading to the Northside Drive.

But not far to the east side of the bridge was a shallow part of the river where the kids really enjoyed cooling off and playing in the water.

Indeed, there were many ways to spend time enjoying this beautiful spot, and it’s understandable why the parking area here can fill up quickly.

Experiencing Yosemite Falls – viewing the waterfall from across a meadow

Yosemite_Falls_003_05302002 - Seeing Yosemite Falls from across the meadow by the elongated pullouts near the V19 signpost yielded one of the first places that we've ever photographed Yosemite Falls in all the times that we've made our visits here
Seeing Yosemite Falls from across the meadow by the elongated pullouts near the V19 signpost yielded one of the first places that we’ve ever photographed Yosemite Falls in all the times that we’ve made our visits here

This is probably one of the more obvious ways to view Yosemite Falls.

As you drive along the Southside Drive past the pullouts for the Four Mile Trail and Swinging Bridge, the valley opens up and parallels a long pullout and bike path near signpost V19 (according to the Yosemite Road Guide).

Given the size of this pullout, there’s plenty of space and time to pull over here.

I believe somewhere near the end of this stretch (not far from the Yosemite Chapel, I recall), there’s a bridge crossing over the Merced River.

Yosemite_Valley_132_06032011 - Yosemite Falls dwarfing cars as seen from Cook Meadow
Yosemite Falls dwarfing cars as seen from Cook Meadow

That road and bridge leads to another large pullout with more views of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls from across Cook Meadow (see photo above).

Beyond this parking lot, I believe the road continues into Yosemite Lodge as well as connecting with the Northside Drive.

If you proceed further east along the Southside Drive, you can get all the way to Curry Village and Stoneman Meadow (near signpost V22).

Here, you can see the Upper Yosemite Falls from a distance at an angle over the easternmost of the grassy meadows in Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite_Falls_005_03202004 - Even from as far away as the Stoneman Meadow and Curry Village, you can see parts of Yosemite Falls
Even from as far away as the Stoneman Meadow and Curry Village, you can see parts of Yosemite Falls

For a more intimate experience amongst the meadows fronting Yosemite Falls (especially Cook Meadow), there were plenty of trails and boardwalks linking the Northside Drive with the Southside Drive.

Along this stretch of open terrain, we managed to get even more perspectives of the iconic waterfall.

However, we were also able to do so at our own pace without the stress of trying to find parking or dealing with the traffic.

We were even able to better appreciate Half Dome and North Dome looking to the east, enjoy open looks at Lehamite Falls, and get more photo ops and selfies without worrying too much about other people getting in the way.

Yosemite_Valley_17_119_06162017 - The hiking trail cutting across Cook Meadow providing more relaxing and peaceful ways to experience Yosemite Falls
The hiking trail cutting across Cook Meadow providing more relaxing and peaceful ways to experience Yosemite Falls

If there was a way to experience Yosemite Falls in a relaxed setting, then this would be the method for doing so.

Just to give you an example of a nice flat stroll that we managed to do with the kids, after getting our fill of the base of the Lower Falls, we spontaneously took a trail just east of the Yosemite Lodge through the open Cook Meadow.

We managed to cut all the way across to a bridge over the Merced River near the Yosemite Chapel.

Then, after getting our views of the falls from the Southside Drive, we then hiked back east towards the Stoneman Bridge.

Yosemite_Valley_17_106_06162017 - Looking east from within the wide open Cook Meadow towards Lehamite Falls (left), North Dome (middle), and Half Dome (right)
Looking east from within the wide open Cook Meadow towards Lehamite Falls (left), North Dome (middle), and Half Dome (right)

From there, we could get one of the classic views of Half Dome fronted by the Merced River.

Just north of the Stoneman Bridge, we then briefly walked a short distance northwest of the parking lot for Cook Meadow.

Next, we backtracked and cut across a different trail hooking up with the Northside Drive, where we eventually regained our parked car.

This entire loop took us a very leisurely two hours.

Yosemite_Valley_17_221_06162017 - After having our fill of the loop hike through the meadows to experience the Yosemite Falls in a relaxed atmosphere, then we were ready to return to the car and deal with traffic and parking again
After having our fill of the loop hike through the meadows to experience the Yosemite Falls in a relaxed atmosphere, then we were ready to return to the car and deal with traffic and parking again

This didn’t count the extra two hours we had spent at the base of the Yosemite Falls, having a picnic lunch, and spending some minutes at the Yosemite Visitor Center.

Experiencing Yosemite Falls – view from the summit of Sentinel Dome (Difficulty: 2)

We think the summit of Sentinel Dome is the best place to see the entirety of Yosemite Falls, including its elusive Middle Cascades.

It’s a fairly easy one-mile hike with a steep non-technical scramble (friction pitch) to make the final ascent.

Once at the top, we could look into the ravines that would otherwise be hidden from us at other more well-known vantage points throughout Yosemite Valley and its neighboring cliffs.

Pohono_Loop_013_05222004 - All three tiers of Yosemite Falls visible from the top of Sentinel Dome
All three tiers of Yosemite Falls visible from the top of Sentinel Dome

Of course, the waterfall isn’t the only reason why we’ve climbed Sentinel Dome.

Indeed, we were able to get complete 360 degree views since the summit of Sentinel Dome is over 8,000ft in elevation.

From this vantage point, we could see Yosemite Valley, the granite wilderness towards the south (including shapely domes like Mt Starr King), and Tenaya Canyon (including part of the Giant Stairway to the east along with the iconic Half Dome).

The summit was also once famous having a picturesque lone Jeffrey Pine Tree, which was a popular landmark to frame high country panoramas.

Sentinel_Dome_002_scanned_05302002 - The iconic Jeffrey Pine Tree that once stood atop Sentinel Dome
The iconic Jeffrey Pine Tree that once stood atop Sentinel Dome

Unfortunately, it eventually died (in the 80s from lightning) and was naturally felled after a thunderstorm some time in 2004 or 2005.

I considered myself fortunate to have photographed it back in 2002 when it was still standing.

The trailhead parking for this hike is along Glacier Point Road at signpost G8.

Experiencing Yosemite Falls – the view from Taft Point (Difficulty: 2)

For a little more solitude and a somewhat unusual view of Yosemite Falls, we hiked out to the fissures and sheer vertical drop cliffs at Taft Point.

Pohono_Loop_063_05222004 - Yosemite Falls from the precipitous Taft Point
Yosemite Falls from the precipitous Taft Point

The lookout was at the end of a 1.1-mile hike from the car park near signpost G8 on the Glacier Point Road.

It’s the same trailhead as one as for Sentinel Dome so this hike can easily be combined with it over what’s also known as the Pohono Loop.

The views from up at Taft Point definitely induced butterflies because most of the dropoffs did not have railings.

However, the one spot that did have a railing happened to be kind of pointing towards the falls.

Pohono_Loop_055_05222004 - Looking back at the precipitous Taft Point with the bridge of the nose of El Capitan in the background across Yosemite Valley
Looking back at the precipitous Taft Point with the bridge of the nose of El Capitan in the background across Yosemite Valley

From that vantage point, we also got a good look at the bridge of the nose of El Capitan.

Experiencing Yosemite Falls – view from Glacier Point and the Panorama Trail (Difficulty: 4)

We were able to see Yosemite Falls at an angle at one of the well-touristed lookouts in Glacier Point, which itself sat at the very end of Glacier Point Road (signpost G11).

Glacier Point was also the starting point for the shuttle hike on the Panorama Trail.

That hike allowed us to get close to three major waterfalls (Illilouette Fall, Nevada Falls, and Vernal Fall) while providing more sideways views of Yosemite Falls from a far distance.

Yosemite_Falls_028_06012002 - Yosemite Falls from Glacier Point at sunrise in June 2002 just prior to starting the hike down the Panorama Trail
Yosemite Falls from Glacier Point at sunrise in June 2002 just prior to starting the hike down the Panorama Trail

The Panorama Trail was an 8.5-mile one-way shuttle hike.

It took us the better part of a day to complete, which was why I noted this excursion had a difficulty rating of 4.

It required some coordination and logistics because we had two cars and left one of them at the destination of the hike at Curry Village.

Then, when we started the hike, we drove up to Glacier Point and left the car there as we did the long one-way hike.

Glacier_Point_070_06022011 - View of Illilouette Fall and the backside of Half Dome, which was one of the highlights of doing the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point down to Happy Isles
View of Illilouette Fall and the backside of Half Dome, which was one of the highlights of doing the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point down to Happy Isles

Eventually after recovering the car at Curry Village, we then drove back to Glacier Point to pick up the other car left at the start of the hike.

Of course, if the logistics of having two vehicles and coordinating all the parking and pickups isn’t feasible, one could book a hikers bus.

The hikers bus would round up hikers in Yosemite Valley, then drop them off at Glacier Point (or other far-flung trailheads).

Anyways, the Panorama Trail hike was mostly downhill, but there was a fairly long uphill stretch once we crossed the bridge over Illilouette Creek.

Panorama_Trail_003_06012002 - Unusual view of Yosemite Falls from the Panorama Trail
Unusual view of Yosemite Falls from the Panorama Trail

That climb ultimately allowed us to reach the Panorama Cliffs overlooking the backside of Half Dome, Liberty Cap, and Nevada Falls.

Finally, the trail descended towards the John Muir Trail where we had the option of descending the rest of the way to the Happy Isles Trailhead via the Mist Trail or the John Muir Trail.

Experiencing Yosemite Falls – view from the Four-Mile Trail

Last but not least, there’s a cliff-exposed view of Yosemite Falls from directly across the valley right on the Four-Mile Trail.

This trail directly connects Yosemite Valley with Glacier Point.

Four-Mile_Trail_022_05222004 - Yosemite Falls from the Four-Mile Trail
Yosemite Falls from the Four-Mile Trail

Technically, it’s longer than four miles each way, and we’ve only walked down from Glacier Point to portions where we could get decent views of the falls before walking back up.

We never did the whole hike, but I’m certainly keen on doing it just for an experience that most visitors to Yosemite don’t really get.

Nonetheless, I’d imagine it’s a pretty and exhilarating hike, but we were always cognizant of the cliff exposure on this trail.

I remembered confronting my fear of heights on this trail the very first time I was on it way back in 1999, and I recalled how butterflies in my stomach were persistent.

Four-Mile_Trail_028_05222004 - Snow still clinging to some of the narrow sections of the Four-Mile Trail
Snow still clinging to some of the narrow sections of the Four-Mile Trail

When I revisited this trail in 2005, my fear of heights were not as pronounced so there weren’t as many stomach butterflies.

Still, I’d imagine it largely depends on your fear of heights and hiking experience that will ultimately determine how nervous you might be on this trail.

Authorities

Yosemite Falls resides in Yosemite National Park near El Portal in Mariposa County, California. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Swinging_Bridge_17_001_06162017 - The parking at the Swinging Bridge stop. This photo was taken from our June 2017 visit, and the next several photos were taken from the same day
Swinging_Bridge_17_005_06162017 - On the short walk leading to the Swinging Bridge over the Merced River in our June 2017 visit
Swinging_Bridge_17_010_06162017 - Classic view of Yosemite Falls reflected in the Merced River during our June 2017 visit at the Swinging Bridge
Swinging_Bridge_17_015_06162017 - Focused view of Yosemite Falls reflected in a calm part of the Merced River as seen from the Swinging Bridge
Swinging_Bridge_17_019_06162017 - Looking downstream along the Merced River from the Swinging Bridge during our June 2017 visit to Yosemite
Swinging_Bridge_17_022_06162017 - View of Yosemite Falls over the Merced River right from the middle of the Swinging Bridge during our June 2017 visit
Swinging_Bridge_17_045_06162017 - The kids finding a shallow part of the Merced River on the other side of the Swinging Bridge during our June 2017 visit to Yosemite
Swinging_Bridge_17_051_06162017 - Looking back at the context of where the kids were playing in the Merced River by the Swinging Bridge during our June 2017 visit to Yosemite
Yosemite_Valley_17_005_06162017 - Looking at the context of Yosemite Falls from the Yosemite National Park Visitor Center between Yosemite Lodge and the Yosemite Village
Yosemite_Valley_17_012_06162017 - Given how far we parked from any of the parking lots or shuttle stops, we had to walk quite a ways before finally getting to the trail leading to the bottom of Yosemite Falls during our June 2017 visit
Yosemite_Valley_17_030_06162017 - Context of Yosemite Falls as we made our walk to get closer to its base during our June 2017 visit
Yosemite_Valley_17_033_06162017 - During the walk to the base of Yosemite Falls on our June 2017 visit, the kids had no trouble figuring out where to play in Yosemite Creek
Yosemite_Valley_17_040_06162017 - Looking back at a lot of rock cairns set up by people besides Yosemite Creek during our June 2017 visit
Yosemite_Valley_17_042_06162017 - Context of some people trying to photograph the Lower Yosemite Falls while it was sending mist towards the bridge and loads of onlookers during our June 2017 visit
Yosemite_Valley_17_061_06162017 - After the short hike to the base of the Lower Yosemite Falls, the kids wasted no time going back to this calm part of Yosemite Creek and play in the water again during our June 2017 visit
Yosemite_Valley_17_072_06162017 - Looking back at the famous walk to the base of Yosemite Falls during our June 2017 visit
Yosemite_Valley_17_112_06162017 - During our walk to the base of Yosemite Falls in June 2017, we then went on a loop walk into Cook Meadow for a bit of a relaxing stroll, where we also noticed Lehamite Falls doing pretty decently on this day
Yosemite_Valley_17_115_06162017 - Looking back at Yosemite Falls from the trail cutting through Cook Meadow during our June 2017 visit
Yosemite_Valley_17_123_06162017 - Looking downstream along the Merced River from a bridge going across it during our June 2017 visit. The river was in very high flow during our visit
Yosemite_Valley_17_144_06162017 - Looking across the meadow towards Yosemite Falls during our June 2017 visit
Yosemite_Valley_17_163_06162017 - Yosemite Falls partially reflected in a calm part of the Merced River in June 2017
Yosemite_Valley_17_201_06162017 - Yosemite Falls from Cooks Meadow in Summer
Yosemite_Valley_17_217_06162017 - Heading back towards the Northside Drive through Cook Meadow after having had our fill of the pleasant loop walk to take in Yosemite Falls from several different vantage points during our visit in June 2017
Yosemite_Valley_13_003_20130217 - Looking across a boardwalk through Cook Meadow with Yosemite Falls in Winter flow as seen in February 2013. This photo and the next few were taken on this day
Yosemite_Valley_13_023_20130217 - On the famous walk leading to the base of Yosemite Falls in February 2013
Yosemite_Valley_13_026_20130217 - With the lower flow, you can see people standing closer to the base of the Lower Yosemite Falls in February 2013
Yosemite_Valley_13_028_20130217 - Broad contextual look at the Lower Yosemite Falls as seen during our February 2013 visit
Yosemite_Valley_13_039_20130217 - Looking up at the Upper Yosemite Falls in Winter flow during our visit in February 2013
Glacier_Point_043_06022011 - Looking towards Yosemite Falls as seen from Glacier Point during our June 2011 visit. This photo and the next several ones were taken from this trip
Yosemite_Valley_005_06032011 - Looking towards Yosemite Falls reflected in the Merced River from the Swinging Bridge during our June 2011 visit
Yosemite_Valley_016_06032011 - Broad look towards Yosemite Falls over the Merced River as seen from Swinging Bridge during our June 2011 visit to Yosemite
Yosemite_Valley_048_06032011 - Back on the famous walk to the base of Yosemite Falls during our June 2011 visit
Yosemite_Valley_049_06032011 - At the base of the Lower Yosemite Falls during our June 2011 visit
Yosemite_Valley_070_06032011 - A rare moment when there weren't as many people on the trail to Lower Yosemite Falls in our June 2011 visit
Yosemite_Valley_131_06032011 - Yosemite Falls from Cooks Meadow during our visit in June 2011
Swinging_Bridge_003_02252006 - Portrait view of Yosemite Falls reflected in the Merced River as seen during our February 2006 visit to Yosemite. This photo and the next few were taken on that day
Swinging_Bridge_005_02252006 - Yosemite Falls in Winter flow as seen over the Merced River from the Swinging Bridge during our February 2006 visit
Swinging_Bridge_008_02252006 - Yosemite Falls and the snow cone in the Winter 2006
Lower_Yosemite_Falls_002_02252006 - On the famous walk leading to the base of Yosemite Falls during our February 2006 visit
Cooks_Meadow_006_02252006 - Yosemite Falls from Cooks Meadow in winter
Lower_Yosemite_Falls_006_04302005 - On the walk to the Lower Yosemite Falls during our April 2005 visit. This photo and the next several ones were taken from this trip
Lower_Yosemite_Falls_009_04302005 - It was a very crowded paved walkway to the base of Yosemite Falls in April 2005
Lower_Yosemite_Falls_015_04302005 - View of the Lower Yosemite Falls in high flow as seen during our April 2005 visit
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_002_04302005 - Looking across Yosemite Valley from the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail in April 2005
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_006_04302005 - Looking towards Half Dome and the east side of Yosemite Valley from Columbia Point on the hike to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls in April 2005
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_022_04302005 - Focused look at Half Dome fronted by a sloping Royal Arch Cascade as seen during our hike to the top of Yosemite Falls in April 2005
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_026_04302005 - Still on the trail to the top of Yosemite Falls as we headed faced the Upper Yosemite Falls during our April 2005 hike
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_040_04302005 - Context of the Upper Yosemite Falls and some other hikers attempting to go to the top of the falls during our visit in April 2005
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_042_04302005 - There was still snow on the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail in the high country in April 2005
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_043_04302005 - Encountering a trail junction where we had all sorts of choices of where to hike to en route to the Upper Yosemite Falls during our April 2005 visit
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_044_04302005 - Following the signs to the top of Yosemite Falls while needing to get through the snow during our April 2005 visit
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_047_04302005 - Starting to have cliff exposure as we got closer to the top of Yosemite Falls during our April 2005 hike
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_050_04302005 - Context of the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail with towering granite cliffs surrounding a hidden ravine up ahead where the Yosemite Creek was during our hike in April 2005
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_052_04302005 - Yosemite Creek rushing towards the brink of Yosemite Falls as seen in April 2005
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_061_04302005 - Some cliff exposure near the top of Yosemite Falls during our April 2005 hike
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_067_04302005 - The viewing area at the top of Yosemite Falls as seen from our April 2005 visit
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_078_04302005 - Looking over the brink of Yosemite Falls to the valley way down below during our April 2005 hike
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_082_04302005 - Looking along the vertical cliffs towards the western side of Yosemite Valley where there appeared to be some incoming rain during our hike to the top of Yosemite Falls in April 2005
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_085_04302005 - Vertigo-inducing views back across Yosemite Valley towards the Curry Village area as seen from the top of Yosemite Falls in April 2005
Four-Mile_Trail_001_05202004 - Looking against the sun towards Yosemite Falls from the Four-Mile Trail during our visit in May 2004
Four-Mile_Trail_003_05202004 - Context of the Four-Mile Trail and Tenaya Canyon during our visit in May 2004
Four-Mile_Trail_008_05202004 - We spotted this deer during our hike on the Four-Mile Trail during our visit in May 2004
Four-Mile_Trail_021_05222004 - Partial view of the Upper Yosemite Falls from the Four-Mile Trail during our visit in May 2004
Four-Mile_Trail_030_05222004 - Looking up towards that famous rock near Glacier Point where a historical photo of someone posing before Yosemite Falls was taken from. This was seen during our hike on the Four-Mile Trail during our visit in May 2004
Pohono_Loop_002_05222004 - Looking towards Sentinel Dome as we started on a hike to its top in May 2004
Pohono_Loop_004_05222004 - Looking up the ascent to the summit of Sentinel Dome as we were making the final ascent during our May 2004 hike
Pohono_Loop_018_05222004 - The fallen Jeffrey Pine Tree as seen in May 2004 when we hiked to the top of Sentinel Dome
Pohono_Loop_026_05222004 - Looking down at folks making the ascent to the summit of Sentinel Dome in May 2004
Pohono_Loop_027_05222004 - Looking towards some kind of radio tower or something along the Pohono Loop during our hike in May 2004
Pohono_Loop_029_05222004 - This unusual view of Yosemite Falls was from the Pohono Trail between Sentinel Dome and Taft Point on our hike in May 2004
Pohono_Loop_056_05222004 - Looking into the drop stones stuck in the fissures of Taft Point during our May 2004 visit
Pohono_Loop_059_05222004 - Looking towards the bridge of El Capitan's nose from Taft Point in May 2004
Pohono_Loop_064_05222004 - Thin ephemeral waterfall tumbling behind Taft Point as seen during our hike in May 2004
Swinging_Bridge_011_03202004 - Yosemite Falls reflected in the Merced River from Swinging Bridge on a mid-March morning back in 2004
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_004_03202004 - Looking up at the 'El Capitan Falls' or the 'Columbia Cascade' as seen during our brief hike up to Columbia Point on the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail in March 2004
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_007_03202004 - Broad contextual look back at the 'El Capitan Falls' or the 'Columbia Cascade' as seen during our brief hike up to Columbia Point on the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail in March 2004
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_008_03202004 - Direct look towards the Upper Yosemite Falls a little past Columbia Point during our visit in March 2004
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_014_03202004 - Direct look at the Upper Yosemite Falls during our hike in March 2004
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_016_03202004 - Another look at the Upper Yosemite Falls as we got closer to the next set of granite switchbacks during our hike in March 2004
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_028_03202004 - Looking up at the profile of the Upper Yosemite Falls during our hike in March 2004
Upper_Yosemite_Falls_034_03202004 - View towards Half Dome from Columbia Point during our hike on the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail in March 2004
Yosemite_Falls_001_05102003 - Partial view of Yosemite Falls from Stoneman Meadow during our visit in May 2003
Yosemite_Valley_003_06062003 - View of Yosemite Falls in the late afternoon from Swinging Bridge during our visit in June 2003
Yosemite_Falls_002_05302002 - Looking towards the Upper Yosemite Falls and part of its Lower Falls as seen across a meadow near signpost V19 during our visit in May-June 2002. This photo and the remainder of the photos in this photo gallery were taken from this trip
Yosemite_Falls_004_05302002 - Looking up at the context of Upper Yosemite Falls as seen from near the signpost V19 during in May 2002
Yosemite_Falls_013_05312002 - Yosemite Falls as seen from the Northside Drive as we were approaching Yosemite Lodge during our visit at the end of May 2002
Yosemite_Falls_014_05312002 - Looking at a bridge traversing Yosemite Creek as we were pursuing the base of the Yosemite Falls at the end of May 2002
Yosemite_Falls_017_05312002 - The paved walkway to the base of Yosemite Falls at the end of May 2002
Yosemite_Falls_019_05312002 - Lower Yosemite Fall from its base as seen in late May 2002
Yosemite_Falls_025_05312002 - Yosemite Falls seen between trees while randomly walking one of the meadow trails between Cook Meadow and Yosemite Lodge in late May 2002

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Yosemite Falls sits right at the heart of Yosemite Valley near Yosemite Village.

Now while there are many ways of getting to Yosemite Valley, we’ll describe our route since it’s what we’re most familiar with.

Our route from Los Angeles would be to go north on the I-5, then onto the Hwy 99 through Central Valley, then onto Hwy 41 at Fresno.

At that point, we would follow the Hwy 41 (now Wawona Road) up to the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park (passing through smaller towns like Coarsegold, Oakhurst, Fish Camp, etc.).

Yosemite_Valley_17_002_06162017 - The parking situation in Yosemite National Park can get frustrating pretty fast so usually my go to spots are Curry Village and Yosemite Lodge, but then if those fail, you have to find street parking and walk a ways before relying on the shuttle
The parking situation in Yosemite National Park can get frustrating pretty fast so usually my go to spots are Curry Village and Yosemite Lodge, but then if those fail, you have to find street parking and walk a ways before relying on the shuttle

Then, we’d continue following this road for another hour or so into Yosemite Valley passing through Wawona.

Once in the valley, we followed the one-way Southside Drive east towards the Yosemite Village, where it quickly becomes obvious where Yosemite Falls is.

The drive from LA to Yosemite Valley would typically take us around 6 hours.

top down sweep of Yosemite Falls then putting Lehamite Falls in context


Checking out Yosemite Falls near Swinging Bridge with reflections before walking to the bridge itself and checking out the falls from there


Top down sweep of the falls from Swinging Bridge


Classic look at Yosemite Falls before zooming in and panning from bottom to top


Bottom up sweep from the walkway to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls


Focusing on the falls and the people dwarfed by it in surprisingly Spring-like flow during a February 2013 visit. Then, the movie pans to the right showing people checking out the scene from the footbridge over Yosemite Creek.


Bottom up sweep of both Upper and Lower Falls from Cook Meadow


Left to right semi-circular sweep of the panorama from the boardwalk crossing Stoneman Meadow


Dizzying view from the top of Yosemite Falls on a late spring afternoon


Sweep of the Glacier Point Panorama beginning with Yosemite Falls and ending with the Giant Stairway

Tagged with: oakhurst, el portal, mariposa, yosemite, yosemite valley, sierra, california, waterfall, fresno, modesto, four-mile trail, glacier point, taft point, sentinel dome, columbia, sunnyside, camp 4, merced



Visitor Comments:

Yosemite Falls – Rock Climbing July 25, 2010 6:59 pm by Donna - We visited Yosemite falls for the first time on July 6, 2010. What we liked about it most was how close we could get to the falls. There were fantastic rocks to climb along the edge, and my 12 and 15 year old had a wonderful time climbing climbing climbing up along the edge of… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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