Yosemite National Park Best Hikes and Views

Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. People travel from all over the world to see it and there’s a good reason. It’s breathtaking. Here are my favorite spots in Yosemite that you need to visit.

The Best Hikes and Prettiest Views in Yosemite

1. Taft Point

Taft Point is simply incredible. The best time to do this hike is in the summer because that’s the only time you can access Glacier Point Road and get to the trailhead for this hike. You can do this hike outside of summer but you would have to do a very long hike all the way up the mountain most likely in snow.

Sunrise is pretty and there aren’t many people in the early morning but the sun sets right behind the point and if you have to pick one I’d go with sunset. Taft is one of the prettiest spots in Yosemite and a short hike so lots of engagement and elopement photographers bring clients here so avoid it on weekdnds if you can.

HIke Distance: 2.3 miles round tip

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/taft-point-and-the-fissures?search=true

2. Valley View

This is a classic view of Yosemite Valley. It’s best at sunset or sunrise. The above picture is sunset and the below picture is sunrise. You can drive right up to the Merced River and there’s a parking lot right at the river’s edge. The parking lot is quite small so get here a little before sunset or sunrise to make sure you get a parking spot.

Distance: You can drive right here. No hike required.

Address: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Yosemite+Valley+View/@37.7173046,-119.664696,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m6!3m5!1s0x8096ec3a85a13c65:0xf15f9920dd0121a9!8m2!3d37.7173004!4d-119.6621211!16s%2Fg%2F11c30sd7c6

3. Tunnel View

Tunnel view is probably the most iconic view of Yosemite Valley. Everyone crowds around the wall at the boring parking lot and gets the same picture. Not many people know that there’s a MUCH better view just a 3 minute walk away. If you start at the parking lot and walk behind the portable toilets along the edge of the cliff, back towards the tunnel, you’ll find these views looking back at the valley. No crowd, no people, no obtrusive wall in the picture.

Distance: 0.1 miles

Address: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Tunnel+view/@37.7158029,-119.6800576,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m6!3m5!1s0x8096edbfeb1daedd:0x7395fff9b5b839dc!8m2!3d37.7157987!4d-119.6774827!16zL20vMGZrZmpz

The Tunnel View parking lot is just to the right and about a 2 min walk from the two pictures above.

4. Vernal Falls / Mist Trail

This is the prettiest waterfall in the park right behind Yosemite Falls. It’s a relatively short hike and absolutely stunning. It’s actually part of a longer hike called The Mist Trail. The longer hike goes to the top of Bridal Veil Falls which is also pretty but not as spectacular as Vernal Falls. At the very top of Bridal Veil Falls there’s a wide, raging river and it’s really nice to sit on the rocks and stop for a snack before coming back down the Mist Trail.

Distance to Vernal Falls: 3.1 miles round trip

Distance for Mist Trail: 6.4 miles round trip

AllTrails Link Vernal:https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/vernal-falls

AllTrails Link Mist Trail: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/vernal-and-nevada-falls-via-the-mist-trail

5. Lower Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls is majestic. It’s a short hike to the bottom the roaring waterfall and you should make sure to stop here. This view is at a the start of the trailhead but you can get right up to the rushing creek underneath the falls if you don’t mind getting sprayed by the cascading water.

Distance: 1.2 miles round trip

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/lower-yosemite-falls-trail

6. Swinging Bridge Picnic Area

This area is a great place to pull over and enjoy a late afternoon meal. You can see Upper Yosemite Falls rushing down over the Merced River and the valley. In Spring, there is often still water that provides a really cool reflection as you can see above.

Distance: Less than 0.1 mile walk from the parking lot

Address: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Swinging+Bridge+Picnic+Area/@37.7364018,-119.6019585,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m6!3m5!1s0x8096f2089fce6279:0x1e0b8c9a6954b76e!8m2!3d37.7364018!4d-119.5993836!16s%2Fg%2F1thqg_k9

7. Glacier Point at Night

These are very old pictures from when I first started with a Canon T5i so don’t judge them too harshly.

If Glacier Point Road is open when you visit, you HAVE to go see Glacier Point and the view of Half Dome. However, the queues to see it can be ridiculously long. One way to avoid lines and the crowds is going at night. I went on a night with a full moon and it was almost like walking around in the day time. The moon was lighting up the whole valley and there were zero people out. Highly recommend.

Distance: Less than 0.3 miles

Address: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Glacier+Point/@37.7304555,-119.5942495,5412m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m6!3m5!1s0x8096f2468cfbec91:0x7b096106fffedf91!8m2!3d37.7304239!4d-119.5736499!16s%2Fg%2F12q4smkjd

8. Yosemite Valley at Night

The valley at night is great because there are NO people. You can play with long exposure photos and get some really cool stuff.

This location is right off of Southside Drive: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Yosemite+Valley,+CA+95389/@37.7389192,-119.5957195,169m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m14!1m7!3m6!1s0x8096f2089fce6279:0x1e0b8c9a6954b76e!2sSwinging+Bridge+Picnic+Area!8m2!3d37.7364018!4d-119.5993836!16s%2Fg%2F1thqg_k9!3m5!1s0x8096f2059f7a6925:0x671f7197c45f846f!8m2!3d37.7389181!4d-119.5950758!16s%2Fg%2F11g5_lp4kq

9. Moonbows, Not Rainbows

This phenomenon called a “moon bow” only occurs a couple times a year. It happens at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. There has to be a very bright moon with no clouds and a strong flow of water in order to create this rainbow at night. I was super lucky and randomly heard about it when I was inside the park on a 3 day trip.

Distance: 1.2 miles round trip

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/lower-yosemite-falls-trail

10. Places I still want to explore

I still really want to hike Half Dome, Upper Yosemite Falls, Hetchy Hetch Reservoir, and the part of the John Muir Trail that goes through Yosemite.