Discover the easiest hikes in Yosemite Valley, where majestic granite peaks touch the sky, lush meadows come alive with vibrant wildflowers, and cascading waterfalls create symphonies of rushing water. Nestled in the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, this iconic park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Yosemite National Park offers lots of easy hiking trails for people of all ages and skills to enjoy. Lace up your boots, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to explore Yosemite’s awe-inspiring realm.
Easiest Hikes in Yosemite Valley
Lower Yosemite Falls
- Trail Length: 1.2 miles round-trip
- Elevation Gain: 59 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead Location: Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Valley Lodge or Shuttle Bus Stop 6
This is one of the easiest hikes in Yosemite Valley. With it being short and paved (great for strollers & wheelchairs) with a great view at the end it also makes it one of the most popular hikes.
I recommend walking this trail either early in the morning, between 6-8 am or hiking it in the evening after all the guests have left between 6-8 pm. During the day you will likely encounter a lot of people trying to see the falls.
The best season to see the falls is in spring. Depending on the snowfall the previous winter, Yosemite Falls will be gushing from April-June and it usually dries up from late June into September. It is a seasonal waterfall so if you are visiting in the summer, chances are, the waterfall won’t be flowing.
The views here are amazing so definitely add this hike to your bucket list.
Cook’s Meadow Loop
- Trail Length: 1.1 miles round-trip
- Elevation Gain: negligible
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead Location: Yosemite Valley, Shuttle Bus Stop 6
If you are looking for another easy hike in Yosemite Valley that shows all the valley has to offer then Cook’s Meadow Loop should be on your list. It is another easy family-friendly and ADA accessible trail.
From this trail, you can enjoy impressive views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, towering granite peaks, and lush meadows. This trail also takes you to the historic Yosemite Chapel & Sentinel Bridge where photographers flock to get the iconic photo of Half Dome.
Sunset is the best time to visit to see the sunset on Half Dome and possibly see some deer grazing for their dinner. Bears also frequent the area. To see bears, they are active early in the morning or later in the evening when there are less people around to scare them off.
- Trail Length: 2 miles round-trip to the lake from stop 17 or 5 miles round trip around the lake
- Elevation Gain: 147 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead Location: Yosemite Valley, Shuttle Bus Stop 17
Mirror Lake is a fun hike in Yosemite to do to get a different view of Half Dome. Instead of seeing the iconic side view, Mirror Lake takes you to the base of Half Dome. It’s a great place to spend a day relaxing in the shade and playing in the ice-cold water after a long hiking day.
Mirror Lake is technically not a lake but a deep river bed that in springtime fills up with fresh snowmelt water and resembles the looks of a lake with mirror-like reflections. By late summer it’s common for Mirror Lake to dry up so don’t be surprised if you hike all the way there and don’t find a lake!
- Trail Length: 1.2 miles (2 km) round-trip
- Elevation Gain: 200 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead Location: Yosemite Valley
Bridalveil Falls is one of the first waterfalls that you can see as you drive into Yosemite National Park. You can even spot it from the roadside Tunnel Viewpoint that overlooks the valley.
Bridalveil Falls is a year-round waterfall, meaning no matter what season you visit you will be able to enjoy these falls. They will be much smaller at the end of summer & early fall but they won’t be completely dry.
Currently, Bridalveil Falls is undergoing a restoration project that will create more accessible pathways to take in those majestic views of the waterfall. It is supposed to open the summer of 2023.
If the hiking paths are closed, you can also easily see this waterfall from the designated viewing area on the side of the road.
Unfortunately there are no shuttle buses that drive to this location so you will have to drive to this location.
Vernal Falls Footbridge
- Trail Length: 1.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 500 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead Location: Yosemite Valley, Shuttle Bus Stop 16
This is one of the best day hikes in Yosemite that offers incredible views and plenty of waterfall sightings. The path to the Vernal Fall Footbridge is paved and surrounded by giant boulders. Along the way, you’ll see plenty of views of the Merced River carving its way through the valley.
Vernal Falls is another year-round waterfall so no matter the season, you can do this hike and are guaranteed some water flow.
There are bathrooms and water at this section of the trail. It’s a great place to stop for a lunch or snack break on your way up to the top of Vernal Falls or a great place to enjoy the beauty if that is where you choose to stop.
It is definitely the hardest of the easy hikes listed because you are gaining 500 feet which is quite the elevation gain but they payoff is 100% worth it.
Yosemite National Park offers an abundance of natural wonders to explore, so if you’re a beginner or looking for a more relaxed hiking experience, fear not! Yosemite caters to all skill levels, including those seeking the easiest hikes. Whether you’re here for 1 day or 7, these five hikes in Yosemite provide a perfect introduction to the park’s breathtaking landscapes.
So, lace up your boots, grab your camera, and embark on these accessible adventures that showcase the remarkable beauty and tranquility of Yosemite’s easiest hikes. Get ready to create lasting memories and discover the wonders that await within this majestic wilderness.