Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite

Hike Columbia Rock (Yosemite)

In This Guide
  • Video & Turn by Turn Directions to Hike to Columbia Rock
  • How to Get to the Columbia Rock Trailhead
  • Everything You Need to Know To Prepare for the Hike
Distance2 miles (3.2 km)
Hike Time1.5-2.5 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,050 feet (320m)
Highest Elevation5,031 feet (1533m)
Fees & PermitsPark Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park Website (?)Yosemite National Park
Park Phone209-372-0200
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If you’re not a big hiker but still want to get a taste of what the epic hikes of Yosemite are like, this short, yet specular, hike to Columbia Rock is for you. In just 2 miles (round-trip) you’ll get to hike the iconic switchbacks, up the walls of Yosemite Valley, on a trail built by Yosemite’s master trail-builder, John Conway. And at the top, you reach Columbia Rock, a scenic overlook with sweeping views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. The hike is just minutes away from the popular Yosemite Lodge and tourist attractions of the valley.

Getting to the Columbia Rock Trailhead

The hike to Columbia Rock uses the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, which is located at Camp 4 in the Yosemite Valley. To get to the start of the hike, you can

When he was getting his start in the 1960s, Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, made and sold climbing gear in the parking lot of Camp 4.

Upper Yosemite Falls Hike Parking
Here are your options to get to the trailhead in Camp 4.

Here’s the trailhead address for Camp 4 if you’re driving there:
Yosemite Falls Trail, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389

Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 1
Look for the road conditions sign that marks the entrance to the Camp 4 parking lot. The trailhead is on the other side of the lot.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 2
Once you’re in the Camp 4 area, find the camping check in area where you can get water and use the bathrooms, which are the only ones on the hike. A sign points the way from the Camp 4 registration area to the trailhead close by. You’re taking the Upper Yosemite Falls trail to Columbia Rock

Gear for the Hike

Don’t let the short distance fool you, this is a tough hike, and having proper hiking gear will help. If you don’t have hiking gear, use fitness clothes, and in a pinch, you can do this is casual wear. You’ll want sturdy footwear no matter what you do to navigate the steep trail. Bring at least 1L of water with you. There is no water available on the trail.

La Sportiva Spire

The La Sportiva Spire boots feel like comfortable sneakers but offer the protection of hiking boots. They’re great on everything from short hikes to longer hikes of 10+ miles. You don’t want to skimp on your feet.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Opsrey Stratos Blue

I test a lot of gear, and for short to medium day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) are consistently the best. They’re lightweight, hold a hydration bladder to make drinking water easy, have lots of pockets to organize gear, and most importantly, are incredibly comfortable. Check out the reviews; they are impressive.
Reviews & Colors Here: Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) 

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI (or Amazon).

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2020.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Columbia Rock Trail Maps

Although the trail to Columbia Rock was first built in 1877, it’s actively maintained and popular, and is safe to hike on. It’s also easy to follow after a few twists and turns in the beginning. Overall the trail is great for beginners.

Click To View Map

Hike Columbia Rock (Yosemite) Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy (prices on REI and Amazon) and does a lot of the same things.

Columbia Rock Hike Directions

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Heads up, many trails and parks are closed because of the Covid pandemic. Please call the park or visit the website listed at the beginning of the hike to see what the status is.

Video Directions

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Turn by Turn Directions

Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 3
Start at the sign for Upper Yosemite Falls by the Camp 4 registration area.
Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 4
The trail gently heads uphill, but the real climbing hasn’t started yet.
Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 5
When you reach the Valley Loop Trail, make the left.
Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 6
And then the quick right onto the upper Yosemite Falls Trail.
Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 7
There’s a cool trail sign at the beginning of the hike that’s a great place to take a photo.
Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 8
And now you start climbing. The trail is steep, climbing about 1000 feet in a mile from where you started. Just take your time, don’t try to go fast, and enjoy the journey. The climb to Columbia Rock can take about an hour because of the steepness of the trail.
Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 9
Some parts of the trail level out and cross rock slides.
Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 10
In general there are many switchbacks that take small bites out of climbing the wall of the valley.
Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 11
When you get to this point just before Columbia Rock, there’s a small (unofficial) trail to a viewpoint down to the right. Many people mistake this for Columbia Rock, but it’s not. Continue up the main trail. As you can see, the views start opening up here.
Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 12
When you get to this wide-open section, about a mile in, Columbia Rock is off to your right, while the main trail continues going up to the left. Head to the right where the fence is.
Hike Columbia Rock Yosemite Directions 13
Here you are, Columbia Rock! Enjoy the expansive views up Yosemite Valley and of Half Dome.

When you’re done at Columbia Rock, just return the way you came. You can also keep hiking for another 15 minutes or so (uphill) for some great views of Upper Yosemite Falls. Check out my guide to the Upper Yosemite Falls hike to see what that looks like.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.