Upper Yosemite Falls Hike
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||7.2 miles (11.6 km)|
|Hike Time||5-7 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||3,900 feet (1189m)|
|Highest Elevation||6,710 feet (2045m)|
|Fees & Permits||Park Entry Fee|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Yosemite National Park|
The Upper Yosemite Falls hike is one of the must-do hikes at Yosemite National Park. The trail is an iconic engineering marvel. It’s tough, climbing about 3000 feet in 3 miles, but the incredible scenery makes your heart light even when your legs feel heavy. You’re treated to panoramic views of the Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and the high peaks, and of course, Upper Yosemite Falls. The falls are the tallest waterfall in North America at 2425 feet, and you’ll be able to see it from many angles as you hike to the top. And at the top, you can simply take in the views, or even hike onto a viewing platform carved into the granite wall. Give the hike a go; the memories will stick with you for a lifetime.
Tip: Go at sunrise to beat the crowds, which can be extreme on this popular trail.
Getting to the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail
The trail to Upper Yosemite Falls starts right in the middle of Yosemite Valley, which is a good and bad thing. It’s good because it’s easy to get to, but because it’s easy to get to, it’s generally crowded. If you are leaving early, you can generally snag a parking spot about 10 minute’s walk away from the trailhead. Otherwise you can take the free shuttle bus there. The trailhead for Upper Yosemite Falls starts at Camp 4.
Camp 4, close to the boulders and cliffs of Yosemite, played an important role in the development of rock climbing. In the mid 1950s and 60s many climbers would stay here for months honing their craft. Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, made and sold climbing gear in the parking lot of Camp 4.
- If you happen to be staying at Camp 4, you can park there.
- There is a free green shuttle bus stop at Camp 4, which is shuttle bus stop #7.
- There is a small parking lot to the west of Yosemite Lodge that fills up quickly, but is generally wide open in the early morning.
Here’s the trailhead address for Camp 4 if you’re driving there:
Yosemite Falls Trail, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389
Gear For the Hike
This is a tough hike and I highly recommend using proper hiking gear, although you can get away with fitness clothing in a pinch. The hike is steep, and trekking poles help pull yourself up the trail and stabilize yourself on the way down. You’ll need water, I recommend 2-3L depending on the heat. You can refill your water at the Yosemite Creek Bridge (see the directions), but use a water filter. And you’ll want to bring some snacks. You’ll likely burn a lot of energy getting up to the top.
And like most of Yosemite, in the winter this trail will be covered with snow and ice, and in the hot summer months, the exposed sections of trail will be very hot. Prepare for the conditions and give the hike a pass if there’s snow and ice.
Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
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 Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.
Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe
REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe
REI | Amazon
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.
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 keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Upper Yosemite Falls Trail Maps
The trail is one of the busiest in the park and is actively maintained by the parks service. Overall the trail is easy to follow, but steep.
The trail to Upper Yosemite Falls is one of the park’s oldest, having been built between 1873 and 1877. It was built by the man John Muir dubbed “Yosemite’s master trail builder,” John Conway. Conway is also responsible for building Glacier Point Road and for putting the holes into the granite of Half Dome used in the cables section.
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Yosemite Falls Hike Landmarks
|Valley Loop Trail||0.1||4020|
|Top of Climb||3||6640|
Lower Yosemite Falls
Want to hike to Lower Yosemite Falls? It’s a short walk on a paved path across the street from Yosemite Lodge. I wouldn’t call it a hike, but it’s nice enough if the crowds don’t drive you crazy. Otherwise let’s continue to the big guy, Upper Yosemite Falls, with the directions below.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Late spring is the best time to see the falls. In later summer the falls can be dry and non-existent. Check out the webcam to see what the flow is like. It’s still a nice hike even if the falls are dry!
From here you just head back the way you came. I highly recommend a quick stop at the Yosemite Creek bridge on your way back. I have the junction noted in the previous steps.
This guide last updated on September 18, 2020. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
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