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Upper Yosemite Falls Hike

Upper Yosemite Falls Hike

In This Guide
  • Video & Turn by Turn Directions to Hike Upper Yosemite Falls
  • How to Get to Upper Yosemite Falls
  • Everything You Need to Know To Prepare for the Hike
Total Distance (?)7.2 miles (11.6 km)
Hike Time5-7 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)3,900 feet (1189m)
Highest Elevation6,710 feet (2045m)
Fees & PermitsPark Entry Fee
Dogs AllowedNo
Alerts & Closures (?)Yosemite National Park
Park Phone209-372-0200
Weather & ForecastLatest Conditions
Stay SafeCopy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.

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.

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.

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.

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Garmin Inreach Mini 2

Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.

Latest Prices: Amazon | REI

Lone Peak 6 Yellow

Altra Lone Peak 6
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 Terraventure 3 or 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. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.

Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon 

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

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.

Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon 
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon 

Gregory Zulu 30

Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.

Women’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2022.

My June 2022 Top Gear Picks

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.

Click Here To View

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?
Here’s what I use. 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 7 or Epix. 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.

To access this guide when out of cell phone range on the trail, simply save the webpage on your phone ( iPhoneAndroid ).

Yosemite Falls Hike Landmarks

Camp 40.3990
Valley Loop Trail0.14020
Columbia Rock 1.04980
Top of Climb36640
Falls Overlook 3.66670

Elevation Profile

Upper Yosemite Falls Hike Elevation
Aside from a small dip in the middle of the hike, you’re pretty much going uphill all the way.

3d Map

Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 3d
This 3d map gives you an idea of how steep the Upper Yosemite Trail is. The very beginning and very end are the toughest sections.

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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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 3
The start of the Upper Yosemite Falls trail is well marked at the Camp 4 registration area.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 4
The trail starts climbing right away, but it’s nothing like the slopes to come.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 5
When you get to the Valley Loop Trail, make a quick left.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 6
And then a quick right onto the Yosemite Falls Trail.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 7
There’s a cool trail sign at the start of the trail.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 8
And now you hike up through the oak forest. And up. And then up some more.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 9
It’s not all steep, there are some switchbacks and meandering sections.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 10
And then some really steep switchbacks too.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 11
Soon you’ll come out of the trees and the viewpoints into Yosemite Valley will open up. Avoid the small side trails to unofficial viewpoints.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 12
At about 1 mile in you’ll reach Columbia Rock, which is marked by the railing on the right. Check out the viewpoint, then continue on the trail.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 13
From Columbia Rock you’ll get a pretty sweet view into the Yosemite Valley and of Half Dome. You’ve climbed about 1100 feet up from Yosemite Valley at this point.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 14
Now you start climbing again. The gradient is a little less tough than before.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 15
Some sections of the trail are “paved.”
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 16
There are some small use trails as you hike here. Always stay on the main (bigger, well-trodden) path.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 17
And soon you emerge from the trees for some awesome views of Upper Yosemite Falls. This is the longest section of the waterfall. The water is falling for about 1430 feet here.

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!

Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 18
There is a downhill section where you can enjoy lots of views of the falls.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 19
As the trail starts to slope up again you’ll be able to see the notch through which you’ll be hiking on the way to the top.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 20
The views from this open stretch of trail are expansive and you’ll be able to see into the Yosemite high country. Liberty Cap is the dome at Nevada Falls, which seems huge when you’re there, rising 1700 feet, but from up here, it is just a little bump.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 21
The trail makes its way steeply up the side of the granite wall. It’s an engineering marvel with lots of switchbacks. You’ll do about a mile of this and climb about 1500 feet.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 22
After the dozens of switchbacks you’ll reach the top. Continue straight over the stream, avoiding the trail off to the left.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 23
You’ll see the classic Yosemite trail sign just over the stream confirming that you only have 0.2 miles to the falls.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 24
Follow the trail over the granite towards the falls.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 25
When you get to this trail junction, make the right. On the way back, I highly recommend doing a short detour to the left here on the trail to Yosemite Point. After a few minutes you’ll reach a picturesque bridge over Yosemite Creek.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 26
Here you are, top of the falls!
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 34
If you just want to hang out among the granite boulders at the top of the falls, this is the place to do it. the views are expansive and the vibe is peaceful.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 27
To continue to the “official” yet somewhat scary end of the trail at the overlook, look for this steps heading down.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 28
Follow the fence down the granite.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 29
You’ll come out at the top of Yosemite Falls.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 30
The trail twists around and goes down a fenced-in ledge.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 31
The ledge becomes stairs carved into the side of the cliff.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 32
And then you reach the viewing platform. You made it!
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 33
Enjoy the views from the platform. You’ll also be able to look down from here and see the area Middle Falls, also known as “Middle Earth,” which is rarely seen by tourists at Yosemite since it can’t be seen from the valley floor.

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.

Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 35
Make your way down to the scenic bridge.
Upper Yosemite Falls Hike 36
From the bridge you’ll be able to see Yosemite Creek plunge over the upper falls. And (obviously) don’t swim or go in the water here. The granite is slippery and even a fall into the shallow water could mean going over the falls.

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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