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Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park

The Best Hikes to Yosemite’s Waterfalls

From short strolls to backcountry treks, Yosemite has huge waterfalls for every kind of trail.

Hiking Easy, Moderate, Difficult

Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park
Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park Photo: Pedro Szekely


Yosemite is one of the world’s top destinations for waterfalls, with a high concentration of falls that surpass 1,000 feet in height. The most renowned is Yosemite Falls, which is the tallest in the Continental United States at 2,425 feet. Another is the photo-famous Firetail Fall, which glows bright orange in the setting sun. These and the hundreds of other waterfalls in Yosemite are made by the dramatic glacial landscape. It’s a mountain range of granite, furrowed deeply by steep-sided valleys carved by glaciers long ago. Today, snow in the high country melts and streams down sheer walls to the valley floor.

To see Yosemite’s waterfalls at their mightiest, come in the spring when snowmelt is heaviest and all the creeks swell. During that time, many waterfalls exist that are dry the rest of the year, and those that flow all year are especially thunderous.

If you prefer dipping your feet or swimming near a waterfall, come in mid or late summer when flows are reduced. You won’t see as many waterfalls, as some will have dried up, but those that still flow are often tame enough for hiking to the lip or swimming beneath on a hot day.

Fall and winter are special times for waterfall watching as well. In autumn, the waterfalls are at their lowest flow, often no more than a trickle, but the forest becomes more vivid with color, and snow may alight on the high country. In winter, temperatures plummet, and most of the water freezes up. The largest waterfalls still flow, however, and they fling ice onto anything within range of their spray.

The bounty of waterfalls in Yosemite National Park provides quite the variety of hikes, from short and easy to long and strenuous. With so many to choose from, it can be tough to pick the perfect one. Use this list of Yosemite’s best waterfall hikes to find the one that’s right for you.

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