Upper Yosemite Falls is a moderate to difficult and heavily trafficked trail in Yosemite National Park, California. The trail travels up the Yosemite Valley up to the top of Yosemite Creek where the creek turns into one of the largest waterfalls in the United States. The Upper Yosemite Falls trail offers stunning views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and the Yosemite Falls.

Hiking The Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

Upper Yosemite Falls is one of Yosemite National Park’s oldest trails. The trail ascends from the floor of Yosemite Valley to the top of Yosemite Falls  which is also North America’s tallest waterfall. This waterfall extends 2,425 feet above the valley floor and during snow melt months, is quite impressive.  Upper Yosemite Falls Trail is known for being a real life StairMaster. The trail begins in the Yosemite Valley near Camp 4 and from that point on is mostly a series of switchbacks up to the top of the Yosemite Falls lookout.

If you’re not up for the full hike to the very top, Columbia Rock, which is about half way up the trail is where a lot of people go just to view the falls. Columbia Rock offers an excellent vantage point of Upper Yosemite Falls while leaving over half of the switchbacks to the rest. However, hiking to the very top is worth the view. The top of Upper Yosemite Falls offers stunning panoramic views of Yosemite National Park. There’s also a stomach churning, narrow staircase that leads to the ledge of where Yosemite Creek goes over the fall. If you’re up for it, continue on past Upper Yosemite falls to Yosemite Point and step out on to the ledge for a look of the park.

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  • Overall Views: 100% 100%
  • Overall Difficulty: 85% 85%
Upper Yosemite Falls Trail Quick Facts:
  • Elevation: 6,784 feet.
  • Elevation Gain: 3,438 feet.
  • Estimated Distance: 5 miles.
  • My Actual Distance: 7 miles.
  • Estimated Time: 6-8 hours.
  • My Time: 5:06 hours. 

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail Directions:

Open in maps. Cost is admission to Yosemite National Park. An America The Beautiful pass will also work. Access to the trailhead is very easy and near Camp 4. Camp 4 a popular camping location and also right near Yosemite Valley Lodge. This is a very busy area throughout the year. Upper Yosemite Falls trail is also a very popular trail so parking fills up early. You may have to find parking at a lot or along the street further away or wait for a parking spot to open up if the lots are full.

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail Pictures:

Who Upper Yosemite Falls Trail Is For:

Novice Hikers: Upper Yosemite Falls trail will be a difficult hike for those who are new to hiking. The amount of elevation gain in the short distance will make this hike difficult for anyone who is not at the upper end of being a novice hiker. Those with physical limitations whether it’s related to joint issues or medical problems will find the  climb up to the very top of Yosemite Falls very strenuous. A smarter idea would be to hike to Columbia Rock along this trail to get a view of the falls.

Advanced Hikers: This is a great bucket list type of hike. The constant switchbacks up a few thousand feet will wear on you but the views of Yosemite Valley as well as the feeling of accomplishment of getting to the top make this hike worth it. The overlook at the top of the falls are incredible.

Expert Hikers: For even those people who are expert hikers, the persistent switchbacks will be a good leg burner. For those wanting to extend their trip at the top, try some of the connecting trails like heading down Yosemite Creek, to El Capitan, or checking out Yosemite Point.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.

 

Best Time Of Year To Hike Upper Yosemite Falls Trail:

This hike is generally able to be traversed throughout the year. Although, some days and times of year are going to be better than others. Spring is going to be the best time of year to see Yosemite Falls in their greatest. It’s also going to be the busiest time of year. Snowmelt from the winter has these waterfalls at their peak during this time of year. Temperatures during the spring are for the most part mild. However, early and late spring can still have some winter weather come through from time to time.

Summer can be warm on the trail so bring plenty of water and food for energy. As soon as you get out of the valley, most of the trail is exposed to the sunlight. Fall gives way to more mild weather again with cool nights and warm days. As it gets later into the fall you can expect winter weather. After winter storms, snow and ice can be on the upper portions of the trail and lead to slippery conditions. Use caution if going up the trail during this time as there has been a history of falls because of wet and icy granite.

Thunderstorms are common any time of the year but especially during late spring and during the summer. Always be aware of weather conditions.

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail Conditions:
The Upper Yosemite Falls trail is in great condition maintained by traffic and also through the National Park. The trailhead begins right at Camp 4 in the Yosemite Valley. This location is right across from the Yosemite Valley Lodge. Upper Yosemite Falls is primarily known for it’s numerous switchbacks all the way up to the top of the trail. The switchbacks start almost immediately at the beginning of the trail. The first portion of switchbacks isn’t that bad. There is a short decline right before getting to Columbia Rock just short of the halfway mark. Columbia Rock is an excellent viewing point and excellent photo opportunity for Yosemite Falls. For the most part, the trail up until Columbia Rock has a fair amount of shade from Oak trees. After that the terrain opens up as you get into the higher elevations of the hike and is mostly exposed to the sun until you reach the top of the trail.
After Columbia Rock the next series of elevation gain and switchbacks begin. This is what I thought was the hardest part of the switchbacks. These switchbacks are both physically and mentally exhausting. I went on a mild spring day but I could imagine a hot summer day would make this part of the trail even more physically demanding. This part of the trail is made up of mostly granite steps and from what I’ve read, can be icy during the winter. Ice and any moisture can make these granite steps wet and slippery so use caution and wear appropriate gear based off the current weather conditions.
Once at the top of the switchbacks the trail pretty much levels out. From the top, you can connect with other trails through the park and also continue to the Yosemite Falls Overlook. Yosemite Falls Overlook leads right up to the edge of Yosemite Creek where it drops off into the valley and forms Yosemite Falls. Leading to the overlook can be quite a nauseating experience for some. To get to the overlook you have to traverse a narrow staircase only really big enough for one or two people at the most. An icy path here could lead to a fall of thousands of feet. However, it’s a fun walk down the narrow stairs and cool to see the creek plunge into the valley.
For many people, they either continue on to Yosemite Point from here or head back down to the valley floor. Yosemite Creek can flow pretty good during the spring and it’s worth walking away from the crowds up the creek to enjoy a nice quite picnic.