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7 Easy Hikes in Yosemite with Incredible Views

Visiting Yosemite National Park is perfect for all ages and abilities because there are numerous easy hikes with incredible views. Each hike is unique and does not require significant effort to take advantage of the spectacular views. So, whether you are an avid hiker or have never worn hiking boots, these seven easy hikes in Yosemite are perfect for a first-time visitor. 

This post shares seven easy hikes in Yosemite with breathtaking views. 

Easy Hikes in Yosemite National Park

1. Glacier Point

Glacier Point Easy hike in Yosemite
Photo Credit: The Trav Nav

One of the easiest and most popular hikes in Yosemite is the Glacier Point Trail. After a short walk with minimal effort, hikers (more like walkers) can look across Yosemite Valley and see Yosemite highlights like Vernal and Nevada Falls, and Half Dome. By looking down 3,214 feet, you can also see The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley.

These stunning panoramic views are worth the drive out to Glacier Point. Expect to find crowds since Glacier Point offers one of the best views in Yosemite National Park.

Pro Tip:  Glacier Point is a great place to use binoculars to get a better look at the falls. 

A visit to Glacier Point is also an incredible thing to do at night while in Yosemite because the star gazing is amazing.    

Glacier Point Trail Information

The 0.6-mile loop trail has a minimal elevation gain of 137 feet and takes about nineteen minutes to complete. Most of the path is paved, making it a breeze for those who prefer an easy hike in Yosemite. 

There is a large parking at the end of Glacier Point Road. The parking lot does fill up. If you cannot find a spot, try circling a few times because the spaces turn over quickly. Alternatively, opt for the shuttle to Glacier Point so you don’t have to think about parking.   

A restroom and a concession stand are located near the beginning of the Glacier Point Trail. Visitors may also check out the Geology Hut and small amphitheater. 

For those who prefer a challenging hike, take the Four-Mile Trail from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. You can then take the shuttle back down to Yosemite Valley.

The best time to visit Glacier Point is June through October. Once the snow starts to fall, the road is closed.

Sorry, pet lovers, dogs are not allowed on this trail.     

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2. Taft Point

Another easy hike in Yosemite with incredible views is Taft Point. The trail is named after President Taft, who walked the path and enjoyed the views of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. The short, mostly flat trail through the woods brings you to the fissures before you reach some of the best viewpoints in Yosemite. 

The fissures are a gap in the rock where you can see 2,000 feet down. While the hike is not challenging, those with a fear of heights will not enjoy getting close to the fissures. The fissures are not cordoned off, so remember to look where you are walking. 

The Taft Point hike is one of the best hikes in Yosemite because the views are beautiful. Watching the sunset at Taft Point is a must-do while in Yosemite. As the sun dips down behind the mountains, the sky fills with vibrant shades of pink and purple.  

Surprisingly, Taft Point is less crowded at sunset, even though it is one of the prettiest times to go hiking in Yosemite. The likely reason is that hikers will be walking back to their cars in the dark. 

Pro Tips:  Leave for Taft Point at least an hour to an hour and a half before sunset to give yourself time to take a few photos before sunset. Remember to bring a headlamp or flashlight since you will be walking back in the dark. 

Taft Point Trail Information

The 2.3-mile out-and-back trail generally takes about one hour to complete. The Taft Point trail has a modest elevation gain of 354 feet. Hikers can make this an out-and-back hike or take the Taft Point/Sentinel Dome Loop Trail, about 4.9 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain. The average time to complete the loop is two hours.    

There is a small parking lot at the trailhead for both Taft Point and Sentinel Dome. When the parking lot fills up, people tend to park on the side of the road on the shoulder. 

There is a bathroom at the trailhead. Dogs are not allowed on this trail. 

The best time to visit Taft Point is June through October.   

3. Sentinel Dome

Sentinel Dome view of El Capitan
Photo Credit: The Trav Nav

Another easy Yosemite hike with fantastic views is Sentinel Dome. The trail up to the top is mostly exposed without much shade. Once you get closer to the last push, there will be more trees, but still not much shade. 

The quick hike gives way to 360-degree views. From Sentinel Dome, hikers can see highlights such as Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Nevada Fall, and Half Dome.

The 360-degree views at the top of Sentinel Dome are impressive. The surrounding natural beauty is memorizing. 

Pro Tip:  Be aware that the top of Sentinel Dome can be very windy. Tie anything down that you don’t want to blow away, including your trash. 

Sentinel Dome Trail Information

The 2.2-mile out-and-back trail has 459 feet of elevation gain and takes about an hour to complete. 

There is a small parking lot at the trailhead for both Taft Point and Sentinel Dome. When the parking lot fills up, people tend to park on the side of the road on the shoulder. 

There is a bathroom at the trailhead. 

Please note that dogs are not allowed on this trail. Bears are known to be in the area.

The best time to visit Taft Point is June through October.  

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4. Lower Yosemite Falls

The Lower Yosemite Falls hike in Yosemite Valley is one of the easiest hikes in all of Yosemite. Water cascades down in the summertime when the ice melt is in full swing. According to AllTrails, about 2,400 gallons of water flow down the falls every second. The intensity of the Lower Yosemite Falls is impressive. 

With minimal effort, you can see one of the most well-known waterfalls in Yosemite. 

Lower Yosemite Valley Trail Information

The 1.2-mile loop has about 55 feet of elevation gain and takes about twenty-four minutes to complete. The Lower Yosemite Falls path is mostly flat and paved, making it an easy hike in Yosemite with kids. 

Bathrooms and a parking lot are nearby. If the parking lot is full, try parking on the side of the road. Another option is to take the free shuttle. 

Lower Yosemite Valley is best viewed in spring and early summer when the ice melt is at its peak. 

Dogs are allowed on this trail if they are on a leash. 

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5. Bridalveil Fall

Bridalveil Fall is the first major waterfall most people see when entering Yosemite Valley. Unlike other falls in Yosemite, Bridalveil Fall typically flows throughout the year. 

The waterfall’s name comes from the effect the mist gives off when the winds pick up. The mist looks like a bride’s veil at just the right wind. The Ahwahneechee tribe believed that inhaling the mist increases the chance of marriage. They also believed a spirit resided here to protect the valley.

Bridalveil Falls stands 620 feet high and packs a wet punch. Visitors should expect to get wet on the platform and the trail during the spring. But getting wet is all part of the Yosemite hiking experience. 

Bridalveil Fall Trail Information

The trial is about .4 miles and 82 feet of elevation gain. The quick out-and-back trail is currently undergoing maintenance to improve the visitor experience. It is expected to reopen in the fall of 2023.

6. Washburn Point

Yosemite National Park view of Half Dome
Photo Credit: Wallula;Pixabay

The easiest hike in Yosemite is a visit to Washburn Point. More of a scenic overlook and less of a hike, Washburn Point provides epic views before you get to Glacier Point. Visitors can see Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls, and part of the Sierra Nevada at the overlook. The effort necessary to see the view is minimal. All you have to do is get out of your car and walk a few steps. 

Washburn Point is named after the Washburn brothers, who built the first road from Wawona to Yosemite Valley.

Washburn Point Information

The best time to visit Washburn Point is May through October. Once the snow starts to fall, the road is closed. 

7. Cook’s Meadow Loop Trail

In Yosemite Valley, Cook’s Meadow is an easy hiking trail that gives visitors views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. The walk-through Cook’s Meadow is an excellent place to stroll and relax. 

Cook’s Meadow is named after John Cook, the prior owner of what is now called the Wawona Hotel, a hotel in Yosemite.   

Cook’s Meadow Trail Information

The Cook’s Meadow Trial is a 2.0-mile loop with 78 feet of elevation gain. It takes the average visitor 39 minutes to complete this loop making it one of the most popular and best day hikes in Yosemite. The Cook’s Meadow trail is popular for walking and running because it is primarily flat. Cook’s Meadow is a great place to walk your dog if your pet is on a leash. 

The best time to visit Cooks Meadow is from April through October. 

There are bathrooms and a snack shop near the trail. 

Pro Tip:  The meadows can be buggy. You might want to put on some bug spray before enjoying the spectacular views. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Hiking in Yosemite

Do I need a reservation to enter Yosemite National Park?

Generally, visitors do not need a reservation to enter Yosemite National Park. However, the park rules can change, so it’s best to confirm reservation requirements before heading to the park. 

Do I need a hotel or camping reservation?

No, but it is recommended that camping and hotel stays be booked in advance. Lodging tends to fill up quickly and is often booked a year in advance.

Yosemite Valley is where most visitors arrive and stay. The Valley Visitor Center is open year-round and provides maps, brochures, and recommendations including where to stay in the area.

There are also several cabins located within Yosemite National Park. These rentals typically include the entrance reservation to the park.

Is there an entrance fee to enter Yosemite National Park?

The park entrance fee is $35 per car (valid for seven consecutive days).

When is the best time to visit Yosemite for hiking?

The best time to visit Yosemite for hiking is from June through October, when there is traditionally little to no snow on the trails.

How many hiking trails are in Yosemite National Park?

According to AllTrails, at least 271 hiking trails exist in Yosemite National Park. The trails range in length, difficulty, and elevation gain. Therefore, make sure you are prepared for the hike in terms of your ability and the amount of water and food you need to bring on your hike. 

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