The mother of all United States national parks is Yosemite Park. Listed among the 7 Natural Wonders in North America, the park features the extraordinary El Capitan, the impressive Half Dome, and the graceful Yosemite Falls.
The vast park covers 747,956 acres of valleys, rivers, cliffs, and meadows. Giant Sequoia trees overlook diversified botany, biology, and geology. Hugely popular, the park attracts millions every year to take in its wonders, photograph its wildlife, and camp among its magic. They climb granite faces, stargaze outside their tents, or raft and swim in the Merced River.
Yosemite Park also invites and challenges hikers with adventures and thrills. But, if you want to hike Yosemite, you must secure your USA ESTA.
The best way to see and appreciate the park on foot. Hiking takes you places where the tourist buses and cars cannot go. Hiking trails reach all the desired highlights. But, it also lets you slow down and enjoy the natural aromas of waving grasses, meadow flowers, and cold fresh waters.
Among hikers, Yosemite is a popular and fulfilling challenge. The rookie hikers start with the shortest trails:
- Glacier Point (1 mile/1.6 km round trip) reaches a 270° view of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Mist Trail, and great sunsets.
- Lower Mariposa Grove (2.2 miles/3.5 km round trip) takes you to the 2,700 years-old sequoia they have named Grizzly
- Giant. The trail leads through the Tunnel Tree and past the
- Bachelor and Three Graces.
- Tuolumne Meadows (2 miles/3.2 km round trip) is a beautiful place to wander, picnic, and enjoy its wildflowers and wildlife at 8,500 feet (2,550 meters).
- Lower Yosemite Falls (0.5 miles/0.8 km round trip) is a short hike to the base of the Yosemite Falls, the tallest falls in North America. You can get close enough to feel the spray as the water falls 2,400 feet.
- Tenaya Lake (2.5 mile/4 km loop) offers beauty, beaches, and cold clean water among the Sierra Mountain peaks and domes.
- Sentinel Dome (2.2 miles/3.5 km round trip) is a short but steep trip up the side of a dome to the top for a 360° view of the Yosemite Valley and more.
- Bridal Veil Fall (1.2 miles/1.9 km round trip) takes you the base of the 620-foot waterfall seen in millions of photographs.
- Taft Point (2.2 miles/3.5 km round trip) leads to a scary perch on the edge of the south rim over the valley with only a thin guardrail to protect you.
- Sentinel & Cook's Meadow Loop (2.25 miles/3.6 km round trip) wanders through two meadows crossing the Merced twice, over the Swinging Bridge, and past the lower Yosemite Falls.
- Olmsted Point (0.5 miles/0.8 km round trip) offers panoramic views of Cloud’s Rest, Half Dome, and Tenaya Lake.
Experienced hikers look for tougher challenges, and Yosemite Park offers plenty of them:
- Half Dome is a 15-mile roundtrip looking for experienced hikers in good shape. Hikers who want to make the tour require permission in advance to set off on the trail rising 5,000 feet above the valley and 8,800-feet above sea level.
- Cloud’s Rest takes on a 14.5-mile (23.3 km) round trip climbing 1,775 feet from 8,150 feet to its extraordinary views from 9,926 feet. You can see forever from there.
- Meadow Loop Trail is only 3.5 miles, but it is away from the crowds. It takes you through fields of flora and fauna and everything they have to offer on the Valley Floor.
- Mist Trail and Nevada Falls take 5 to 6 hours to reach its 2,000-foot elevation gain. The Mist Trail goes to Vernal Falls and it continues to Nevada Falls on the second leg of the 5.8-mile trek.
Overall, Yosemite National Park has 800 miles in place for hikers of all levels. While the spring and summer are the most inviting periods, the traffic can discourage visitors.
Hikers would do better by planning on weekdays or arriving before 9:00 AM or after 4:00 PM.
Hiking Yosemite offers incredible and memorable experiences for first-time and seasoned visitors. But, you must plan your experience well.
You should review the hiking options. They explain how to pack for a 1-day hike. And, if you want to go rafting, horseback riding, and other things to do, you should investigate those options.
If you are visiting from outside the United States, you must review the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) process. ESTA lets you prove your eligibility for entry to and travel within the U.S. by
completing an online application that will pre-screen you and save time.