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Best Yosemite Hikes

Updated on May 4, 2015

My Best Yosemite Hikes

I wanted to share my fav. Yosemite National Park trails with you as I love Yosemite National Park.

I would call these trails the best trails in Yosemite but they may not be the ones you like best. I tend to like somewhat adventurous hikes and love getting to a high vantage point with a great view. You'll see that passion reflected in the hikes I've featured here as they are all fairly long and strenuous, but most can be done in a day.

I've also included a list of resources you should check out if you are planning to go to Yosemite as it's definitely worth checking the weather and road conditions before you go.

If you haven't been to Yosemite, go. Go now!

Well maybe not right now, but certainly add it to your list of places to visit at least once in your life.

Have you been to Yosemite?

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HIking Half Dome
HIking Half Dome

Hiking Half Dome

A truly superb hike....

I think this is the ultimate in Yosemite day hikes. The scenery is out of this world, and at 17 miles it's a good distance out and back. The hike is made up of a trail hike till you get to the Dome and then you climb up the cables to the top. It's great fun, but if you don't have a head for heights this probably isn't the best hike for you.

You really need to be in good shape to do this hike as not only is it long, but there's 4,800 ft of height gain, and loss. I found coming down was quite hard on my knees so if I did it again I'd definitely bring hiking poles, the small ones that can fit in your pack as you don't need them for the whole hike.

The summit of Half Dome is at 8842ft so if you aren't already acclimatized to that altitude you may well find the thinner air affecting you as you get towards the top.

A Half Dome permit system has been introduced recently on the trail as it can get very busy, so if you're planning to do it check permit availability before you finalize your plans. You'll find details of the permit scheme is on the National Park Yosemite site link in the resources section at the bottom.

Half Dome Permits - Now needed

Permits are now needed on the Half Dome trail if you're planning to hike the cables to the top. A lottery system is used and the National Park site has all the details. Make sure you plan ahead to book your place, you don't want to miss out.

How long do you like your hikes to last?

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Clouds Rest Yosemite
Clouds Rest Yosemite

Clouds Rest

Another 'airy' hike

I've done this trail a few times now and always found it a lot less crowded than many of the main Yosemite trails but the view from the top is a wonderful open panorama of Yosemite and a stunning view of Half Dome.

There are a number of ways to get to Clouds Rest depending on whether you want to hike from the Valley floor or start at the higher elevation of the Tioga Road. I chose the latter, starting from the Sunrise trailhead.

The final part of the trail is very exposed and if you don't have a head for heights it's probably better to avoid that last part. The hike up is a joy in itself, although some parts are quite strenuous.

Safety first: Due to the exposed nature of the final part of the trail it's not the best one to do if it's actually covered in clouds and should definitely be avoided if there's any risk of lightening.

Sawtooth Ridge - the quiet backcountry

Last but certainly not least

Not to be confused with the many Sawtooth Ranges, Sawtooth Ridge is in the NE of Yosemite and it's is the most northerly group of peaks to exceed 12,000ft.

I did a great weekend backpack trip here. We were climbing Matterhorn Peak, the highest point on the ridge, but the hike in to our overnight camping spot had the most beautiful views.

It's a short, but very steep approach from the Twin Lakes trailhead on the eastern side of the Sierras. (the trailhead is on private land so there's a small fee to pay to the Mono Village resort for overnight parking).

Check these sites before you go

You'll need to know about the weather, winter snow road closures and tire chain restrictions as well as summer traffic calming measures.

Would you go backpacking in Yosemite?

I think it's one of the best ways to explore Yosemite - do you?

Don't forget to check the weather before you go

Half Dome safety

Learn about climbing Half Dome safely

Have you done any of these hikes?

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    • GrowthSpark profile image

      GrowthSpark 2 years ago

      Half Dome is amazing, literally breathtaking! If you're planning to hike to the top make sure to plan well ahead as they now have a permit lottery scheme in place. Details are on the National Park's website.

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 3 years ago from USA

      I have never been to Yosemite but I hope to some day. I would like to see the waterfalls there and Half Dome.

    • GrowthSpark profile image

      GrowthSpark 4 years ago

      @Bartukas: Thanks!!!

    • profile image

      Bartukas 4 years ago

      Beautifuly made this lens is thanks

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      I'm more a walker than a hiker. So I like predictable, easy (flat) trails. This is especially important when I'm carrying 20 plus pounds of camera gear.

    • profile image

      poutine 5 years ago

      Interesting, although I am not a hiker.

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 5 years ago from US

      I'm so not a hiker...I wish I was sometimes though; I think it would be a gorgeous journey!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 5 years ago

      I've done some really neat hikes in the Sedona AZ area, lovely

    • profile image

      ClearingCobwebs 5 years ago

      Not yet, something to look forward to.

    • Steve Dizmon profile image

      Steve Dizmon 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

      I hope to visit Yosemite some day. I have done a lot of hiking in the Cumberland Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains and some in the Ozarks, but have never had the opportunity to go West. You have presented me with a new goal. Perhaps I will see you there some day.