“Hike to the top of Yosemite Falls, and then to Yosemite Point for amazing views of the valley and surrounding mountains.
— David Hitchcock
River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife
Combining Upper Yosemite Falls
Trail and the trail that leads to Yosemite Point creates a great hike that offers the opportunity to get near an iconic waterfall and breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding mountains. Departing from famous Camp 4, the trail climbs a large number of switchbacks for a mile before arriving at Columbia Rock. From here, great views of Half Dome
, the Valley, Glacier Point
and a large portion of the Southern Rim spread out before you. This hike is good enough for some, but better views await. At roughly 1.4 miles, a small trail breaks off to the right that descends briefly to the railing at Oh My Gosh Rock where views of Upper Yosemite Falls
, the Middle Cascades, and Lower Yosemite Falls
can be viewed. The views are spectacular and you can really enjoy the whole Yosemite Creek water system from here. After returning to the trail and traveling a little further, the trail skirts the rock face and a spectacular of Upper Yosemite Falls
greets you. It's one of the best views of Upper Yosemite Falls
you'll get. The trail begins to climb a series of grinding switchbacks as the trail climbs to the top of Yosemite Falls
. An overlook trail leads down to a railing where you can watch as the water plunges over the edge and makes its way down to the valley. A lot of people come here, especially in the spring, and this is good enough for many. However, if you continue on the trail that leads to North Dome
, you cross Yosemite Creek and climb to Yosemite Point, roughly 1 mile from the top of the Yosemite Falls
. From Yosemite Point, stunning views of Yosemite spread out before you. You can see Clouds Rest
, Half Dome
, Glacier Point
, Sentinel Dome
, Cathedral Rock, and other famous landmarks in the park. If you are lucky, you might see climbers and slack liners on the Lost Arrow
Spire. After getting some lunch here, you can return to the Valley, enjoying all of the views on the way back down that you enjoyed hiking up.
The trail is rarely closed, but deep snow in the winter and early spring may make travel difficult. Check in with the rangers at the visitor center before starting the hike in the winter to see if they have info on trail conditions.
Need to Know
As with all hikes, make sure that you have enough water for you and your traveling party. Parts of the trail are exposed with little shade, especially after the 2 mile mark, so make sure to have sunscreen and a hat. In the spring, water may be crossing the trail at certain points as the snow melts above you, so make sure to wear the appropriate footwear to keep your feet dry. The trail can be slippery, especially on the rock switchbacks that are close to Upper Yosemite Falls
in the spring when there is a lot of mist from the falls. Take your time to ensure you and those around you don't slip.
There is a lot of traffic on this trail, especially in the spring time, so starting earlier in the day is recommended for those trying to get some solitude.
There are railings at several points (Oh My Gosh Rock, the Overlook, and Yosemite Point) that are there for your protection. Don't go around them and if you are hiking with children, keep an eye on them as you enjoy the views.
The hike to the top of Yosemite Falls
and Yosemite Point starts from Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley. You can either take the shuttle bus to the Camp 4 stop, or park your car in the parking area opposite the camp. From here, walk through the Camp 4 parking lot and out of the back of the camping area until you reach the Valley loop Trail. Follow that trail to the left for a short distance until you encounter a large sign marking the start of the Upper Yosemite Falls
Trail on the right. From here, the trail starts to climb steeply via stairs and switchbacks up the mountainside. This part of the trail is shaded, providing you relief from the sun. You'll probably see some Stellar Jays and squirrels moving between the trees in this area. The trail climbs roughly 1000 feet for the first mile until you reach Columbia Rock. This sandy and rocky overlook provides stunning views of Half Dome
, Sentinel Rock, and Yosemite Valley itself far below you. For those who start late in the day or those who have had enough of stairs and switchbacks, this might be enough of a reward and you can return to the valley.
Continuing uphill, the trail climbs and actually descends a little bit until you get to roughly 1.4 miles, where a small trail breaks off to the right and leads down to Oh My Gosh Rock, where you can see the entire Yosemite Creek system as it makes its way over Upper Yosemite Falls
, through the Middle Cascades, and finally over Lower Yosemite Falls
and into Yosemite Valley. Returning to the trail and continuing for another .1 miles, you come around a bend and a spectacular view of Upper Yosemite Falls
spreads out before you. In the winter, you may hear ice breaking off the face and plunging to the rocks below making a loud boom or in the spring, you may feel the mist from the falls. If you call it a day here, you'll return to the valley with great memories and amazing photos. While the trail descends slightly here along the side of the mountain, the next 1.5 miles is a series of stairs and switchbacks that don't stop until you reach the top. You'll climb out of the trees into an exposed area, so make sure you have sunscreen, water, and a hat for protection from the sun. At the top of the climb, the trail to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls
breaks off to the right and levels out as you make your way to the overlook. Descending a narrow stairway to an overlook provides you an opportunity to watch the water plunge over the edge. It's an amazing experience and is not to be missed. You can eat lunch here and enjoy the views.
After taking a break, most people head back to the valley, but if you are willing to hike another mile, some of the best views in the park await you. Heading back to the main trail, the trail to North Dome
breaks off to the right and descends some stair to cross a bridge over Yosemite Creek. From here, the trail begins to climb up the hill toward Yosemite Point. Sweeping views of granite domes and pine trees spread out before you. You may encounter deer or grouse along this portion of the trail. The trail reaches the ridge line and follows that until you come to Yosemite Point. Here, a railing separates you and a long drop to the valley. You can see so much of the park from here. To your right, you can see the Lost Arrow
Spire and if you're lucky, climbers enjoying the challenge fo climbing or slackening here. In front of you, the South Rim of Yosemite Valley spreads out before you. Glacier Point
, Sentinel Dome
, and Cathedral Rock rise above Yosemite Valley far below you. To the left, Mount Star King, Half Dome
, Clouds Rest
, the Cathedral Range, and the Clark Range are all in view. If you didn't eat lunch at the top of Yosemite Falls
, this is a great place to spread out as there are plenty of rocks to spread out on and enjoy the view. From here, return to your car following the path that you traveled to get here. Enjoy the views on the way back down, because you earned it!
Flora & Fauna
Deer, bobcats, and other animals can be seen using the trails in the evenings or mornings to get to higher elevations. A variety of birds can be seen flying from tree to tree at different points in the hike. You may encounter crows, stellar jays, and grouse as you make your way to Yosemite Point.
History & Background
Built in the 1870s, this is one of the oldest trails in Yosemite. It is also one of the most popular due to its proximity to Yosemite Falls
. This route provides access to the top of North America's tallest waterfall, which rises 2,425 feet above Yosemite Valley. The Falls are made up of Upper Yosemite Falls
, which plunges 1,430 feet from the North Rim to the Middle Cascades. The Middle Cascades are composed of 5 smaller falls totaling about 675 feet. Lower Yosemite Falls
is 320 feet tall and can be viewed from a separate viewing area in Yosemite Valley. The trail to Upper Yosemite Falls
and Yosemite Point provides views of all 3 of these from Oh My Gosh Rock.