11 Best Waterfall Hikes In Yosemite National Park, California - Updated 2021

waterfall hikes in yosemite
Richard Dean
Richard Dean

Nothing shows nature’s transformation from winters like the streams flowing over rocky cliffs and steep - and no place in California presents more spectacular waterfalls than Yosemite National Park. The best time to see the beauty of Yosemite National Park is during spring when the skies are clear, the wildflowers are blooming, the snow is melting, and the creeks and rivers are rising. But soon, you’ll discover that its drawcard is the waterfalls. Some of Yosemite’s waterfalls require just a few minutes’ walks, others take a whole day of high-altitude hiking, whatever you prefer - short or long hike, the result will always give you amazing views and a different perspective from above and below. Find out why for more than 125 years, Yosemite’s waterfalls still wowing visitors all over the world. Check out this article and discover the best waterfall hikes in the Yosemite National Park, California!

Travel Advisory

Trip101 recommends assessing the risks before hitting the hiking and trekking trails. Please be especially aware of the difficulty levels, the locations’ ground conditions, as well as the seasonal risks.

1. Nevada Falls

waterfall hikes in yosemite | nevada falls
Source: maxo4life on Instagram

Nevada Fall is a famous swimming spot, with no park restrictions. This 181.05 m (594 ft) high waterfall on the Merced River is situated below the granite dome, Liberty Cap at the Little Yosemite Valley on the west end. If you aim for great views, good news, fantastic views from the switchbacks beside the high flowing giant are waiting for every adventurer. The amazing pool on top of Nevada Fall is also a great spot for swimming and taking pictures, just be very careful not to slip.

Nevada Falls

Address: Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, US

Website: Nevada Falls

2. Wapama Falls

Wapama Falls
Source: Photo by user Inklein used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Situated on the northern wall of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, Wapama Falls is a natural wonder which flows almost yearly. The falls have an extensive cascade at its base and two main drops angled abruptly 60 degrees to each other. The hike will not take you too long, within an easy 8.05 km (5 mi) hike through the O'Shaughnessy dam and tunnel - you can experience a rewarding view from the top. This is also great for a family hike.

Wapama Falls

Address: Hetch Hetchy Valley, Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne County, California, United States

Website: Wapama Falls

3. Bridalveil Falls

Bridelveil Falls Yosemite
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Asamudra used under CC BY 3.0

One of the renowned waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley is the Bridal Veil Falls. At 188 m (617 ft) in height, this fall is considered to be the tallest freefalls in Colorado. The beauty of Bridalveil Falls has lured adventurers from all over the world to bike, four-wheel drive, hike, and unravel the surrounding wilderness. Going here, you’ll also see a historic and privately-owned power plant that sits atop the falls.

Bridalveil Falls

Address: Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

Website: Bridalveil Falls

4. Lower Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls is composed of three cascades that when combined, it could reach a total height of 739 m (2,425 ft), which makes it the highest waterfall in the park. The best time to see this wonder is in the springtime when water is roaring off the falls, which can give you a scenery sandwich with breathtaking views. You can also hear the roar of the water louder and louder, as you walk further along the trail. The trail is very short and easy, which makes it great and safe for the whole family - oh, and you can bring your favorite canine too.

Lower Yosemite Falls

Address: Lower Yosemite Fall Trail, California 95389, USA

Website: Lower Yosemite Falls

5. Chilnualna Falls

Consisting of 73 m (240 ft) waterfall and several fantastic cascades in a dramatic scene, Chilnualna Falls is a little-known part of Yosemite but, should not be missed to see. If you want to visit this beauty, you have to hike the trail which passes by the panoramic Lower Cascade of Chilnualna Creek. As you ascend on switchbacks through a forest of pine, cedar trees, and oak, the climb eases. After turning east you reach the best view of Chilnualna Falls.

Chilnualna Falls

Address: Yosemite National Park, California, United States

Website: Chilnualna Falls

6. Staircase Falls

Staircase Falls. These are rarely seen at Yosemite unless it has been a very wet year. iPhone 8 Plus.

Posted by Mike Ahmadi on Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Situated on Gossamer Creek, behind Camp Curry on cliffs below Glacier Point, Staircase Falls is another beauty in Yosemite National Park that must be added on the list to see. These falls are relatively ephemeral, you can only see them during a very wet year. It falls downward, a total of 400 m (1,300 ft), over a series of steps into Yosemite Valley.

Staircase Falls

Address: Staircase Falls, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389, USA

Website: Staircase Falls

7. Vernal Falls

With Vernal Falls’ majestic beauty, from a breathtaking view to spectacular downstream - truly, Vernal Falls has become one of Yosemite’s sought-after destination for the nature enthusiast. Situated just downstream of Nevada Fall on the Merced River, Vernal Falls is a 96.6 m (317 ft) waterfall, which is clearly transparent from a distance like its upstream neighbor. The hike to the top of Vernal Falls is a combination of exhaustion and excitement as you journey via Mist Trail, but a rewarding view awaits making all that sweat is worth it.

Vernal Falls

Address: Vernal Fall, California 95389, USA

Website: Vernal Falls

8. Illilouette Falls

Situated on the left tributary of the Merced River, right on the Illilouette Creek, you are bound to witness the beauty of Illilouette Falls. This gorgeous fall is a 110 m (370 ft) waterfall, which can be seen from the trail to Nevada and Vernal Falls. For safety measures during low-flow months, it is better not to reach the base of the falls.

Illilouette Falls

Address: Illilouette Falls, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, US

Website: Illilouette Falls

9. Upper Yosemite Falls

Upper Yosemite Falls with 790 m (2,600 ft) from the top of Yosemite Falls can be considered as the “mother of all Stairmaster workouts”. But as you reach the top, unique reward and experience await you, an experience that you won’t get in any other place: dramatic scene and magnificent views of Yosemite Valley. Upper Yosemite trail is extremely exhausting and mostly steep. It is an incline with 11.59 km (7.2 mi) round trip or about six and a half hours’ journey. If you decide to hike all day, this is a very good choice.

Upper Yosemite Falls

Address: Yosemite Falls Trail, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389, USA

Website: Upper Yosemite Falls

10. Ribbon Falls

waterfall hikes in yosemite | ribbon falls
Source: adahajohn on Instagram

Presenting the longest single-drop waterfall in North America, Ribbon Fall is another wonder to behold. This one flows off a cliff that is situated on the west side of El Capitan. The fall is fed by melting winter snow, which adds to its beauty and character. In spring, the fall can reach a spectacular 491 m (1,612 ft), while in winter months, an ice cone forms at its base similar to the Upper Yosemite Fall.

Ribbon Falls

Address: Yosemite National Park, Mariposa County, California, United States

Website: Ribbon Falls

Fall in love with Yosemite's waterfalls

Yosemite National Park is a combination of nature’s beauty, from deep valleys to ancient large sequoias to towering granite monoliths and waterfalls. Among all of these, it is easier to fall in love with its waterfalls that can give you worth a million view. Yup, there’s always a new perspective looking at these beauties from above and below.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our privacy policy for more information on how we use your data

Richard holds a passion for biking. When not staring at bike parts or computers, he's probably at the market, searching for some ingredients for his next secret recipe--yes, he loves experimenting....Read more

 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore Yosemite National Park
Good things are meant to be shared!