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Natural Wonders

3 Ways to See Yosemite Falls

Catch multiple perspectives of North America’s tallest waterfall in Yosemite Valley.

Beautiful Yosemite Falls is one of the most iconic of Yosemite’s waterfalls. The triple cascade located in Yosemite Valley plummets down to the ground and is spectacularly beautiful. Catch accessible views from a paved trail, do a strenuous hike to the top, or gaze from the roads and boardwalks in Yosemite Valley to see this national park’s namesake waterfall.

What’s Special About Yosemite Falls?

Yosemite Falls is North America’s tallest waterfall at 2,425 feet. That designation alone is worth the stop, but the waterfall is also an iconic view, having been captured by photographers for years starting with the likes of Ansel Adams.

This waterfall is also extremely accessible. It’s easy to view it from many places around Yosemite Valley, so the whole family can easily catch awe-inspiring views.

Yosemite Falls is made up of three separate waterfalls. Upper Yosemite is 1,430 feet tall, the middle cascades are 675 feet tall and Lower Yosemite Fall is 320 feet tall.

Upper, Middle and Lower Yosemite Falls
Upper, Middle and Lower Yosemite Falls (Photo: Neil Lipson)

Is Yosemite Falls Flowing?

Yosemite Falls is seasonal, meaning you won’t see it flowing all year long. Water usually starts flowing down the imposing rock face in November. The peak flow is in May, when all that Sierra Nevada snowpack has melted and is barreling down the rock in a torrent. The flow usually dries up again sometime in July. If you visit from July through October, you aren’t likely to see a waterfall.

The falls are particularly beautiful in the winter, when an ice cone forms at the base of Upper Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Falls Closeup
Yosemite Falls Closeup (Photo: Brian Boyd)

Can You Drive to Yosemite Falls?

Views of Yosemite Falls are easily accessible and can be reached by car or a paved trail. There are many places around the Yosemite Valley where you’ll catch sight of the iconic waterfall such as Yosemite Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge. For the best views, take the shuttle to stop #6. You can also park at Yosemite Village and follow the bike path to this shuttle stop.

From here, take in the views or continue on the 1-mile loop to the very base of the falls for an even better view. Walk the trail clockwise for the most dramatic scene. The eastern part of the loop is wheelchair accessible.

Heading to Lower Yosemite Falls
Heading to Lower Yosemite Falls (Photo: Kristopher Schoenleber)

How Long of a Hike Is Yosemite Falls?

It’s easy to get great views of Yosemite Falls without a hike, but if you want a unique perspective, you can hike the 7.2-mile roundtrip trail to the top of Yosemite Falls. It’s strenuous, but well worth the 2,700 feet of elevation gain when you see the views of Yosemite Valley from the top.

Find the trailhead near Camp 4, along the Valley Loop Trail. You’ll start climbing immediately through an oak forest. There are steep drop offs if you stray from the trail, so stick to the path. A mile in, you’ll reach Columbia Rock with great, unobscured views of the valley. Another half-mile will bring you to the best views of Yosemite Falls along the entire trail. If you’re not up for the full 7.2 miles, this is a good spot to turn around.

To reach the top, continue another 2.1 miles up a steep and rocky trail to the top of the falls. Use care around Yosemite Creek, as it feeds into the waterfall.

Upper Yosemite Falls
Upper Yosemite Falls (Photo: Max Foster)