2020 Top 5 Winter Hikes in Yosemite

2020 Top 5 Winter Hikes in Yosemite


1) Lower Yosemite Fall

The classic Lower Yosemite Fall trail is a great winter hike for families as it is a short and easy trail to Lower Yosemite fall. Part of North America's tallest waterfall, Lower Yosemite Fall is the final 320-foot drop of the waterfall. The trail is wheel-chair accessible, pet-friendly, and great for visitors of all ages!

Fun Fact: During some mornings in Yosemite Valley, when streamflow is relatively high and temperatures are below freezing, some creeks may seem to be full of slush rather than full of water. This is frazil ice, which forms when mist freezes, then floats down the creek. Frazil Ice can be seen in the winter at Yosemite Creek just below Lower Yosemite Fall.

Easy: 1 mile; 30 minutes round trip


2) Yosemite Valley Loop

The trail follows many of the Valley's first east-west trails and wagon roads. It offers a nice opportunity in Yosemite Valley to hike on a fairly level trail with solitude. While some of the trail passes near roads, most of the trail takes you through meadows, talus slopes at the base of the granite cliffs, and near the Merced River. You can access the trail from many places throughout the Valley; however, the mileage and description used here starts at the Lower Yosemite Fall area (follow signs for Valley Loop Trail). Route-finding can be difficult in places, so it is best to bring a map with you as it will orient you with the various landforms in the Valley, which are often listed on the trail/directional signs. During winter season, the trail is often snowy and icy in places, particularly along the south side of Yosemite Valley. In these areas, use extreme caution as it may be hard to get traction on ice and route-finding may be difficult in snowy areas.

Moderate: 11.5 miles; 5-7 hours full loop


3) Mirror Lake

The first mile of this trail is a paved service road that leads directly to Mirror Lake. You may access the loop trail from the end of the paved path. The loop follows Tenaya Creek beyond the lake, and crosses two bridges after the Snow Creek Trail junction before returning past Mirror Lake on the south side of Tenaya Canyon. (There is no safe access to the north side of Mirror Lake directly from the south side of the loop, except via bridges at the west and east ends of the trail). In winter it can be icy and snowy, especially along the south side of Tenaya Creek.

Easy to Moderate: 2 miles round trip to lake and back; 5 mile loop around lake; 1 hour round trip to the lake (end of paved trail); 2-3 hours for full loop


4) Yosemite Falls to Columbia Rock Trail

One of Yosemite's oldest historic trails (built 1873 to 1877), the Yosemite Falls Trail leads to the top of North America’s tallest waterfall, but there is a great stop for a shorter hike option in the winter at Columbia Rock. This trail starts near Camp 4, along the Valley Loop Trail, and immediately begins its climb through oak woodland. You will begin to climb above some trees and into exposed plateaus that offer you a glimpse of what's to come: great views of Yosemite Valley and its many iconic landforms.

If you make the one-mile, 1,000 foot climb (via dozens of switchbacks) to Columbia Rock, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Sentinel Rock. From there, it is worth the time and energy to hike another 0.5 miles to get a stunning view of Upper Yosemite Fall.

Moderate: 2 miles; 2-3 hours round trip


5) Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias

Seeing giant sequoias in the winter season is really stunning. This trail descends from the trailhead the entire way to the majestic giant sequoias. This is a popular trail both for snowshoeing and hiking. You don’t always need snowshoes, but we recommend renting a pair in advance of your visit. The Tuolumne Grove is accessible from Highway 120.

Easy to Moderate: 1 mile; 1 hour round trip