Yosemite National Park is home to some of the most scenic and spectacular hikes in the world. Over 3.5 million visitors travel from all corners of the world every year to marvel at the waterfalls and hike the famous trails of the 3rd oldest national park in the United States (Established October 1, 1890). With over 800 miles of trails you are sure to keep yourself busy. Most visitors head straight for Yosemite Valley, but there are many great hikes in Wawona, Tuolumne Meadows and the Hetch Hetchy as well. The park's elevation ranges from 2000ft to 13,114ft (600m to 4,000m), stretching from Giant Sequoia groves housing 200ft trees over 2,000 years old, to breath-taking valleys carved by glaciers, and home to the highest waterfall in America, to alpine meadows filled with rivers, lakes, and wildflowers. Half Dome and El Capitan rise from the central glacier-formed Yosemite Valley, as does Yosemite Falls, North America's tallest waterfall. Three Giant Sequoia groves and vast wilderness are home to diverse wildlife. Tuolumne Meadows is a great area to visit to get away from the large crowds in Yosemite Valley. This area is a few thousand feet higher than the valley and may take some time before becoming completely acclimated. Wawona is in the south western part of Yosemite National Park and is much less visited compared to the Valley. There are several highlights of this area including the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia which was protected by Galen Clark 150 years ago and is home to over 300 massive Sequoias, some of the largest and oldest trees in the world still alive today.
We went right up through the John Muir Trail through some snow to get to Clark's point where we went down and back up to Nevada falls (which was pretty strenuous). The view from up there is breathtaking. We went back down to Vernal Falls which was also cool but then went down through the Mist Trail which was my favorite thing I've ever done. So worth it.
This hike is comprised mainly of switch-backs to preserve the integrity of the hillside. There did not seem to be many areas that had good Vista Points, especially in the first mile. It's one of the least enjoyable hikes I've ever been on. Partly because of the difficulty with small returns in the way of fabulous views, partly because of the poor company I hiked with. After reaching the halfway point which was more level the hike was much more rewarding, however that section doesn't last very long before changing back to boring switchbacks.
The hike itself was at times dangerous due to how slippery the large granite rocks are that make up the footing in several areas. I actually slipped in the dust on top of one of those large rocks and broke my tailbone(fortunately on the return). I only made it up to the halfway point and it should definitely be considered an all day hike.
R G. on Swinging Bridge Trail
We loved this trail; however, we went in February and chose this to do snow shoeing, so I can't speak to non-winter conditions.
When we went, there were about 20 people on the trail. Many more were around the snow play area at the start.
The trail is beautiful and winds thru a grove of giant Sequoias. The side route thru the dead giant tunnel is awesome and not to be missed.
I think this trail was paved, but it was mostly snow packed, so I'm not sure. There is parking at the start as well as vault toilets.
If going during the winter, snow shoes are highly recommended. I saw many people attempt it in sneakers and non winter gear who looked miserable. We also saw many foot holes were people stepped without snow shoes and sunk several feet. Oh and hiking poles are also recommended if snow shoeing. I saw some people without themvwho were unnecessarily struggling.
I loved this trail primarily because of the winter experience. Anyone who loves the snow should try to see it at that time of year.
There appeared to be several routes to get to mirror lake. There are both an old paved road that goes directly to it and actual trails. We did a bit of both, but we're confused as to the recommended route.
The trip to the lake itself is heavily trafficked. The full trail around the lake is much less so. We went in February and saw too many people to count.
The trail head has a bus stop, but cars can't get there (I think the stables was as close as you can get). If you have to walk to the start however, it's scenic and there is plenty of street and lot parking further out.
There is a vault toilet at the lake itself. As mentioned, the signage to the lake was confusing as there seemed to be several routes. However, it runs along a river so it'd be difficult to get lost. Once going around the lake it's much clearer.
If hiking this trail for the purpose of seeing the mirror effect in the lake, make sure to check the weather. It was drizzly and cloudy for us, so the effect was lost.
Overall this was a pretty trail as an out and back to the lake, but is more fulfilling to do the entire loop.
This trail is much more of a nature walk than a trail. It is very easy.
Yosemite falls is a staple of the Valley. There is even a bus stop here. It is one of the most popular hikes, and when we went (February), it was expectedly crowded.
The trail is paved and has informational placards. It has its own street parking and restrooms shortly after the start.
When we went, they had closed part of the trail due to weather, but the poor signage didn't convey that.
Overall this trail is good to see a beautiful tall double waterfall, but it reminded me of Old Faithful in Yellowstone (good to see once).