Hiking at Yosemite National Park

By Laura Burke


Yosemite National Park is a natural treasure unlike any other in the USA. Here you’ll find the most majestic of scenery across all four seasons, experience the power of waterfalls, awe-inspiring lakes, vast wildflower meadows, and uncover the unique history of the area on one of the many mapped hikes. We’ve selected our favourite trails for you to experience during a visit to Yosemite National Park while on cheap US holidays. Reflect and relax amongst the astounding beauty of Yosemite.

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1. Cook's Meadow Trail


The perfect trail for those who may have never hiked before and maybe like me consider getting up the stairs a steep climb. This is a beautiful short trail which is accessible year round and is extremely flat. This trail offers stunning views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point and Sentinel Rock, one of our favourite choices if you’re only visiting the park for a day and want to see as much of the stunning scenery as you can while on US holidays from Ireland. Shuttles bring you to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Centre where you can start this trail and get more information on routes and shuttles. Looping from Sentinel Drive parking lot and across from Yosemite Falls, it is best enjoyed in spring when the waterfalls are in full view and the weather is mild. This is an easy trail with fantastic view which is enjoyable no matter what your skill level is.

2. Upper Yosemite Fall Hike


There’s no doubt that this is one tough hike, strenuous and steep it takes between 6 and 10 hours but the reward is more than worth it. From the top of Yosemite Fall you can enjoy thrilling views dropping 2,425 feet to the bottom of the valley. The trail to Upper Yosemite Fall is around 3 miles long each way although it gains 3,000 feet in elevation on the way. At the top of the valley you can go to Yosemite Fall Overlook, a platform from which you can admire the panoramic views of Yosemite Falls, this is a picture perfect spot. It is best hiked in spring or early summer when the falls are roaring. This hike is the equivalent of just over two climbs up the stairs of the Empire State Building, so wear comfy shoes.


3. Hite Cove Trail

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One of the area’s best wildflower hikes, you can see dozens of flower varieties here as well as the union of the south and central forks of the Merced River through steep canyons. This hike takes between 2 and 5 hours and is of moderate difficulty because although it’s not hugely elevated there are lots of rolling ups and downs. This trail is completely centred about viewing wildflowers which flood the first two miles of the trail, making for a snap happy walk amongst 60 varieties of wildflowers over the 4.5 mile hiking path. Bring a hat and some food for a picnic to make the most of your time on the Hite Cove Trail.


4. Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias


The smallest of Yosemite’s three Giant Sequoia groves with only about 20 age old trees making it the least crowded of the groves to visit. This is a short hike with a smooth wide trail and it will offer you the same awe-inspiring views in a more secluded setting. Visit during the summer when days are longer, if you choose to do this hike in the spring you may also find some pretty wildflowers in particular Western Azalea. If you want to bring along food there are picnic tables at the trailhead. This is a peaceful trail to choose during your visit to Yosemite National Park and will surely be the highlight of a California holiday from Ireland.


5. Panorama Trail


A Yosemite classic, if you want a full day of hiking then this trail best showcases the park’s natural wonders. Starting at the famed Glacier Point overlook you’ll have unforgettable views of Half Dome and the highest point at Clark Range. The first section of the hike dives down into Illilouette Creek where you’ll take in surging falls and unusual wildlife, from here the trail rolls across the top of Panorama Cliffs amongst yellow pines and cedar trees. The highlight of this hike has to be peering down into Yosemite Valley, 2,700 feet below you, and getting a full view of the Half Dome on the way. The mountain scenery is good at any point when the trail is open but the waterfalls are best in the spring and early summer when they’re at they’ve the most volume. This is a moderately difficult hike, although it is mostly downhill there is a portion where you’ll climb 700 feet in about a mile and a half. Visitors will love time spent enjoying the natural wonders of Yosemite Park on this trail.


6. Cathedral Lakes


This trail starts at Tuolumne Meadows and leads to Cathedral Lakes, it’s easy to follow and offers incomparable views of the area. Lower Cathedral Lake is the most remarkable of the High Sierra Lakes, it’s surrounded by Cathedral Peak and Echo and Tresidder Peaks all of them over 10,000 feet high, only adding to the drama of the scenery. On the eastern shore of the lower lake is a wide rock shelf which is the perfect observation point where you can hang out and relax after a somewhat difficulty climb. The best time to hike this trail is whenever Tioga Road is open, generally June through October, when you can take postcard ready photographs.

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