While just about every visitor to Yosemite Valley takes the short stroll to see Lower Yosemite Fall, a visit to the top of the falls is a much more strenuous adventure. The Yosemite Falls Trail (Upper Yosemite Fall Trail) is a clever constructed trail that zigzags its way up and around faults and ramps to the rim at the top of the falls. From 3000 feet above the valley floor, hikers can enjoy awe-inspiring views of the surrounding area and those who are willing to hike a bit further to Yosemite Point are also treated to some classic views of Half Dome. For those looking for a shorter adventure, a hike just to Columbia Rock offers good views from 1100 feet up.
IMPORTANT: The hike from Yosemite Valley up to the top of Yosemite Falls is a strenuous hike with a lot of elevation gain. Start early in the day and be prepared to work hard!
|Rating:||Moderately strenuous to strenuous day hike|
|Access:||Camp 4/Yosemite Falls Parking (Stop 7 or E2 along the Yosemite Valley shuttle system)|
|Time Required:||5-8 hours (1-2 hours for hike to Columbia Rock)|
|Length:||6 miles round-trip to Yosemite Point (1.2 miles round-trip to Columbia Rock)|
|Elevation Change:||3000-ft gain from valley floor to Yosemite Point (1100-ft to Columbia Rock)|
|Yosemite Falls Trailhead: 4000'|
Columbia Rock: 5060'
Yosemite Point: 7010'
|Seasons:||Late spring to fall. (Lower portions of the trail are open year-round, but snow on the rim can be treacherous.)|
The trailhead for the Yosemite Falls Trail (Upper Yosemite Fall Trail) can be found behind Camp 4 roughly half a mile west of the popular paved trails to Lower Yosemite Fall. A large sign just off of the Valley Loop Trail marks the start. The trail wastes no time getting to business, zigzagging up the forested slope under Eagle Tower; the unrelenting uphill can be a bit overwhelming, so take it slow and steady. Once the trail has gained about 700 feet, it starts to head east and you get your first open views above the trees.
At roughly 1100 feet up from the valley, Columbia Rock is a good destination for those looking for a moderate adventure without going all the way up to the rim; the large boulder with metal guardrail offers great unhindered views of the valley to the southeast and southwest. The trail then continues looping around into the Yosemite Falls pantheon where you can get several great views looking directly at Upper Yosemite Fall.
The next part of the trail is the most strenuous as the trail works its way up a convenient ramp to the west of the falls, gaining roughly 1600 feet in 1.5 miles of trail. The rocky and uneven cobblestone trail zigzags back and forth and even though you can see the top, this stretch of trail may seem endless, especially if you have a heavy pack. Eventually you will reach the top of the ramp and you will enter a lovely forested area to get a taste of Yosemite's high country.
Just past the junction with the trail to Eagle Peak and El Capitan, look for the junction marker that points to "overlook" which takes you to the edge of the rim, offering amazing open views of Yosemite Valley. A spicy little spur trail (with a few exposed sections of steps and railings) takes you down to a viewing platform just above the upper fall. From this spot, you can get great views down into "Middle Earth" (the canyon-like section between the upper and lower falls) and Yosemite Village.
After visiting Yosemite Falls Overlook, if you still have some gas in the tank, continue hiking an extra .8 miles to Yosemite Point. After crossing over the hikers bridge above Yosemite Creek, the trail heads up the next high point to the east, Yosemite Point, which offers even more astounding views down into Yosemite Valley. This viewpoint offers a great look at Half Dome framed by the shoulder of North Dome in front of it. Return the way you came...
This trail is a Yosemite classic, offering great views of Upper Yosemite Fall (especially during spring runoff) and several great viewpoints down into Yosemite Valley. But you definitely pay for those views; with an elevation gain of 3000 feet, you must be prepared to make your legs work. If you like hiking poles, they will serve you well on this trail!