At 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is widely heralded as the tallest waterfall in North America* and an iconic destination in California’s Yosemite National Park. During its high-water season in spring, the roar of the two-tiered falls can be heard across Yosemite Valley, while hikers in close vicinity can feel the spray of the mist. The 1-mile Lower Yosemite Fall Trail is a paved, wheelchair-accessible track that leads to the base of the falls and crosses several streams before looping back to the start. (*Note: There is some dispute over this. Some surveys record Colonial Creek Falls in Washington State at 2,568 feet, and there are some minor, seasonal spills in Hawaii and British Columbia that technically are taller than Yosemite Falls.)
- Views of North America’s tallest waterfall
- Pleasant shade in mixed conifer forest
- Short, easy, and wheelchair-accessible hike
- One of the most crowded destinations in Yosemite
- Very limited parking
- Limited views of the more impressive Upper Yosemite Falls
The Lower Yosemite Fall Trail begins and ends at the Lower Yosemite Fall shuttle stop (stop #6) in Yosemite Valley. Early arrivers can park right along the curb near the stop, while all others will be relegated to taking the free shuttle—or walking from elsewhere—to the trailhead.
From the bus stop, facing north, take the paved walkway heading straight, into the woods and away from Northside Drive. After about 75 yards, bear left and take the bridge over Yosemite Creek, where a clearing in the dense conifers offers the hike’s first views of Upper Yosemite Falls, the tallest and most impressive of the two tiers.
Continuing to the creek’s west banks, the path crosses over a second, smaller bridge and then forks, with public restrooms just ahead. Bear right, then right again a minute later, following the wide track northward, with both tiers of the waterfall now in sight. The straightaway briefly splits in two, but the two paths soon reconnect as parades of visitors make their way toward the iconic falls.
At about 4/10 mile, the incline steepens to about a 14% grade, which is technically not wheelchair-accessible but probably still doable for most wheelchairs with assistance. The path rises to another bridge leading over Yosemite Creek, offering a closer view of 320-foot Lower Yosemite Falls (the Upper Falls are temporarily obscured from view). This is a popular area and often extremely crowded, unless one arrives very early or late in the day. After crossing the bridge, the now-narrower trail continues eastward, winding around conifers and large boulders. After passing a huge granite chunk on the left, the trail splits, with the Valley Loop Trail continuing left, while the route back to the start heads right.
From here the path traverses a number of pleasant boardwalks, skirting the alluvial deposits of Yosemite Creek. At 8/10 mile, bear left, crossing another bridge over a stream, then bear left again, emerging back out into the open at a point just west of the shuttle stop. To complete the loop, bear right and return to the start, completing the one-mile walk.