Tough hike; go further to North Dome or Eagle Peak
Boaz · California · June 25, 2020
For the most part, I agree with Craig's review. The steepest part is between Columbia Rock and the junction at the top, where there are signs for (to your right): Upper Falls (0.2 miles), Yosemite Point, North Dome; and (straight ahead): Eagle Peak, Elcap and Tioga Road. In one direction, North Dome has awesome views of Half Dome. In the other direction, Eagle Peak is +2.8 miles through a pine forest with not much elevation gain. About half-way the trail passes near Eagle Creek, where can fill water (might be dry by late summer). The views from Eagle Peak add another * to the experience: Half Dome, many distant peaks, several waterfalls.
Resting by the creek
Julia · San Pedro · August 21, 2019
I hiked up to the top with my brother Ted about 1990 & still remember how exhausted we were. Once at the top I looked over the rail where you feel and hear the power of the water but not much of a view. It was summer and there were a lot of folks there as well as so many squirrels it was hard to relax and eat lunch. What impressed me most was the little creek up there and how that water from that harmless looking creek becomes so powerful just a few feet away. It's truly mesmerizing, drawing you in, closer and closer to the edge. Sadly some have ventured too close, going over the edge to certain death.
Craig · Idaho · July 23, 2019
View from Columbia Rock is beautiful - however I don't know if it's worth the work to get here. But the best is yet to come. If you have made it this far and plan to go back - don't! Another .3 or .4 mile or so on easy terrain to get to the Lower Falls Overlook will blow your mind. Full view of the upper falls, the cascades, the lower falls, the bridge, and the valley. And you have it to yourself. That 4 star rating just went to 5+. But eventually you have to continue on.
Once at the Upper Falls Overlook you go "Really? I just climbed that mountain for this?" The actual overlook is a real let down. However the cascades and creek above the falls are really pretty and nice to sit and watch for awhile. Pretty much the same thing at Yosemite Point. Pretty, but not worth the extra climb. I think with all that climbing we are back to 4 stars. Maybe the Lower Falls Overlooked spoiled us. So back to the creek for another breather before heading to Eagle Peak.
Eagle Peak? Another 3 miles? Sure, why not, we came this far. Best decision ever. Nice stroll through the woods, across a swampy area, and through some rocks to the top. The last couple of steps you just stand there and stare. And stare. And stare, before sitting down to catch your breath. Yosemite Falls on the left. Sentinel Falls on the right. Nevada Falls in the center. The valley like 3,800 feet below. Clouds Rest and Half dome in the middle of it all. Then there's Mount Lyel on the horizon. Wow! Words and photos cannot describe this. 10 stars.
So if you are doing Columia Rock - push a little further. If you are going to the top - push a little further. Turn that 4 star trail into a fantastically epic day.
Beware if going in March
Anna · Michigan · March 14, 2019
I visited Yosemite and completed this hike with my boyfriend on March 13th. We are both 20 and decently active people. We received mixed reviews about the accessibility of the hike due to snow and ice at the top, and had planned to turn around at halfway. But after talking to many people on the trail who had made it to the top, we decided to go all the way. We would NOT have attempted it if we didn't have traction devices for our shoes, we also each had a hiking pole which helped tremendously.
Since the top half was snow covered, the hike up became much more difficult than the bottom half. We had to tread carefully to make sure we didn't step on any weak spots where the snow would break, and our feet sunk in entirely multiple times, (I sunk into my knees at parts), so our boots were soaked pretty quickly.
The view at the top made the hike worth the climb. Being from the Midwest I've never seen anything like it in my life. Since March is a less busy time and many hikers along the way decided to turn around, we had the top to ourselves. Contrary to what other hikers have said, the hike down was much more fun than the hike up. Since there was so much snow we decided to slide down on our butts, which was the most fun I've had in a while, (if you do this, be careful of rocks.)
DO bring lots of water and take many breaks. I have been on many hikes and spend lots of time outdoors, but this one tested me. I ended up getting sick 3/4 of the way down which I attributed to exhaustion, rapid elevation change, and being under hydrated (I brought 1 liter). But, if someone who puked after doing this hike is giving it 5 stars, that has to be a good sign that it's worthwhile.
Ram · Toronto, Canada · August 23, 2018
Like some other hikers mentioned...Bring at least 3 Ltrs of water and lot of energy bars. The view at the lookout is worth the pain. Hiking shoes with good grip is a must, especially coming down. Bring a flashlight if descending late. For rain, buy a poncho at the base.
Best Honeymoon Hike!
Emily Kim · California · July 13, 2016
1) Dress in easy to remove layers. Climbing up the face is warm even when it is cold in the valley and at the top of the falls.
2) Bring extra water. We planned to only go half-way, but since we reached the lower falls pretty quickly, we decided to go the rest of the way--with only half a liter of water. It was March and there was freshly fallen snow at the top, so we were fine, but we ran into many other hikers debating whether or not to drink from the stream.
3) Keep your eye on the horizon--you won't want to hike down in the rain. When we reached the top it was sunny, but I saw dark clouds way at the other end of the valley and knew we were for rain in 2-3 hours. Some other hikers asked why were not staying long for the view or going to Yosemite Point and I signaled to the cloud. They brushed me off, but I am sure they got pretty wet on the way down. We reached the bottom just before a down pour.
Beautiful, and grueling
Vince · Philly PA · May 14, 2016
Hiked up and back in about 5.5 hours on my 39th birthday. The best views of Yosemite falls are on the upper portion of the trail, above Columbia Rock. The views from the top are nice, although the views are not as dramatic as points on the south rim. The falls overlook was nice, but not the highlight of the hike. We started late, so didn't have enough time to really explore at the top, and if I were to do it again, I'd want to hike the extra mile or two to either El Capitan or Yosemite Point.
A few points of warning - this hike was far more grueling than the four-mile trail (which we did the next day), largely due to the constant negotiation of the footing. Hiking boots are pretty mandatory, don't try it with trail shoes. I'd also recommend at least 1.5 liters of water per person. We brought a liter each, and as I was done by the first 1/3 of the descent, ended up pretty dehydrated at the bottom. The afternoon was also very mosquito filled - much more so than the mist trail. We had brought bug spray, but the poor English girls we passed were covered head to toe in welts.
Just keep walking, just keep walking!
Sel · Melbourne, Australia · November 18, 2015
As a first time hiker wearing runners on a slippery and snowy track I was only intending to go to Columbia Rock. Then when I looked up to see the beautiful falls and the rainbow on the waterfall, I decided to keep going with the phrase "just keep walking, just keep walking" playing in my head and took step after step.
It's a tough trail and whilst most people have said it was a thigh workout, I would say it's much tougher on the calves on the way up. Some of the icy steps were very slippery but the slipping is easier on the way up. Would recommend real hiking shoes!
Once at the top, getting down the scary steps to the overlook was absolutely well worth all the pain, especially after rewarding myself for a 30 min lunch with some cheese sandwiches, Gatorade and more water. The view of the icy cold water cascading down is spectacular.
Getting down was extremely slippery and in fact slipping down the rocks was more dangerous and increased the possibility of a rolled ankle, particularly as it was close to dusk and sight was limited.
Watching the sunset on Columbia rock, amazing. To see half dome split with shadow and light simultaneously and a pink/purple/orange hue in the background was special. Then 10 minutes later the mist in the trees was growing and the sky turning blue and yellow.
The rest of the way down takes a toll on the knees but I was smiling having enjoyed a wonderful experience in nature and pushing myself to the limit.
Would recommend to anyone to have a go. Even if you don't think you can, you probably can. Just try!
Deb · Modesto, CA · April 30, 2015
This was a workout, very steep hike with lots of steps and elevation gain; an extreme thigh burning hike but worth every step! The views were incredible, actually, no words can describe the amazing beauty of this hike and the powerful crashing sound from the falls. An experience not to be missed!
Note: please people, do not sit on the railing next to the falls for pics or go into the water. .. you could die and many have and will. This is a serious hike to be respected! I saw a couple of people doing some really risky stuff for the sake of a photo. Please use common sense, don't take a chance!!
Matt · Forida · December 23, 2014
We did this hike at the end of a long hiking week, and I have to say up front that we only went halfway—but some of the most magical views were from this hike. There is a section after the early, below-the-treetops switchbacks that would be harrowing in bad weather, but a prominent point on what is essentially the opposite side of John Muir's Fern Ledge (guardrail and all) makes a great resting point. Lots and lots of water needed.
Got to the base of the Upper falls, and instead of hanging left with the trail, we made a hard right and did a 100-200 foot downhill scramble to the hill leading to the pool at the bottom of the falls. This is the area where, in winter, the ice cone for Yosemite Falls grows, and indeed a fine spot to take in a strange landscape. Although people could see us from the trail, nobody ventured down to our area in the time we were there—a shame, if you ask me, because it was a treat.
I didn't think this hike was nearly as rough on the thighs as going up Vernal and Nevada falls, but I could be mistaken. The downward hill and giant steps there seemed far worse than this (but of course we only technically went halfway). Highly recommend.
Upper Yosemite Falls Trail
Anita Dippery · Menlo Park, CA · October 7, 2014
I have hiked this trail about 5 times and it is one of the most arduous trails I have done. You begin right off the bat with switch backs that continue almost all the way up. The first half I was elated and loving it, then after we started up the 2nd half, it became really arduous and one step in front of the other. However, the top was our greatest reward and the view always breathtaking.... after hanging around the lookout and eating our lunches, we began the long descent. I think I had a mountain high for a week after. Well worth the time and workout.
Tough but worth it
Debbie Sandhurst · Madera CA · October 6, 2014
My husband and I are 58 years old and are moderately fit. We hiked it with a very fit 24 year old relative from South Dakota on Saturday, October 4. It was the only weekend we had available. I have hiked it twice before in June and September--it was hot. I was hoping for cooler temps. It was not to be--88 degrees in the valley that day! We applied bug repellant and sunscreen. Got a late start, at 10am. Got to Yosemite Point at 1pm. Amy and I had a liter of water each in a camel pack. The husband had a 2 liter pack. Amy drank all her water and Dennis and I had a bit left when we finished. Dennis and I live nearby, in the San Joaquin Valley. Perhaps we are acclimated to the dry heat. We brought an extra bottle of water, but ended up giving it to a hiker who had started with too little water and ran out.
I have done this hike in better shape, though I did work out strenuously for month prior to the hike. Dennis and Amy were much faster than me, but we actually took quite a few short breaks, during which time we often enjoyed chatting with other resting hikers. We snacked on soft granola bars on the way up. At least half of the hike was shaded and at times there was a nice breeze. The last of the switchbacks are completely exposed and were hot. My energy was spent before I reached the top of those switchbacks, really slowing me down, and hiked over to Yosemite Point. I needed lunch! We waited until we got to the river bed to eat. The falls were completely dry, but we hiked to the river bed anyway. Doesn't seem like a complete trip without seeing the river bed. There were some pools of icy cold water and one even had fish swimming in it. Walking in the river bed was spectacular. We took some great photos. We sat down and enjoyed our lunch (finally!) and headed back to the trail at 2pm. The steepness and the rockiness of the trail definitely slows the downhill trek. High risk of slipping and falling from the sand and gravel.
We always use hiking poles on this hike. I am short and they help me climb up the taller "steps" and they save all our knees and help us keep our balance on the way down. Dennis slipped twice and Amy slipped once and bruised her knee on a rock. Much of the trail on the way down was shaded and there was a fantastically cool breeze, which may have been the result of October weather. We all complained of aching knees before it was over. We had initially thought we could make it down by 4pm, but we made it to the bottom at 4:30pm. I want to try hiking this in cooler temps!!! Good hiking boots are a must! They save the toes on the downhill, cushion the bottoms of the feet from the rocky terrain, and increase traction.
awesome, typically difficult
RIckibobbi · SF East Bay · September 29, 2014
If you have bad knees, use hiking poles, really helps on the way down. I went up this time in rainy conditions, which was great except for the slippery rocks near the top, went down on my butt twice, I was hiking in sandals though. Anyway, it was a really moody, beautiful hike, clouds along, below the cliffs. Was about a 3 hour round trip for me, steady pace, didn't dawdle on the top as it was rainy and you really couldn't see much, but being up there is fun on its own terms, so plan for 4-6 hours round trip. It is a very hard hike, so just be prepared, not just for the steps but for the altitude change, it matters. I didn't have to worry about water as it was a cool, rainy day, so one water bottle, but I actually didn't bring enough food, way stupid. Could feel it after a point, sort of bonked. If it's warm, lots of water and good energy food are necessary. Also, you should honestly appraise your physical condition, turn back if you want, it's not a test. You'll still see great views, get a good workout. Another thing, footwear, you need something to properly distribute weight, or you'll bruise your soles, this will happen coming down.
Steve · Florida · August 20, 2014
Water, water, water. I burned through almost 3 liters on the way up and struggled the last 1/4 of the way down. Next time will bring filter and refill. Easily would have used double that. Take snacks w/ moisture, e.g. peeled oranges, tangerines, apples. Start early. We started at 7am and caught the sun on the way back down. Should have left around 5am. Brutal heat. We felt sorry for the people heading up as we were going down. I thought going down was way worse than going up. (We were so surprised about this that I checked online. Apparently you burn twice the energy going down as you do going up by having to brake yourself) The switchbacks seem to go on forever and the top third has loose gravel and sand on rock, so it can be a little scary. I am a big dude, 6'1" 230 and in decent shape. I highly recommend hiking poles. I am pretty sure they saved my knees and the way up and definitely on the way down. Do not do this hike if you are planning on hanging around Yosemite for several days after, save it for the end. My brother and I were physically worn out the next several days. We wanted to avoid all inclines the next day, even simple ones so could not go w/the kids. Other than that, gorgeous views, was well worth it.
Oh What a Hike!
Chris · Ohio · August 15, 2014
This was the only real hike I did at Yosemite and it was great. The hike up was strenuous, but well worth it. I would definitely recommend continuing on to Yosemite Point, if you are able, as the views are even more spectacular. This is up there with Angel's Landing at Zion for all time favorite hikes.
This is not a hike for people in poor physical condition.
3rd Time is Charm!
Fugi · Orange, CA · July 26, 2014
I love Yosemite! It's my home away from home. We recently did this hike this past June and it kicked my butt. I've hiked Yosemite Falls 3 times now and every time it's a challenge. We prepped for this hike for about 3-5 months prior, doing a lot of local hiking. I recommend a lot of stair climbing, squats and overall long 4-6 miles of walking for about 3+ hours. If you're able to do some elevation hiking in your local mountains then do it...I had started running in my workouts but it still didn't seem enough. Neither my legs nor my body were tired but I could feel the elevation. Bring lots of water!!! It was hot this time we went and I ran out of water towards the last 1/4 mile of the trip. I took my 2 liter hydration pack along with an additional 1 liter canteen and it wasn't enough. There are no drinking fountains other than the river and I didn't take my purifier because I've never had to use it the first 2 times I did it.
Overall though, best views of the valley you will see unless you're on the top of Half Dome (which is a must do. I've done that one too!) Oh yeah make sure you pack sun block because once you get past the tree line it's all open with little to no shade! Happy Trails fellow hikers...enjoy!
Bring Enough Water
Els · San Francisco · July 10, 2014
We went Memorial Day 2013 and got a late (after noon) start. We were not sure what we were getting ourselves into, and were actually looking for the lower falls, but we are pretty strong hikers so when we realized our mistake we just said "ok, let's just do this and when we get down to half a bottle of water (we only had 2 with us), turn around". Of course by the time we got down to half a bottle, we were so close, it seemed silly to turn around.
We made it to the top, the falls were roaring since it was spring still. View: totally worth it. But, it's a hike that starts in the valley, so there were like a million people. After eating a quick snack and finishing the water, we headed down. Since I had thought we were just doing a short sightseeing trek, I was wearing TOMS... BIG MISTAKE! I got parched very quickly and when I'm parched I get pretty angry so the scene was basically me running down the mountain, jamming all my toes and occasionally running back up to find my boyfriend to yell at him. About halfway down, the trail goes back up for a bit and I was particularly steamy at that point. But we made it down, I had some water, and we remarked how that was one of our favorite hikes ever!
Paul · Devon, PA · July 4, 2014
Hiked trail on July 1st. Favorite hike of the family and packed with outstanding views throughout and the top of the falls is spectacular lunch spot. The switchbacks are relentless and going down is tougher than going up at times. Heed the 'lots of water' advice even though the trail is only 7.3 miles r/t. We loved looking at the switchbacks from Taft Point/ Pohono Trail the next day and basking in the accomplishment.
Irwin Thaler · Marina del Rey, CA · June 29, 2014
I am 73, pretty fit. I did this hike about 5 years ago. Of course, I forgot all the difficulty of the hike, remembered the beauty.
Took about 2 hrs. to 3.2 mile sign. Missed the turnoff to Lookout, kept going on the trail for about 1/2 miles until an oncoming hiker turned me around. Returned to correct trail to Lookout, walked out and enjoyed lunch.
Brought two water bottles, not enough. The way down was tricky. Watch your step on the slippery rocks.
The best way up for me is a steady pace, keep going. Very rewarding, one of my best day hikes.
Now, I remember.
Mike · Clovis · June 27, 2014
My son and I, 16 and 48 respectively, accomplished this hike in 6-1/2 hours with about 30 minute rest at top. Tough hike, not terrible going up but rough coming down. Bring extra water - I consumed 3+L. Hike is well worth the pain on the knees. FYI try to be on trail early AM to avoid crowds and heat can be hot mid afternoon.
Not enough water
Jim Batey · Westerville Ohio · June 12, 2014
I hiked this by myself, several years ago. I started to look for the trail head at about 8AM one morning, and it took a while (guess I wasn't awake yet). The only things I carried with me were my camera and one small bottle of water (crazy, I know - I had no idea what I was getting into).
The switchbacks seemed endless,and about three-fourths of the way to the top, my quads started cramping. At one point, as I was taking a breather, another hiker (descending) asked me how I was doing, and apparently noticed that I didn't have any water left. He was kind enough to offer two more bottles of water, which I gladly accepted.
When I reached the top, more cramping, which went away after a brief rest. The view at the top was stunning - well worth the effort to get there. Seeing the water plunge over the top of the upper fall was too much for words.
The hike down was definitely easier, although there were some places that were a bit slippery because of loose gravel. About half way down, I began to think I was doing pretty well from a pace standpoint, but then, I was passed by several young people who were actually running down the trail! I was humbled.
I got to the cafeteria in Yosemite valley at 4PM, almost exactly 8 hours after I started. The next time I will definitely take more water. Overall this was a fantastic experience for me. I highly recommend it.
Jayna Sheats · Palo Alto CA · May 30, 2014
Don't let the difficulty put you off unless you are really not in condition for hiking. We took our 3 year old daughter to the top of this and got her to walk most of the way (all the way to Columbia point), and at the top she arranged the huge Doug fir cones into the name of her dog. One of my fonder memories is running down the trail holding her hand as she skipped (barely) from rock to rock (ok, she was a light 3-yr-old!). I have probably hiked this trail more than a dozen times, in all seasons except winter, and even though it seems short it has many different moods. One should not miss comparing the relaxed calm of fall (when there is virtually no water in the falls) with the roaring of spring (during which you will get quite damp from the spray). And the top is such a different world from the bottom.
Yosemite falls...moderate diffculty
Del kolberg jr · Virginia · April 29, 2014
I had a heart attack in April 2010, at 52 years old, rehabilitated myself, and in August 2013, at 56 years old, hiked Yosemite Falls up and down from 4-7:30 pm on a peaceful Monday evening. Took me 2 hours to get to the point, 15 minutes of viewing, then a 1 hr 15 min descent. I then hiked Half-Dome the next day. You want a real challenge...hike The Priest in the Appalachian Mountains, from Route 56 to the summit, in June and July, when the humidity is 90%, the gnats are in your face, and the timber rattlesnakes are restless! We hiked The Priest 5 times to prepare for Yosemite...overkill. Come east, John Muir, where real hikers hike...
Mansi · India and Wisconsin · April 6, 2014
I wanted to go on a relatively less strenous hike but my friend encouraged me to take this one. It was the best hike ever!! Very strenuous. The view is beautiful at each step of this trail. Be in good health to go on this one. I didn't carry enough water, but a fellow hiker gave me some. So carry enough water and food.
Great views for healthy knees!
Sarah · Oklahoma · February 9, 2014
There is easily over 100 switchbacks on this hike, one way. We counted! If you have knee issues, this is probably not the hike for you. I had a partial ACL tear while doing this hike that caused me a LOT of pain coming back down. At least the views help make up for it though!! Just be careful and know your limits.
Phil Strebler · San Diego · February 9, 2014
It's a tough hike no doubt. Take a break at Columbia Rock then get your nose down and start huffing. Incredible views of the falls from trail. Avoid from late June until maybe September, unless you go early morning or enjoy being spitroasted.
Tough but Rewarding!
Dan Lima · New York · February 5, 2014
I just did this hike and I must say I'm proud I could make it.
Though I'm 28 years old and thin, I'm not a hiker and definitely not in a great shape. But I did it with my girlfriend, ascent in about 3h and 40 min, descent in 2h and 30 min. The trail is steep almost nonstop, but it offers great views halfway. On the top, we could see the frozen waterfall, which was incredibly beautiful. We took killer photos, and because it was winter there weren't a lot of hikers.
We had to take lots of quick rest stops and we definitely didn't bring enough water (about 1,5L for 2 people). The top was completely frozen, which added extra slipperiness. The way down was pretty tough too, with ice on the steps on the very beginning, and lots of sand halfway to the end. If you're not into heights, you might feel dizzy along the way.
If I knew where I was getting into, I might have done another hike, but I'm glad I did it. I'll make sure I'll be in better shape next time I come to Yosemite.
Lorene Corley · Houston, TX · October 26, 2013
Make sure to bring multiple bottles of water and some food. Also, make sure to take a lot of rest.
Upper Falls Yosemite, Amazing View
Matt Gruver · Alamo, CA · June 16, 2013
This hike is worth getting yourself in condition, which will enable you to take in the views and not be stressing over whether you'll make it to the top or not.
If you're into hurrying we met a guy who ran up in 1hr 10min. He likely did not see a lot of the beauty that's there to be seen.
There are springs crossing the trail at various points, and places where you can view the falls very well. Take the time to stop, look up, look out, and look around. You'll see much more this way, and be rewarded for your patience. The whole valley is seen very well as you approach the upper portions.
Left to hike up the trail at 9:30 am. Temperature: perfect about 62. We were an 11yr old athlete, 23 yr old athletle, and 55 yr. old, old athlete. You will enjoy the hike more if you're not being scorched by post noon sun.
Hiked briskly for the first 45 minutes. Views were stellar, trail condition good.
You'll want to have hiking boots for ankle support. The 11 yr old wore off road running shoes. The other two wore boots which saved their ankles on at least two occasions, especially coming down.
You will want a quality point and shoot camera at the minimum. Any pictures you take will be treasure, so take whatever camera you can with charged batteries and film or storage.
We had a perfect day there. Awesome!
Larry · Modesto CA · June 14, 2013
This hike offers spectacular views difficult climbs and slippery descents. Overall a fantastic experience. My wife and I did this hike in May 2011. Warm on the bottom, snow on the trail on the top. The river was flowing fast and cold and the view from the overlook was scary but worth it.
Richard Stephenson · Sunnyvale, CA · June 11, 2013
It's hard to imagine this trail makes such a steep ascent to the top of Yosemite Falls! It actually isn't that bad... the trail is wide, well maintained, and rife with switch-backs. It offers spectacular views of the some of the south valley features and a wholly unique view of Yosemite Falls from the top (make sure you see the lookout and not just the river!). It had been a few years since I have done any hiking. It took me 3 hours to the top and 1 hour down. Be sure to have water with you and perhaps a snack.
Little Dust, Little slippage
Steven Grubb · South Peninsula · June 10, 2013
16 years ago I ran up here with my friend John Borgwardt. He did it in 42 minutes and I lagged behind at 48 Minutes. Now, fast forward to yesterday. Three hours and a hour back down. This is still one of the nicest steep elevation gain trails there is. There is nominal slipping on the rocks, very little dust from other hikers, plenty of shade all the way up, and great natural seating at just about every switchback if you need it. I counted the switchbacks coming down and there are 166, give or take 5, depending on how you count a switchback, some run for a couple of hundred yards and may snake just a little, these are not switchbacks in my opinion. Coming from the top, switchbacks 71 74 78 and 115 are the only truly long ones. Switch Back 110 on the way down is roughly where the overlook is for the falls, rails along the edge. So that again translates to switchback 56 starting from the bottom. Have fun! Steven
John Boyle · North Carolina · June 10, 2013
My wife and I are both 62 years old, in pretty good shape, and this hike was a reasonable effort both going up and coming down. It took us three hours up and two and one-half down. The up part is obvious; it's steep (but not too steep), long (no question), and gets warm (we did this at the beginning of June). The down part is difficult because of the sandy nature of much of the trail. It's easy to slip on the many steps and rocks. Some specific notes:
1. There was no sign for anything at Columbia Rock but it does have a railing and a killer view.
2. You can't really see the falls from the top but the view is stunning.
3. The best views of the falls and Half Dome are along the middle mile of the trail. The falls are present in beautiful profile!
4. Consider how much water you want to carry and at least double it! We decided not to go the extra distance to Yosemite Point for the simple reason that we would not have enough water for a safe hike.
5. The NPS shuttle bus stop at Camp 4 is ideal for this hike.
Easier way out - going downhill for the Yosemite Falls approach
wilson p chu · United States · June 8, 2013
Us senior citizens might not make it, especially if you've got a heart murmur, plus your aorta valve has some stenosis with your valve not opening up completely.
However, the solution is to have your buddy drive you up from the valley through crane flat onto hwy 120, Tioga Pass road, on past Porcupine Flat to where the North Dome trail starts (near 8100 ft. elevation) and go towards Yosemite Point heading towards upper Yosemite Falls. (You can bypass Yosemite Point if you want to save time and hiking uphill). Once you get to upper Yosemite Falls, going down to the Valley Floor is like coming back downhill from Nevada Falls to Happy Isles and, when I had come back from Nevada Falls downhill, I made the return trip in about 45 minutes at a mild downhill jogging pace! I know this is hiking cheating, but nowadays, this is what I call "hi-tec" hiking strategy for us senior citizens. I'm in my mid-70's and this should work! One thing, though, is to ask your doctor to be sure that health wise, if at over 8100 feet elevation physically you can take this type of exercise before attempting this!
Didn't know what I was getting into.
Tricia McClain · Ventura · June 8, 2013
I made this hike when I chaperoned my daughter's class trip to Yosemite. I should have know when only four out of thirty kids signed up for the "challenge hike", but I figured a challenge for 7/8 graders wouldn't be too difficult for me. Boy was I wrong. It was difficult to say the least and definitely challenged me more than I ever expected. Our naturalist Amy kept us motivated the whole way up and to their credit not one of the kids ever asked to turn around. Being at the top with my thirteen year old daughter and three of her best friends was an amazing experience and worth the aches, blisters and sweat it took to get there. Bring a lot of water; three liters at least and food for the day. When you get near the top take a short trip to the left and go down to the creek that feeds the falls and soak your aching feet (carefully). Then go to all the way to the lookout point for amazing views. We made it down in record time because a thunderhead started to come in and we didn't want to be up there with the kids if it started to rain. We got sprinkled on, but not enough to make the rocks any more slippery than they already were. I recommend it to anyone who really wants to challenge their body and spirit.
One item off the bucket list
Kate · Minneapolis · June 6, 2013
I am not young (59) and I am not fit but I am so proud to have made it to the top (and down again) along with my friend, Jane, on May 14th. It took 4.5 hrs to the top. As I walked to the edge for my long awaited view of the valley below, there was a bolt of lightening, a crack of thunder, the skies opened up and the wind blew hard. Temperatures dropped quickly, the rain became horizontal and soon it turned to sleet and then snow and back to rain again. This is a difficult hike to be sure and I was glad we did it in May when the waterfall is roaring and temps are usually moderate. Still, our experience is a stark reminder that Mother Nature is in charge. I recommend that you bring a sturdy hiking stick. It can be very helpful for solid footing and taking some stress off the knees. And be mindful of the other sensible things that people on this page suggest. They aren't kidding.
Don Cupp · Hudson Valley, New York · June 6, 2013
I just returned home and it seems like a dream. I was privileged and proud to make it to the top with my daughter in under 2 hours! We were challenged to say the least. Our calves were protesting, my heart was pounding, and sweat was pouring off my cap, but we made it to the top and at 54 I consider that great! I honestly don't know (no one does) whether I will be able to do this again in the future, so we did it now, and I will always remember it. We arrived just after the crowds had left from Memorial Day weekend. We drove down from Lake Tahoe into the Tioga Pass entrance and were given a preview of what was coming: great views! This is a must see for all. Just a suggestion from our experience: be prepared. I carried a backpack with my Sawyer Point One water filter, which proved priceless when we reached the top and were able to drink from the falls. It is lightweight (3oz) and with an empty water bottle you can avoid carrying a lot of water, which you will gladly do to reduce the unwanted weight on this hike! People do yourself a favor and go to this treasure of America. My body is in New York but my mind & spirit are still in Yosemite (along with my blood, sweat and tears). Also, try to see the Mariposa Grove with the Giant Sequoias... Wow! A total joy. Lastly, take to heart the warnings of others about slips, falls, sprains. Going down is hard on the joints! We flew but one must be careful on these hikes. Sadly, no sooner did I arrive home and I saw the story of a young man who was lost over Nevada Falls because he went into the water, which is not advised. Bringing some first aid is good advice. Be safe, help others, and have fun. Yosemite - like 1st Love- has smitten me!
Go Beyond the Upper Falls
Susan · Burlingame · June 5, 2013
I have hiked the upper falls many times and it never fails to take my breath away (literally). The views are wonderful, especially when the falls are full, but few people hike beyond the upper falls. If you have the energy, continue hiking to the top of El Cap from the Upper Falls, which would take another 3.5 miles and not much climbing. If that is too far, stop half way to Eagle's Nest. You won't regret the views. Another hike off the Upper falls is to continue to North Dome, the mountain just opposite of Half Dome. The elevation is lower than Half Dome but the view of Half Dome is great. I don't know why Yosemite doesn't list these hikes on their website. I'm almost 58 years and I will be hiking Half Dome again for the 8th time.
Joe · Sacramento · May 30, 2013
The description of this trail is very accurate. I was not in very good shape and it was a very arduous climb. Despite the difficulty of the hike I made it to the top and the view was worth every step. I have climbed half dome and this hike was comparable to the difficulty of that hike as well.
Hardest 1st Mile in Yosemite
Jerry · Modesto · May 28, 2013
I've done this hike twice this month. However, I don't recommend doing it on Memorial Day weekend like I just did because it was a parade on the trail. LOL! We got a fairy early start, which I suggest to find parking & beat the heat. This is by far the toughest hike in Yosemite. I say that because it climbs constantly and then some more. I suggest taking lots of water. This is not for out of shape people. If you decide to do it and you make it to the top? I applaud you. Don't look for an elevator back down, there isn't one! Tough tough tough hike, but well worth it. The view of Half Dome, the view of the cascading falls & the view from the top are simply amazing! Thanks to all the rangers & park workers who work so hard so we can enjoy this great place. No other place like it on the planet.
No words can describe the beauty seen...
Fugi · Orange, CA · May 21, 2013
I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself, I've done this hike twice now and in a couple of weeks I will be doing it again. This trail is definitely one of the hardest hikes I've done besides the cables on Half Dome. The first time I did it I injured my quad at the start of descending from the top. Turned out I tore it and thank God my brother was there to help me hike all the way back down. The second time I got every weather possible...heat, rain, lightening & thunder, hail, & once we reached the top a little snow...oh and wind...lots of wind. At the top we hiked down to the edge of the fall and in gripping the handrail with the rain, wind & hail my hands felt frozen on that thing. But it was an experience I will never forget, watching the lightening show behind Glacier Point and knowing it was headed for us. I've learned from all the years going to Yosemite to always prepare for all kinds of weather. And it paid off the second time around. So give yourself plenty of time, carry more water & food than needed, a poncho, and if you're hiking in the early summer like June, pack a light warm jacket/sweater. Oh and remember to respect the park and the animals, we are in their home visiting. Have fun, be safe & happy trails everyone!
Proud of us!
Jeri · Valencia, CA · May 13, 2013
My 15 year old son and I made this our first "intense" hike. We had done a number of others, but knew we wanted more of a challenge and came up to Yosemite to do it for Mother's Day. I had read a number of books, but not these reviews beforehand. I knew it would be hard, but didn't realize the "stairmaster" issue. We didn't make it all the way to the very top (son's choice not mine) but close enough. We took our time, made a number of stops to catch breath/enjoy scenery. But the cautions as to the nature of the trail are valid. I took a spill on the way down (sand and hidden rock) which wrenched my ankle but good. Fortunately we were prepared. Taped it up but good and took it slow on way down. Pack more water and food than needed. I could not believe the people I saw going up without any water. Overall, I am very proud of how we did on our first real challenge. We are committed to train more and to go back and to also do Half Dome.
Harold · Indianapolis · May 11, 2013
This hike is easy to underestimate and not respect. I did this. It is a workout on the legs. There is a section where you go through sand. Ouch! Main thing is to carry three times the water you think you need. The vista and the pools at the top are a generous reward though. It is so stunningly beautiful, it is hard to describe.
Sean Travis · Merced · May 10, 2013
Imagine climbing a 45 degree grade for 4 and 1/2 hours straight. The trail is relentless and brutal but well worth the reward if you make it.
Tough, with rewarding views.
Ed · Los Angeles · April 17, 2013
It might rate 4 stars, but I'm not sure the views from mid-trail are any better than they are from Fern Ledge. Until I do Fern Ledge myself, I'm giving this a solid 3.
I did it with a backpack loaded for an overnight. It was a great night, but I'm not sure I'll suffer that torture again! Very strenuous climb, even without 20 lbs or so on your back.
Savage but worth it
Bobbi · Santa Rosa CA · March 29, 2013
I cringe every time someone suggests this hike but yet it fills my heart. It's brutal, to be blunt. It is not a trail for beginners or for people that "once were in shape". The trail has dry, hot areas with large boulders that seem to go straight up to the sky - they will liquify your quads. There can also be other hazards like ice and snow meringues that swallow the trail even in summer. If mentally and physically fit, this trail has some stunning views. I have hiked this trail over a dozen times, often with a 35 lb backpack, and I have photographed about every inch of it, but there are certain spots I just can't make enough images of. One of my favorite views is about a mile or less after Columbia Rock, where the entire upper fall is visible. Once on the top, if you don't collapse right away, there is a narrow, and VERY scary trail to the overlook of the falls. Depending on the day, this causes me a total panic attack - but the entire valley can been seen, and you have to do it at least once - just hold the handrail. Like most high country trails, there is little water available. And what water is available must be sterilized with iodine, chlorine, UV, or a virus rated backpacking pump. One half liter of water IS NOT ENOUGH! And even though it's only 3ish miles to the top, plan on the hike taking all day - really! Beginners should consider a headlamp as part of a day pack. Think the hike is brutal, just try it in the dark without any water. Oh, and sad that I have to say it, but no matter hot you get, DO NOT go into the water of the falls - either falls or the upper river. People drown and are injured. Respect this trail and river - it only takes a moment to end up dead.
Amazing but hard
Preet · Fresno · March 28, 2013
The hardest thing I've done by far. I was practically crawling up the last third but the view from the top is 100% worth the effort.
Edward · Miami · February 5, 2013
This was only my fourth hike in my life... I do not think I will ever face anything as difficult as this in my life. I am 40 and in decent shape... While the views are incredible, the duress you put your body through kind of overwhelmed me. You do not need to dress in layers. I did and paid for it because of how strenuous the hike was. That being said I am proud that I got to the top and plan on coming back to do it again next year. I also did Vernal Falls on the mist trail although it was closed off... I do not recommend this at all in the winter. It was really icy and slippery. This is God's country!!!
Fear of Heights?
Sara · Ohio · January 3, 2013
On my first visit to the park, I decided to do the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail with my boyfriend. We packed food and water and were pretty well prepared. Though, I wished we had brought one extra water bottle. At the time I was very out-of-shape and about 40 lbs. overweight. The hike was still very do-able, though I needed to rest more than the average bear. The problem which kept me from getting to the very top of the falls (we turned back maybe 100ft from the top) was my fear of heights. I have a horrible fear of heights and found some parts of the hike very challenging to my phobia - but I made it through the worst parts - sometimes crawling on my hands and knees, but I made it. So, given that I am pretty much the worst person to attempt this hike (out-of-shape, fear of heights), and I was able to make it as far as I did and LOVED IT!, I don't think there should be anything keeping you from going for it as well - but plan well!
Another Must-do at Yosemite
Jessica · Emeryville, CA · November 24, 2012
Hiked the Upper Falls Trail (starting at campground 4) on Thanksgiving Day. Yosemite Falls had started trickling again due to the recent snowfall, so it was the perfect time to go. It was cold and misty down in the valley, so I started the hike with several layers. It got hot pretty quickly, and about 1/3 of the way through I had to shed the jacket, long sleeve wool shirt, and wool tights. Be mindful and bring a backpack that can carry the extra clothing.
Pretty tough trail, more switchbacks and more strenuous than the 4 mile trail, but the views are fantastic. Definitely go up to Yosemite Point, it's worth the extra push. There was still some ice and snow left over at the rim, so being careful on the trails, and having good tread on your hiking shoes is a must.
Also, the turnoff for the first viewing point (once you get to the top of the lower falls) veers off to the right. It's about .1 mile downhill, can be easily missed if you're not paying attention.
Overall a great hike, don't think it's 6-10 hrs, I finished in 7 hrs, but I took a TON of photos and dilly dallied quite a bit at the top.
Best Hike ever at 55 and 285!!
Leo Jacques · Sacramento CA · November 12, 2012
I was 54 years old and not an outdoorsman. I am also considered obese at 285 yet I have hiked and trained for this for a few months. My whole Yosemite stay was actually a spontaneous diversion from another trip and I absolutely fell in love. I stayed at the Ahwahnee for 2 nights and Curry for 3. I hiked Sentinel Dome, which was spectacular with its 360 degree view, and then the Mist trail hike all the way to Nevada Falls, yet I knew that I MUST do the Upper Yosemite hike before I left. I started mid morning and simply moved one foot after the other using a walking cane (required!!) and was in a complete state of euphoria. While I had several people pass me on the way up, many stopped well short of the top and passed me going down while I continued simply moving foot by foot. The viewpoints along the way were mesmerizing. Midway up there is a point to stop at and look straight up the sheer granite face above and it was so overwhelming I had to turn away. Nevertheless, I continued to the very top ELATED. And relishing the views I sensed a great sense of pride at being there. It started to rain so I headed down (like I said I am not an outdoorsman...the rain ended and I wished I had stayed). The hike was physically challenging but is absolutely worth the effort. And the sense of accomplishment is most enjoyable.
Liz · Oakhurst · October 7, 2012
I am in pretty good shape, and I am an avid hiker who lives in the yosemite area and I have to say that this hike is definitely a 10 on the difficulty scale. Make sure to bring more water than you can even conceive drinking. I had to turn back about 3/4's of a mile from the top because we ran out. I also had extreme vertigo and kinda felt woozy due to the altitude change. But this is a trail you don't have to hike to the top of to feel a sense of accomplishment. All along the trail you can almost see the whole valley... from various elevations.
An easier way
Bob · Merced · September 4, 2012
If you are in your 50s, like me, you may want to take the hikers bus up Tioga Road, then start down the North Dome trail and turn right to the Yosemite Falls trail. Be sure to hike to the rim where there is an old steel railing at the point. Then, walk down and cross the bridge over Yosemite Creek and proceed down to the valley floor.
Incredible views.....bring plenty of water!!
Katie · Irvine, California · August 25, 2012
I hiked this trail with my son in August 2012. The falls had slowed to a trickle, however it made it great at the top for swimming above the falls. Beautiful views, however the overlook is treacherous, and not for the weak of heart!! We did run into two rattlesnakes on the trail, so be aware of your surroundings. Many boulders, so walking poles and hiking boots are highly recommended.
We enjoyed this trail much more than the 4 Mile Trail to Glacier Point. We have hiked Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls....we would definitely do this one again!!
A good workout with great views, occasionally!
Pete · Leicester, England · July 17, 2012
Did this today, July 17th 2012, with my 22 year old son, starting from Camp 4 (so 3.3 miles each way). Had spent the last week in Mammoth Lakes at 7,500 ft and walking trails in Tuolumne & Mammoth up to 11,300 ft so the thick air in Yosemite was most welcome (we did Clouds Rest from Tenaya Lake the previous day). We started together but I was quicker so carried on to the top alone with no water and stopping only to snatch the odd photo in a time of 1hr 20 minutes. We sat around looking at the views, drinking & eating then set off back down at a jog, taking 52 minutes to get to the starting point. A pair of Russian/Americans were faster than us going down but I was pleased with a total time of 2hrs 12 mins for the return trip. Again, no need for water on the way down (I caught the Russians drinking though!) My age? 61 years.
Great views from the top but the flow was not very impressive.
Just to say you've done it.
Bret · Central Florida · July 14, 2012
That is the best reason to take this hike - just to say you've done it. Much more difficult than the 4 Mile Trail, and the views aren't as great. If this hike ranks an 8 out of 10 in difficulty, my limit is a 7. :)
The hike is not bad, don't misunderstand. I'm glad I did it. But, if I ever go back, there are other hikes I will do first. Disclaimer: Cardiovascular speaking, the hike wasn't bad for me. But, being sure of my footing on the steep switchbacks was. I was very careful not to misstep and injure an ankle, so I'm probably making this hike sound tougher than it was. (On the way down, I came upon a woman who was being put on a horse and assisted out by SAR rangers due to an injury on her ankle/leg.) Took lots of photos on the way up. Took me 3 hours. Took only a few photos on the way down. Took me 3 hrs and 20 minutes.
I did the hike in June. Plenty of people, but certainly not crowded.
Reward for the effort: 3 out of 5.
Rickey Dean · Fresno, California · July 9, 2012
It is a long, long hike and one must be in good physical health. It is not a trail for small children, as some parts are very steep and some areas are completely out in the sun.
But once you get to the top you will not want to leave! Yes, it's that beautiful. Also take plenty of water, food, salt tablets and spray for bugs. But the main thing is to get yourself a nice walking stick, head gear and a nice pair of boots!
Lesa · San Diego · July 5, 2012
I loved this hike! The views are incredible and I can't wait to do it again! Next time I will continue on to Yosemite Point. We left the lower falls around 12:30 and headed up - make sure you take plenty of water - and made it down by 6:30. One word describes it best - AMAZING!
Noah · Houston, TX · June 17, 2012
I hiked this yesterday and I can hardly move today! I'd been on here reading reviews before heading to Yosemite, so I knew I was in for a rough climb. I packed five liters of water and lots of snacks. Drank 3.5 liters on the way up and the last liter and a half on the way down. There were tons of people on the trail that were out of water though.
I'm from Houston (elevation: fifty feet), and I haven't been very active lately, so I'm pretty darn out of shape. I figured that since I'm 21 I would be fine making this hike as long as I was hydrated and well rested. Boy was I in for a shock. When people say this is the ultimate stair climber workout they're not joking. I took breaks practically every switchback when I got further up in elevation. There were four or five times when I came really close to turning around. Somehow I dug deep and managed to make it to the top! Going down wasn't near as bad but if you're overweight think twice before doing this. I'm skinny but my knees were sore and swollen when I got back down to the valley.
Overall it was an awesome hike with great views, just be prepared for it and know what you're getting into.
Didn't realize what I did....
Eileen Leef · Minnesota · June 15, 2012
I was 17 years old and approx. 6 to 7 months pregnant...I was at Yosemite with my aunt and uncle and cousins and it was such a great experience. We camped in tent campers and met some Australians at our camp site. One day we were just going to climb the falls a little bit but as we started to climb my uncle and cousins tired out. Me...I just wanted to go to the top. I remember just going back and forth and back and forth...very exhausting. I carried nothing with me and drank water from the streams falling down from the rocks. I don't think my relatives realized what this was all about. I did get to the top which was just a fantastic sight and stayed there a bit. I remember the top as being rocky and I had to climb around and go to the edge just to see the falls...I could not see the bottom but it was great. I believe it took me somewhere around three hours to get to the top and about the same to get back down. Going down was harder because the steepness made you have to run back and forth all the time. I have read other readers telling of their walk and I guess I didn't realize how dangerous it was. I must have been very fit as myself and my unborn child did this trail quite well. Of course, my relatives were very very glad to see me when I got down because of the time limit and my condition. It was great and I certainly would like to see my capability of doing it again. I do remember there were not many people on the trail. I kind of followed a young married couple at the time and that is about all I remember climbing with me.
Stephanie · Sacramento · June 11, 2012
I'm 20 and have quite muscular legs and often opt for a work out that includes some sort of incline or stairs, so this hike was actually fairly easy for me to ascend. I, like many others, did not bring enough water. I brought 4 bottles in the car but only carried 2 with me on the trail. Luckily I was able to refill at the falls (although not highly advised, but desperate times call for desperate measures). The trail was fairly crowded, but it may have also been due to the fact that it was a free (get outdoors) day. The people are generally quite friendly, although some can be quite rude when it comes to sharing the trail/being considerate of others. Going back down/the descent was the hardest part in my mind. You would think it would be easier, but by the time you head down you are exhausted and your legs are probably already sore. The steepness is rough on the knees when absorbing shock and the fine sand on the trail that covers the rocks/steps makes the descent dangerous. I slipped about 5 times so be careful! I would recommend going to the falls and the point. The falls has amazing views but can be pretty scary--I didn't go all the way because the winds are pretty strong up there and the mist makes it hard to hold the single pipe/guardrail. The point is very relaxing and a great place to regain energy before going back down. The hike took me a total of 6.5 hours including a 20 minute lunch stop and 45 minutes at the top (falls/point). It was worth it, but will take a big toll on your body and consume your whole day. Start early because otherwise you may be stuck hiking back in the dark with the mosquitos (don't make the descent any harder than it needs to be!)--I went back down at 2:30 and over 50% of the trail was already in the shade.
Yosemite Falls Trek
Jim Batey · Westerville, Ohio · June 6, 2012
I had never done anything that strenuous before, and did it alone, at age 60. I had no idea how strenuous it would be when I started, and grossly underestimated how much water to take. I started with just one pint, but some kind person gave me two more along the way. My legs started to cramp about three fourths of the way up, but I made it to the top. The view at the top was well worth the effort to get there. Total time for the hike: 8 hours. I highly recommend it.
Second time around
Scott · San Jose CA · May 13, 2012
My first trip to Yosemite a few years back let me know what shape I was really in (round was the closest shape). Not knowing how strenuous hiking could be, I attempted this trail only to turn back around after getting a huge reality check. My physical fitness level could best be described as a frowny face. From that day on (3 years ago), I kicked the cigarets and junk food and began to train. I would not let some inanimate trail get the best of me. I've watched too many Rocky movies to not come back and kick this trail's behind.
The following two years, and 80 lbs lighter, I came back to conquer the mighty Half Dome. But, this year I decided to come back defeat the trail that once defeated me. I made it to the top in a brisk 3.5 hours and enjoyed the views of the falls and Half dome of in the distance. The top of the falls isn't as rewarding as Half Dome, but awe inspiring nonetheless. Make no mistake, this trail is still very strenuous, so don't make this your very first hike unless you're already in good shape.
Pro Tip: bring sun screen for the exposed sections, a few liters of water, and some salty, protein filled, and carb laden snacks. Your results may vary.
sahibjit · turlock ca · April 28, 2012
It's a pretty good hike. It can be very challenging for some people to get to the upper yosemite falls. It took us around 4 hours to get there and 2 hours to come back. Make sure to bring a lot of water with you. Be careful when rocks are wet, they get very slippery. Overall it's a great hike.
More than strenuous, but worth it!
Kevin · Saratoga, CA · April 27, 2012
Over a few month period last fall (2011), which was unusually warm and dry, I hiked most of the major trails starting or ending in the valley -- Vernal/Nevada Falls via both Mist and Muir trails, 4-Mile Trail to Glacier Point, and Panorama trail. While Upper Yosemite Falls isn't as high or as long as 4-Mile trail, it's considerably more strenuous. For one, it's steeper. But the bigger issue is trail quality. 4-Mile trail is fairly "smooth", while the upper part of Upper Yosemite is like walking through a boulder field. You need to pay especially close attention to where you put your feet. Bring more food and water than you think you'll need. The views from the top are fantastic, but it's also relaxing and beautiful just to sit under a tree and nap.
post-hike spaghetti legs are worth it!
Lisa · Berkeley, CA · April 23, 2012
Today I groan every time I have to use stairs or get up from a seated position, but the views yesterday were totally worth it. The views at the top are phenomenal, but there are also fantastic views of the valley the whole way up. We started the hike around 9 am and finished around 4:30 pm. This included the extension to Yosemite Point (also totally worth it), a long lunch at the top of the falls, water-filtering at a safe place on Yosemite Creek, and multiple breath-catching breaks along the way. The whole hike up was pretty exposed to the sun, which was kind of brutal considering you're going uphill almost non-stop. But on the way back down, many of the worst switch backs were in the shade. We thought starting the hike early would save us from the worst of the heat, but now I wonder if starting in the afternoon might be better, assuming you give yourself enough time to get back in the daylight. It's also worth noting that all the switch backs and steep drop-offs make it hard to find a private place to sneak off to and pee (remember that the nearest bathrooms are at the very bottom in Camp 4), so find somewhere at the top before you start heading back, because it seems like an extra long way down when your bladder is full and you're looking for a semi-private rock to hide behind at every turn!
As others said, make sure you take plenty of food and water (I drank just over two liters on the way up), wear good shoes, and take some blister-prevention stuff with you just in case. It's beautiful--enjoy!!
No joke hike
Sarah · Los Angeles · February 26, 2012
The description for this hike is right on, including the emphasis on how strenuous the hike is and how amazing the views are. A word of caution: we saw several people unprepared for the intensity of this trail - not enough food/snacks or water. Don't underestimate the amount of water or nutrition you'll need. Bring at least two liters of water. Wear layers - especially in winter/spring. It is a rocky, sometimes slippery, trail with areas of soft sand. Wear hiking boots - we saw several people in Converse sneakers or running shoes struggling. Take your time going up and coming down. I referred to my "catch my breath" pauses as "okay, time to gaze at nature in wonderment!". Bring a camera and a sense of camaraderie for your fellow hikers. This is a beautiful, well-defined trail and you will enjoy a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at having climbed it.
Upper Yosemite Falls in a Dry Winter
Cindy · Oakland, CA · January 19, 2012
My husband and I (respectfully in our mid-40's) with our daughter (13) climbed to upper yosemite falls on New Years weekend. Our intentions were to take our daughter cross country skiing, but due to our dry winter we decided to head up the Yosemite falls trail. Our intent wasn't to climb to the top, but after each stop we decided to trek on with just a few bottles of water, apples and cookies. I've climbed the falls I think about 3 other times in my life, but always in the summer and when I was younger. This time of course there wasn't the beauty of the roaring falls, but still an impressive trickle and amazing views. I have to say, if you want to attempt the falls but are frightened by the difficulty, try it in the cooler fall and winter months. Not that the cool weather makes the hike any easier on your legs and lungs, but the heat of the summer makes it much more difficult and you have to carry much more water in the summer.
Emmanuel Lopez · Heperia ca · December 28, 2011
awesome hike...nothing like I've ever done and can't wait to do it all over again next year
Worth the workout, not worth the scenery at all
S. G. · Berkeley, CA · October 23, 2011
I've done the Panoramic Trail and the Four Mile Trail a few times and enjoyed each time. I decided to do the the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail yesterday. I'll never go back on this hike again. There were a few good scenic views but nothing compared to the other trails in the Valley. The top was not worth much. The trail is rocky all the way up so it's really tough to maintain balance.
Most difficult/awesome hike ever
Dan · Missouri · October 17, 2011
I have done this hike three times. It is one of those hikes that you will swear you will never do it again but you do because it calls to you.
Make sure you have been in Yosemite at least 24 hours to acclimate.
Bring plenty of water, lots of trail-mix and beef jerky, and comfortable lightweight hiking shoes, you will need it. Travel light but bring your camera and your sturdiest friend. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the trip up and on the way down you will wish you parked at the trail-head.
(Bicycles are mandatory for me to get around Yosemite Valley on your schedule, cheaper and better quality to buy a decent one off of Craigslist before you go.)
Now you can do all the other hikes in the valley and they will look short and easy! (Except for the Glacier Point 4 mile hike, which is just as hard but not as rewarding...drive to this one.)
Good (much easier) training hikes are Mt Baldy in Angeles National forest and Mt Wilson from the valley floor in Los Angeles.
Brutal - And Totally Worth It
D. Phillips · Baltimore, MD · September 29, 2011
The wife and I picked this hike because we like a challenge; we were not disappointed. We parked near the visitor's center and took the free shuttle to the Campground 4 stop where the trail starts. The trail is off to the left of the campground and is easy to follow the entire way.
The hike starts with a set of switchbacks and you cover a lot of elevation fairly quickly. Most of it is shaded due to the forest, and there's not much to look at until you get to Columbia Rock about a mile in. This gives you the first view of the valley and Halfdome.
At that point, the trail levels out for another mile or so and goes back downhill as you move around the side of the mountain. The view is wonderful for most of this portion of the hike, though shade is not as prevalent. Get an early start if you can (we were on the trail before 9AM in late September).
Once you hit the second stretch of switchbacks the trail gets very hard. It goes nearly straight up and shade is limited. Back and forth and back and forth. Once you've made it out of the switchbacks, it's just a little further to a flat area with plenty of room to relax and have lunch.
At the top you can scramble down some narrow, steep stairs, including a section of steps where you need to hold on to a handrail to keep from falling off the side of the rock face. Very rewarding, though a little terrifying for those who don't like heights. View of the falls is nice, and you get a very nice view of the valley.
If you can do it, take the trail up to Yosemite Point. The slopes are a lot less steep, though the elevation gain is considerable. At the top, the view is breathtaking. We went to Glacier Point later in the day and both agreed the view from Yosemite point was much nicer. Did not hurt that it was just the two of us standing on what seemed like the top of the world.
The way down was difficult, particularly through the upper switchbacks. We spent four hours going up, and just a little over two coming down. We're both in our late twenties, not overweight, and do the gym a few times each week and this was very strenuous for us. The wife said it was probably the hardest physical challenge she's ever had, and she's pretty athletic.
A few notes: Take lots of water. We brought five liters of water and two liters of poweraid and went through it on the way up. I brought a water filter and we refilled in the river before we hiked to Yosemite Point. We also brought lunch and some snacks, and were very happy that we did. There were plenty of folks who did not, and they didn't look very happy.
This is probably the best hike I've ever taken, and even with a pretty light daypack was much more difficult than treks I've done in the Appalachians with a weekend's worth of gear on my back.
Yo-Falls from Valley or Yo-creek via Tioga Road
David Jost · Philadelphia, PA · September 1, 2011
I had the pleasure of hiking this trail from 2 directions, up from the valley floor and back, and starting from Tioga Road, about 13 miles down to the valley floor. A bit dusty coming up from the valley floor the first 3rd. Some slower hikers in sandals caught my attention, not sure they made it all the way. Bring enough water to get to the top and back, or pump water from the steam above. Don't swim in the enticingly beautiful pools above the falls, it's not worth the risk. The railing and out cropping make for exciting views nearly straight down th cliffs. From the Tioga Road trail head you can enjoy a gentle descent with plenty of access to water if you bring a purification pump. Wonderful water scenes, and shaded spots for lunch. The return trip down sheer granite steps is exhilarating, but tread carefully. The trail widens on the lower portion for a speedy descent.
It's All Worth It..
Chuck Dunn · Riverside · August 12, 2011
An early start and plenty to drink and eat make this the great hike of your life, be safe and enjoy..
Up, Up, then Up some more
David · Modesto · August 8, 2011
Very briefly, the views and atmosphere were so enthralling that I didn't always notice the ache in my quads on the way up. The many switchbacks up to the first outlook seemed endless, but the hike really begins when they end. Some portions of the trail are cobblestone, very irregular-- ankle high boots and a walking stick, ski pole, etc. really help. Also, bring lots of water or a purifier for when you reach the top. On a hot day, you may well drink it all on the way up and have little for the way down. Returning to the trailhead, rehydrating was our single-minded goal. Hot, butt-kicking, and highly rewarding hike. Or, you can hike in from Tioga Rd. and be a bit more casual...also a lovely time.
A more serious hike but quite doable for the fit.
vimeo.com/jimonabike · Sacramento · August 4, 2011
Although I came across a number of unlikely looking fitness level people for this hike like grandma and grandpa from the city (and enjoyed lapping them :)
The description given on this web site is spot on. A good alternative is to hike up to about half-way (Columbia Point I believe--the guard-railed overlook). After that is a dicey uphill (lots of sounds of slips and slides among the people) and then a downhill spot (where I said "Geez, I don't want to regain this elevation more than once" and turned back as a bike ride of the valley was calling to me).
Bring plenty of water and then more. And of course the descent is more worrisome than the climb (hard to fall uphill). I found the trail head hard to find (I overshot it and ended up in Camp 4). There is a path inset and following the road that goes to the trail head. I asked many ongoing people if this was the way to the (Upper Yosemite Falls) trail and most said they didn't know (huh?), but it was. BTW, when I was there (7/4/2011) there was a steady stream of people up and down so it was more the Times Square rather than wilderness experience (refer to my Yosemite video).
One of the best sweats I ever broke
Bert · Currently Lincoln, NE · August 3, 2011
I've done this hike three times--over the years. I used to live much closer than I do now. It's a great workout with spectacular views. I've hiked in Denali, Patagonia, climbed Kilimanjaro. Yosemite Falls is about as good as day hikes get. The trail is good with well-engineered switchbacks. Though it is true that it's two Empire State Building's worth of stairmaster climbing, a fit person who likes to sweat can simply put 'er in gear and thoroughly enjoy the day. It's also a good trail to run down!
Diana · Livermore, CA · July 31, 2011
We went on this hike on July 30, 2011. We started at 10 a.m. and it was already hot. We started with a pretty good pace. 45 minutes later our pace was slowing down. The hike starts with plenty of shade, then you are exposed to pure sunshine. Bring a hat if you're going during the summer. The hike is very hard. You definitely have to be in decent shape. Half way up, we were running low on water. We ran into a a tiny water fall with freezing water. We cooled ourselves off and decided to drink the water. It was so refreshingly good. I don't recommend doing this, since they do warn that the water may contain Giardia lambia, a microscopic protozoan that upsets human digestive systems. My son and I have no signs of any upsets. Other people were drinking from this source as well. Bring a portable purifier to be safe. The views along the way are extremely breathtaking. At the top you'll find a look out that is very steep to get down to. You walk down a very narrow step with a not-so-safe looking rail. There is also a "river" where the fall begins. It's not safe to go in, but you can definitely find some safe spots to put your feet in. The descent down is as hard as it is going up. If you've got knee problems, the descent will kill you. I recommend buying walking poles. I still hit myself on the head for not getting one. You can buy them for as little as $14.95 at the Yosemite Valley store. I am still in awe when I look at the pictures. I still can't believe I did it.
Well worth the 4 days of soreness
Melissa · San Jose, CA · July 8, 2011
I consider myself in decent shape, usually doing 2-3 mile jogs twice a week and staying active. We started this hike just before noon and didn't get back down to the car until 6:30 at night. It is quite an incline, but nothing too intense all at once. The top of the falls are gorgeous, and the views along the way are well worth the trip. I visited early may this year and the water sounded like a jet plane. HOWEVER, fair warning to bring a snack (I only brought water) and if you are hiking later in the evening long sleeve thin layer to fend off chills. I was sore really badly (calves and quads) for about 3 days and after about 6 days I felt back to normal. Definitely worth it. And you can refill your water bottle at the streams if need be, so it's not like half dome where you have to lug a gallon or two all the way up. [Editor's Note: The small streams along the Yosemite Falls trail usually dry up at some point during the summer; if you're hoping to rely on them, try checking with a park ranger first to make sure they're still running. The park service recommends treating surface water before drinking it.]
Couldn't bend my knees afterward, but was definitely worth it!
Meaghan · Denver · July 6, 2011
Wow, this was a challenge, but it was absolutely worth it. The views of Half Dome and the valley are stunning and falls themselves are gorgeous. You need to be in decent enough shape to pull this one off; if you think the switchbacks in the forested beginning part of the trail are hard, just wait til you get higher up. And be CAREFUL on the slippery rocks near the falls! I wiped out on a spray-covered rock on my way down and hurt my arm, ouch, hiked out in a sling. Saw a few other descending hikers stumble or fall on my way up too and my companion slipped as well; it's quite steep and rocky and slick in spots so be prepared. Still worth it though, what an amazing experience! Your aching knees will recover and your memories will last a lifetime.
What a hike!
Scott Hamilton · Moraga, CA · July 5, 2011
This trail was a great experience! It is definitely as strenuous as described. It is both steep and rocky - I found it harder coming down than going up. That said, the views of Upper Yosemite Fall and the surrounding Valley are amazing and well worth the effort. The extra distance (and climb) to Yosemite Point are also highly rewarding. This hike made for a great day - a fabulous workout that allowed me to enjoy my dinner that night at the Ahwahnee Dining Room all the more! Will never forget it!
Oh my god
Bob · Berkeley · June 26, 2011
The best of the worst. Stairway to heaven but hell along the way. Well worth it but please keep your brand new shoes at home. God save the knees!!!
For those who are up to it, do Yosemite Fall day one and top Nevada the next day and call me later. I have done so a couple of times and was more than glad to sit in my car for the trip home.
20 years and again
DanaMite from Total Escape · Pismo Beach, California · June 9, 2011
I just hiked this last week for the second time in my life and I still love it. Back in 1991 a college roommate and I hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls one day and then did Half Dome trail the next day. What were we thinking? This time was great because it was exactly 20 years later and I am still able to hike this kinda crazy trail, plus the waterfalls are all seriously 'going off' in the Valley this year. What a wonderous way to spend the day.
Challenging but worth every second
Kristin · Elk Grove, CA · June 1, 2011
I have never hiked anything so strenuous in my life, I've only done simple little trails so I wasn't really prepared for the difficulty of this trail but it was the most amazing experience of my life. It is mostly rocks and is pretty much straight up hill. By the time I reached the top of the falls I couldn't feel my legs anymore and I was completely out of energy, but after a quick snack of trail mix, an apple, and plenty of water I was ready for the very strenuous hike back down. Going down the mountain was a little scary because it was so steep and if you slip you are only 5 feet from the edge where you would have a long ways down to the ground. It is not something I would recommend doing if you have small children with you. This is something you do need to be in pretty good shape for but it is absolutely worth doing. It was one of the best things I have ever experienced!
CYA Boilerplate: The opinions on this page are those of the reviewers themselves, and are not official advice from or the responsibility of yosemitehikes.com. You're responsible for your own safety when you're hiking in Yosemite. You look terrific; have you lost weight?