The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Hiking in Yosemite Valley

Hey Guys!

I read many blogs and articles on hiking in Yosemite but all gave wildly different advice so imma break it down for everyone nice and simple. 

If you want hiking etiquette tips, a mix of easy and medium difficulty hikes, good photography locations and tips (with times to visit), off the beaten path tips, and most importantly overall safety, this is the place. 

Read on…


Hiking etiquette

Leave No Trace

LNT was a movement started in the ’60s to encourage wasteless hiking and clean trails implemented due to significant growth in the number of people hitting the trails. If they thought it was bad then don’t forget to account for inflation in 2019 (especially with more and more “gram” hikers).

In a nutshell, LTN means:

  • Pack only what you need, avoid overpacking and having to ditch gear along the way
  • Take in what you take out, including garbage. Don’t litter!
  • Respect all wildlife. Don’t feed the animals and don’t get close (including plants)
  • Don’t camp on sensitive ecosystems
  • Make sure you can stary and put out a campfire effectively.

Busy Trails

We all know trails especially in popular locations such as Yosemite Valley can get crowded FAST. Here are some tips so everyone can have an enjoyable hike.

  • If you are behind a slow hiker wait for an appropriate time to pass.
  • If you are a slow hiker kindly move to the side to allow people to pass you.
  • Don’t litter and if you see garbage pick it up
  • Don’t block the trail to take photos, move to the side and wait until there is a gap in the crowd to get your shot
  • Don’t play loud music over your speakers 


General Yosemite Tips

Yosemite is a very popular tourist destination and is oftentimes quite crowded but there are still certain sections of trail that can be secluded and many sections that are dangerous. 

Some general rules of thumb that are specific to Yosemite are:

  • Get there early. The best time to arrive and find parking is between 7-9 am. Any time after that and you will get stuck.
  • Drive slow and watch for deer and bears on the road! Many have been killed due to people speeding!
  • Yosemite is EXPENSIVE. Bring your own lunch and snacks to save cash but DON’T litter!
  • They like to tell people to take the park bus that goes around from stop to stop but honestly unless you have mobility issues, children or elderly people with you don’t take it. Park central to the trails you plan on doing that day and walk from trail A to trail B it will save you SUCH a hassle.
  • Yosemite has excellent Bathroom facilities compared to most National parks I’ve been to. Make use of them.


Ok now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some of the hikes I loved in Yosemite and some good photography locations! 


Lower Yosemite Falls: Very easy hike. In the late summer and fall, you can see people climbing the rocks that go towards the fall. Obviously, this is dangerous and do it at your own risk. If you make it up to the falls you can sometimes catch people swimming in the little pool like I did (consider if the waterfall is powerful, don’t be stupid and get in!). Great photography options here! And you can even try swimming if you’re brave! Id advise coming in the morning before noon because once people see hikers up there it gets CROWDED.

I do not recommend this for children or families (no matter how old your kids are!), elderly or people with mobility issues and really really new hikers. It is DANGEROUS and you have to be sure on your feet. The granite is SLIPPERY when wet or dry. Grippy shoes are a must.

The FREEZING cold swim was worth it


Wawona Meadow

This is a super easy hike with beautiful ground-level views of the valley. This is a super easy hike and the best time to visit is at sunset! Enjoy a nice dip in the water near the swinging bridge with an unbeatable valley view!


Taft Point

This is an easier hike off of Glacier road. The cliff and dramatic backdrop make for lovely photos, especially at sunset. This is the less touristy cousin of the Glacier point hike. Both offer beautiful views but to avoid crowds id pick this one


Old Inspiration Point/ Artists Point

A more difficult cousin to the famous Tunnel View parking spot is Old Inspiration point or Artist’s point. This is a medium difficulty hike starting off from the south side of the tunnel view parking lot. Follow the Ponoho trail up to the old stagecoach road, if you go left it leads to Artist’s point and right takes you to Inspiration (or further on, old inspiration). Don’t be fooled by the pseudo Artist’s point that you come across first that’s kind of covered by trees. The best time to visit would be at sunset.


Colombia Rock:

If you’re looking for a challenge this is it! If the switchbacks for the first mile or so don’t kill you the fact that there’s barely any shade towards the top will! You don’t get the BEST views in Yosemite from here but if you’re looking for an epic work out this is it. Continue the whole way past Colombia rock up the rest of the Upper Yosemite trail if you’re brave! The best time to hike is not during peak sun hours (11 am- 2 pm).



Bridal Veil Falls

This is another easy hike that gets swamped by crowds easily. It has a lovely view of the waterfall and sometimes you can catch a rainbow there! I saw families with kids sliding down pools of water and slippery rocks so bring a bathing suit! The best time to visit is any time because it’s always crowded.




Good hiking safety is always a must. Here are some tips to keep you safe and happy on the trails.

  • Pack enough water, or if you are near a stream have a steripen, lifestraw, or sawyer system to filter the water.
  • Wear appropriate shoes. For the trails I mentioned I hiked them all in my Nike Free running shoes, but if you get sore feet easily or need support wear trail runners or hiking boots.
  • Pack light! The heavier the pack the less fun you have lugging it around. Enough said
  • Bring bug spray! You inevitably will sweat the first coat off.
  • If you are a solo hiker wear bright clothing and hike with bells. The noise will warn animals of your presence and the colors will help rescuers find you if need be.
  • Tell someone about your hiking plans and estimated times. 
  • Carry a basic first-aid kit and a battery pack.
  • Make yourself aware of the flora and fauna of the area and what you should avoid.
  • Sunscreen. Always wear sunscreen.
  • Light layers of clothing do better than no layers.
  • Carry a light if you are hiking close to dark
  • Always have a trail map
  • Don’t hike with smelly food! It attracts animals!


Happy Trails! 

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