Spectacular Sights In Yosemite That Are Easily Walkable

Yosemite is full of spectacular breathtaking views, and many of them are within easy access. You don’t have to be an exceptional hiker or backpacker to get to some of the most iconic scenes in the world. This guide of spectacular and walkable sights in Yosemite includes both hidden gems and well-known destinations. Happy Trails!

yosemite valley yosemite national parkQuick Tips for Visiting Yosemite Valley

Google Maps Offline – Before you leave the house, open your Google Maps app on your phone, finger/navigate over to the entire Yosemite area and download an offline version. You’ll be in and out of service and this will come in handy. Click for help on how to do this for your phone.

Gas for your vehicle – Gas gets expensive very fast and is limited or unavailable inside Yosemite Valley. If you’re coming from Merced on 140, plan for about 170 miles round trip. Coming from Stockton on 120, the drive is 240 miles round trip. Coming from Lee Vining on the 120 Tioga Pass, the drive is 160 miles round trip. Add on driving around the park, which can be up to 100 miles additional if you travel to a location such as Glacier Point.

Ideal towns to fill up and top off in based on average prices and distance: Mariposa on 140, Big Oak Flat on 120, Lee Vining on 120 Tioga.

Yosemite Valley Shuttles – The NPS has about 11 shuttles from 7am to 10pm every day of the year. They make a 21 stop loop which takes just under an hour. During the Summer seasons, shuttles will also take park visitors to Glacier Point and the far west of the valley near El Capitan. If possible, find parking for your vehicle for the day or duration of the trip and take advantage of the excellent transportation system in place. Using the shuttles instead of parking your car near trails will generally get you much closer to the trailheads for less of a distance to walk. Full schedule and map here.

Appropriate Clothing and Gear – Not only can weather change quickly, but the temperature between shaded and sunny areas vary drastically. Bringing layers, even in the summer, is highly recommended. Synthetic or wool fibers should be chosen over cotton.

Wool socks rock – in fact, I always bring an extra pair of Darn Tough and change halfway during the day. If you haven’t tried changing your socks halfway into your day, you are missing out on an easy and refreshing act! Chapstick, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a couple Nalgene water bottles should be in your packing list.

These Trekking Poles are a pretty nice addition to your gear – they provide amazing support on inclines and really extend stamina on both walking and hiking. I use them as much as possible and notice a huge difference. This is one of the best sets out there and includes attachments for different terrain including ice and snow.

Winter Walks and Hiking in Snow and Ice – Trails often become extremely slippery and icy during the winter. Not just in Yosemite, but in snow-filled places everywhere. Traction cleats will add a TON of stabilization, can fit on any set of shoes you own, and are incredibly simple to attach and remove. I’ve seen plenty of older folks using these cleats and walk with confidence on ice. If you’re going on easy walks, these ice traction cleats are the way to go. If you’re planning on a bit more intense hiking, these are the ice cleats for you.

 

Walkable Yosemite Valley Attractions

Tunnel View

yosemite tunnel viewTunnel View offers a great view of the valley looking East. This is one of my favorite views of Bridalveil Fall – much more than the actual fall trail (Which is why you won’t see it listed here). Park and walk several hundred feet to the vista point. Follow the hordes of photographers with tripods for the best vantage points for your selfie.

Walking Distance: 1000 feet round trip

Tunnel View Address: Wawona Road (Highway 41), Yosemite National Park, CA 95389

Lower Yosemite Falls

lower yosemite falls

The tallest waterfall in North America is amazingly easy to get to. Plenty of parking around the trailhead and an easy 1 mile walk along well marked paved trails. A bridge allows visitors to take the perfect selfie with the falls in the background.

Walking Distance: 2 miles round trip

Lower Yosemite Falls AddressLower Yosemite Fall Trail, California 95389

Happy Isles and Fen

happy isles fen yosemite

Located near the Nature Center with a huge parking lot, the Happy Isle loop will take you through a bog known as Fen, and two islands in the Merced River. If you are feeling a bit more ambitious after exploring the islands, the start of the trail will take you to Mist Trail / Nevada Falls. While Happy Isles are a fairly popular destination, a hidden gem, The Fen, just a mere pathway away, is home to some very unique plants and animals not found anywhere else in the valley. Try and listen for the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog.

Walking Distance: 2.5 miles round trip

Happy Isles AddressHappy Isle Loop Rd, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389

Mirror Lake

mirror lake yosemite

Mirror Lake is a great destination to bring a picnic to. With the most amazing reflections of the surrounding mountains and cliffs, taking a seat on a log or bench will find you zen and peace. You’ll find the trails very slippery and icy during the winter, and lake at its fullest during spring and early summer. During the late summer, the area transforms into a beautiful grassy meadow.

Walking Distance: 2 miles round trip, 5 miles to loop around entire lake

Mirror Lake Address: Yosemite Valley, CA 95389

Cathedral Beach

cathedral beach yosemiteA popular destination for picnicking at the beach and weddings, views of the Cathedral Spires, El Capitan, and the Three Brothers mountains surround you. Cathedral Beach is an area in which you will find yourself quickly relaxing and wanting a nap with its serenity.

Walking Distance: 0.5 miles round trip

Cathedral Beach Address: California 95389

Lower Chilnualna Falls

Lower Chilnualna Falls yosemite

Just North East of the Wawona, the Chilnualna Falls are one of Yosemite’s hidden gems and an awesome hike, whether you take the short walk to the lower cascades or journey 7 miles to the top, and even farther to more destinations. A one lane dirt road will take you to a parking lot with a bathroom, a short distance from the start of the trailhead. On your way to the falls, check out Pine Tree Market for plenty of selection of food and snacks. As a craft beer purveyor, I found their selection decent.

Walking Distance: 1.2 miles round trip

Lower Chilnualna Falls Address: California 95389

Glacier Point (Summer Only)

glacier point yosemite

Glacier Point is a wonderfully scenic drive that will bring you to breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley. With plenty of turnouts for views along the way and a store with snacks at the top, this one hour drive is well worth the time spent. If you are a birdwatcher, this area plus a multitude of short trails and parking areas along the drive up are excellent places to find some of the 265 different species of birds inside the park.

Walking Distance: 1 mile round trip

Glacier Point Address: 5202-5203 Glacier Point Rd, Yosemite Village, CA 95389

Washburn Point (Summer Only)

washburn point yosemiteOn the way to Glacier Point, this is a worthy quick stop on your way to or from if you are driving and not taking the bus. If you do take the bus and want a 2 mile walk round trip, this is very doable via side trail off the main road. While this stop has no view of Yosemite Falls, you’ll get to see Illiouette Falls and the side of Half Dome instead of its face

Walking Distance: 1000 feet round trip

Washburn Point Address: 5202 Glacier Point Rd, Yosemite Village, CA 95389

Tenaya Lake (Summer Only)

tenaya lake yosemite

An hour drive from Yosemite Valley and along the 120 Tioga Pass road, Tenaya Lake is often called Yosemite’s most beautiful lake, The lake is pretty high altitude, sitting at a cool 8,150 feet up in the mountains. Come prepared with a fishing license or kayak and you’ll find Eastern Brook and Rainbow trout.

Walking Distance: 2.5 miles around the entire lake,

Tenaya Lake Address: Tioga Rd, California

Additional Sights

Some other great destinations at Yosemite which are level walking and under 2 miles include: Mariposa Grove (Closed until late summer 2017), Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona Swinging Bridge, Lyell Canyon, Vernal Fall Bridge, Olmstead Point.

Credit for these suggestions goes to Jakdak – I’ll have to return to Yosemite to gather photos and learn about these destinations for a future update.

Yosemite National Park Resources

yosemite valley

Places To Eat in Yosemite

Degnan’s Deli – Deli food all day long. $8 for decent sandwiches.

Half Dome Village Pizza – Coffee in the morning and pizza in the afternoon. Sometimes chili. Fairly average. $15-27 for pizzas.

The Majestic Yosemite Bar – Appetizers, small plates, and alcoholic beverages. $10-25 per person.

The Majestic Yosemite Dining Room – Formal attire required. Sunday brunch. Fine dining dinners. Reservations strongly recommended. $50-$100+ per person.

Mountain Room in Half Dome Village – The less upscale version of the Majestic Yosemite Dining Room. $10 to $30 per person.

Village Grill – Burgers, grilled sandwiches, and fries. Perfect for satisfying that particular craving, as long as a spectacular meal isn’t expected. $10-15 per person.

Learn About Yosemite National Park

Birdwatching

Campgrounds

Fishing

Horseback Riding

Picnicking

Rafting

Rock Formations

Waterfalls

Winter Activities

Go on a Yosemite Road Trip with Confetti & Bliss

glacier point half dome sunset yosemite

 

mk

27 Comments
  1. Fantastic post! I’m hoping for Yosemite in 2018, this is probably one of the best (real person friendly) posts I’ve read! Bookmarking it to read again sooner to our trip. Thanks!

  2. Beautiful photos, thank you for sharing, it has been many years since I’ve been and I appreciate the trip down memory lane.

    1. Thank you! That photo was taken from the perspective of a side trail and not the main paved trail. The main trail will get you to a few equally gorgeous additional views of Mirror Lake and the Yosemite mountain ranges.

  3. thank you for such an informative post … it is really going tp be useful on our next trip to Yosemite.. I realize that there is still so much unexplored after seeing this post.. and we have visited there a few times now

    1. There is always more to explore in Yosemite! I’m glad to have introduced you to new things. I’ve made it a habit of asking people how many times they have visited and some of their lesser known favorites. Its a good way to keep exploring. Or find new perspectives on old favorites.

    1. Thanks a lot Danielle! Yosemite certainly has a lot more to offer in the Summer – so much, in fact, you could spend 2 weeks there and still not experience everything the park has to offer!

  4. Awesome photos!

    15 years ago, I hiked to the top of Half Dome and it will be an experience I will never forget. I went up with a friend who could not make it all the way up and stropped short just at the final ascent. It was truly a breaking site from the top. But as the saying goes, “It is about the journey and not the destination.”

    Over coming a fear of heights (yes.. that is me) was significant especially at the last ascent where it was just rock. At the time I went, there was not the steel cable ‘railings’ that are there now (I think I saw pictures of that someplace online). One slip and down you would go. DOWN DOWN DOWN.

    I would do it again in a minute!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Paul.

    1. Paul, Thanks for sharing that story! I can appreciate hiking some of the trails throughout Yosemite and overcoming a fear of heights as well. Very true about the journey often being so much more than the destination. Its usually the journey which makes the destination that much more sweet to reach.

  5. Thanks for this, I love it. I’m planning on visiting the USA this year again. Including Yosemite. And I do love hiking. But I’m definitely not an exceptional hiker. So this really helps for me. I love mirror lake! I would love to visit that it looks so beautiful. Glacier point also looks spectacular. (Well of course everything does). Incredible that there are so many species of birds inside the park.

  6. There is nothing I like seeing more than breathtaking nature photos :9 Did you take them yourself? If I ever visit the USA, I’ll try to find this place. Would love to see it.

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