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Yosemite National Park, California, United States

Upper Yosemite Fall Hike

Enjoy the thrilling views of looking down from the top of Yosemite Fall.

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 (9 votes, 3 reviews)
Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 6.1 miles / 9.8 km
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly

Yosemite Fall, dropping 2,425 feet to the bottom of the valley from the top, is one of the most visited places in Yosmite National Park. The fall consists of three sections: upper falls, middle cascade and lower falls. While most people visit lower falls only, upper falls is definely worthy of visiting for its eye-opening views and hiker's self-satisfaction of reaching it.

The trail to Upper Yosemite Fall is about 3 miles one way, and gaining 3,000 feet in elevation along the way. Once you get to the top of the valley, you can go to Yosemite Fall Overlook, a small plateform near the mouth of Upper Yosemite Fall, to enjoy the  the thrilling views of looking down from above. Before hiking the trail, please be sure that your physical condition is fit as it will surely be heart-pounding to get to the top.

The trailhead is located in the Sunnyside campgroud (Camp 4) near Yosemite Lodge. In essence, the hike can be divided into sections as the following: from the trailhead to Columbia Rock, from Columbia to the lower gate, from the lower gate to the upper gate and from the upper gate to the overlook. It generally takes 6 - 8 hours for average hikers to complete the roundtrip hike. The trail is generally open for the whole year but can be difficult to hike in winter due to snow, especially beyond Columbia Rock.

GPS coordinate (UTM / WGS 84) and elevation for waypoints:
Trailhead: 11 S 270623 4180467 (4,000 ft.)
Columbia Rock: 11 S 270667 4180891 / 5,036 ft.)
Lower Gate: 11 S 271058 4181358 (5,000 ft)
Upper Gate: 11 S 271028 4182303 (6,625 ft.)
Yosemite Fall Overlook: 11 S 271222 4182028 (6,550 ft.)


Bring a lot of water and be careful of loose gravels on the the trail.

Points of Interest


Trailhead at Camp 4 (4,000 ft.)

The trailhead is located in the Sunnyside campground (Camp 4). You can get off the shuttle at the #7 stop, cross the road, and walk a short 5-minute distance to the traihead. This section of trail begins with a lot of switchbacks. Though steepy, it is actually well shaded. On the way up, you will have great views on Half Dome and Awahnee Meadow. In about one hour (or one mile), you will arrive at Columbia Rock where you can take a short break and enjoy the surrounding sceneries. 

Columbia Rock (5,036 ft.)

After departing from Columbia Rock, you immediately hike up into the landslide area above. Use cautions here as the sand on the trail is quiet slippery. After another 10 minutes of ascending, reaching the elevatoin of 5,200 feet, the trail begins to descend for about 200 feet in elevaton before you meet the lower gate of Upper Yosemite Fall Trail.

Lower Gate (5,000 ft.)

After passing the lower gate, the trail becomes flat for about 500 feet before it ascends again. Here is also the best place to take shots of Upper Yosemite Fall and enjoy the moisture from it. After leaving the comfort of soothing moisture, you continue hiking up with more switchbacks, steepier and totally exposed at the mercy of direct sunlight. More attention is required for loose gravels on the trail.In about 2 hours, you will finally arrive at the upper gate and the ascent is finally over. There is a small stream near the upper gate for water provision.

Upper Gate (6,625 ft.)

After passing the upper gate, cross a small stream on the right and then  follow signs for Yosemite Fall Overlook. In about 10 minutes, you can see the sign pole for the overlook near the edge of the rim.

Upper Yosetemite Fall Overlook (6,640 ft.)

Make a left turn at the sign pole and you descend on the stairway to a small plateform near the mouth of Yosemite Fall. It would be sort of scary here as only the guardrail keep you from falling all the way to the bottom of the valley. At the overlook, you can enjoy the view of the mouth of Yosemite Fall. Quiet an impressive experience. When you decide to return, just take the same way back to the trailhead. If time is allowed, you can also visit the footbridge over Yosemite Creek near the mouth of the fall.
Pictures in this guide taken by: jasonchiu
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Visited on Jun 02, 2016

by karin93 on Jun 01, 2016
Hard Hike but we made it, stunning views
Visited on Aug 30, 2015

by birdshit08 on Sep 01, 2015
We were up in Yosemite last month- we go several times a year. These are some of the best pics and vids I have seen of the hike. Breathtaking!

by sharonmasters on Sep 30, 2010

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About the Author

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The beauty of summit is that they'll still be there tomorrow. You can always come back and try again.

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