Home Americas Easy Yosemite Hikes: 5 Day Hikes for Beginners to Waterfalls and Other Attractions

Easy Yosemite Hikes: 5 Day Hikes for Beginners to Waterfalls and Other Attractions

written by ParoChak April 23, 2018

Yosemite National Park, cradled in the high Sierras, is one of the crown jewels of California and is immortalized by Ansel Adams’ photography. This wonder of nature will woo you with its roaring waterfalls, towering granite (shaped and polished by glaciers), flowering meadows and giant Sequoias. The out of this world beauty of Yosemite is only partially revealed by several hikes (easy to extremely strenuous) in Yosemite valley. But if you are a beginner hiker or simply not into arduous physical activity, then I have just the right list of easy Yosemite hikes lined up for you. These easy hikes in Yosemite are not only great for seeing all the Yosemite landmarks, but are also doable under an hour (round trip) and lead to stunning water bodies (waterfalls and lake) if you visit in spring-early summer. These are some of the best easy day hikes in Yosemite offering gorgeous viewpoints and are simply not to be missed if you are visiting Yosemite National Park for the first time! There is also a handy Google Map at the end with all the trail heads (for Yosemite hiking trails) and other attractions mentioned in this post, for your convenience.

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Easy Yosemite hikes #1. Bridalveil Fall

This is technically not a hike at all, since it is merely a 0.5 mile round trip from the fall viewing point. This waterfall is the first one that greets your when you enter Yosemite Valley (you catch a great first glimpse from tunnel view as you exit the Wawona road tunnel) and is so named because of the “bride’s veil” like effect the water mist creates in the wind as it is sprayed around. This fall plunges down with all its fury in spring (March-May), being fed by the fresh snow from the Sierras and is one of the few falls in the valley that is alive throughout the year (the trail is open all year round as well). This is the easiest possible Yosemite day hike and extremely popular as well. Arrive as early as possible to see the fall but be warned that you will get wet, thanks to the pretty intense mist jet created by the force of water, especially in spring.

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Easy day hikes in Yosemite Valley #2. Cook’s Meadow loop

Cook’s meadow is that one spot in Yosemite from where you can not only the famous Yosemite falls (both upper and lower) but also get a magnificent view of Half Dome, the granitic wonder, which is hiked by people from all over the world (you do need a permit for that). Cook’s meadow loop is a nice 30-minute stroll (another one of the easy Yosemite hikes) that starts from a paved bicycle pathway across from Yosemite Valley Shuttle Stop #6, runs through the meadow along a boardwalk and encompasses Sentinel bridge. This bridge is where tripods jostle for space to catch the setting sun’s golden glow over Half Dome, but honestly Cook’s meadow offers a gorgeous viewpoint for the same, minus the crowds.

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Best easy day hikes in Yosemite #3. Lower Yosemite fall

The hike to upper Yosemite fall might kill your feet (6-8 hours of navigating over 7 miles) but the one leading to the lower one is easy peasy. Lower Yosemite fall hike is about 1.1 miles and takes only half an hour to complete. Cross the road from Cook’s meadow and make your way along one of the trails as indicated by the signs (one of these trails is closed for spring but the other is open and takes the same time). As you approach the falls, there is a viewpoint where you can see both. Once you get closer, there is a small bridge facing the lower fall that gives you a fantastic view.

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Easy day hikes in Yosemite #4 Mirror Lake

Unlike the insanely popular Glacier point which can be driven up to (the Glacier point road reopens in May), Mirror lake is not accessible by car. However, getting to this Yosemite landmark is super simple, thanks to the Yosemite shuttle service. Simply get on to the shuttle (Stop #9, opposite the Yosemite visitor center) and get down at stop #17. Walk along the paved road (do not get on to the trail) and you will reach Mirror lake. This 2 mile round trip takes about an hour and is best experienced in spring when this rather shallow lake is filled with water. The lake is so named for its tranquil waters that provide a clear reflection of the surrounding mountains. The trail continues further up, but you can simply choose to see the lake and return via the same path to the shuttle stop.

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Best easy day hikes around Yosemite #5 Corlieu fall

Although not technically inside Yosemite national park, this is one of the lesser-known Yosemite hikes that can be accessed via the Lewis creek trailhead, which is a short drive south of the park. The best part about Corlieu fall is that it is a series of cascading falls that can be enjoyed from a beautiful wooden viewing area. Since most people do not ever leave the valley in their quest to see the popular waterfalls in Yosemite, you can practically have the fall to your own and enjoy the beauty and tranquility at leisure. This is one of the best moderate hikes in Yosemite since there is quite a bit of change in elevation although the hike is approximately 1 mile (round trip). The other waterfall in this region is Red Rock fall (3 miles round trip) but is not easily accessible.

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Once you reach the trailhead (left of the parking lot), follow the sign that says Lewis creek trail and turn right at the sign. Look out for a shallow flight of steps that will lead to another similar flight to the right and slightly below. Hike down those steps and turn right to a path that will take you to the beautiful viewing area where you can see multiple cascading streams. Again, this waterfall is best visited in spring-early summer when it’s plunging down in full force.

I hope you enjoyed this handy list of easy Yosemite hikes, which will certainly save you a trip to the visitor center. The super useful Google maps is included and it lists all these easy day hikes in Yosemite (see above). These can be covered in a breeze by beginners or for those who do not find hiking appealing, yet want to get a taste of Yosemite’s majestic beauty. My first time at Yosemite was a magical one, thanks to tips from my friend (who can practically start his own Yosemite tour, thanks to his 20+ visits to the National park) as well as this post by the famous photographer Colby brown, which lists some of the best Yosemite viewpoints to photograph all the spectacular landmarks. Finally, if you seek more inspiration for seeing Yosemite via your lens, do not give the Ansel Adams gallery a miss (near the visitor center) to view some of the legendary photographer’s iconic captures of Yosemite and other national parks. Remember to check the park’s website for current weather conditions and road closures ahead of your trip!

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Like this post? Hover over the images to pin it!

Looking for easy Yosemite hikes to see some gorgeous waterfalls and other attractions in Yosemite National Park, California? This post with 5 such easy to moderate day hikes in and around Yosemite valley has you covered if you are a non hiker! Includes a hike to a secret waterfall where there is practically no one! Pin this post to your California or US national parks board! #yosemitenationalpark #yosemitehiking #easydayhikes #californiatravel #USA #USnationalparks

Looking for easy Yosemite hikes to see some gorgeous waterfalls and other attractions in Yosemite National Park, California? This post with 5 such easy to moderate day hikes in and around Yosemite valley has you covered if you are a non hiker! Includes a hike to a secret waterfall where there is practically no one! Pin this post to your California or US national parks board! #yosemitenationalpark #yosemitehiking #easydayhikes #californiatravel #USA #USnationalparks
Looking for easy Yosemite hikes to see some gorgeous waterfalls and other attractions in Yosemite National Park, California? This post with 5 such easy to moderate day hikes in and around Yosemite valley has you covered if you are a non hiker! Includes a hike to a secret waterfall where there is practically no one! Pin this post to your California or US national parks board! #yosemitenationalpark #yosemitehiking #easydayhikes #californiatravel #USA #USnationalparks

*some pin images are copyright free and downloaded for fair use from Unsplash

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14 comments

Sharon M April 23, 2018 at 4:15 pm

I love hikes where the photos make them look harder than they actually are! This was a very helpful post, with beautiful photos. Thank you.

Reply
Mona April 28, 2018 at 1:37 am

This is great! My parents are older and can’t do too rigorous of activity, so it should perfect for our future trip!

Reply
atravellersfootsteps April 28, 2018 at 3:05 am

I loved visiting Yosemite. Love your photos!

Reply
atravellersfootsteps April 28, 2018 at 3:06 am

I loved visiting Yosemite. Great photos!

Reply
Nam April 28, 2018 at 3:14 am

My sister is headed to Yosemite soon (so jealous) and one of her friends aren’t huge on hiking, so this post is perfect for them! The Mirror Lake looks gorgeous!

Reply
Lauren April 28, 2018 at 3:16 am

This is a perfect post for me to read!! I’ve been wanting to visit Yosemite forever from all the beautiful photos I’ve seen. I wondered though what the hiking was really like! Im getting used to New Zealand hiking now where every hike is hard! lol Thanks for sharing!

Reply
Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad April 28, 2018 at 3:19 am

Wow, these are beautiful! I am really, really hoping to make it to Yosemite later this year so I am totally saving this post for then!

Reply
Amy - Aloha With Love April 28, 2018 at 5:08 am

Your pictures are gorgeous! I would love to make it to Yosemite one day! My Dad was an avid hiker in his younger days and always tells me about his times in national parks around the world.

Reply
Christina April 28, 2018 at 11:36 am

Oh man, I’ve lived in Santa Cruz for almost half a year and never made it to Yosemite 🙁 Your photos are amazing and make me bite my ass AGAIN *haha*

Reply
Carmelatte April 28, 2018 at 4:11 pm Reply
Divya: Gone With A Whim April 28, 2018 at 7:41 pm

Great roundup of hikes! Will definitely check them out next time I visit and the photos – oof!

Reply
Dani April 28, 2018 at 10:56 pm

Gorgeous photos! I’ll definitely keep this post on mind for whenever I get to Yosemite!

Reply
S blair November 7, 2018 at 8:58 pm

Any recommendations of where to stay for easy access to these hikes?

Reply
ParoChak November 7, 2018 at 10:37 pm

Hi S, Anywhere in the valley is the best. Right now, it is off season so see if you can stay at Rush creek lodge. We stayed at the Tenaya lodge which is an hour’s drive from the valley; I don’t recommend it because it is just too far.

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