From Raging Rivers to Trickling Tributaries, These Yosemite Jewels Provide Spectacular Scenery Year Round. One of the most popular travel destinations in California, Yosemite National Park is home to numerous waterfalls, including Yosemite Falls, the fifth tallest in the world. A trip to the park provides the opportunity too visit these beautiful water attractions, and trails reach to many of the larger and more popular falls, providing spectacular year-round scenery.
Yosemite Falls is comprised of three sections, the Upper Falls, the Lower Falls, and the Cascades, which connect the two falls. It is fed by Yosemite Creek and spans a total of 2,425 feet. It flows from winter to summer with peak water levels in May or June depending on the season’s snowfall. In winter, a spectacular ice cone forms at the bottom of the upper falls.
Located in Yosemite Valley, this record-holding waterfall is easily viewed and nearly as easily accessed. The roundtrip trail to the Lower Falls is just 1/2 mile long when accessed from the trailhead across from Yosemite Lodge in Yosemite Village. During times of peak flow, the spray from the falls soaks hikers in the viewing area, making it difficult to believe that this fall is usually dry from August to October. The area is wheelchair accessible with assistance.
The trail to the top of Yosemite Falls leaves from Camp 4 and is a strenuous trek over seven miles long. The views of the area, including Half, are worth the climb; however, if you prefer a shorter hike, Columbia Rock, located about a mile along this trail offers good views.
620-foot tall Bridalveil Falls flows year round, although it becomes a more fragile looking, swaying strip as Bridalveil Creek looses volume in the later summer months. It is easily accessed via a – mile roundtrip from the falls parking lot in the valley on Highway 41.
In addition to the falls, those that walk to the bottom of the falls can see El Capitan and Cathedral Rock formations as well. Its easy access and long flow make it one of the most photographed waterfalls in the U.S.
Although it is more difficult to get to than Bridal Veil and Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls is exceptionally beautiful and never dries up, due to its location on the main section of the Merced River. As the falls plunge 317 feet with a steady water flow, the surrounding area and visitors are drenched with spray. The trail to Vernal Falls, which begins at the Happy Isles shuttle bus stop near Curry Village, provides several hiking and viewing options. A moderate 1.6 mile roundtrip hike takes you to the bridge with views from the bottom of the falls. A much steeper, trail that is about twice as long, continues to the top of Vernal Falls and is a popular hiking destination despite the more difficult walking conditions. Those looking for a longer hike can continue on and connect with the John Muir Trail or the Mist Trail, leading to Nevada Falls.
One of the more remote of the major waterfalls in Yosemite, Nevada Falls can be reached by a 7 mile, roundtrip hike along the same trail from Happy Isles. Also fed by the Merced River, this Yosemite waterfall drops 594, from a deep pool above. This pool has gained notoriety for its dangerous currents that sweep hikers over the falls nearly every year. The area is fenced, and the dangers well posted, yet that does not deter hundreds of people taking their chances with a dip in the pool.
Other Popular Yosemite Falls
Illilouette Falls, which spans 370 feet, is one of the less well-known falls in Yosemite because it can’t be seen from the major roads in the park. The best view is off the Panorama Trial, which leads from Glacier point to Illilouette Creek. There is a short branch off just before the trail reaches the creek bed. This leads to a ledge that offers excellent views of the entire falls.
Staircase Falls is a spectacular sight each spring as it flows 1300 feet over rocks and ledges from Glacier Point to Curry Village. Snowfall and other factors determine the strength and duration of the flow, but it is always worth seeing.
Ribbon Falls drops 1,612 feet but is only present in the spring. It is surrounded by rocks on three sides, and there is no trail providing access. It is best viewed from the bottom of Bridalveil Falls.
Horsetail Falls is one of the most beautiful sights as the sunset reflects off the water and creates a warm, fiery glow. The fall drops 1,000 feet off the east side of El Capitan and is best seen from that area.
Yosemite National Park is known for its waterfalls, which draw millions of visitors to the Yosemite California area each year. Some of the falls are constant and dependable, raging fast and loud in the spring and creating dramatic ice sculptures in the winter. Others are an elusive product of the melting snow up in the high country and only last for a window of time, marking the changing of seasons and the influx of visitors for another season at this spectacular national park.