Being a Northern California local, I have been to Yosemite National Park several times with my family. It is just a 3-hour drive for me, and I have been there in all seasons.
One of the first things we usually do in Yosemite is go to the Lower Yosemite Falls via the Lower Yosemite Falls trail. We usually do the full loop, starting from the trailhead. It is a very easy hike, and I love seeing Yosemite Falls in every season.
I have seen the Yosemite Falls gushing in the Spring, totally dry in the fall, and just a trickle in winter. It is a breathtaking, unique view every time!
So, let’s explore the details of how you can hike the Lower Yosemite Fall trail and experience one of the main waterfalls in Yosemite!
Lower Yosemite Falls Overview
Lower Yosemite Falls is the lower part of the tallest waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls, which cascades down into three sections – Upper Yosemite Falls, Middle Falls or cascades, and Lower Yosemite Falls.
The lower section, which the Lower Yosemite Falls trail leads to, plunges 320 feet, creating a mesmerizing display of power and beauty.
Yosemite Falls is the most popular waterfall in Yosemite and is part of every Yosemite National Park itinerary. From the parking lot and from various vista points in Yosemite Valley, you can see all three falls. The lower falls trail leads you much closer to the waterfall’s base.
Lower Yosemite Falls Trail
- Difficulty – Easy
- Trail Length – around 1-mile loop
- Elevation – very less, around 50 feet
- Time needed – 30 minutes
- Starting Point – Lower Yosemite Falls Trailhead at Shuttle stop #6
This 1-mile round-trip hike is an easy stroll on a well-paved path. I’ve strolled this trail with family, friends, and even solo, each time discovering something new in the play of light and shadow on the waterfall.
We usually park at the Yosemite Valley Lodge parking lot and walk across Northside Dr to reach the trailhead. If taking the free Yosemite Park shuttle, get down at shuttle stop #6 to reach the trailhead.
The trail begins on a wide paved path next to a flowing creek with beautiful forest scenery. As this is a very popular attraction, I have always found it crowded, except for a time when I was staying at the Yosemite Valley Lodge and visited really early in the morning.
In a short quarter-mile hike, you will reach the Lower Yosemite Falls bridge, which is the closest you can get to the falls.
During Spring and early Summer, the waterfall flow is at its peak due to the melting snow. I could feel the mist of the falls all the way on the bridge when I visited once at the end of May. It was very refreshing and truly a sight to see.
During the late Fall season, the waterfall is almost dry, and the falls are back again in winter once it starts to rain. On my mid-December visit to the falls, there was a trickle of water. A lot of people were on the dry, rocky beds, trying to get closer to the falls.
Once you reach the Lower Falls bridge, you can cross the bridge and complete the entire loop, or you can come back the same way. I always do the full loop, which is around a mile.
The loop part after the falls is quiet and has fewer crowds. You are walking parallel to the Yosemite Creek most of the way. Part of the trail is paved, and part is boardwalk. It is very flat and more accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.
Facilities at Lower Yosemite Falls Trailhead
At the trailhead, there are restrooms and a large picnic area. A good place to have a picnic lunch with views of the Falls.
How to get to Lower Yosemite Falls
There are two ways you can reach the Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead. I have done both ways, and it really depends on how crowded the park is during your visit.
You can drive and park at Yosemite View Lodge. I have done this when we visit during the off-season, like winter, as parking is easy to find.
During peak spring and summer seasons, it is best to take the free Yosemite Valley Shuttle (stop #6) to get here.
When is the best time to hike Lower Yosemite Falls?
I find Yosemite National Park to be beautiful no matter what season, but if you want to see Yosemite Falls in its full glory, then come during the Spring season.
Spring is the best time to visit Lower Yosemite Falls, especially from April to June, when the water flow is at its peak due to snowmelt. However, the trail is open year-round.
During Winter in Yosemite, the falls are just a trickle, and surrounding rocks are covered with snow. Winter might not be the best time to see Yosemite Falls, but its a great time to see snow in Yosemite Valley.
What else can you do after visiting Lower Yosemite Falls?
In the mood for more easy hikes? You can extend your Lower Yosemite Falls hike by exploring Cook’s Meadow Loop, which is an extension of the trail. Walk through a beautiful meadow and see the falls from far-away vantage points.
If you want to do a strenuous hike, the Upper Yosemite Falls trail starts from the same trailhead. It is a difficult hike, around 6.5 miles long, with an elevation gain of more than 3000 feet. I have yet to conquer the Upper Falls hike!
Explore another easy waterfall hike by visiting Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite.
Or explore the Mirror Lake trail and visit the serene mirror-like lake in east Yosemite Valley. This is my personal favorite hike in Yosemite!
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about visiting Yosemite Falls and hiking the Lower Falls trail:
How long is the Yosemite Lower Falls hike?
The hike is an easy 1-mile round trip and mostly flat. On my visits, I take around 30 minutes to complete it, including time to stop and admire the views.
How do you get to the bottom of Yosemite Falls?
The Lower Yosemite Falls Trail leads you straight to the base of the Yosemite Falls. It’s an easy quarter-mile hike to the base with incredible views and the soothing sound of cascading water.
Where do you park for the Lower Yosemite Fall trail?
There’s convenient parking near Yosemite Valley Lodge. From there, it’s a short walk to the trailhead.
What is the easiest waterfall hike in Yosemite?
If you are looking for another easy yet rewarding hike, the Bridalveil Fall trail is my go-to recommendation. It’s short at only half a mile and offers spectacular views.
Where to stay in Yosemite
When planning your visit to Yosemite National Park, I recommend staying inside the park in Yosemite Valley, although reservations can be hard to get in Spring and Summer.
The Ahwahnee Hotel – Experience luxury in the wilderness at The Ahwahnee, a historic hotel known for its stunning architecture and majestic views. We stayed here once for a special occasion; check out my Ahwahnee Hotel review.
Yosemite Valley Lodge – Yosemite Valley Lodge offers a comfortable, family-friendly stay right at the heart of the park, with easy access to Yosemite Falls. This is my first preference in lodging when we visit Yosemite.
Curry Village – Curry Village features canvas tent cabins and wooden cabins but is usually very crowded in the summer.
Rush Creek Lodge – This family-friendly resort is right outside the west entrance and is very popular due to its various activities, pools, restaurants, and spa.
Final Takeaways: Visiting Lower Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls is one of the most popular attractions in Yosemite National Park, and you can visit the base of this spectacular waterfall via a short walk on the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail. I will continue to admire the falls on my future visits.
Remember, the best time to visit is in the spring, and don’t forget to explore other easy hikes in Yosemite Valley.
More about Yosemite National Park
Check out my other Yosemite experiences below!