The highest measured waterfall in North America and the sixth-highest in the world, Yosemite Falls is the superstar attraction in Yosemite National Park. With a cumulative drop of 2,425 feet (739 meters), Yosemite Falls comprises three falls and is especially stunning in late spring when the snow melts and water flow is at its peak.
You can spot the iconic waterfall from various vantage points within the park, including Yosemite Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge (formerly Yosemite Lodge at the Falls). For active viewers, a 1-mile loop trail leads to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall, or a strenuous (and usually crowded) 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) hike with 2,700 feet (823 meters) elevation gain beginning near Camp 4 hike takes you to the top of Yosemite Falls.
Due to the incredibly popularity of this natural attraction, Yosemite Falls is included in most park tours. You can see the falls, along with other park attractions—El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, Vernal Falls, Half Dome, the Chapel, and the Cathedral Spires—on a day tour from San Francisco or Fresno.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Yosemite Falls is a must-see for first-time visitors, photographers, and strong hikers.
- Be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes, especially if you plan to hike to the top of the falls.
- Yosemite tours from San Francisco can last upwards of 14 hours.
- The eastern side of the loop to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls is accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Access Lower Yosemite Fall near the Yosemite Valley Lodge; the top of the upper fall is accessed via a steep hiking trail. For a great (and underrated) view of the falls, consider hiking to the summit of Sentinel Dome.
When to Get There
Yosemite Falls is at its most spectacular in the spring, with peak runoff occurring in May or June. The falls tend to dry to a trickle by late summer, but autumn rainfall rejuvenates it beginning in November.
Natural Phenomena at Yosemite Falls
On a clear night with plenty of moonlight and enough water to create mist, see if you can spot a “moonbow.” During the winter, an ice cone tends to form at the base of the upper fall, while frost accumulates along the edges of the falls.