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Exploring Yosemites valley floor
The Yosemite Valley is 7-miles long and 2-miles wide, leaving visitors plenty of trails and area to explore. - photo by NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

When tourists make their way to Yosemite they are often called to do one thing: explore.

From the towering, architectural mountains to the rushing waterfalls, Yosemite’s natural beauty often inspires individuals to investigate the unique landscape and the national park has several options for hikers of all levels. 

“The first thing for any visitor who is new to Yosemite should be to stop by Visitor’s Center in Yosemite Village which is in the Yosemite Valley. We have a lot of information for hiking trips and tours,” said ranger Kari Cobb.

Yosemite Valley, which is seven miles long and two miles wide, is surrounded by 3,000 foot cliffs and numerous waterfalls including Yosemite Falls which reigns at 2,425 feet tall. Many of the trails begin from the Yosemite Valley and with students out of school in the months of June, July and August, the Park’s most popular months, the trails often become not only hiking grounds but a place to meet new friends as well.

A common starter trail for hikers is the Bridalveil Fall Trail, a half mile hike to the famed waterfall, which is gushing with water in the spring. The 620 feet waterfall is a well known site and this relatively short, paved trail allows visitors to get an up-close look before pursuing other adventures. Hikers looking for a slightly longer trail with spectacular views should consider the one mile Lower Yosemite Falls trail. A paved loop and quick hike of only 30 minutes will take hikers to the base of one of the tallest waterfalls in North America. Hikers can enjoy spectacular views of the Valley and hear the rushing water but should expect to get wet if they visit during the spring when the stream is gushing at its peak. 

While there are several more hikes ranging from easy to strenuous, perhaps one of the most well known is the Half Dome Trail. One of the most iconic rock formations in the Yosemite landscape, this enormous granite dome requires a permit to access the 5,000 foot summit above the Yosemite Valley. The 14 to 16 mile round trip hike is not for the faint of heart, but hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, the entire Valley and more. The panoramic views typically take 10 to 12 hours to access, so many start the hike very early in the morning. However, those not able to access Half Dome should not be let down as the Park offers trails for all levels.

“All of the trails offer hikers the ability to go as far or as steep as they are comfortable,” said Cobb.