Top o' the Falls

Itchin' to climb to the top of the tallest waterfall in North America? Goodonya! The 3.5-mile (one way)…

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Itchin’ to climb to the top of the tallest waterfall in North America? Goodonya! The 3.5-mile (one way) hike to Upper Yosemite Falls goes up—and up and up—so embark in the early morning with fresh legs and plenty of water. Take it slowly: en route, the plentiful views inspire plentiful breaks. After climbing steadily with little shade, crossing mini streams, scaling sturdy granite sections—with a series of serious switchbacks near the top—the crest of the falls is (finally) yours. Now shimmy right out to the lip and peer 2,425 feet below. Don’t worry, there’s a little metal bar to make sure you don’t fall…

ALTERNATIVE: Slightly less challenging and more popular is the trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls, a Yosemite classic and a must for first-time visitors to the valley. If you can get a pre-10:00 a.m. start, you’ll encounter far fewer people on the initial mile of paved trail to Vernal Falls. Then continue on the Mist Trail, which will live up to its name as it climbs to the top of Nevada Falls.

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The trailhead to Upper Yosemite Falls starts behind Camp 4 (shuttle stop 7), off of Northside Dr. It’s 7 miles roundtrip; allow 5–7 hours. The trailhead to Vernal and Nevada Falls is at shuttle stop 16 at Happy Isles. An out-and-back to Nevada Falls on the Mist Trail is 6 miles; allow 3–5 hours.

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