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5 Best Waterfalls to See in Yosemite National Park

Decorating the breathtaking expanse of Yosemite National Park are the natural wonders that never fail to captivate all who encounter them—the incredible waterfalls. These cascading falls are one of the many wonders of Yosemite, which is one of the most popular national parks in the U.S. 

If you’re planning your Yosemite adventure, make it a point to hike to at least one of these incredible spots. 

5. Ribbon Falls

Image by Yosemite.com

Don’t miss this 1,600-foot free-falling waterfall. Get drizzled by the cascading water as you gaze at the iconic El Capitan just to the right. Ribbon Falls is a thin waterfall but one of the tallest in the country. In fact, it is the longest single-drop waterfall in North America. As the snow melts from winter, the waterfall gains its power, making late spring the best time to see Ribbon Falls in all its glory. 

View this waterfall from the parking lot, while driving through the park, or hike to its base. To see Ribbon Falls up close, the hike is 2.51 miles each way and will take you less than two hours.

4. Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls

Image by Wil Gibb/500 px

Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls decorate the Giant Stairway. These two waterfalls on the Merced River flow year-round. You can access these two waterfalls on the Mist Trail or the John Muir Trail.

Originating near Happy Isles in eastern Yosemite Valley, the popular Mist Trail offers a chance to see these two waterfalls in Yosemite. If you want a shorter day out, try the Mist Trail and stop at the Vernal Falls Footbridge for a 1.7-mile hike, around 1.5 hours long and see the waterfall from afar. Or, continue for another mile or so to reach Vernal Falls after 3.3 total miles. To complete the full hike along the Mist Trail to the top of the Nevada Falls, expect to be hiking for around five hours for a total of 6.6 miles.

3. Bridalveil Falls 

Image by David Gregg

The original Native American name for this waterfall is Pohono. This incredible waterfall flows year-round, and a visit to Yosemite isn’t complete without seeing it. Get drenched in its spray or look for icy parts in winter. The hike is only 1.2 miles. Bridalveil Falls is famous for the mist that flies off it when a breeze blows, resembling a bridal veil.

2. Horsetail Falls

Image by Phoenix Wang

This huge waterfall, at 1,570 feet, is home to an absolute must-see, if you’re there at the right time—the Yosemite Firefall. The Yosemite Firefall occurs in February as the sun illuminates the fall, making the water appear to be on fire in a deep red-orange glow. It can get pretty crowded, but it will absolutely be worth it to witness this phenomenon.

To view the falls, park at the El Capitan Picnic Area or nearby turnouts along Northside Drive. The best viewing area is about a mile and a half walk from the Yosemite Falls parking area.

1. Yosemite Falls 

Image by Art Wolfe

This waterfall is essentially mandatory for your visit to Yosemite Valley. Experience Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls to ensure an incredible trip. One of the tallest waterfalls in the world, stretching 2,425 feet, this waterfall is gigantic, cascading in three sections. Yosemite Falls can be viewed from many different parts of the park, including Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome, and Taft Point. This waterfall is so impressive that it’s worth taking a trip to see it each and every time you visit Yosemite National Park. 

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