Yosemite’s waterfalls at their best in the last 40 years

Yosemite’s waterfalls at their best in the last 40 years

Yosemite’s largest waterfalls peak in April, May and into June, with some falls (including the park’s signature, Yosemite Falls) running dry by late summer.

However, Yosemite Falls is expected to continue flowing until July as a result of this year’s heavy snowfall throughout the winter season. The snow has resulted in Yosemite showcasing the best waterfalls it has seen in the last 40 years. The Mist Trail, one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite, Nevada and Vernal Falls run through summer. See below a guide to Yosemite’s must-see waterfalls from its most iconic to its lesser-known wonders.

Yosemite’s Iconic Waterfalls

Yosemite Falls – flowing until July

● Height: 2,425 feet
● Region: Yosemite Valley
● Flow: November to July, peak in May/June

Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America and the sixth tallest in the world. The twin cascades – upper and lower – are together nearly twice the height of the Empire State Building and visible from many points around Yosemite Valley. There is a one-mile loop trail to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall (year-round and wheelchair accessible). The full Yosemite Falls Trail is strenuous, but for strong hikers well worth the trek.

Bridalveil Fall

● Height: 620 feet
● Region: Yosemite Valley
● Flow: Year-round, peaks in May

The first waterfall most Yosemite National Park visitors see is stunning Bridalveil Fall which greets visitors as they enter Yosemite Valley from Highway 140 or Highway 41. It varies from a thunderous spring flow to a gently swaying wisp by season’s end. Bridalveil’s beauty is surpassed only by its ease of access. Thanks to the Yosemite Conservancy’s multi-year Bridalveil Fall Restoration project, the newly-renovated, paved trail to the base of the fall is wider, wheelchair accessible and pet-friendly. New restrooms and expanded viewing areas are set to be completed this spring.

Nevada Fall

● Height: 594 feet
● Region: Yosemite Valley
● Flow: Year-round, peaks late May

The operatic Mist Trail continues steeply for 1.5 additional miles with 2,000 ft. elevation gain to the top of its second aquatic act, Nevada Fall. Between Vernal and Nevada falls, hikers pass a pair of beautiful pools (no swimming permitted) – Emerald and Silver Apron – before making the final ascent. Nevada Fall thunders in late spring and summer as the Merced River tumbles down toward Yosemite Valley. The view from the top is spectacular, especially where a footbridge crosses above the Merced River.

Yosemite’s Lesser-Known Waterfalls

Horsetail Fall

● Region: Yosemite Valley
● Drop: 2,030 ft (619 m), two-stage
● Best Time To See: December-April

A good snowpack is required for Horsetail Fall to flow and this year it will. Horsetail Fall is where the annual phenomenon of Yosemite Firefall takes place during the month of February. When conditions allow Horsetail Fall appears as a plummeting cataract of flames. Photographers from all over the globe come to capture this unique phenomenon.

Chilnualna Falls

● Region: Wawona (Southern Yosemite)
● Drop: 690 ft (210 m), multiple tiers
● Best Time To See: Year-round, with peak flow in May

Chilnualna Falls (“Chil-noo-all-na”) gets a fraction of the visitors compared to falls in Yosemite Valley. The fall weaves through forested sections offering views of Wawona Dome above and the village of Wawona below. Chilnualna Falls is perfect for those looking to get off the beaten path. It is located away from main roads and tucked back into the small community of Wawona.

● Region: Foresta (near Yosemite Valley)
● Drop: Multiple cascades with a 40 ft (12 m) finale
● Best Time To See: Year-round, with best flows March-June

Located just six miles from Yosemite Valley, it’s surprising how few visitors have explored Foresta and its fascinating history. The easy 1.8 mile out and back trail to Foresta Falls is actually a decommissioned dirt road with views of several tumbling cascades as it descends to a wholly satisfying 40 ft (12 m) drop. Here, a ramshackle bridge provides a convenient platform for up-close views and photographs. After viewing the cascade, take a stop by the Meyer and McCauley Barns in the big meadow in Foresta. The barns are on the US Register of Historic Places and stand as a testament to the early pioneering days of Yosemite’s early transplanted inhabitants.


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