By Michael Lanza

The natural beauty, variety, pristine quality, and scale of America’s National Park System have no parallel in the world. Still, a handful of flagship parks rise above the rest—including, unquestionably, Yosemite. Created in 1890, our third national park harbors some of the most breathtaking and inspiring wild lands in the entire parks system. And best of all, you can reach much of Yosemite’s finest scenery on dayhikes.

Here are my picks for the 12 best dayhikes in Yosemite, from popular hikes like Half Dome, the Mist Trail, and Upper Yosemite Falls to some trails and peaks you may not have heard of—including the nearly 11,000-foot summit reputed to have “the best 360 in Yosemite.”

This list of Yosemite’s best hikes is drawn from my numerous trips dayhiking and backpacking all over the park going back more than 30 years, including the 10 years I spent as a field editor for Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog. Use this story as your guide and you will see the best scenery in Yosemite that’s accessible on a moderate to full day of hiking.

Yosemite is requiring a reservation to drive into the park between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., from May 20 through September 30, 2022. You don’t need an entry reservation if you have certain other reservations, including a permit to hike Half Dome; but to stay overnight in the park, you do need a lodging or campground reservation or a wilderness permit. See details at nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/reservations.htm.

Please share your thoughts on any of these hikes or your own favorites in Yosemite in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

May Lake in Yosemite National Park.
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