places to take photos of Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park (with maps)

Yosemite Falls, which is three falls (three sections), drops a total of 2,424 feet, almost a half mile. Upper Yosemite Fall drops 1,430 feet, Middle Cascades drops 675 feet, and Lower Yosemite Fall drops 320 feet. It can be seen from many locations in Yosemite Valley and from trails or parking lots above the valley along the Glacier Point road.

You can get “classic” shots of all the three levels of the falls together or just the lower or upper fall, relatively close up or from a distance.

The webpage describes eleven locations to get pictures with examples of the shots you can get at each location.

This shot is taken from along the trail to the top of Yosemite Falls,

upper Yosemite Falls and Half Dome from a trail

More pictures of the falls from the trail are at upper Yosemite Fall hike description. More places to take photos of Half Dome (on the right in the photo above) are here.

   

This shot is taken from Cook’s Meadow loop in Yosemite Valley.

Waterfall and cliffs

You can find the Cook’s Meadow loop or double loop or figure eight trail by using the free shuttle bus to go to either the Main visitor center (stops 5 or 9) or to stops 6, 7 or 11. See details and many maps of each route at Cook’s Meadow.

Map of the lower Yosemite falls loop trail, (in orange more on this below)

and the Cook’s Meadow loop trail (in yellow) courtesy of the NPS:

NPS map with two trails marked on it

   

While rafting the Merced river in Yosemite Valley:

raft yf: raft with Yosemite Falls in the background

   

Yosemite Falls in various seasons, from Swinging Bridge :

Yosemite falls April 1 2004: Yosemite Falls in summer & winter: Two photos side by side of the same stretch of river with Yosemite Falls in the background, a winter one with bare tree branches and lots of snow and a summer one with lots of leaves on the trees and shrubs and club people floating down the river in an inflatable kayak.

Below is a NPS photo of Yosemite Falls during peak flow on May 23, 2003. Notice how high the river water level is and how much more flow than in the photos above from April, February, and later summer with more normal flows.

Yosemite falls May 23 2003:

To get to Swinging Bridge, head towards the river from free shuttle bus stop 7, or from any building at Yosemite Valley Lodge, along a parking lot road and down a path alongside Leidig Meadow.

NPS map with added lettering to show how to find swinging bridge

After crossing Swinging Bridge, if you continue on the bike or walk path alongside Southside Drive

   

OR on your drive into the valley a bit before you get to the chapel

there is a boardwalk that leads out to the river .

waterfall in background, people walking on wooden boardwalk in foreground

In the NPS photo below of flooded Sentinel Meadow taken May 16, 2005, you can just make out the sunken edge of the boardwalk across the meadow between the two posts on the fence and can just see Yosemite Falls thru the low clouds in the background. Next to it is the same place in June, 2005 and again in February 2008

flooded Sentinel meadow Yosemite May 16 2005 NPS photo: meadow Yosemite falls June 2005: Yosemite Falls and snowy meadow feb 4 2008:

and in February 2017 with heavy flooding:

Yosemite Falls and partially flooded meadow

Yosemite Falls view in February snow and other seasons has more pictures and larger ones from this location.

The boardwalk described above is just beyond where the white right arrow in a black circle is on the lower road (a section of Southside Drive, your route into Yosemite Valley for any overnight accommodation, and all day-use parking lots) in the lower left corner of the map below.

map with roads, river and a few locations

   

From near the Ahwahnee Hotel (briefly named the Majestic Yosemite Hotel) :

rainbow in mist upper Yosemite fall Feb 2014: snow at top of cliffs, rainbow in mist near bottom of waterfall

To go to the Ahwahnee hotel use the free, year-round, shuttle bus and get off at stop 3.

This photo was also taken at the Ahwahnee. Can you spot Upper Yosemite Falls just about in the center of this picture below after heavy snow fall covered the cliff face?

snow covered cliff with a waterfall

just about the same location for this shot with late afternoon light and wind whipping upper Yosemite Fall:

upper Yosemite fall in the wind

and here from the parking lot as you go just past the Porte Cochere:

Ahwahnee porte couchere on the left, Yosemite Falls through trees on the right

and . . .

hotel with cliffs and waterfall in distance

waterfall and edge of hotel building

From some of the east end of Yosemite valley you can see a little of the top of El Capitan (on the left to the right of the trees) with upper Yosemite Fall:

clouds, cliffs, waterfall

   

A boardwalk leads across Stoneman Meadow across the road from the day use and guest use parking lot at Curry Village (briefly named Half Dome Village) (lower right corner of this photo) to the higher numbered loops at the back of Lower Pines Campground:

roadway, large meadow and boardwalk

With one of the best views of Staircase Falls, here in full flow in May:

multiple cascades of a waterfall along a cliff face

and in this panorama, Staircase Falls on the left and upper Yosemite Fall on the right, both barely visible in this photo, but stunning in person:

mountains, clouds and 2 waterfalls

In the map below, the Curry Village (briefly named Half Dome Village) day use and guest use parking lot is the green square with the letter P in white in the center of it.

map with roads, river and campgrounds

   

From Glacier Point. (about an hour drive from Yosemite Valley, but with limited parking, so get an early start or perhaps even expect to be turned away, especially on busy summer weekends. Road closed in the winter. See Glacier Point and the the Glacier Point road on this official park map.

cliff and waterfall

NPS photo Yosemite valley from Glacier Point 560 pxl:

photo above courtesy of the National Park Service (NPS)


photo below by Quang-Tuan Luong/terragalleria.com
, all rights reserved.

QT Luong Yopsemite valley from Glacier Point dusk:

This photo of Teddy Roosevelt (L) and John Muir (R) at Glacier Point with Yosemite Falls in the background is from the National Park Service historic photo collection:

NPS historic photo collection Muir and Roosevelt at Glacier Point:

   

Besides driving to Glacier Point, you can hike there via the Four Mile trail

About half way up the Four Mile trail this can be your view of Yosemite Falls:

Yosemite falls and part of Yosemite Valley

The hike is 4.8 miles one way, 3,200 foot elevation gain, not open all the way / or at all the in winter, “when partially closed, only the lower three miles (5 km) are open to the gate below Union Point.” There is very little parking at the trailhead, but you can use the Yosemite Falls day use parking lot at shuttle stop #7 and take a short walk across the river at Swinging Bridge and slightly south/west on the main road to the trailhead. (This would be faster than using the summer only El Capitan shuttle.)

map showing part of east Yosemite Valley

A Google street 360 degree view from Glacier Point down to Vernal and Nevada falls, and across to Half Dome.

topographical type map showing cliffs, trail, road

Read more at the park service page: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/fourmiletrail.htm

People who want to get a bus ride from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point and back to Yosemite Valley

OR a bus ride up to Glacier Point and hike back down the Four Mile trail or the trail past Illilouette, Nevada and Vernal Falls,

can do so in months when the Glacier Point road is open. The road has opened anywhere from April 14 to July 1, depending on snow pack. Book a ride on the Glacier Point tour, most years leaving 8:30 a.m. from the Lobby entrance to Yosemite Lodge, free shuttle bus stop 8 http://www.travelyosemite.com/things-to-do/guided-bus-tours/

   

From Taft Point : (2.2 miles round-trip hike from the Glacier Point road, 2 +/- hours). Road closed in the winter. See a map of the trail to Taft point at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/upload/glacierhikes.pdf and see the Glacier Point road on this official park map.

NPS map with roads, topography

upper, middle and lower Yosemite Falls

and here, the last switchbacks going up the trail to the top of Yosemite Falls are seen on the left:

trail switchbacks and top of Yosemite Fall

Many people who hike all the way to the top of upper Yosemite Fall do not know that there is a trail down the cliff face, with railings that they can use to get closer to where the falls go over, as in this close-up of the right hand side of the photo above:

cliff and waterfall

This panorama from Taft point has both El Capitan (on the left) and Yosemite Falls:

view from Taft Point Yosemite

At the upper left is the railing at the official Taft Point, with El Capitan across Yosemite Valley (but do be sure to carefully explore the area, there are different, some say better views from further to the left of the official Taft point):

cliff edge with railing

And a man held the back of a woman’s daypack as she took photos at the edge of the Taft point viewpoint, (perhaps to protect her from falling over the high railing?)

man holding the strap on the back of a daypack

   

The most classic view, on the lower Yosemite Falls loop trail is of all three falls (all three sections of Yosemite Fall) from fairly close up.

Map below is of the lower Yosemite falls loop trail, (in orange)

and the Cook’s Meadow loop trail (in yellow) courtesy of the NPS:

NPS map with two trails marked on it

From Yosemite Lodge, in the lower left hand corner of the map, you can take a short walk directly to the left hand section of the lower Yosemite Fall loop (again in orange in the map above).

From this far west pathway along the loop trail, (again, a direct walk from Yosemite Lodge) the view of Yosemite Falls (lower, middle and upper, in full flow in February 2017).

upper, middle and lower Yosemite falls from along a pathway

I suggest to people that they stop when walking on the pathway to Lower Yosemite Fall, look at the upper fall, imagine it with full flow in the winter and then imagine the wind catching and holding the flow. Conservationist John Muir, who built a cabin in a tree near the base of Yosemite Falls in 1869, wrote about a winter storm when this happened and he counted to 190 before the wind stopped holding the water. Read his description of this at Upper Yosemite Fall held stationary in mid-air.

And see: How to find the location of John Muir’s cabin in a tree (he called it his hang nest) on this path.

row of rocks carved into brick shapes

Upper Yosemite Fall drops 1,430 feet. (The equivalent of nine Niagara Falls stacked on top of each other.)

Many people who take the trail to the top of upper Yosemite Fall do not realize there is a railing out across the cliff face at the top.

Below are views of the top of upper Yosemite Fall, showing the trail with a railing out on the cliff face that people can walk out on. The top four photos which you can take with your telephoto from many of the locations described at this page, the last was shot at Taft Point.

Yosemite falls 300 pixels tall winter: Yosemite falls in winter top of yosemite falls 300 pixels winter 2009: top of yosemite falls winter 2009 top of yosemite falls and clif with outdoor club hikers feb 2009: top of yosemite falls and clif with outdoor club hikers feb 2009

outdoor club at top of Yosemite Falls trail winter 2009: outdoor club at top of Yosemite Falls trail winter 2009

cliff and waterfall

Different times of the year the falls will have different water flow, for example, at the end of this page, photos in February and June. Many years in August and September it is dried up or almost dried up. (Some years with lots of snowpack it does not dry up.)

August:

upper Yosemite Falls August 2003:

September:

dried up Yosemite Falls in September NPS:

How much water will there be in the Yosemite waterfalls?

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The Yosemite Assn used to have a page of photo tips from photographer Michael Frye which included:

“The best light on Upper Yosemite Fall occurs around 10 a.m. and about 3 to 4 p.m.”

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Webcam of Yosemite Falls http://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/webcams-videos

Yosemite nature podcasts: http://www.nps.gov/yose/photosmultimedia/ynn.htm episode #2 is Yosemite Falls

and see: places to take photos of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park (with maps)

Places to take photos of Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park (with maps)

Places to take photos of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, (with maps)

Selfies can be great, OR dangerous. They were just taking a selfie.

Yosemite trail conditions info is at: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildcond.htm

a narrow band of sunset clouds

The most current route map for the free Yosemite Valley shuttle bus is in the Yosemite Guide newspaper https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm , which you will be offered a copy of as you enter the park, or can print in advance.

It looks something like this when there is no road construction, rock slides, excess snow affecting the times/routes:

(Map below courtesy of NPS)

map of Yosemite valley shuttle bus stops

Hiking Advice has HIKING SECRETS and etiquette including hiking in the heat, preventing and/or dealing with blisters, logistics of hiking, a day hike gear list, Half Dome hiking advice, winter hiking and the answer to the question: When is the best time of day to cross a mountain stream?

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The Yosemite rangers would like you to call them if you see a bear in Yosemite, no matter where it is or what it is doing, at (209) 372-0322.)

bearlogo: from the Keep Bears Wild program

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The view of the falls in February from the far left hand portion of the lower Yosemite Falls walkways/trails, an almost straight shot from Yosemite Valley Lodge (see map with orange dotted line above):

  waterfall in three sections

and a view from June with much less water flow:

waterfall showing three sections

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(Note that low clouds can cover the top of upper Yosemite Falls,

waterfall seeming to come out of a cloud

fog can hide the bottom and a winter snow storm can white-out every view up towards the cliffs.)

thin line of gray colors made from a clouds photo

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Parking and traffic jams in Yosemite valley tips and tricks

Using a drone for your photography is illegal in Yosemite. See also an index to over a dozen park webpages with park laws, rules, regulations and policies.