Fall is my personal favorite season of the year. It’s one of the most beautiful times to visit Yosemite National Park. But, I’m always amazed by what I see as we’re touring Yosemite each year.
The beauty and colors are always changing, yet always amazing! Here are some of the places in Yosemite where we’ve seen fall color during our trips over the years. If you’re looking for a great place to photograph in Yosemite during fall, this list of places should help!
Mirror Lake Trail
Mirror Lake Trail is a short trail in Yosemite National Park that leads to a small lake with a beautiful reflection of Half Dome and other peaks. The Mirror Lake Loop Trail is an easy hike that takes you through some of Yosemite’s most scenic areas.
Mirror Lake Trailhead
The Mirror Lake Trailhead is located near the Happy Isles Nature Center and Curry Village at the eastern end of Happy Isles Road (which runs from Glacier Point to Happy Isles).
The trailhead has restrooms, water fountains, and a parking area for about 20 cars.
A short side trail connects to Happy Isles Nature Center and provides access to several other hiking trails in the area.
In the fall, Mirror Lake’s water turns a dark green color as it reflects the surrounding trees. This makes for some great photos of the lake with its autumn colors reflected in it.
The Columbia Rock hike is one of the most popular short hikes in Yosemite National Park. The trail is only about 1 mile long and climbs 900 feet to the top of Yosemite Falls, offering your first incredible view of the valley in autumn.
The trail begins on Glacier Point Road, which is closed to cars during the winter months. It’s open on clear days from May through November, but keep in mind that snow may cover parts of the trail at any time. You’ll also need a permit to hike this trail (obtainable at the visitor center). If there’s not much snow on the ground, you can drive up to where the parking area ends (about 3 miles) and walk along the road until it meets up with the trailhead.
The first part of this hike is a steady climb through forested areas, but then you’ll reach a clearing where you get an unobstructed view of Yosemite Falls. At this point it’s worth taking a few minutes to enjoy this vista before continuing on up to Columbia Rock itself. The top of Columbia Rock offers another great view that includes Half Dome and Clouds Rest as well as Half Dome Village below you in Curry Village. From here you can also see Bridalveil Falls as well.
Four mile trail
The Four-Mile Trail is a popular hike in Yosemite National Park. The trailhead is located near the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, but it can also be accessed from the end of Glacier Point Road. The trail begins at 9,600 feet and ends at 8,400 feet, making it a strenuous hike that takes about four hours to complete.
The trail begins in dense forest, with many trees covered in mosses and lichens. As it approaches Tenaya Creek, the forest becomes more open and the views improve dramatically. The trail runs alongside Tenaya Creek for most of its length and crosses several streams along the way. The best views come at Mirror Lake and Half Dome Village, both accessible via spur trails off the main path.
There are two campsites along this trail: one near Mirror Lake and another at Half Dome Village. Both campsites require permits from Yosemite National Park’s wilderness permit office before you can camp there overnight (permits are free). There are also bear cables on both sides of this trail where bears have been sighted recently; hikers should be careful when camping in these areas or bring bear spray with them on their trip.
Bridal veil fall Hike
The Bridal Veil Fall Hike is a classic hike in Yosemite National Park that you should definitely add to your list of things to do. The hike is only 4 miles round trip, but it has some great views of the granite cliffs, waterfalls, and pools along the way. If you’re looking for a short, easy hike that still offers an adventure, this is it!
The trailhead for Bridal Veil Fall Hike is located at Glacier Point Road. From Yosemite Valley, follow south on CA 41 and turn left onto CA 120 W/Tioga Pass Rd. Continue on Tioga Pass Rd for about 9 miles until you reach the park entrance station. Continue another 6 miles until you reach the parking area for Glacier Point Road (about 2 hours from Yosemite Valley).
From Glacier Point Road there are two different trails that lead to Bridal Veil Falls: one that follows alongside Illilouette Creek and one that climbs up above the creek (see map below). Both trails are easy hikes with very little elevation gain. We chose to go up above the creek because we wanted to see how far back we could get before reaching a fence line or other obstacle.
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is a sequoia grove located in Yosemite National Park. The grove is on the south side of the park, at an elevation of 2,900 feet (880 m).
The most impressive features are the approximately 2,000 mature giant sequoias and several other species, including the dawn redwood(Metasequoia glyptostroboides), which was thought to be extinct until it was discovered in China in 1944.
The Mariposa Grove is open all year long for day hikes and has about 1 mile (1.6 km) of well-marked trails. A tram provides access to the upper grove from mid-May through mid-October. The lower grove has a campground, which is open all year.
Vernal Falls trail
Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park is one of the most iconic waterfalls in the world. It is also one of the most popular. But if you are looking for a quieter time, autumn is a great time to visit.
The main reason for this is that Vernal Falls will be dry for most of the year. This means that the crowds will have thinned out considerably by October or November.
In addition to being busy during spring and summer, Vernal Falls can also become very congested at sunset when everyone wants to take photos. In autumn, on the other hand, you’ll probably have some space to yourself as you take photos at sunset.
Lower Yosemite Falls Trail
Yosemite Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. The Lower Yosemite Falls Trail is a fantastic hike that takes you close to the base of this massive waterfall.
The trail has two main sections: a short walk through forest and then a longer stretch next to the Merced River.
The forest section of the trail is pleasant enough but not particularly remarkable. It’s worth noting that there are some pretty steep hills on this section of the trail, so if you have knee problems this could be tough going for you.
Once you get past the forest, though, things start getting interesting! The trail runs along the side of a massive granite wall with views down into Yosemite Valley below. You can see Yosemite Falls from here too! It’s an incredible view – especially if it is running!
Yosemite Point is an overlook in Yosemite National Park, California. The location provides views of Half Dome, North Dome and Glacier Point. The overlook is accessible via a short hike from the Glacier Point Road.
The view from this overlook is one of the most popular in Yosemite National Park. It offers a view of Half Dome, North Dome and Glacier Point as well as other features of the park including Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Falls.
While Yosemite can obviously be enjoyed year-round, now is the best time of year to take in the fall color as you tour the park. Be sure to include these five spots in addition to your existing list. And regardless of your experience level, take a walk on the wild side and enjoy these places during fall—you won’t regret it!