Upper Yosemite Falls Hike : Survival Guide

Upper Yosemite Falls Hike : Survival Guide

Last weekend, I visited Yosemite for the very first time – after living in California for four years! Now I see why everyone raves about it, there is something in that breathtaking gorgeousness about the park that makes you want to go back the moment you leave.

This was a mini vacay with some of the most amazing friends, and this post is as much about Yosemite as it is about the importance of friends, especially ones who aren’t completely like you.

We stayed at a lovely cabin in Mariposa, about a 45 min beautiful drive from the park. If you have a large group, and cannot stay in the park, then I highly recommend this cabin my friend V found on Airbnb. It’s roomy, quiet, and has everything you will need for a weekend (except forks and spoons). What it lacks in the silverware department however, it makes up for in the backyard, which comes with a cute little pond and is surrounded by trees. Such a welcome change from dry, desert-like San Diego.


Some of my (more hiking experienced) friends really wanted to do the Upper Yosemite Falls hike, and so off we went, with backpacks full of sandwiches, granola bars and water. The trail is 7.2 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 2700 feet, and is said to take about 6-8 hours. I don’t want to leave you in suspense, so let me just say that the Upper Yosemite Falls Hike kicked my butt. Now that that’s out of the way, I can go on to describe how beautiful it was, and leave you to decide if it’s worth experiencing.

Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America. That in itself should be incentive to try this hike, but I hope that the pictures that follow will be even more of an inspiration.

We started at about 8:30 am, since sunset is around 4:30 pm in November. We started off with heavy jackets, but promptly peeled them off, as the climb got steeper and steeper.


Views early on in the hike – see the flash of fall color?

The first milestone is Columbia Rock, which is a lookout for Half Dome, a cool looking dome shaped granite. Now, left to my own devices, I would never even dream of scaling Half Dome, but some of my friends have done it, and want to do it again, so who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll enter that lottery myself. This is what I mean about having friends who aren’t completely like you. They make you expand your horizons, and experience life in ways you never even think to. And I usually find, after that initial reluctance, that the experience was well worth it.


A Half Dome Selfie at Columbia Rock

After staring at Half Dome for a bit, and eating some flamin’ hot cheetos, we kept going onwards, not quite sure of what to expect. If anyone tells you that the hike gets easier after Columbia Rock, don’t believe them. It gets harder. But it’s definitely worth the effort.


Climbing up and up..some fall foliage to alleviate the pain

The second milestone I think, is the first sighting of the Falls. You can hear them before you see them, and it’s a little bit magical. This really gives you a much needed burst of energy to go on to the top of the falls.


First view of the Falls

The burst of energy is short lived, so unless you are an experienced hiker, or have a ton of willpower, I would say please hike this with friends, in order to motivate one another. I saw this hike described as a StairMaster workout, but I would go one step further and call it a StairMonster.


Besties tackling the StairMonster

The only way to go really, is Up. Because, at this point, going down without eating lunch is going to be challenging too. So onward and upward.


Glorious view of the Yosemite Valley

Don’t be afraid to take breaks. I thought I was the breaking queen, but it seems everyone does it.

And then….when it seems like you will never get to the top, but the bottom looks so so far away…you can see it! The end is near!


The sky looks very close

We made it. On my part, it was sheer stubbornness.


I loved how the pinecones were nestled  on this rock

At the top, we ate our lunch and just sat still. It felt so good. Then we walked down to the falls, and I sat on a rock at the edge of the top of the falls, listening to the water. It was so peaceful, and yet so powerful. Was this worth it? For me, a thousand times yes.


Near the top of the Falls

Well, that was only half the journey. Our real lives were waiting for us at the bottom of this mountain, so we had to make the trek downhill. Which was a thousand times harder than uphill. And going uphill was tough. I think it was a combination of a few factors, the fact that I don’t own hiking boots, and that my legs were already super tired, and that it was so steep, I was always afraid I was going to fall. At one point, I completely gave up hope, and my poor husband was wondering if he was going to have to carry me down 2000 feet. However, a very kind hiker came to our rescue, and insisted that I borrow his hiking pole. The hiking pole saved my life! It was just so much easier to go downhill now, because it eliminated the fear of falling. I never saw the hiker again, because his speed was double mine, and so I still have his hiking pole. I hope he knows how thankful I am to him. My friends said that the real way to thank him is to pay it forward, one good turn deserves two more, and that is exactly what I plan to do!


After we finally reached the bottom, we were rewarded with a view of the pre-supermoon rising over Half Dome

I really hope that this post inspires you to hike Yosemite Falls, or at the very least to visit Yosemite National Park. America’s National Parks are celebrating their 100 year anniversary this year, and every time I visit one, I experience so much peace, along with excitement and wonder at the natural beauty, that I urge all of you to try the experience for yourself.

Tanmaya’s Survival Tips for Yosemite Falls

  1. Wear comfortable hiking boots. I did not, and I really regretted this on the way down.
  2. Carry plenty of food and water – much more than you think you will need.
  3. The hike is very strenuous, so you might not need very heavy jackets in the Fall if it is a sunny day. I wore a heavy one since it was cold when we started, but regretted it about 10 minutes into the hike, when I realized I would have to carry it the whole time.
  4. Hiking poles will help a lot with the downhill part
  5. Plan on at least 6-7 hours of hiking, and more if you want to take frequent breaks or pictures.
  6. Parking : There is tons of parking near the trail head, near Yosemite Village (around 8:30 am, it definitely gets more crowded as the day goes on)
  7. Visit the restroom before you begin the trail (there are some near the parking and near the campsite at the base of the trail). Nature is the only restroom along the hike.
  8. And finally, check out this live webcam of Yosemite Falls from the National Parks website, so that you plan the hike when the waterfall is at its prettiest!





  1. November 21, 2016 / 10:16 am

    I have been to Yosemite a few times now but never really did the hike, we mostly just drive around. It seems like I better get in shape and try this hike … the view looks stunning. Thanks for the post & survival tips, they really useful!

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