Yosemite National Park is one of the most scenic parks in the U.S., if such a thing can even be classified. With famous sites such as Bridalveil Fall, groves of giant sequoias, and rock formations such as Half Dome and El Capitan, you’ll be lucky to ever put your camera down. Yosemite is also teeming with wildlife, so be sure to keep your camera handy for those unplanned, early morning encounters.
If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite, be sure to include time to hit the trails and immerse yourself in the stillness of nature. We highly recommend these hikes.
We do want to note that if you are planning on driving into Yosemite National Park anytime between May 20th to September 30th, 2022 during the hours of 6 am to 4 pm, you will need to make a reservation.
Self-Guided Day Hikes for Photographers
Whether you’re an experienced hiker ready for a true adventure or are just looking for a leisurely stroll and some time to practice framing your shots, you can find a hike that’s just the right fit for your skills and your photography goals.
This list includes hikes to some of the most picturesque spots in Yosemite.
Chilnualna Falls (strenuous)
This 8.2-mile hike is listed as strenuous because of its 2400 foot gain in elevation. If you’re taking on this hike, plan for about a 5-hour round-trip. For the first part of the hike, you’ll walk along the cascading Chilnualna Creek and will end your hike with spectacular views of the Wawona area.
Grizzly Giant Loop Trail (moderate)
If you’re looking for a moderate hike, the Grizzly Giant Loop Trail might be just your speed. This loop trail is 2 miles long, has a 300-foot elevation gain, and takes about 2 hours or a little less to hike.* That is if you’re not stopping every few feet to take pictures. You’ll start this hike at the Mariposa Grove where you can see famous sequoias such as the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Grizzly Giant, and the California Tunnel Tree.
Gaylor Lakes (moderate)
This moderate hike takes you through some of the most spectacular high-country territories off of Tioga Road. The Gaylor Lakes hike is 2 miles in length, takes about 2 hours, and has a 500-foot elevation gain. Along the way, you’ll see Mt. Dana, Dana Meadows, Middle Gaylor Lake, and scattered ponds.
Mirror Lake Trail (easy to moderate)
You can start your trek to Mirror Lake on a service road that runs a mile long and drops you off right at the water. Once you make it down, you will have an incredible view of Half Dome and will be about as close as you can get to the base of it! During the spring and summer months, you will catch the fresh snowmelt running down from Tenaya Creek when the lake will be at its fullest. If you want to continue the hike, there is a trailhead at the end of the service road that takes you on a 5-mile loop around the lake.
Experienced Hikers Only!
Yosemite is known for having a range of hikes so anyone, no matter their abilities, can get out into nature. You’ll find paved hikes to the sequoias and Bridalveil Falls for those with mobility issues or who don’t want to stray off the beaten path.
On the other hand, you can hike up Half Dome. This is a 16-mile hike, with a 4800-foot elevation gain. This hike takes 12 hours and is not for the faint of heart (or for those without a permit).
For the best experience hiking Half Dome, you can book a guided hike with Yosemite Mountaineering School. In business for over 50 years, their guides are experienced hikers who know the trail well and are trained in both first aid and CPR, so they can be prepared for any situation. Guides will not only help you to get to the top safely, but they will share their unparalleled knowledge of Half Dome and the surrounding nature.
Custom Guided Hike
As a photographer, you see the world a little differently. As part of that, you might hike differently than those just looking to experience nature. If you’re looking for a truly personalized hiking experience, you can hire a private guide and take a custom guided hike.
They can take you on a leisurely stroll through wildflower-filled fields or a challenging full-day hike. Choose from 4-hour, 8-hour, and 10-hour guided hikes, whatever will best support you in filling your landscape photography dreams.
Where to Stay in Yosemite: The Ahwahnee
During your visit to Yosemite, you’ll need somewhere to stay. As a photographer, you’ll want to make the most of the light and catch nature at its most beautiful first thing in the morning so you’ll want to stay close to the park.
One of the most convenient places to stay is The Ahwahnee. This hotel is not only convenient, but it’s also beautiful.
Grab a Bite to Eat: The Ahwahnee Dining Room
When visiting Yosemite National Park, you don’t want to waste a single moment not taking in the breathtaking views. But, a nature photographer has to eat. Check out The Ahwahnee Dining Room for hearty meals and wonderful views.
If you’re a photographer planning a visit to Yosemite National Park, you’ll want to customize your visit with just the right hikes so you can capture the true, unrivaled beauty of nature. This list of hikes will help you to find just the right views and the right level of hikes.