A Guide to Yosemite Valley’s Less Popular Trails

Apr 8, 2024Things to Do, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts from around the globe. However, amidst the bustling crowds and well-trodden paths, lie hidden treasures waiting to be explored. If you’re seeking solitude and adventure away from the crowds, consider venturing onto Yosemite Valley’s less popular trails. Here’s a guide to help you discover these hidden gems.

Old Big Oak Flat Road Trail

  • Length: Approximately 5 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Highlights: This historic trail follows the remnants of the Old Big Oak Flat Road, an early route used by pioneers to access Yosemite Valley. The trail winds through lush forests and offers glimpses of abandoned homesteads and panoramic views of the valley below.

Artist Point Trail

  • Length: Approximately 2 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: Tucked away near Tunnel View, Artist Point offers stunning vistas of El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and the Merced River. The short, leisurely hike to this viewpoint provides a quieter alternative to the crowds at Tunnel View, making it an ideal spot for photography and contemplation.

Mirror Lake Loop Trail

  • Length: Approximately 2 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: While Mirror Lake itself is a popular destination, the loop trail around the lake offers a quieter experience, especially during the off-season. Surrounded by towering granite cliffs and lush vegetation, Mirror Lake is a peaceful oasis perfect for a stroll or a refreshing dip in the cool waters.

Snow Creek Trail

  • Length: Approximately 9 miles 
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Highlights: For those seeking a challenging trek with spectacular views, Snow Creek Trail delivers. Beginning near Mirror Lake, this trail ascends steadily along the rim of Tenaya Canyon, offering breathtaking panoramas of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and the surrounding wilderness. While the trail sees fewer hikers compared to other routes in the valley, its rugged beauty makes it a memorable adventure for experienced hikers.

Valley Loop Trail

  • Length: Approximately 12 miles loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: For a longer day hike exploring the diverse landscapes of Yosemite Valley, the Valley Loop Trail offers a perfect blend of scenery and solitude. This trail meanders through meadows, forests, and along the Merced River, providing opportunities for wildlife sightings and peaceful contemplation away from the crowds.

With careful planning and a spirit of adventure, exploring Yosemite Valley’s less popular trails promises unforgettable experiences and a deeper connection to the natural beauty of this iconic wilderness. 

IMPORTANT: If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite National Park this summer, do not forget to make a park reservation for certain dates. More information on which dates require them and booking instructions can be found here.