The Four Mile Trail is another iconic hike with all of the best views of Yosemite.
This includes panoramic views of the valley, Yosemite Falls, Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, Sentinel Rock, Half Dome, North Dome, Clouds Rest, and the Royal Arches.
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The Four Mile Trail is one of the leading day hikes out of Yosemite Valley.
This trail was once only 4 miles long one-way in the 1970’s, now it is closer to 5. It can be conveniently shortened as a one way or combined with the Panorama Trail.
The trail offers 9.6 miles of brilliant views of some of the most famous landmarks in Yosemite. You will likely take the full 8 hours if you stop and soak in all the sights. This hike is strenuous and does include steep climbs and several switchbacks.
This trail can be hiked any time of year except when it is closed in the winter. The trail opens in May but a portion of the trail may remain closed due to snow accumulation.
You will get the best view of Yosemite Falls during the spring and summer. If it’s a hazy or cloudy day, you may want to postpone this hike until the weather clears, this will ensure you get to see everything the Four Mile has to offer.
Most hikers choose to take the top-to-bottom route. This is the shorter 4.8-mile, one-way hike that begins at Glacier Point and ends at Yosemite Valley.
For a more scenic option, hiking from bottom-to-top (Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point) is best. The more scenic option is obviously longer and harder, but it is well worth to see the views gradually during your ascent.
When hiking bottom-to-top, you will begin your climb out the valley at the Four Mile Trailhead near the swinging bridge. Once you have reached heights above the trees, the views will have you in awe.
One mile later, you will be faced with a full view of Yosemite Falls. Seeing Yosemite Falls in its entirety is nearly impossible anywhere else in the park besides on the Four Mile Trail. At this moment, you will also experience a reverse tunnel view of Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan.
For an epic sunrise, hike up early in the morning and see the dramatic peaks illuminated by an orange glow. After 3 miles from the bottom, you will pass through a trail gate.
Here onwards, expect to see Yosemite’s most famous sites, Tenaya Canyon, Half Dome, North Dome, and the Royal Arches. From here, you can either stop at Glacier Point or continue back down using the Four Mile Trail or Panorama Trail. If you are hiking one way, you will want to arrange mode of transport or pay for a shuttle back to the valley.
There are several ways to get to the Four Mile trailhead. You could either use the El Capitan Shuttle (May to October) or the Valley Visitor Shuttle (year-round). If you are looking to hike the Four Mile Trailhead one way, you will want to arrange transport ahead of time.
There is no complimentary shuttle between Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley. You can purchase a bus ticket at Yosemite Valley Lodge Tour and Activity desk at least 30 minutes before departure. This bus service also runs daily-guided tours at various locations like Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley.
Please Note: The Four Mile Trail can become very hot mid-day and can also tend to get hazy, obstructing some of the most famous views. Begin your hike early. It is crucial to not be tempted to cut switchbacks. This is illegal in Yosemite National Park and could put you in life-threatening danger.
It is also important to wear proper hiking boots, that way you can avoid ankle injuries. These are common along the Four Mile Trail. Pets, bicycles, and strollers are also not allowed on this trail.
The Four Mile Trailhead is found in Yosemite Valley along the Southside drive in. The trail ends in Glacier Point
For a detailed guide to Yosemite National Park that includes maps and information about Yosemite Falls Trail check out Yosemite: The Complete Guide: Yosemite National Park by James Kaiser.
For an overview of Yosemite National Park, The Lonely Planet Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks by The Lonely planet is an excellent read. It features maps, itineraries, insider tips, and reviews for what to eat and where to sleep within Yosemite.
This is a strenuous hike, so it is not as commonly filled with tourists. Make sure to bring plenty of mosquito repellent, drink plenty of water, and bring snacks. This will be a workout you will want to be prepared for.
Continue along the Four Mile Trail until you are above tree level (1 mile)
Follow the path until you reach Glacier Point
End at Glacier Point (4.8 miles), continue back down Four Mile (9.6 miles), or the Panorama Trail (14 miles)
A short 6-minute video showcasing the picturesque views you see while going up the Four Mile Trail.
Yosemite Falls is the center of attention when it comes to the Four Mile Trail. To see the falls at it’s fullest, visit in springtime. It is best to begin this hike early in the morning on a clear day so you can get the complete clear view of the Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan. The trail is closed in winter and opens in May.
Permits are not required, if you don't intend to stay in the park. However, anyone who hikes the Four Mile Trail and stays overnight needs to obtain a Wilderness Permit beforehand. These are free. To increase your chances of obtaining a permit, apply for less popular days such as Sundays-Thursdays in September and October. Or come to get a permit after 11am on the day before your hike. 40% of permits could be available then. See more information on the National Park Service website.
There are difficult and easy parts along this trail. The best part about the Four Mile is that it is wide and smooth and less steep than some other trails out of the valley. It can be customized depending on your own preferences. This is one of the few hikes in Yosemite National Park that you can be completed as a one-way.