After all the years we’ve visited, re-visited, camped, backpacked, and explored Yosemite National Park, it’s about time that we compile a list of the Top 10 Best Yosemite Waterfalls.
Indeed, we’re quite familiar with this treasure of our home state of California, and this list was way overdue.
Like all of our list of favorites, it is completely based on our own personal experiences.
So we’re quite confident that this is as definitive a list that you’re going to get when it comes to Yosemite’s best.
After all, we’ve pretty much been there and done that in this park.
That said, we’re always keen to explore new spots as well as re-visit some of the old haunts.
I’m sure some of the snubs are going to draw criticism, but we base our selections on genuine and reliable experiences. This is not a list that regurgitates social media fads or click-bait.
So without further ado, here are our favorite Yosemite Waterfalls in reverse order…
This could very well be the most unusual waterfall in Yosemite National Park.
For it was one of the rare waterfalls where you actually cared how much the waterfall is thrown up instead of dropping down!
Of course, being on the Tuolumne River, it has perennial flow, which already puts it in elite company in Yosemite.
Besides, it’s the last major waterfall of a series of other impressive waterfalls such as Tuolumne Falls, White Cascade, California Falls, and LeConte Falls (which itself also features “waterwheels”).
Indeed, we’ve experienced all of these waterfalls in a single backpacking excursion or a very long day hike from Tuolumne Meadows to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River.
So add it all up, this waterfall just barely beat out the many other deserving (and possibly more well-known) waterfalls to make this list.
This was definitely one of Yosemite’s most elusive waterfalls.
How elusive, you might ask?
Well, we had to summit the iconic Half Dome in order to see it in its entirety!
Not even the Snow Creek Trail would yield a satisfactory view of it as it sat deep in a deep side canyon. That’s why the falls had to be seen from above and right across the Tenaya Canyon!
Of course, getting up to the top of Half Dome is quite an undertaking in itself.
Nonetheless, it allowed us to visit other waterfalls en route like Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, Illilouette Fall, and Pywiack Cascade. So indeed, it was quite the rewarding experience despite the grueling nature of this hike.
Thus with all things considered, we had to consider this as one of our favorites in Yosemite.
This was one of the more easy-to-miss waterfalls given how others in the area (like Bridalveil Fall) could divert attention away.
Yet with its presence on this list, we’ve acknowledged that this 1,600ft free-falling cliff-diver was no slouch in its own right.
It just goes to show you how incomparable the Yosemite Valley is!
You’ll definitely want to be here in the late Spring when it can perform alongside the iconic El Capitan.
That way, you can see for yourself why we’ve included this falls on this list of Yosemite’s best waterfalls.
This actually consisted of multiple big waterfalls most of which flowed on Chilnualna Creek.
Indeed, what you see pictured above was the last of a series of at least four or five noteworthy waterfalls along this 8.25-mile round trip hike.
But don’t let the hiking distance deter you. This is one of the park’s most rewarding hikes, especially since it’s within the quieter southern part of Yosemite National Park near Wawona.
And for such experiences and memories that’s sure to come with an action-packed hike like this, we just had to make room for it on this Top 10 Yosemite Waterfalls List.
This waterfall was to Hetch Hetchy Valley what Yosemite Falls was to Yosemite Valley.
When you look at old photos of Hetch Hetchy before being flooded for the city of San Francisco, it’s eerie to see just how much it resembled the incomparable valley itself. Imagine having two Yosemite Valleys!
Nevertheless, this waterfall was the consistent performer in this remote and seemingly detached part of Yosemite National Park.
When in flood, not only can this waterfall flow over the footbridges and trail at its base, but it can also create quite the spectacle with Tueeulala Fall freefalling next to it!
Thus, we had to include this mighty waterfall on our list of Yosemite’s best.
If you take the direct western approach through Arch Rock, you’ll undoubtedly come across the signposted base of this impressive waterfall.
While the roadside view yields the bottom part of the main drop, we enjoyed a more rewarding view from Turtleback Dome just west of the long tunnel along the Wawona Road.
As you can see from the photo above, we not only got to see the entirety of the main waterfall with the Big Oak Flat Road running right above it. But we also got to see Tamarack Creek as well as Wildcat Falls from the same vantage point!
It just goes to show you that the Yosemite can surprise you in so many ways, and we just had to give this waterfall its props by including it among our list of Yosemite favorites.
Despite this waterfall’s close proximity to well-visited spots like Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, and the Mist Trail, this was deceptively one of the more elusive waterfalls of this magnitude in Yosemite National Park!
Indeed, in order to get the view you see pictured above, you had to go on a hike along the Panorama Trail.
While it can be done as a long 8.5-mile shuttle hike from Glacier Point to Happy Isles, we did the shorter upside down hike from Glacier Point to the falls viewpoint and back.
And each time we’ve done this hike, we tend to be blessed with deer sightings as well as a few bear sightings as well!
On its own merits, this 370ft waterfall, which can be seen with the iconic Half Dome, held its own amongst Yosemite’s other well-known behemoths.
That’s why we had no problems putting it this high on this list of Yosemite’s best!
#3 NEVADA FALLS AND VERNAL FALL (A.K.A. “THE GIANT STAIRWAY”)
As much as this waterfall tandem should each have their own entry on this list of Yosemite’s best waterfalls, it was sort of my excuse to squeeze in an additional waterfall on this page!
With a combined drop of over 900ft (Nevada Fall was said to be 597ft while Vernal Fall was said to be 307ft), they were one of the few waterfalls on the Merced River itself so they also flowed year round!
Although we could see the Giant Stairway from well-known vistas like Glacier Point and Washburn Point, we felt the best experiences came from hiking.
Only then can you get close to each of these behemoths. You can hike to them either along the Mist Trail, or the John Muir Trail, or a combination of both!
Indeed, it was a no-brainer to include this pairing on this list!
This waterfall had a lot going for it.
Not only was it well-positioned and well-photographed, but it also had the dimensions to back it up.
It also flowed year-round, which was something most of Yosemite’s other waterfalls can’t claim!
Seeing this waterfall was practically mandatory on just about every one of our visits to Yosemite National Park.
And believe you me, we must’ve seen this falls well over a dozen separate times over the years.
So we’ve seen it in different moods, different seasons, and in different circumstances – whether we were drenched by its spray under its peak flow in Spring or mesmerized by its ice cones in the Winter.
No matter how we experienced it, there always seemed to be something new about this place that the Native American inhabitants called Pohono.
As a result, no list of Yosemite Waterfalls would be complete without including this one!
When it comes to this waterfall, there’s no denying that it’s an icon of the incomparable Yosemite Valley (right up there with Half Dome and El Capitan).
It’s also said to be one of the tallest waterfalls in the world at a reported 2,425ft in total height over its three main components – Lower Falls, Middle Cascades, and the Upper Falls.
We’ve been fortunate enough to experience this waterfall from several spots throughout Yosemite Valley.
We’ve also seen the falls’ entirety from across the valley on its rim like at Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome, and Taft Point.
We even tested our physical stamina and did a very tiring uphill hike leading up to its brink!
Like with Bridalveil Fall, it was practically mandatory for us to catch sight of this falls on each of our numerous visits to Yosemite National Park.
Thus, seeing this waterfall almost felt like seeing that familiar old friend who hadn’t changed much over the years.
Indeed, this was our favorite waterfall in Yosemite, and it also happened to top our list of favorites in our home state of California.
Looking for more of our favorites?
Below are a few more Top 10 lists of the waterfalls we’ve visited.
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