From nearly any spot in Yosemite Valley, you're within view of at least one world-class waterfall. Here's our list of top cascades.
Give yourself a "Yosemite facial" by standing in the spray along the footbridge at the base of 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls for a few minutes. The two-tier, 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest in the world.
Bridalveil Fall, a pure, snowy white cascade, flows year round. Take the paved trail from the Bridalveil Fall parking lot for an easy 1 mile round-trip hike to the base of the fall.
Vernal and Nevada Falls
Vernal and Nevada Falls, can be seen close up on the popular (and strenuous) 1.5-mile Mist Trail. The trails will be crowded in spring to mid-summer when flows are at their peak, however the waterfall views are some of the West's most memorable. (Note: Be prepared to get wet. The spray from the falls can be more than "mist" during spring and early summer.)
Leave the throngs of summer tourists in your dust at the 1,240-foot-tall Wapama Fall at Hetch Hetchy reservoir. The base of the fall is at the turnaround point for a gorgeous, fairly easy 5-mile round-trip hike.
For more information and a complete list of waterfalls, including Chilnualna Falls, Illilouette Fall, Horsetail Fall, and Ribbon Fall, see the National Park Service's Yosemite guide.
LAKES AND RIVERS
Go for a picnic or spend a lazy afternoon at one of these cool spots.
Take in the lake with an easy, 2-mile out-and-back hike beginning at the south end of the sandy beach and running along the south side of the lake.
Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River
The Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River is on the other side of State 120 from the meadows. A meander along the river reveals quaking aspens and tall, golden grasses. Trails extend for more than 8 miles up the canyon; make an out-and-back hike of any distance.
Sentinel Beach, just off the Valley Loop Drive at the south side of the valley, is one of the prettiest spots for a picnic and a great place for wading in the Merced River.
Hang a left before the Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite, and you're en route to Hetch Hetchy, the park's hidden jewel, where looming granite walls and three waterfalls wrap an 8-mile-long reservoir.