Lonely Planet Writer

Head to Yosemite to gush at the amazing waterfalls for free this weekend

Yosemite National Park in California isn’t exactly short of attractions. One of the USA’s most beautiful natural assets is famous for the eye-catching Half Dome and the dizzyingly dramatic El Capitan. But at this time of year the prime reason for heading into the park is to see its waterfalls in full flow.

Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls Image by Lonely Planet

Years of drought have meant that in recent years the falls have been less spectacular than they can be, but a winter of much-needed heavy rain and huge amounts of snow are bringing the cascades back to their former glory. The most impressive is Yosemite Falls, the tallest in North America with three tiers of water dropping 2425 feet. Easily admired from the valley floor, you can also get up close and wet, by ascending the knee-wobblingly vertical Yosemite Falls Trail to the top.

Arguably the most beautiful waterfall in the park (and definitely a soaker) is Bridalveil Fall, so called because gusts of wind regularly blow water out from the cliff in a shape that’s reminiscent of a bride’s veil.

Heavy spray from Vernal Falls along the Mist Trail in early summer, Yosemite National Park
Heavy spray from Vernal Falls along the Mist Trail in early summer, Yosemite National Park Image by Getty Images

To feel like you’ve earned your amazing view of a waterfall, hike the Mist Trail which takes you past not one, but two of the park’s waterfalls, Vernal and Nevada. Part of the hike ascends via a steep set of steps with the flow from Vernal Fall crashing down beside you – you will get wet. From the viewpoint at the top of Vernal Fall, you can extend the walk to Nevada Fall, a perfect picnic stop.

Along with these four, the park is home to many other falls and for this weekend (22/23 April) entry fees to Yosemite (and other national parks across the country) are being waived to allow visitors free access to enjoy the springtime show. Just don’t forget your waterproofs.

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