Yosemite NP – 23 miles hiking Snow Creek to North Dome and to Upper Yosemite Falls


What? :

This is a long trail, it pass through the valley floor and alongside Mirror Lake, climb up Snow Creek all the way to the mountains above the valley and all the way to North Dome.

From North Dome the trail heading to Sierra Point and to Upper Yosemite Falls viewing platform. From Upper Yosemite Falls it is all the way down through endless switchbacks to the valley floor and back to your starting point.


This hike is a long strenuous 23-miles loop hike with almost 6,000 ft of elevation gain. It took me 10 hours to complete this hike.



Where? :

The hike start at the valley floor, wherever you want to park your car. You can park in the large parking lot near the visitor center or near camp 4.


Google Map Link



Additional Yosemite hikes Blogs:



When? :

This hike is open when the snow melt down in the upper sections of the hike.

At winter months all is cover with snow and ice.





Due note 1: Start your hike early; it can become very hot mid-day in the summer. Many sections of the trail are exposed, receiving little to no shade.


Due note 2: Avoid becoming dehydrated or experiencing heat exhaustion. Drink plenty and drink often; pace yourself; rest in the shade; eat salty snacks. You can find running water along this hike, treat the water by filtering them or use iodine.


Due note 3: I did this hike counterclockwise, climbing up Snow Creek and walking down Yosemite Falls. But I do recommend doing it the other way. When starting with climbing Yosemite Falls trail you will have less people over there, I visit Upper Yosemite Falls at early afternoon and it was crowded with many other hikers.


Due note 4: You can skip North Dome (not recommended) and by that you will shorten the hike to be 16 miles with 4,700 ft of elevation gain.


Due note 5: The Camp 4 parking area is for campers only, but there is parking at the Yosemite Falls parking area across the street from, and just beyond the entrance to Camp 4.


Due note 6: For Yosemite Upper Fall section: as many other trails that start at the valley this is VERY popular trail so do expect many other hikers along this trail section.


Due note 7: This trail is not for everyone, know your limits, walk slowly going up and carefully going down and drink a lot of water.


Due note 8: Hiking poles are highly recommended both to help in the climb and also to provide stability when walking down.



My thoughts:

This is one of the longest and most challenging day hikes I did in Yosemite. I started walking 6am in the morning and ended it at 4pm.

I like this hike because it cover different landscapes and landmarks of Yosemite Park, you start and end in the valley, pass near Mirror Lake, climb up the Valley cliffs and get into the alpine forest, the view from North Dome is amazing and Yosemite waterfalls where gushing with water.


I hiked here during June 2023 and the upper section of Snow Creek trail was still cover with deep snow.



The Hike:


This is link to my hike at Alltrails:




You can do a shorter version of the hike by not going to North Dome.

I do not recommend that, if you are already hiking up to here visit North Dome, the view from there is amazing.

Link to AllTrails map of the hike without North Dome:



The night before the hike - view from Tunnel Point:


I started the hike from Yosemite main parking lot near the visitor center and the general store.

I started at 6am, just about sunrise.

I saw only few other hikers on my way to Mirror Lake. The lake was full of water, as expected to 2023, where all the snow in the high elevation was still melting down.


After passing Mirror Lake the trail heading left into the forest away from the creek.


From the lake it is about 1.2 miles to the trail junction.

Here you need to turn left into Snow Creek trail.


Although the trail climb the cliff parallel to Snow Creek cascading waterfalls you do not see the waterfalls from the trail.

I have a good view of this trail and the waterfall as I hiked Half Dome just two weeks earlier.


Because that this section of the trail is considered to be one of Yosemite most challenging hike (max elevation gain per walking distance) and it practically led to the wilderness and not to any specific location you will find only few other people on this trail compared to any other Yosemite Valley trails.

When I hike here, I was the only one along this trail section. I did saw 2 other people camping near the wooden bridge at the top of the climb.


The Snow Creek climb start with relentless succession of switchbacks ascent section, starting from valley level to the top of the north rim.

In this steep section you will climbs 2,600 feet in about 1.7-mile stretch, what a climb.

As you get out of the valley level the view gets open and you can see Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point above it on one side, across the canyon in front and above you the face of Half Dome and to the other side Tenaya Creek Canyon and the towering Clouds Rest ridgeline.

On your way up the switchbacks, and when Tenaya Creek has running water, you can see a “hidden” waterfall in the canyon below you.

After 0.7 mile into the climb the trail turn left and find its way into a side creek, from here it keep heading up all the way to the forest above the cliffs.

After reaching the end of the climb in the creek the trail level and passes through a large pine tree forest. This section of the forest was damage by a local fire in 2022.


After short walk you will see Snow Creek to your right and soon after that you will reach a trail Y junction, here you need to turn left. This point is approximately 2.6 miles from the Valley Loop Trail junction.

The trail to the right crosses the creek over wooden bridge and climb up into the direction of Tioga Road.


After taking the left trail leading to the back of North Dome, I start seeing snow on the ground. As I keep getting to higher elevation the snow patches get larger. The trail following the direction of the creek but heading slight to the left left away from the lower section, here I saw many deer.


After 1.6 miles the trail reach a side creek, here it turn hard left and start to climb a side creek.

When I was Hiking here the side creek stream was flowing strong from all the melting snow.


At this section of the hike, the ground was completely covered with deep snow, and you can’t follow any trail.

I did not use shoes crampons because it was already relatively warm, and the snow was not cover with ice. I had crampons in my bag in case I need them.


I walk in the direction of the trail, trying to find the easiest path to progress in the forest and the deep snow. It was challenging in places where covered trees or logs has no snow underneath and I fall into this through the upper snow.

This snow-covered section was not so long, but it took me long time. I walk slow, trying to follow previous hikers’ steps (was not so clear so I lost them after short walk), careful not to fall into holes, and making sure I’m in the right direction.


After 1.5 miles of walking in the deep snow I reached the trail junction leading to North Dome.

Here I took the trail left, leading to North Dome. Here if you will keep walking straight down will lead to Yosemite Falls direction.


Strangely, although I was going here to higher elevation the trail had a lot less snow and after short walk it was cleared completely. Looks like the creek between the mountain accumulate a lot more snow during winter storm so it stay there much longer.


I walk up the trail to the direction of North Dome, when passing Indian Rock Arch trail junction this will be the highest point of your hike, 8,100 ft.

I did not walk to Indian Rock Arch. I was here few years back, see my North Dome blog, and I wanted to get to North Dome.


From here the forest along the trail open and the trail start to go down, south to the direction of North Dome.

Half a mile later and you will see North Dome below you at the end of the ridge. From here it is another 0.7 mile to walk until you will reach the trail junction. Another steep down section and you will reach the last stretch, the short climb to North Dome.


North Dome is not the highest mountain in the ridge north of Yosemite Valley, actually you will walk down to North Dome. The Dome itself is large, exposed granite dome peaking south above the Valley in front of Half Dome.

You will walk up the short trail leading to the highest section of the dome, keep walking until you will reach several large boulders, this is probably the best viewing point.


Infront and above you to the south you will have the best view of Half Dome face.

If you look closely, you can see the people on top of Half Dome. From here you can’t see the actual climb (cables), it is on the far-left side of Half Dome.


If you will look to the left, you can see Cloud Rest ridgeline leading all the way to Tioga pass and Tenaya Lake direction.

Below Cloud Rest you can see the deep Tenaya Canyon leading to Yosemite Valley on your right.


Above Yosemite Valley, in your height level, you can see Glacier Point viewing platform, and to it left, deep in the canyon, you can see Illilouette Falls and the cascade below it (when it has running water).


This is one of the best panoramic viewpoints of central Yosemite Park.


It was quite up here and except another hiker I was the only one up here.

Usually when Tioga Road is open you will see more people hiking to this point (from the road much shorter and easer hike) but the road was still close because of the snow.


After resting, eating something and enjoying the view I restart with my hiking.


I walk down on the back side of North Dome and climb to the trail junction.

From here I took the trail leading to Upper Yosemite Falls.


The trail heading west, passing few creeks, and climbing to the other side of the mountains. This section of the hike passing through a pine forest that was not damaged by fires.

After about 3.6 miles of relatively easy hike, you will reach a high point. From here the trail start descending to the direction of Sierra Point viewing platform.

This section of the hike passing along the cliff edge and you can find several nice viewing points along the hike.


4.5 miles after leaving North Dome you will reach Sierra Point.

Sierra Point offers direct views of Half Dome, somehow like North Dome but farther away. For people coming from the valley to Upper Yosemite Falls this will be the first time of Half Dome view.

If you will look closely down and to your right, you can see the top section of Lost Arrow Spire up close. Maybe you will be able to see rock climbers finish their climb with overhanging between the rock needle and the main cliff wall.


From here you will hike down the exposed mountain side to Upper Yosemite Falls, on your way to the falls you will pass the creek over a large wooden bridge. Do not get into the water here, this is just above the waterfall.


Right after climbing from the bridge, you will see a left turn into the direction of Upper Yosemite Falls viewing platform.


Read my Upper Yosemite Falls Hike for more information.


It was after 1pm when I arrived at Upper Yosemite Falls.

There where many other hikers here.


I went to the lower viewing platform right above the waterfall and after short stay there I start my hike down to the valley below.


From here it was long 1.7 mile going down the steep switchbacks following down Upper Yosemite Falls trail. I had to pass many other slower hikers going down and many other that where on their way up.

This section can be tough on your knees, and you need to watch your steps not to fall.


When the trail level up look back and enjoy the amazing view of Yosemite Falls, this time from below, look up and try to see the viewing platform up in the cliffs above.


Keep walking, now the trail climb for a short section and then it start descending to Columbia Rock, another nice viewing point above the valley floor.

From Columbia Rock the trail descend with another set of countless switchbacks, after a mile of hiking down you will reach the valley floor.


Here you need to take the trail heading to the direction of Lower Yosemite Falls, from there it is less than a mile of easy walk in the valley trails back to the hike starting point.


Overall, it was exactly 23 miles long hike with 5,900 ft of elevation gain, it took me 10 hours start to finish.


It was tough strenuous hike but rewording.

I was great hike starting at Mirror Lake early morning, climbing Snow Creek and the upper wilderness section above Yosemite Valley, enjoying the panoramic view from North Dome and to see Yosemite Falls from above.



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