Panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and surrounding peaks from Columbia Rock, Yosemite
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Columbia Rock Trail

Updated by Dianne Titos on December 7 2023

If you are an experienced hiker seeking a short hike but with great reward, then the Columbia Rock Trial is certainly one of Yosemite National Park's best. This impressive hike includes a steep climb towards Columbia Rock that leads to stunning views across Yosemite Valley.

An overview of the distance and difficulty hiking Columbia Rock Trail
πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ Distance2 miles
⏱️ Time3 hours
πŸ’ͺ DifficultyModerate
πŸ”οΈ Elevation Gain1,000 feet

Where can I find Columbia Rock Trail within Yosemite National Park?

The Columbia Rock Trail is found in Yosemite Valley, and best reached from the Arch Rock Entrance. From here drive along the El Portal Road which turns into the Big Oak Flat Road.

Continue following this road to the Yosemite Valley looking for signs directing you to Yosemite Village and Camp 4. The trailhead for the Columbia Rock Trail begins near Camp 4. There is parking at Yosemite Village or alternatively if you are staying overnight at Camp 4 then you'll be able to park at the campsite.

What makes this hike so special?

Columbia Rock is one of the main waypoints on the trail up to Yosemite Falls, and once you reach the rock you'll be able to enjoy spectacular views across Yosemite Valley. Its a challenging hike, but keep going, the view is worth it!

How we rate the different aspects of Columbia Rock Trail.
FeatureOur rating
Natural beauty and scenery⭐⭐⭐
Wildlife spotting⭐⭐⭐
Peace and quiet⭐⭐⭐
Accessibility⭐⭐

View of Half Dome and forested valley below from a height, sunny weather with blue skies
Take in the incredible views of Half Dome as you trek Columbia Rock Trail.
topseller/Shutterstock.com

What are the highlights of hiking Columbia Rock Trail?

If you decide to hike along Columbia Rock Trail then you can expect a trek dotted with sweeping views and wildflowers, and some of the top sights within Yosemite Valley. The trail is clearly marked and although the hike can be challenging you are rewarded when you reach Columbia Rock with incredible views.

  1. Yosemite Valley - A glacial valley renowned for its breath taking granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams and giant sequoia groves.
  2. Half Dome - A granite dome at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley, possibly Yosemite's most famous landmark, known for its unique shape and the challenging hike to get to the top.
  3. Sentinel Rock - Granite peak that towers over Yosemite Valley and stands as a sentinel, offering climbers a climbing challenge.
  4. Cathedral Spires - Two soaring granite peaks in Yosemite National Park that resemble a cathedral's spires.

When is the best time of year to visit Columbia Rock Trail?

Columbia Rock Trail can be visited throughout the year, although in the winter months the extra challenges of ice and snow mean you need to be extra cautious - and check for any closures in advance.

When is the best time to visit Columbia Rock Trail
SeasonConsiderations
Spring🌷This is one of the best times to visit as the weather begins to warm, the snowmelt is at its peak, and Yosemite Falls is often at its fullest.
Summerβ˜€οΈ Summer offers warm, dry conditions ideal for hiking; however, it's also the busiest season.
FallπŸ‚ The fall colors are beautiful, so although water flow in Yosemite Falls may be low the trail is still enjoyable.
Winter❄️ The trail is open year-round, however snow is possible in winter so be extra careful and check in advance if any closures.

Common questions about hiking Columbia Rock Trail

The Columbia Rock Trail takes you through across the incredible landscape, culminating in reaching Columbia Rock, with jaw-dropping views across Yosemite Valley and surrounding peaks. Facilities en route are limited, so make sure to be well prepared before heading off.

Is Columbia Rock Trail easily accessible for those with mobility issues?

❌ The Columbia Rock Trail is considered a moderate to strenuous hike and the gradient is not easily accessible for those with lower mobility.

Are there restrooms along Columbia Rock Trail?

❌ No, there are no restrooms along Columbia Rock Trail.

Are there refreshments and water stations along Columbia Rock Trail?

❌ No, there are no refreshments or water stations along Columbia Rock Trail.

Are dogs allowed along Columbia Rock Trail?

❌ No, dogs are not allowed along Columbia Rock Trail.

Are vehicles allowed along Columbia Rock Trail?

❌ No, cars, electric scooters, and ATVs are not allowed on Columbia Rock Trail.

Can you camp overnight along Columbia Rock Trail (or nearby)?

β­• Yes, you can camp overnight close to Columbia Rock Trail at Camp 4, found right by the Yosemite Falls Trailhead where the trail begins.

Is there anything else to watch out for when I hike Columbia Rock Trail?

Carry plenty of water, as there are no water sources along the trail, and dehydration is a risk, especially in the summer months.

View of Half Dome from Columbia Rock, bright blue skies above and lush pine forests below
Enjoy incredible views of Half Dome from the summit of Columbia Rock Trail.
Gray Moeller/Shutterstock.com