Winter view of the trees and cliffs of Yosemite on a autumn day
Lu Paniagua/

Valley Loop Trail

Updated by Dianne Titos on December 7 2023

The Valley Loop Trail in Yosemite is a beautiful hike, taking in some of the most impressive sites Yosemite National Park has to offer. Accessible year-round, this trail is mostly level, with pathways punctuated with a mixture of beautiful meadows, staggering cliffs and the Merced River.

An overview of the distance and difficulty hiking Valley Loop Trail
πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ Distance11.5 miles
⏱️ Time6-7 hours
πŸ’ͺ DifficultyEasy
πŸ”οΈ Elevation Gain1290 feet

Where can I find Valley Loop Trail within Yosemite National Park?

Valley Loop Trail is within Yosemite Valley and can be reached via Arch Rock Entrance. If you follow El Portal Road then join Southside Drive, turning across Sentinel Bridge to reach Yosemite Village. You can then either park at Yosemite Falls Trailhead or Yosemite Village then walk along the road to the start of the trail.

What makes this hike so special?

The Valley Loop Trail hike gives you a snapshot of many of the highlights of Yosemite Valley, avoiding the road for most of the 11.5-mile loop and even picking up old wagon trails for some of the route. It's an exciting and memorable trek, which catches so many amazing sites.

[th]Feature[/th][th]Our rating[/th]
How we rate the different aspects of Valley Loop Trail.
Natural beauty and scenery⭐⭐⭐⭐
Wildlife spotting⭐⭐⭐
Peace and quiet⭐⭐⭐
Yosemite National Park, California, USA as seen from the Tunnel View lookout with flowers in foreground and Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome, and El Capitan in background
Visit in spring and the beautiful wildflowers adds something extra special to an already memorable hike.

What are the highlights of hiking Valley Loop Trail?

Choose to hike along Valley Loop Trail and this interesting route is peppered with some of the best views and sites in Yosemite. The pathways are pretty flat compared to many others, so it is fairly easy for walking, making most of these sites accessible for all.

  1. Merced River - The Merced River flows through Yosemite Valley, offering pretty spots for picnics, swimming, and rafting, with stunning views of the surrounding peaks.
  2. El Capitan - This massive granite monolith stands about 3,000 feet from base to summit, popular with climbers and prominent on the landscape.
  3. Sentinel Bridge - Stand here for one of the most postcard-worthy views in Yosemite, perfect for photographing the Half Dome reflected in the waters below.
  4. Yosemite Falls - One of the tallest waterfalls in the United States, plunging 2,425 feet in two major steps, it is a highlight within Yosemite.
  5. Swinging Bridge - The Swinging Bridge offers a scenic crossing over the Merced River with great views of Yosemite Falls.
  6. Yosemite Chapel - The oldest structure in Yosemite Valley, it is a charming and historic building surrounded by cliffs and pines.
  7. Pohono Bridge - This arch bridge over the Merced River is found at the western end of Yosemite Valley, providing access to scenic routes and viewpoints.
  8. Bridalveil Falls - A striking 617-foot waterfall that flows year-round, but particularly active in the spring.

When is the best time of year to visit Valley Loop Trail?

Valley Loop Trail is sure to impress regardless of when you choose to visit. Although there can be icy pathways in winter, with pretty good terrain throughout visit anytime and you can expect stunning views as you visit some of Yosemite's most renowned attractions.

When is the best time to visit Valley Loop Trail
Spring🌷 Hike with care in spring, when fast flowing creeks can flood the trail.
Summerβ˜€οΈ In summer the route is surprisingly quiet so it can be a great way to escape the crowds.
FallπŸ‚ The fall colors are spectacular and offer a stunning backdrop to some of the landscapes you'll hike through.
Winter❄️ The valley loop trail is accessible all year round but expect some snow and ice on parts of the route in winter.

Common questions about hiking Valley Loop Trail

The captivating landscape as you trek Valley Loop trail is sure to be a memorable one, where you witness some of the best sites in Yosemite. Although this trek may take around a day, facilities are limited, so make sure to prepare well before you head off.

Is Valley Loop Trail easily accessible for those with mobility issues?

β­• Yes, part of Valley Loop Trail is easily accessible for those with mobility issues, particularly at the start when the ground is level.

❗ Please note that due to its length, and mixed terrain part way along, accessibility for those with mobility issues is more challenging.

Are there restrooms along Valley Loop Trail?

β­• Yes, there are restrooms at the trailhead of Valley Loop Trail, and at several points along the trail.

Are there refreshments and water stations along Valley Loop Trail?

❌ No, there are no restrooms or water stations along Valley Loop Trail.

Are dogs allowed along Valley Loop Trail?

❌ No, dogs are not allowed along Valley Loop Trail.

Are vehicles allowed along Valley Loop Trail?

❌ No, cars, electric scooters, and ATVs are not allowed on Valley Loop Trail.

Can you camp overnight along Valley Loop Trail (or nearby)?

β­• Yes, you can camp overnight close to Valley Loop Trail at Camp 4 near Yosemite Village.

Is there anything else to watch out for when I hike Valley Loop Trail?

Occasionally you'll have to divert around some sections of the trail if maintenance work is being carried out, including controlled fires. Check at the visitor center before heading out, and always follow directions if you encounter a closure en route.

Yosemite Falls from a distance, Yosemite National Park on a sunny day
Valley Loop Trail takes you near some of the most impressive sites including Yosemite Falls.
Elena Kharichkina/