The Lower Yosemite Fall trail is an easy, 1-mile loop. It is heavily-trafficked and paved. Its main feature is the final 320-foot drop of North America's tallest waterfall. There are many vantage points along this short trail, including both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Creek. There are exhibits along the way to educate hikers on the cultural and natural history of the area.
The trail is open year-round and offers different experiences seasonally. In the spring and early summer, the water's cascade over the falls is deafening at its peak volume, and it is common to be sprayed while crossing the footbridge by its base. The fall is often dry from late July through October and icy conditions on the trail may prevent wheelchair accessibility in winter.
Parking is available at the Yosemite Village and Yosemite Falls parking areas and the free Valley Visitor Shuttle will take you to the trailhead at Shuttle Stop #6. Leashed pets and strollers are allowed but bicycles are prohibited on the trail. There are restrooms and a water fountain along the western trail but no others along the hike. It is advised to take the trail clockwise for the best views of the falls. The spectacular, panoramic views of Yosemite Falls will amaze the entire family. However, if you don't like crowds, you are likely out of luck with this one. Due to its ease and accessibility, it is one of the most popular hikes at Yosemite National Park. A National Park entrance fee is required to access the trail.
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At a height of 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America and stands at almost twice the height of the Empire State Building. The falls were formed when blocks of granite were carried away by glaciers in the last ice age, creating the steps at the east end of the valley.
The native inhabitants of this area were the Ahwahneechee, a Miwok people, who lived in the Yosemite Valley as far back as 800 years ago. Archeological evidence indicates that traces of human habitation date back even further to 3,000 years ago. The Ahwahneechee believed that the pool at the base of Yosemite Falls was inhabited by witches called the Poloti who enacted revenge on those who trespassed into their territory.
The Ahwahneechee were hunter-gatherers, sustaining their community on black acorns, which provided almost 60% of their diet, as well as pine nuts, miner's lettuce, edible bulbs and roots, flowers, deer, and other large game.
With the influx of white settlers during the California Gold Rush, there came conflicts with the Ahwahneechee, including the Ahwahnechee and Mariposa Indian Wars (1850-1851). The Ahwahneechee people were officially regarded as an extinct population by the 19th century.
Early explorers in the area of Yosemite included James Mason Hutchings and Thomas Ayres, who were the first to bring publicity about Yosemite to the public, inspiring tourism in the area by the mid-1850s. In 1916, a 20-year concession was granted to the Desmond Park Service Company by the National Park Service and the name of the park was established as Yosemite National Park. In 1927, the then-merged Yosemite Park & Curry Company erected the Ahwahnee Hotel.
With its iconic imagery and rugged beauty, Yosemite National Park has served as a filming location for several movie productions, including The Shining, The Last of the Mohicans, and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.