Adventure is calling, and its on sale! 90% off rates + $0 one-way fee for select routes!

Learn More
Call Us: 1-877-270-8267

4.8 / 5 average star rating

Over 90,000 happy travelers

600+ bookings in the last week


Get our top tips for saving money on a campervan trip:

Yosemite Waterfalls: The Best Time to Visit and What to See in the Off-Season

  How-To's & Resources, National Parks

May 19, 2023 Yosemite Waterfalls: The Best Time to Visit and What to See in the Off-Season

The waterfalls in Yosemite National Park are some of the most majestic in the entire country. The sheer walls of towering granite and spectacular cliffs that can be found throughout the park offer awe inspiring backdrops almost everywhere you look. Continue below to learn when the best time to see the waterfalls in Yosemite is and which ones are some of the most popular.

When is the best time to visit Yosemite waterfalls?

Spring! While Yosemite is incredible year-round, if you want to see its beautiful waterfalls at their finest, spring is by far the best time of year to go. In May and June, the waterfalls are at their peak, the wildflowers are blooming, and the summer crowds have not yet arrived (although it does still get quite crowded). In spring, melting snow fills the streams, and in unusually wet years, Yosemite Falls alone can fill the entire valley with its roar!

Yosemite Falls Hiking
Road Closures

In early spring (March, April), Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road are still closed due to lingering winter snow, restricting access to Tuolumne Meadows and Glacier Point. Although both roads generally open by late May, they can stay closed through June following heavy snow years.

The Top 5 Yosemite Waterfalls to Visit in Spring

Yosemite Falls Campervan

Yosemite Falls

Height: 2,425 ft
Flow: Approximately November through July, with peak flow in May

Yosemite Falls holds the undisputed title of the tallest waterfall in North America. It’s a challenging hike to the top, but the view from the base is impressive itself and is an easy and scenic 1-mile/1.6-km loop that should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s actually made up of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall (1,430 feet), the middle cascades (675 feet), and Lower Yosemite Fall (320 feet). You can see Yosemite Falls from numerous places around Yosemite Valley, especially around Yosemite Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge (formerly Yosemite Lodge).

Check out the Yosemite Falls webcam for a current view of the waterfall!

Yosemite Tunnel View Waterfall with Campervan

Bridalveil Fall

Height: 620 feet
Flow: All year, with peak flow in May

This is likely the first waterfall you’ll see when entering Yosemite Valley. In spring, it thunders; during the rest of the year, look for its characteristic light, swaying flow. You can see Bridalveil Fall from near the tunnels on the Wawona Road (Highway 41) or Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) and from a signed parking lot on your way into Yosemite Valley. You can also walk to the base via a short but steep (up to 24% slope) trail in just a few minutes.

Vernal Falls Yosemite National Park

Vernal Fall

Height: 317 feet
Flow: All year, though by mid to late summer, it narrows and separates into one, two, or three falls as water flows decrease; peaks in late May

You can see Vernal Fall (from a distance) at Glacier Point. The road to Glacier Point is open approximately late May through sometime in November. A wheelchair-accessible trail is available to the viewpoint when the road is open. You can also hike to Vernal Fall via the Mist Trail (see a list of Valley day hikes).

Nevada Falls

Height: 594 feet
Flow: All year, with peak flow in late May

A more demanding hike past Vernal Falls will lead you to Nevada Falls. You’ll ascend granite steps to the brink of two massive drops, where you can watch the entire Merced River plunge over the rocky ledge. Be sure to follow all safety signs and stay behind all ropes and signs. You can also see Nevada Fall from Glacier Point.

Horsetail Falls Firefall Yosemite National Park

Horsetail Fall

Height: 1,000 feet
Flow: December through April

If you can’t make it to Yosemite in May, February often offers a special treat: the Firefall, which looks like a stream of orange lava flowing down the side of El Capitan. It happens at Horsetail Fall, a waterfall east of Bridalveil and Ribbon falls, whose season typically lasts from winter through early spring.

The Firefall phenomenon, which tends to happen over the course of about three weeks, literally reflects the convergence of clear skies and the right amount of snowmelt. As sunset nears, the mist catches the sun rays and creates a fabulous optical illusion that lasts up to 10 minutes, making for some dazzling pictures (if you can fight off all the photographers and their tripods). To get the best views, park at the El Capitan picnic area (on Northside Drive west of Yosemite Valley Lodge, formerly Yosemite Lodge) or in turnouts just east of the picnic area. You can see the waterfall from the road.

Waterfalls in Yosemite Outside of Peak Season

Some of the waterfalls flow all year, but the flow varies. Yosemite Falls, for example, often slows to a trickle or completely stops running by August and may stay dry until spring (although autumn storms can cause a temporary flow).

March qualifies as winter in the mountains, with storms, but Badger Pass ski area is still open and Yosemite Valley accessible. In April, skiing is done, but Glacier Point Road/Tioga Roads are still closed, and many hiking trails still covered in snow. Waterfalls are there but not huge. May brings big waterfalls and lots of water, and dogwood trees blooming right around Mother’s Day weekend. Glacier Point and Tioga Roads are still usually closed through Memorial Day weekend, but this is highly weather/winter-dependent. Hiking (without good trail finding experience) is still generally limited to the Valley and Hetch Hetchy, as higher elevation trails are still covered in snow.

Yosemite Valley Waterfall View from Campervan

Experience Yosemite in a Camper Van

Ready to go see some waterfalls? A camper van will allow you to experience Yosmite in all of it’s glory while still having comfort and security (read our Yosemite camper van rental guide for more info). Simply fly into San Francisco, pick your van up from our San Francisco camper van rental site, and follow our San Francisco to Yosemite road trip guide. You can also fly into Los Angeles and pick up your camper van from our Los Angeles depot, just 5 or so hours away from Yosemite. 

Feel free to check out our blog for more Yosemite tips and guides like how to find camping in Yosemite without a reservation and six must-do Yosemite hikes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This website stores cookies on your computer to improve the website experience and improve our personalized services to you. To find out more about these cookies and our privacy processes please see our privacy policy. By clicking Accept you are granting permission for us to store this cookie. If you do not want us to install this cookie please close your browser window now.