Everyone knows that Northern California is home to hundreds of beautiful waterfalls, some of them world-renown. But did you know that the tallest waterfall in North America, and the third tallest in the world, sits right in the pristine wilderness of NorCal?
Yosemite Falls is arguably the centerpiece of one of the world’s most popular parks, Yosemite National Park. It actually consists of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall, the Middle Cascades, and Lower Yosemite Falls. The Upper and Lower sections of the waterfall are some of the most popular and beautiful destinations in the park.
If you take into account the three different drops of the waterfall, it cascades down a total of 2,425 feet from the top to the bottom, making it North America’s tallest. Upper Yosemite Falls accounts for most of the drop, with a 1,430-foot plunge, with Lower Yosemite Falls accounting for the bottom 320-foot drop.
Let’s take a look at all three tiers of the waterfall:
Upper Yosemite Falls
The 1,430-foot plunge of Upper Yosemite Yosemite Falls is in itself one of the 20 tallest waterfalls in the world. The waterfall is created by the swift waters of Yosemite Creek and can be seen in its full glory from many different places in the park, but getting to the top of the massive waterfall is the ultimate stairmaster exercise.
The 7.2 mile roundtrip hike is a full-day affair, but the views of the waterfall, and the entire park, are worth the trek. You can also get picturesque views of the upper part of the waterfall from the Yosemite Valley:
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The Middle Cascades of Yosemite Falls actually consists of four plunges between the Upper and Lower Falls, totaling 675 feet of cascading water. Although the narrow gorge makes it difficult to get views of the Middle Cascades, it can be quite a show of what you could consider four different waterfalls.
You can see the cascades from the Yosemite Falls Trail, but be careful – several helicopter rescues have been needed for people who attempt to access the cascades.
Lower Yosemite Falls
The easy 1-mile roundtrip hike to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls remains one of the most popular destinations in the park. Lower Yosemite Fall is the final 320-foot (98-meter) drop. Deafening in spring and early summer when the waterfall peaks in volume, you can expect to get sprayed with water when standing on the footbridge near its base.
This short, easy walk rewards with spectacular views of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. This paved loop trail offers different vantage points of Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Creek, and you can stop at the many exhibits to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the area.
Want to find more incredible waterfalls in Northern California? Check out the The 20 Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Northern California!