Best Time to Visit Yosemite for Waterfalls

Chasing waterfalls in Yosemite? The best time to visit Yosemite for waterfalls is during the spring, when snowmelt is at its peak. Yosemite is home to countless waterfalls, from cascading Yosemite Falls to wonders like Vernal Fall, all flowing at various times throughout the year depending on weather conditions. No matter when you visit, the beauty in Yosemite will be here! 

The natural phenomenon Firefall, only seen in February, one of the reasons winter is the best time of year to visit yosemite.

Best Times to See Waterfalls in Yosemite

The best time to visit Yosemite for waterfalls is during spring, when snowmelt contributes to the rushing waterfalls. Some waterfalls flow all year, but the levels vary. Storms in the late fall may cause temporary surges in waterfall flow, while winter and summer typically see fewer falls flowing.  

The best month to visit Yosemite for waterfalls is either May or June, depending on the temperature and resulting snowmelt higher up the mountains. All of the falls in Yosemite flow strongly during this time period, making for gorgeous views and breathtaking photography. 

Some waterfalls, including the famous Yosemite Falls, slow to a trickle or even stop flowing completely in the summer months. Horsetail Fall, notorious for appearing as a stream of fire when it reflects the orange glow of sunset in mid to late February, flows from December through April. To experience Yosemite’s Firefall magic, book your reservation to the Yosemite Firefall Express.

With the natural beauty of Yosemite National Park comes challenges for waterfall lovers – most notably, road closures due to weather conditions that may prevent hikers from getting close to their favorite water features. Keep a close eye on the National Park Service’s website for road closures and possible detours, and always obey posted signage. Most of the falls are tall enough to be seen from a distance or from a nearby road, including Bridalveil Fall, Ribbon Fall, Cascade Fall, and Horsetail Fall.   

Carlon Falls in Yosemite during Spring.

Top Yosemite Waterfalls to Visit in Spring and Summer

The top Yosemite waterfall to visit in spring is the iconic Yosemite Falls, which is actually made of three separate waterfalls: Upper Yosemite Fall, the middle cascades, and Lower Yosemite Fall. Peak flow is in May. 

The top Yosemite waterfall to visit in summer is Bridalveil Fall. This is usually the first waterfall people see when they enter Yosemite Valley, and one of the only waterfalls in the park that flows year round. You can see this fall near the tunnels on Wawona Road or Big Oak Flat Road, or follow a quick but steep trail directly to the base of the fall. 

One of Yosemite’s hidden gems is Carlon Falls, which is located just minutes from Rush Creek Lodge and Evergreen Lodge.

Wildflowers near the Nevada Falls - Spring is the best time of year to visit yosemite.

Top Yosemite Waterfalls to Visit in Fall and Winter

The top Yosemite waterfall to visit in winter is Horsetail Fall – thanks to the angle of the sunsets in mid to late February, this fall looks to be a stream of fire instead of water as it reflects the orange sunlight. This natural phenomenon draws annual crowds when the conditions are right, and is one of the most popular places to visit in Yosemite in the winter.

Fall is a slow time for waterfalls in Yosemite, but the top Yosemite waterfalls to visit in the fall are those that flow year round: Bridalveil, Nevada, Vernal, and a few others. Storms in the late fall might contribute to a temporary stronger stream, but water levels return to normal quickly. 

When you visit Yosemite to take in the beauty of the many waterfalls, choose accommodations that let you stay immersed in the breathtaking scenery. Rush Creek Lodge, just outside the Big Oak Flat entrance to the park, offers lodge rooms, suites, and hillside villas with a nature-inspired spa. Evergreen Lodge, one mile from the park’s Hetch Hetchy entrance, showcases a classic Yosemite experience in a historic mountain resort with thoughtful modern amenities and additions, plus private cabins and cottages. And Firefall Ranch is Yosemite’s newest lodging option! Learn more about our Yosemite hotels.