Columbia Rock offers a nice, less strenuous alternative to the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, giving you all of the same views without having to commit to the entire hike. With gorgeous cliff faces, emerald trees as far as the eye can see, and a bird’s eye view of the entirety of Yosemite Valley, the Columbia Rock trail is extremely beautiful, laid back, and a “can’t miss” when it comes to Yosemite hiking. The only drawback is that, unlike the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, you will not be able to see the Yosemite Falls; however, it is still quite enjoyable, even with that little asterisk.
Difficulty and Hiking Time
Though the hike is quite short—only 3 miles, and 1.5-2.5 hours long—what it lacks in length, it gains in switchbacks and other natural hassles. At 3,967 feet elevation, and with around a 1,000 feet elevation gain, some may have difficulties adjusting to the height of this trailhead. Furthermore, more than three dozen switchbacks make this trail much more difficult than it does at face value, and a steepness that far out paces 4-mile trail makes it even harder. Fortunately, it’s not the most difficult trail ever; so, even with these hazards, most should be able to complete it. Overall, we would call it a medium difficulty trail, so make sure you are prepared when you come out to visit.
When to Visit
Because the views here are so great all year round, we’d say that you could come here whenever you want. But, hazy days could hurt the impact of the beautiful distant views—a major selling point of this trail—so make sure you come when the sun is bright, and the horizon is clear.