Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite National Park Hiking

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Hetch Hetchy

Hetch Hetchy Valley sits at an elevation of approximately 3800 feet, and has one of the longest hiking seasons in Yosemite. It features two of North America's tallest waterfalls, Tueeulala and Wapama Falls. Read More

  • Low elevation – long hiking season 
  • Trail variety offers something for everyone 
  • Access to Yosemite Wilderness, Tiltill and Rancheria mountains


Granite cliffs with spectacular rushing waterfalls define Hetch Hetchy, once considered a rival to Yosemite Valley during the late 1890's. In 1938 the O'Shaughnessy Dam turned the Tuolumne River into an eight-mile long reservoir to meet the water needs of San Francisco.

The hike to the base of Wapama Fall is an easy 5-mile trip, but you can continue for approximately 8 more miles on a moderately difficult trail to Rancheria Fall. The 12-mile Lookout Point hike takes you to overlook the Hetch Hetchy Valley, and the most difficult hikes lead to Smith Peak or down more than 1200 feet to the Tuolumne River.


From California 120, take the Hetch Hetchy turnoff to the end of the parking lot above the dam and reservoir. Vehicles over 25 feet are prohibited due to road conditions.


  • Day hikes from 3-12 miles 
  • Dam elevation is 3800 feet 
  • Easy to difficult 
  • Trails begin near or at dam and Entrance Station

Plan & Prepare

Overnight backpackers need a wilderness permit. Be aware of bats, rattlesnakes, black bears and poison oak. Use bear canisters for food storage. No boating or swimming in reservoir, and dogs and other pets are prohibited on trails and at dam. Fishing requires a California license.