Vertical wind shear is one of the dominating causes of load variations on the blades of a horizontal axis wind turbine. To alleviate the varying loads, wind turbine control systems have been augmented with sensors and actuators for individual pitch control. However, the loads caused by a vertical wind shear can also be affected through yaw misalignment. Recent studies of yaw control have been focused on improving the yaw alignment to increase the power capture at below rated wind speeds. In this study, the potential of alleviating blade load variations induced by the wind shear through yaw misalignment is assessed. The study is performed through simulations of a reference turbine. The study shows that optimal yaw misalignment angles for minimizing the blade load variations can be identified for both deterministic and turbulent inflows. It is shown that the optimal yaw misalignment angles can be applied without power loss for wind speeds above rated wind speed. In deterministic inflow, it is shown that the range of the steady-state blade load variations can be reduced by up to 70%. For turbulent inflows, it is shown that the potential blade fatigue load reductions depend on the turbulence level. In inflows with high levels of turbulence, the observed blade fatigue load reductions are small, whereas the blade fatigue loads are reduced by 20% at low turbulence levels. For both deterministic and turbulent inflows, it is seen that the blade load reductions are penalized by increased load variations on the non-rotating turbine parts. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.