May 14, 2024


1 minute to read · 207 words

I have always struggled with Depth First Search, DFS. I now have started solving it using first principles and it has started to make sense.

DFS can be solved using two methods:

  1. Recursive solution
  2. Iterative solution, using stacks

To solve recursively we must keep few things in our mind:

  • handle the base case, usually an empty tree (node == null)
  • do some logic for the current node
  • recursively call on the other node’s children
  • return the answer
// recursively
void dfs(TreeNode* node) {
    if (node == nullptr) {


// Each call to dfs(node) is visiting that node. As you can see in the code,
//we visit the left child before visiting the right child.

Example: 104, Maximum Depth of a Binary Tree

  • base case: root is null, then the max depth will be 0
  • maxDepth(node.left) measures the maximum depth of the left subtree
  • maxDepth(node.right) measures the maximum depth of the right subtree
  • take the max of these and add 1 to it [as current node contributes 1 to the depth]
class Solution {
    int maxDepth(TreeNode* root) {
        if (root == nullptr) {
            return 0;

        int leftSubtree = maxDepth(root->left);
        int rightSubtree = maxDepth(root->right);

        return max(leftSubtree, rightSubtree) + 1;

© ankit sharma 2024