3 DAYS IN YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Over three days in Yosemite, there are many things to see and do.
TOUR OF YOSEMITE VALLEY IN ONE DAY
The park’s most famous “wows,” such as El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, may be seen in Yosemite Valley (Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls, to name a few). Visitors should avoid these 7 square miles of awe-inspiring natural beauty to avoid overcrowding.
You might have been allowed to spend the night before your first full day in the park if you were fortunate enough to secure a campsite reservation.
To get to Yosemite from the Bay Area, you’ll most likely use the Big Oak Flat Entrance (the closest major airport is SFO).
Come early to minimize traffic and parking issues at the park’s entrance and in the valley to maximize your enjoyment of the park. Plus, if you only have three days in Yosemite, you’ll want to make the most of it!
Southside Drive heads east into the valley, while Northside Drive heads west out of Yosemite Valley. El Capitan Drive bypasses Yosemite Village traffic and connects Southside Drive with Northside Drive (see map below).
The Bridal Veil Falls:
Bridalveil Fall, one of Yosemite Valley’s most well-known waterfalls, may be found about 35 minutes from Big Oak Flat by beautiful driving. You’ll be able to see it from the road in the spring and early summer when it’s in full flow!
There is a trailhead parking area where you may park and walk to the base of the falls in 30 minutes roundtrip. Bring water-resistant clothing; the fall’s spring/early summer mist is no joke!
Yosemite’s Falling Waters
Yosemite Falls may be seen directly from the road as you go into the valley. One of North America’s highest waterfalls at approximately 2,500 feet, dwarfs the Empire State Building in height. From various spots in the park, you can see it, and the sound of the water flowing over the rocks reverberates as if it were thunder.
Yosemite’s Lower Falls
Continue driving for a few more minutes to get closer to the falls. To get to the trailhead for Lower Yosemite Falls, park in the Yosemite Village parking lot and walk for about 20 minutes.
Parking along Northside Drive, which is closer, may also be an option. Early in the morning, the roads will be empty, and it may seem strange to park on them, but by 9 or 10 a.m., the streets will be jammed with parked vehicles!
A half-mile circle, the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail is one of the best value options in the park.
El Capitan’s Climbers can be spotted.
Look out for climbers on El Capitan as you continue down Northside Drive.
Rock climber Alex Honnold recently made this 3000 ft. granite monolith even more renowned after scaling it without a rope in less than four hours. When you see the thing in person, the craziness of the feat becomes clearer.
People park their cars and use binoculars to catch a view of the mountain’s climbers from the roadside. Binoculars are a must, as they appear to be minuscule from above. On one of our three days in Yosemite, we saw a helicopter rescue in progress, and the helicopter itself was small.
Take a look at the view from the tunnel.
To see El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome in the distance, drive to the Tunnel View scenic viewpoint.
This parking lot will be whole by mid to late morning, but it’s a quick visit for most people, so there will be a high turnover in the parking lot. There should be an opening!
For an afternoon of rest and leisure away from the crowds, have a bite at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel or head back to your tent for some quiet time.
THE MUIR TRAIL/MIST TRAIL: Day 2
Yosemite’s most popular trail is the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls. There’s a reason this one is so popular. The 7 miles of walking are made bearable by the abundance of sights.
Taking the long route back is the best option. You avoid getting drenched again, but you also get a change of scenery, and in particular, stunning views of Nevada Falls and Liberty Cap from the John Muir Trail.
It was easier on the knees, which Justin–who wore two knee braces–appreciated.
SOUTHERN & EASTERN YOSEMITE: Day 3
The third day of our journey takes us through the Mariposa Grove in southern and eastern Yosemite National Park.
In the south section of Yosemite, get to Mariposa Grove in the early morning, and you’ll get a parking spot right at the base of the trees. After 7:30 a.m., the parking lot shuts. To get to the grove, you’ll need to go somewhere else and ride the shuttle bus.
Avoid the crowds and hassles by arriving early! The trees will essentially be yours as well.
Washburn Point for a picnic
Washburn Point can be found about a mile before Glacier Point. Because automobiles tend to speed by, the parking lot is less busy, and those who do stop tend to be on their way to Glacier Point, so a parking spot should free up fast.
You may get to Tioga Pass by driving through Tioga Pass.
Because of the year’s near-record snowfall, the route to the eastern side of the park via Tioga Pass (which ranges in height from 6,200 to 10,000 ft) was still blocked when we went there on the third week of June.
It’s best to take the 39-mile scenic drive if the road is open (usually in late June). Here, the journey is the destination!
Tahquitz and Tuolumne Meadows, California
Take some time to visit Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows when you’re in the Eastern portion of the park (another 2-mile easy hike).
There will be fewer visitors in this more secluded part of the park, making it an ideal spot for a leisurely afternoon.
If you’ve got three days in Yosemite and need more options, there are a few other places you may see.
While the Merced River was raging during our visit to Yosemite and prohibited all boating, rafts can be rented in July and August from the Tour/Activities Desks or Concierge Desks at Yosemite Valley Lodge, Half Dome Village, Yosemite Village, and The Majestic Yosemite Hotel when the river has calmed down considerably. In August, all rentals are due to be returned.
A stay at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel would be out of character, as I prefer to camp in national parks. However, the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, erected in the 1920s, is a magnificent structure and an excellent location to relax after hiking.
CROWDS IN YOSEMITE: HOW TO STAY AWAY FROM THEM
- The most significant time to visit Yosemite is in May when the waterfalls are flowing. In September, when the hordes have yet to arrive when the park is less crowded than in the summertime (still warm temperatures, fewer people).
- For those who cannot take time off in May or prefer to visit Yosemite in the cooler months of late June/early July when waterfalls are still in full flow and most parks, roads, campgrounds, and attractions are open; there are alternate dates available throughout the year.
- It is still possible to enjoy Yosemite without constantly bumping into other tourists, even if you travel during peak summer months and have a low tolerance for crowds (I must admit, I fall into this category).
In this manner:
- Differentiate your time framework
- It would be best if you left the valley.
- Shop outside of Yosemite for supplies
- The visitor center should be avoided until later in the weekend
- Reserve your camping space early.