top of page
  • Writer's pictureKelly Black

Yosemite National Park, USA Day Itineraries

Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the USA to visit.Here I've included the best 1 Day Itinerary, 2 Day Itinerary, 3 Day Itinerary and 4 Day Itinerary.

Video sneak peek of what you'll see on the 1 Day Itinerary!​

1 Day Itinerary

First: Tunnel View Lookout

Drive into the park towards the valley. The drive is long and winding be warned. If you get motion sickness don't be afraid to take something for it beforehand. Drive through the tunnel and as soon pull off to your left into the Tunnel View parking lot as soon as it ends. Warning - the pull off is immediately after the tunnel ends and is easy to blow right by if you are driving fast.

This is probably the most famous view of Yosemite and arguably the most beautiful as well. A great time to take lots of photos while you are still looking fresh.

Second: Bridalveil Falls

Walk the short trail to the base of Bridalveil Falls. The waterfall is 620ft (189 meters) and flows year round.

Third: Yosemite Falls

Walk the short trail to the base of Yosemite Falls. If you are up for it continue on the trail to the top. But be warned the rocks can be slippery!

Fourth: Rent a Bike for The Cook's Meadow Loop, The Yosemite Loop Trail and Mirror Lake​

You can rent bikes from both Curry Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge. Hop on your bike and first do a quick circle of The Cook's Meadow Loop. You are out in the open and can really see all of the granite rock faces surrounding you. You'll also cross Sentinel Bridge, where you can grab an awesome picture of Half Dome reflected in the river below.

Next start on the Yosemite Loop Trail. This will take you around the entire Valley floor. There are a few hill but nothing major. At one point you'll see the turn off for Mirror Lake. As long as it's not late in the summer (late July and after) there will still be enough water in the lake to make it worth visiting. Just note that you can't take your bikes all the way there. There will be a sign and a bike rack from where you have to walk the rest of the way.

Fifth: Glacier Point

By this point you are probably starting to feel all of the walking and biking, but not to worry as you are done with hikes for the day! Return your bikes, hop in your car and drive up to Glacier Point. The view up here is spectacular. There are several lookout points, all very close together on this road and you can drive right up to them.

And that's it for your 1 Day Adventure!

Left: Sentential Bridge on Cook's Meadow Loop  | Right: Glacier Point Lookout
Left: Sentential Bridge on Cook's Meadow Loop | Right: Glacier Point Lookout

2 Day Itinerary

Do everything from above on Day 1, then follow the below for Day 2

First: Mariposa Grove

Mariposa Grove is on the way into the park so make sure to do it first thing or as last thing to avoid having to double back. Drive to the parking lot, then get ready for a 2 mile hike into the Grove. (If you are disabled you can drive straight to the grove. The Yosemite public busses will also drive straight in if you are not up for this hike). The hike was hilly but nothing crazy, just gentle ups and downs through the forest.

Once you arrive you'll see some of the largest and oldest trees in existence. Pretty cool.

Also you are done with your hikes for the day, nice!

Second: Tenaya Lake

From Mariposa Grove drive to Tenaya Lake. You'll be getting away from the crowds this this one as it's a bit of a drive. A bit over an hour one way on super winding roads, but the drive is beautiful and the lake is amazing! It's a glacier lake that you can swim in surrounded by beautiful mountains.

Spend the rest of your day here, but make sure the leave yourself plenty of time to drive home in the daylight. It will take you an hour to drive back into the Valley and possible another hour to drive back to your hotel if you are staying outside the park gates.

Left: Tenaya Glacier Lake | Right: Mariposa Grove
Left: Tenaya Glacier Lake | Right: Mariposa Grove

3 Day Itinerary

Do everything from above on Day 1 & 2, then follow the below for day 3

Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls Hike

Today will be your biggest hiking day! You can choose between doing half of my recommended hike which is the Top of Vernal Falls or the entire hike which is the Top of Nevada Falls:

Top of Vernal Fall

Distance: 2.4 mi (3.9 km) round trip (via Mist Trail) Elevation gain: 1000 ft (300 m) Difficulty: Strenuous Time: 3 hours

Top of Nevada Fall

Distance: 5.4 mi (8.7 km) round trip (via Mist Trail) Elevation gain: 2000 ft (610 m) Difficulty: Strenuous Time: 5-6 hours

Park your car in a lot nearby and take the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls. You can swim in a glacier lake here and the hike up is beautiful. From here you can choose to go back down the way you came (steep stairs) or take the John Muir trail back down, which is slightly longer but has a more gentle downgrade (recommended).

Or if you're still feeling okay at this point continue on The Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls. It will take you another 2-3 hours but the views are well worth it! Relax by the river and take tons of pics. When you are ready to come down do not go back the way you came (down the Mist Trail). Instead cross over the bridge on river and take the John Muir trail down on the other side. It is a much less steep downgrade, and provides more shade and just an easier time going down.

Make sure you start this hike early in the day to avoid the worst of the heat and getting caught out there in the dark!

CHILL The heck OUT - You Deserve It!

*If you do Nevada Falls you are going to be ready to relax after. If you can handle a long drive try to tackle Hetch Hetchy or Tenaya Lake if you missed it yesterday. Or head down to swim in Bass Lake if you don't plan to tomorrow. Or just make it easy and go relax in your hotel pool. You've earned it!

Left: Midway up Vernal Falls | Right: Top of Nevada Falls
Left: Midway up Vernal Falls | Right: Top of Nevada Falls

4 Day Itinerary

Follow everything above on your days 1 -3, then choose one of the below for Day 4

Hetch Hetchy

Hetch Hetchy is another hour drive past the Valley through, you guessed it, winding roads. Because of this a lot of people, including myself, never make it there. But it is supposed to be so worth it. And is top on my list for when I return! It's known for being similar to Yosemite Valley, if the valley floor was a glacier lake. Now you can understand why it's next on my list!

If you just don't have a drive like this in you (could total 4 hours of driving for the day if you aren't staying in the Valley ) Then opt for Bass Lake, below.

Bass Lake

Bass Lake is an all sports lake located outside of the Yosemite gates. You can eat at water-side restaurants, rent boats, jet-skis or park at one of the public beaches, buy a floaty and just chill in the water. On each of my Yosemite visits this is how I've ended my trip on the last day and it's been awesome. The beaches here are more grassy and gravely than sandy and the lake water isn't particularly clear or beautiful. But it does the trick for a relaxing day after days of sweating it out on Yosemite's hikes.

If you have any questions about your visit, leave me a comment on here or on YouTube and I'll get you some more info!

424 views0 comments
bottom of page