Imagine biking through a valley, surrounded by large granite mountains, peaceful creeks and gushing waterfalls. That’s what you’ll find in the iconic Yosemite National Park 🏞. Located in central California this park has some of the most stunning scenery in the country from pristine blue lakes to towering cliffs. Find out how to spend 3 days in Yosemite here!
We finally made it to Yosemite after months of travel and I thought it was going to be over hyped. Boy, was I wrong. After visiting 40 National parks, I can now say this is possibly my favorite one. There’s something so ✨ remarkable and idyllic ✨ about Yosemite Valley. I want to go back 100 more times.
Although, it would be great to explore for weeks at a time, you may only have a long weekend to see it. You can find the ideal 3 Days in Yosemite Itinerary below 📝. It includes hikes to take, tips on visiting, and fantastic places you can’t miss!
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Table of Contents
3 Days in Yosemite Itinerary
Day 1 in Yosemite
You will need an entrance ticket to enter Yosemite during the peak months from May 20-September 30.
Go on a Hike or Two in Yosemite Valley
One of the best ways to see Yosemite is to go on one of the amazing hikes 🥾throughout the park. There are so many options, that it’s hard to know where to start! You can choose from hikes that climb up into the mountains or ones that travel along the Valley floor. You can also choose to do a couple shorter ones throughout the park. I highly recommend the Mist Trail and Yosemite Falls.
Best Hikes in Yosemite:
- Half Dome (15-17 miles) – Climb up the top of this iconic mountain and get 360 degree views of Yosemite. You will need to permits to do this hike and you can read more about it in my other post that is linked.
- Mist Trail to John Muir Loop (5.4 or 8 miles) – The Mist Trail is one of the most popular and spectacular hikes in the park. Climb up to see three waterfalls and then connect this to the John Muir Trail for great views over the Valley.
- Taft Point (2.3 miles) – This is a fantastic sunset hike and provides amazing views of the Valley below.
Glacier Point Road is closed for all of 2022, so these hikes will take longer to complete.
- Four Mile Trail (9.6 miles)- Deceivingly named trail to the iconic Glacier Point! This hike is accessible even while Glacier Road is closed, so it’s a great option.
- Cloud’s Rest (14 miles) – One of the longer day hikes in Yosemite. This trail has a challenging rock scramble with amazing views at the summit.
- Sentinel Dome Trail (2 miles) – Access this trail off of Glacier Point Road. With just a short trek you can get 360 degree views at the top.
- Mirror Lake (5 miles) – Fantastic loop trail that goes around Mirror Lake and follow the peaceful Tenaya Creek.
- Yosemite Falls (7 miles) – You can climb to the very top of Yosemite Falls on this hike! It offers great views of Half Dome and the Valley.
Day 2 in Yosemite
Bike Through Yosemite Valley
Biking 🚲 around Yosemite is one the very best ways you can see the park. It allows you to get up close and personal with places that would take hours to walk to and are not accessible by car. There is a bike trail that continues for 12 miles around the valley, passes by multiple waterfalls, and gets you to some of the best vistas in the park! The entire trail is fairly flat, so any level of biker can manage to get around.
If you are interested in biking around the park, then you can either bring your own bike or rent one. There are three bike rental places in the park: Curry Village, Yosemite Valley Lodge, and Yosemite Village. Bike rentals are $30 for Half Day rentals and $40 for a full day. You can also get a bike with a trailer for an additional $25. Next time I go to the park, I am definitely bringing my own bike and I’m going to spend hours exploring around!
Tip: Get to the bike rentals early in the morning. They sell out very fast!
Watch Climbers on El Capitan
Climbing up El Capitan 🧗 is one of the most incredible feats that a mountain climber can accomplish. Luckily, you don’t have to climb up to get in on the action. Watch these inspiring adventurers from various locations in the park or chat with climbers at some of the events that the park hosts. The climbers start in the early hours of the morning and many don’t reach the top until late until the night or even the following day.
Best Places to Watch Climbers:
- El Capitan Lookout
- Paradise Beach
- Tunnel View
Admire the Sunset at Tunnel View
Go to one of the very best views of the valley at Tunnel View. You’ll have to drive to this spot to get there, but it’s worth the trip. From this point, you can see El Capitan, Half Dome, and the gorgeous Bridal Falls. It can get crowded, but most people are just passing through, so you should be able to find a parking spot if you just wait a few minutes.
From this point, you can watch the sun go down 🌅 over the park and watch as the mountains change hues. Many people watch the sunset over this spot, because it is so easily accessible. If you want to get somewhere with a great view with few other people, then you can climb up to Inspiration Point. This hike leaves from the Tunnel View parking lot and climbs up 900 feet to get to the viewpoint. Make sure to pack a headlamp if you plan on watching the sunset here!
Day 3 in Yosemite
Drive Tioga Pass Road or Explore Hetch Hetchy
If you have 3 Days in Yosemite, then you can explore some of the areas outside of Yosemite Valley. Tioga Road and Hetch Hetchy get considerably less visitors than the valley, but are also stunning. Find trails that are less crowded and views that will blow your mind 🤯 in these two destinations.
Tioga Pass is a scenic drive that climbs up over the mountains and opens up to stunning views over the valley. While you drive you have the opportunity to see clear blue lakes, rolling meadows, and tall trees. The Road connects the East to the West side near Mono Lake. This road is only open seasonally, so if you have the time you should definitely drive it!
Tioga Pass Road usually opens over Memorial Day and closes in late September. Check the NPS website for road closure details!
Stops on Tioga Road:
- Tuolumne Meadows– See wildflowers in this sprawling meadow that sits at 8600 feet.
- Tenaya Lake– Visit this bright blue lake, dip in the cold water, or have a picnic on its shores.
- Olmsted Point – One of the best overlooks along Tioga Road. It provides views of Sentinel Dome and Half Dome.
- Tioga Lake – Another beautiful dark blue lake that is closer to the East side of the road.
- Ellery Lake– Sits as the gateway to the East side of Yosemite and has a wonderful campground to stay at.
- Tuolumne Grove – Walk through this Sequoia grove on the 2.5 mile hike to see some incredibly tall trees.
Hetch Hetchy is a glacial reservoir that provides more than 1 million Californians with their water. This area of the park is absolutely incredible, but few people go to see it. I felt at peace as I stared out at the serene blue waters of the damn. Visit this area of the park to see the large O’Shaughnessy Dam, admire the beautiful reservoir, or hike the 4.5 miles to Wapama Falls!
Yosemite National Park Details
How to Get to Yosemite
Getting to Yosemite can be tricky, but it is definitely worth it. The closest large airports are SFO (4 hour drive) and LAX (5 hour drive). There are five different entrances into the park, but only Tioga Pass is on the Eastern side. If you want to go directly into the valley then you can enter the Yosemite Valley entrance or drive from the Lee Vining entrance.
Where to Stay in Yosemite
Honestly, staying in Yosemite can get complicated, because the best place to stay is in the park itself. Towns outside of the park are small and are far drives to most of the things within the park. Most people plan months in advance to get their lodging. There are multiple lodges and campgounds in the park, but you have to get lucky to get a reservation!
TIP: You must be on the recreation.gov website when campgrounds are released to snag your spot! They open up five months in advance on the 15th of that month at 7 am Pacific Time so set an alarm.
Things to Know Before You Go
💵 Yosemite National Park has a $30 fee per vehicle to enter. You can use one of the park passes like the America the Beautiful Pass to get in.
🚗 Yosemite requires reservations to drive through the park in the peak season from 6 am to 4 pm. If you have a reservation for a campground or for Half Dome you do not need a car ticket.
☀️ Weather can change rapidly throughout the park. Make sure that if you are hiking any of the higher trails to look it up before. Pack layers and stay safe!
🚌 There are shuttle buses that run during the peak season and during Firefall in Yosemite Valley. It is easiest to park in one of the large parking areas and take the shuttle around Valley.
🦮 Pets are allowed in developed areas, full paved roads, sidewalks, and in campgrounds. They must be leashed at all times.
🍃 Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles. As always, you want to leave nature looking better than you found it.
- Comfortable Walking Shoes
- Day Pack
- 2-3 Liters of Water
- Camping Meals
- Storage for Food (Stay Bear aware!)
- Camping Stove
- Fire starter
- First Aid Kit
- Layers including rain jacket
- Bug Spray
- Hat to block sun
- Bear Spray
- Paddleboards, kayaks, fishing poles
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
Yosemite is a spectacular park and is one of the most popular for a good reason. As soon as you enter the valley, you will be stunned at the crazy landscapes all around. It feels ✨ magical ✨ to explore this park. If you only have 3 days in Yosemite, you can see many of the highlights, but you will probably want to go back for more.
Let me know if you enjoyed this itinerary in the comments!
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