Heading for Yosemite National Park to spend a long weekend is perfect for Angelenos like me, because it is only 4-5 hours away. If I am in need of an adventure fix and I have a long weekend to spare, Yosemite is one of the top places on my list to go to. Here’s how to make the most of it in 3 days:
Day 1: DRIVE THROUGH TIOGA PASS
Before going straight to Yosemite Valley, pass through this scenic route known as Tioga Pass. I recommend entering the park from the east entrance, and make your way through, going west towards Yosemite Valley. (Note: this road is closed during the winter season, usually from November to May.)
Iconic Locations Along Tioga Pass
This part of the park made me feel like I am not in California. I have never seen such green meadows.
Close by, you’ll also get to see the Tuolumne River.
This granite rock dome is very popular among rock climbers, but it also offers a 1.4 mile trail for hikers to reach the top.
A great spot for a picnic! If you have kayaks with you, this is a great place to go for a ride. (Note: lots of mosquitoes in this area, so be sure to have your insect repellent with you!)
Just a quick stop along Tioga Pass, this place gives you a great view of the northern side of Half Dome. If you have binoculars with you, you might even be able to see the people who are hiking Half Dome!
Tioga Pass is such a scenic route, so take your time driving, and simply enjoy the views.
Continue on and follow the road signs which lead to Yosemite Valley and then head for your campsite/lodge. After checking in, you can either cook food in your campsite or grab a bite in one of their many restaurants. This would also be a great time to check out the Visitor’s Center.
Day 2: CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO A LONG DAY HIKE
The best way to see and experience Yosemite is through hiking. This place offers beautiful trails which can be challenging, but also very rewarding.
Best Day Hikes in Yosemite National Park
Half Dome (14-16.5 miles)
Permits are required to climb the cables section of Half Dome. If you do not have a permit, I recommend hiking part of the Mist Trail to get to see Vernal Falls & Nevada Falls, which is about 7 miles round trip.
Clouds Rest (14.5 miles)
This hike seems to be favored by many, despite it’s long distance, and this is because of the 360 panoramic views you’ll get to be rewarded with. This location gives you a great view of Yosemite’s iconic spots, such as Tenaya Lake, Half Dome, Sentinel Dome, and many more.
Yosemite Falls (7.2 miles)
One of the oldest historic trails in Yosemite, which leads to the top of the tallest waterfall in North America, at 2,425 feet! This hike can also be extended to reach Yosemite Point, which adds another 1.6 miles to your trip.
Panorama Trail (8.5 miles)
Take a shuttle going to Glacier Point, and then hike back down this trail to Yosemite Valley. This hike features a great view of Illilouette Falls, and beautiful views of the valley. The trail will eventually connect with the Mist Trail or the John Muir Trail, where you’ll get to see this view of Nevada Falls.
Four Mile Trail (4.6 miles)
This moderate to strenuous trail takes you from Yosemite Valley all the way up to Glacier Point. You have the option to hike back down the same way, or catch the shuttle to Glacier Point to head back down the valley.
After a tiring day, head on over to Half Dome Village’s Pizza Deck to reward yourself with good pizza, and maybe even a beer or two.
Day 3: RELAX AND ENJOY THE VIEWS
After two full days of exploring, find some time to just relax in Yosemite Valley. Get some good breakfast to start your day, and then check out the different shops to buy souvenirs. If you have more time to spare, I recommend squeezing in a couple of overlooking views in your itinerary, before heading out the park. Ones which you can simply drive to and step out for a quick photo.
Scenic Overlooks in Yosemite National Park
Another great scenic overlook which highlights the parks’ most iconic spots. You’ll get to see El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls, as well as Half Dome.
Glacier Point Road
If you didn’t get a chance to hike to Glacier Point the day before, you can easily drive to it today. (Note: this road is closed during the winter season, usually from November to May.)
You will not only get a nice view of Half Dome, but this place also gives you a great vantage point to view Yosemite Valley from above.
Yosemite is one of my favorite National Parks, and I find myself constantly planning my next visit to this place. I have yet to try so many other trails, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the views! My goal is to visit each season, because I heard it looks different every time. So far, I have visited the park in Winter and in Summer.. I can’t wait to see what it looks like during the Spring and Fall.
Have you been to Yosemite National Park before? What would you add to this list?
Do check out my post about Hiking Half Dome, and hopefully it also inspires you to give it a go!