A road trip in California is not complete without a visit to Yosemite, one of the most beautiful National Parks of the USA and a World Heritage Site. Located on the slopes of Sierra Nevada, Yosemite is massive and multiple visits are needed to properly experience it. And for those with time constraints, 3 days in Yosemite is the perfect introduction to the Park!
Yosemite is simply spectacular. There’s no other way to describe it. Waterfalls, cliffs, streams, giant sequoias and wildlife. All of this is what makes Yosemite, and because of its importance, it was declared a National Park in 1890. Yosemite offers endless outdoor opportunities, of which hiking is a highly popular activity.
Eager to visit already? Our very own visit to Yosemite was split over 3 days during late Summer. It was a great experience and we managed to visit distinct parts of the Park.
Here are some ideas on how to spend 3 days in Yosemite.
Mariposa Grove is best-known for the Giant Sequoias and is located in the southern part of Yosemite. It has some of the world’s biggest Sequoias. It is known as Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
Half a day is the amount of time suggested to visit Mariposa Grove. It is not very demanding in terms of hiking and some of its highlights, such as Grizzly Giant or California Tunnel Tree, are an easy walk away from the car park and can be visited in a couple of hours, for those in a hurry. Grizzly Giant is around 2000 years old!
It’s quite incredible to walk among such magnificent trees. We recommend exploring some of the hiking trails in order to better experience the area. Stay alert as there are plenty of opportunities to spot some wildlife. We saw deer and many birds.
With enough time, is a great idea to go up to the Mariposa Grove Museum and Wawona Point.
Please note that the Mariposa Grove is closed for restoration until 2017. More information here.
Yosemite Valley is where the majority of visitors go to. It is very popular and has a high concentration of things to see and do, including the most famous features of the Park. An important detail is that Yosemite Valley only represents 1% of the whole Park!
The entrance to Yosemite Valley has to be one of the most spectacular views ever. We’re talking about Tunnel View, probably the most photographed place in Yosemite. There’s a parking space next to it so you can stop to enjoy the view and take some pictures.
Further into the valley is El Capitan, one of the most famous cliffs in the world of climbing. This granite cliff is quite impressive and we’re still wondering how exactly people manage to climb it.
At Yosemite Village, you can find some lodging and food options. If you’re planning to stay overnight, make sure to book well in advance since the choice is limited and usually sells out quickly.
To learn more about the Park and its history, we encourage you to go the Visitors Centre and Yosemite Museum. If you like photography, visiting the Ansel Adams Gallery is a must.
A free shuttle bus system operates in Yosemite Valley. It’s much easier to use this instead of driving, which is quite restricted.
Hiking is likely to be Yosemite’s number one activity. It is definitely the best way to experience the park and the only way to reach some of its highlights. Anything from short hikes to full-day or even multiple-day hikes is possible. Yosemite has over 1300 km of hiking trails! Get your boots ready.
A good number of hikes start from Yosemite Valley. For one day, we recommend hiking up to Vernal and Nevada falls, two beautiful waterfalls. This can be combined with other short walks in the valley such as Mirror Lake.
There’s no shortage of trails, so make sure to pick one for your day there.
Glacier Point is the place to go for sunset. At 2200 m it has some of the best views in the Park. You can see a lot of the Park’s landscape, including the valley, the waterfalls and the cliffs.
Look out for Half Dome, undoubtedly the Park’s most famous cliff.
Tioga Road is a mountain pass across the Sierra Nevada and part of Yosemite’s high country. The road reaches 3000 m. It’s one of the most scenic roads we’ve ever done. It is only open from late May to November, depending on snow conditions.
Not to worry, there are plenty of reasons worth stopping for along the way.
For a different view of Half Dome, park at Olmstead Point and walk the short trail for amazing views of Yosemite. Not far from Olmstead Point is Tenaya Lake, another mandatory stop and a place for a cold swim, for those who fancy it.
The landscape at Tuolumne Meadows is quite different from the rest of the Park but equally beautiful. A number of short hikes are available in the area.
After Tioga Pass, you’ll find a couple of lakes, including Ellery Lake.
At the other end of Tioga Road is Mono Lake, which is something you shouldn’t miss. Read more about Mono Lake.
Visiting during the Summer and other useful things to know
It gets quite busy in Yosemite during the Summer months. The peak of the Summer brings a lot of visitors to Yosemite and Yosemite Valley gets a bit crowded, including some of the most popular hiking trails. We visited in September which was a great time to do so and the weather was lovely.
During the Summer months, some waterfalls don’t run at all and others have their streams reduced. Better visit in the Spring for full-power waterfalls.
Entrance to Yosemite, as with other National Parks, is paid. It costs 30$ (25$ low season) per car and is valid for 7 days.
Bears live in Yosemite and although they are quite beautiful, you should never get too close to them. There are warnings about how to store food items while visiting the Park since bears may try to grab a bite of what’s yours. For more information on how to stay safe, check here.