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The Ideal 2 Days in Yosemite Itinerary

The Ideal 2 Days in Yosemite Itinerary

Planning to spend 2 days in Yosemite National Park? In this post you’ll find all the info you need to organize the perfect Yosemite itinerary for 2 days (what to do & where to stay).

This post was written in collaboration with Hotels.com

Yosemite National Park is undoubtedly one of the greatest treasures in the natural world, with 750,000 acres (just over 3,000 square kilometers) of untouched wilderness. Millions of tourists flock to Yosemite every year to explore the area, marveling at the granite cliffs, waterfalls, giant sequoia groves, meadows, mountains and much more.

The question is, however, what’s the best way to see Yosemite in 2 days? That’s what we will try  to answer today with our perfect itinerary for Yosemite National Park. Please note, when I talk about a Yosemite 2 day itinerary, I talk about 2 full days in the park, so you should make arrangements to arrive the day before this itinerary starts. 

Yosemite National Park is approximately a 4-hour drive from San Francisco, so it’s a great weekend away from the city if you’re based there or visiting San Francisco (and you can always add it on a road trip from LA to San Francisco!)

➤ If you’re coming from San Francisco, there’s also the option to join a 2-day Yosemite tour from the city for a no-hassle experience. This 2-day tour includes accommodation and transportation, as well as hikes and introductory tours to the most iconic points in the park.

Before we start, let me remind you that we are living in unprecedented times, and safety needs to be the priority when traveling. Please make sure you travel responsibly and by following the regulations of your destination.

Wear a face mask at all times, wash your hands regularly and bring hand sanitizer with you. Before leaving, make sure to check out the official website for the latest updates on closures and policies. I also always recommend booking a hotel with free cancellation so you can sleep peacefully knowing that you can change your plans at the last minute if something changes.

Now, let’s get started!

Where to Stay in Yosemite

Hands down, the best place to stay in Yosemite is Yosemite Valley, which is inside the Yosemite National Park. Accommodation choices in Yosemite Valley range from budget to super luxury, so they can accommodate everyone, but here it’s hard to find a room available in the summer (which is understandably the high season for Yosemite). I recommend booking waaay in advance or looking for a place to stay outside of the park itself. Don’t worry though, there are a few good options.

Oakhurst is the largest town near the park, and it’s only 16 miles from Yosemite’s South Entrance. Here you’ll find a mix of mid-range hotels and bed & breakfasts, the best places to stay in Yosemite outside the park. Another option with just a handful of bed and breakfasts and inns is Fish Camp, a tiiiny tiny town located just a couple of miles from the park’s entrance.

If you’re willing to stay further away during your weekend in Yosemite, look into booking accommodation in Mariposa, a town which is 40 miles away from the park. Here you’ll find a bigger selection of chain hotels and mid-range inns and hotels.

Day 1 | Yosemite Itinerary

8 AM: Start your Yosemite weekend by exploring the Yosemite Valley.
Head to El Capitan Meadow in the west end of Yosemite Valley. From there you get the best views of “El Capitan” which is a big favorite for rock climbers. The Ahwahneechee call it “Tutokanula.” But Tutokanula/El Capitan is not the only great sight. You will surely be impressed too by Lower and Middle Cathedral Rock that sit just opposite and loom over the meadow. It’s a breathtaking start to the day.

Then check out the other sights in Yosemite Valley. From Sentinel Bridge you can find great views of the Half Dome reflected in the Merced River, as close by you’ll be able to see the Yosemite Falls.

➤You can also opt to join an introductory tour to Yosemite Valley. On this small-group tour, you’ll get acquainted with Yosemite Valley, led by an expert guide who will tell you about the history and geology of the park.

View from Tunnel View

2.30 PM: After a few hours enjoying your surroundings, drive up to Glacier Point, it’s about 19 minutes by car. On the way on State Route 41 you can stop at Tunnel View and take in what is arguably the most famous scenic viewpoint of all. From there you can really take in the breathtaking scenery of Yosemite and its dramatic features. It has been the muse of artists, poets and simple admirers for centuries, and it’s easy to see why!

View from Glacier Point.

4 PM: Once you reach Glacier Point, get your hiking boots on and prepare to make the hour-or-so hike to Taft Point. Don’t rush, but you will want to try and get to Taft Point by sunset because we’re sure you won’t have seen a sunset like this one.

➤ Instead of driving to Glacier Point, you can also hike the Four Mile Trail to get there if you prefer a more active plan. It will take about 3 hours in total but if you’re a hiking fan, it’s unmissable. Besides more great views of El Capitan, you’ll also get stunning vistas of Yosemite Falls and the Merced River. In case you choose to go for this, make sure to head out in the morning rather than in the afternoon.

A perfect sunset at Taft Point is a perfect ending to the day, but if you find yourself with some extra time in the above itinerary, then below are a couple more ideas you can throw in:

➤ Another place to hit from Taft Point is Sentinel Dome, about 40 minutes of further hike. From there you can get incredible panoramic views of the area. You can also admire the history of the Jeffrey Pine that once stood atop the dome. Of course, change the timing of your plan accordingly if you want to add this little hike!

➤ If you feel more comfortable joining a tour, check out this tour to Yosemite Valley, Giant Sequoias and Glacier Point that follows this first day’s itinerary. On this tour you’ll get to tness the most famous viewpoint in Yosemite Valley, El Capital, and Half Dome, before heading to Glacier Point for incredible views. Then you’ll be brought to Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias where you will spend 2 hours hiking the 2.5 miles round-trip of the grove. 

Day 2 | Yosemite Itinerary

We will offer two main plans for your second day depending on the rest of your vacation plans in the area. Both are great options, it’s up to you. Of course, if you are spending 3 days in Yosemite or more, why not do both?

8 AM: Mariposa Grove

Mariposa Grove is about 35 miles to the south of Glacier Point, and you can get there by car in about 1 hour. This stunning giant sequoias grove is found in Wawona at the southern edge of the national park. Mariposa Grove is Yosemite’s largest sequoia grove and is home to hundreds of examples of these giant and wondrous trees. While you’re in Mariposa, you will certainly pay a visit to Grizzly Giant, arguably the most famous of the local tree residents. 

My first time visiting Yosemite as a foreign exchange student in California

Those who are planning a wider visit to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks could probably skip Mariposa Grove since they will see even more examples of the giant sequoia trees in the other national park. If this is the case, then we have an alternative suggestion for your daytime plans in Yosemite.

8 AM: Mist Trail to Vernal Falls

The Mist Trail to Vernal Falls is Yosemite’s signature hike, and for good reason. This hike (3 miles round trip to Vernal Falls) will gift you with incredible views all along the trail, and will bring you to two stunning waterfalls. On your way back, you won’t believe the view of Nevada Fal and the back of Half Dome!

You can start this hike by first going over to Happy Isles Bridge where you’ll find the Mist Trail and John Muir Trail trailheads. From the trailhead, you head south following the Merced River, and then you turn east at Sierra Point. You’ll cross the Merced at Vernal Falls Bridge and then continue east up the river until you reach Vernal Falls. 

You may have already caught sight of Vernal Falls on your first day when you were at Glacier Point, but nothing quite prepares you for how beautiful it is up close. As you come to the end of the Mist Trail, you’ll see why it gets its name as the mist from Vernal sprays onto you.

➤ For those who don’t feel comfortable hiking alone, there’s the option of hiring a guide and going on a hiking tour with a group, or on a private hiking tour.

4 PM: After a day of sequoia spotting or waterfall hiking, you’ll want to spend a nice last evening relaxing. After your hike, the Yosemite Visitor Center where they can answer your questions about the park, and also where they have a great non-profit book store and even show theater performances and movies from April to October. It’s opening hours are from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

➤ If you haven’t yet had enough, there’s one last 20-minute hike you can take from the Visitor Center up to the Lower Yosemite Fall vista point. From the visitor center you head south/south-west until you join the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail. From there it’s about 20 minutes walk along the trail until you reach another of the park’s most fantastic viewpoints. This would be the perfect end to your 2 days in Yosemite National park.

Lower Yosemite Fall is the final 320-foot drop that makes up America’s tallest waterfall. If you head there in the spring or summer where the waterfall is peaking, the noise is truly wondrous. You’ll actually get a view of both the upper and lower falls while you’re on the trail. 

If you take the Lower Yosemite Fall trail up to the vista point and the wooden bridge over Yosemite Creek, don’t be tempted to scramble onto the rocks. They are slippery even when dry, and scrambling onto them is very hazardous, no matter how fun it might look on the surface.

7 PM: Complete your 2 day trip to Yosemite with dinner and/or drinks at the Ahwahnee Hotel where you can wonder at the sights and sounds of Yosemite National Park. 

Two Days in Yosemite – The Perfect Break

When you spend two days in Yosemite, you are both fortunate and cursed at the same time. You are lucky to be set among some of the most incredible scenic splendour that North America has to offer. At the same time, however, you are unlucky that you only get to spend 48 hours in Yosemite.

If it is your first time to Yosemite National Park, we actually recommend that you pay at least a short visit to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center before you go anywhere else to get information on your planned stops. The Visitor Center in particular is useful to fully understand the potential dangers of the locations you plan to visit. Beautiful and luminous as Yosemite is, it is also an untamed wilderness in many parts and between the winter weather, wild animals and other things, there are always risks involved. Follow all the advice you are given and stick to the proper marked trails.

I hope this guide was useful to help you plan how to spend two days in Yosemite, and gave you a few good ideas for your weekend trip to Yosemite. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments!

2-Day Yosemite Itinerary – FAQ

What’s the closest airport to Yosemite?

The Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT) is located about 2 and 1/2 hours drive from the park adn is served by 7 airlines.

How many days in Yosemite should I plan for?

The minimum time to really enjoy the park is two days. 2 days in Yosemite will let you see the main sights, however if you’re into hiking I would suggest spending 3 days or more in Yosemite National Park.

Are dogs allowed in Yosemite?

Leashed dogs are allowed on most fully paved roads, but they are not allowed on unpaved hiking trails. The trail to Vernal Falls doesn’t allow dogs.

Are there wolves in Yosemite? Are there bears in Yosemite?

There are both wolves and black bears in Yosemite, however attacks are really rare. Ask the Visitor Center for instructions on what to do in case you encounter an animal in the park.

Which 2 day Yosemite tours from San Francisco do you recommend?

This 2-day tour in my opinion offers great value and has great reviews. This tour includes accommodation and transportation, as well as hikes and introductory tours to the most iconic points in the park.


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