Famed for its ancient sequoia trees and incredible vistas, Yosemite is an American paradise! The National Park is ideal for adventurers, offering so many exciting Yosemite activities with some of the best views you can find.
Our Yosemite Itinerary is filled with days of beauty and adventure. It’s perfect for all kinds of travelers and can be adapted to any trip, whether you’re spending 2 days in Yosemite and want to tick everything off, or weeks deep-diving into the spirit of the destination!
Climb El Capitan, feel the spray of Yosemite Falls, and visit some of Yosemite’s most ephemeral views and attractions on this Yosemite Itinerary
- A Little Bit About This 3-Day Yosemite Itinerary
- Where to Stay in Yosemite in 3 Days
- Yosemite Itinerary Day 1: Induction & The Highlights
- Yosemite Itinerary Day 2: Half Dome, Museums & Spa!
- Yosemite Itinerary Day 3: Views, Adrenaline & Vino!
- What To Do With More Than 3 Days in Yosemite?
- Best Time to Visit Yosemite
- How To Get Around Yosemite
- What To Prepare Before Visiting Yosemite
- Final Thoughts
A Little Bit About This 3-Day Yosemite Itinerary
We have set out this 3-day Yosemite itinerary to try and cover all the headline attractions that the wonderful park has to offer. There is a lot of hiking to do here and you may not have the energy to do it all. In that case, simply head back to your campsite or hit the bar and kick back!
Our itinerary for Yosemite includes all the best of where to go, and what to do, when you travel to Yosemite! Explore the National Park and the famous valley, and enjoy a perfectly rounded 3 days in Yosemite.
On your first day of a 2-day itinerary in Yosemite, you’ll see some of the park’s best attractions, and enjoy a few adventure activities! We’ve picked stops that can be curated to all types of travelers and fitness levels.
If you only have one day in Yosemite, stick to day 1 on our Yosemite itinerary!
3 Day Yosemite Itinerary Overview
When you’re spending about 3 days in Yosemite, you need to decide between lodgings in the Yosemite National Park itself, and accommodation nearby.
The best option is finding a hotel inside Yosemite Park itself. You have easy access to all the Yosemite attractions, like the iconic El Capitan and Yosemite Falls! The location is ideal, and often hotels inside the park offer guided hikes as well as discounts on tours and activities.
Accommodation ranges from self-catered cabins and budget B&B’s in Yosemite, to first-class hotels. This means you really don’t have to go beyond the park when looking for a place to stay!
However, accommodation in the park is more costly than further away, and depending on when you’re planning a trip to Yosemite, it may all be booked out. If so, you can find a great place in Yosemite Valley! There you can find some of the best Yosemite Airbnbs which offer just as much value as a place inside the National Park.
A 30-minute drive from the National Park, the village is tranquil and lovely. Hangout with the locals at one of the bars, shop easily at the village stores, and use it as a base for your Yosemite itinerary adventures!
There are also some camp sites. These are by far the most economic options. Or, if you have a bit extra in your budget there is a huge selection of VRBOs in Yosemite.
Best Hostel in Yosemite – Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort
The best hostel in Yosemite, this charming resort is a short drive from the National Park. It’s a great place to meet adventurous people and relax after a long day of exploring. Located on a forested hillside, the resort has a great kitchen, a restaurant, and even a health spa!
Best Budget Hotel in Yosemite – Reverse Creek Lodge
Book a cottage at this family-friendly lodge! It’s a fantastic budget option, with fully equipped kitchens in each cottage, a patio with barbeque facilities, and gas fireplaces. It’s a 25-minute drive from the national park, with hiking trails and the Mercer river a short walk away! It’s the Best place to stay in Yosemite.
Best Luxury Hotel in Yosemite – Snowcreek Resort
For a luxurious vacation in Yosemite, stay at Snowcreek Resort! The units are all gorgeous and comfortable, with everything you need, including a balcony with picturesque views. The Snowcreek Athletic Club features swimming pools, a gym, and a steam room! For a romantic stay or getaway, it’s the perfect accommodation.
Day 1 includes entering into the park (an experience in itself) a demanding but worthwhile hike and then some evening chill & kum-bya time!
Yosemite is massive and some of California’s best hikes are inside its boundaries! It has over a hundred lakes, immensely tall waterfalls and trees, and a landmass that surpasses numerous European countries. A Yosemite walking tour would take weeks!
However, you can stroll into the park from one of the five entrances, and get a good feel for the place. This is often better than just driving in! There’s so much to see and be amazed by, you want to give yourself some time to enjoy it all.
We suggest you come through the Arch Rock Entrance! This route is a stop of its own, and you’ll want to get a photo or two with the radically impressive rock you pass under! This is also the fastest route from San Francisco, making it ideal for that great Californian road trip.
If you are camping in Yosemite, then use this time to get your tent pitched up to.
- Cost – $15 ($35 if you come by car)
- How Long Should I Stay Here? – 90 minutes to 3 hours
- Getting There – You can get dropped of by the Yarts bus by the entrance
The highest waterfall in the park, and one of the highest in North America, Yosemite Falls is a top Yosemite attraction! It’s a steep but short hike to get there, and you’re well rewarded.
The waterfall has three separate cascades. In spring these will be massive with snow runoff, making it the best season to see it! It’s a short walk from the little Yosemite Village where you can buy any necessary supplies for your Yosemite vacation.
If you want to hike up to the top of the falls it will take you 8 hours! With only a 3 day itinerary in Yosemite, it’s best to hike to one viewpoint and move on to the next Yosemite point of interest.
- Cost – Free with entrance
- How Long Should I Spend Here? – Allow 3-4 hours for the climb and descent
- How To Get There – Walk from the valley floor
Yosemite is all about the little joys, about lighting a camp fire, cooking up some food and simply enjoying being in nature. You can buy wood in the store (don’t forage for wild wood as this is not permitted). The stores in Yosemite can be pricey so its best if you bring some tins and pasta into the park with you but I suggest picking up a few bottles of Sierra Madres California ale to drink by the fire side.
The bulk of Day 2 in Yosemite is going to be taken up by the Half Dome Hike. In order to climb Half Dome you will need a permit as daily visitor numbers are limited and access is carefully regulated. You would be wise to apply for your permit as far in advance as you possibly can.
This granite cliff is smooth and round on three sides, and looks like it was cut in half! You can see it from miles away, but we recommend you hike to the east side of Yosemite National Park and get a good look at it!
The base of Half Dome is the perfect place to enjoy a midday picnic. With the spray of the waterfall on the breeze and greenery all around, it’s a wonder.
The best hike in Yosemite is the hike all the way to Half Dome’s summit. You have incredible views over the valley, and the hike itself includes some very interesting areas!.
However, it’s a very strenuous hike and will take up to a day to complete. You also need a special permit to complete the hike. This does need sorting well in advance but this is such a classic Yosemite experience that it cannot be missed.
- Cost – No cost but make sure you get your permit and bring a packed lunch
- How Long Should I Stay Here? – Set aside a full 6 hours – they can be a queue to summit
- Getting There – Walk from the valley floor
While you’re in Yosemite Valley, be sure to stop at the Ansel Adams Gallery! This charming little gallery sells and showcases photography by the celebrated landscape artist. His work is so beautiful and perfectly reflects the surrounding landscape.
Many can’t think of Yosemite without thinking of Ansel Adams – the 20th-century black-and-white photographs are iconic.
You may want to bring some of his work back home to remember Yosemite by (prints are available), but you can also just enjoy some window shopping, and appreciate the artistry!
- Cost – Free entrance
- How Long Should I Stay Here? – 30 – 60 minutes
- Getting There – Walk or get the Yosemite bus
This fantastic little museum focuses on the history of the people who once lived in Yosemite Valley – the Ahwahnechee people!
Here you’ll learn about the valley’s human history – including the culture of the indigenous people, and the valley’s ‘discovery’ by European explorers. You’ll also find gorgeous landscape paintings of the area!
Exhibits include a really impressive Native basket display and examples of authentic structures found in Native American villages like the one historically situated here.
This is a fantastic opportunity to learn a bit more about the incredible place surrounding you, and dive deeper into its native history. It’s also a chance to head inside and stroll about after a long day of adventure!
- Cost – Free
- How Long Should I Spend Here? 30 – 60 minutes
- Getting There – Walk or take the Yosemite bus
The perfect way to relax after such a full day of exploring and adventuring! The Spa has beautiful views from many of its rooms. Watch the sunset over Yosemite as you get a massage.
The Spa caters to hikers who have spent all day carrying packs, so they know just how to get out all those aches and pains. They even have a 60-minute massage called Hiker’s Trek!
You can have a neck and scalp massage to work on those knots. Or try something different and get a hot stone massage or Quartz aromatherapy! You’ll stroll out of here feeling strong and capable of anything, ready to day 2 of your 3-day itinerary in Yosemite!
- Cost – Prices range from $60 to $175 USD
- How Long Should I Spend Here? 30 – 60 minutes
- Getting There – Walk or take the Yosemite bus
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On day 3 of your Yosemite trip itinerary, you’ll enjoy a day even more packed with Yosemite landmarks and fun activities. You’ll spend the first half of the day with your heart beating fast, while the second half is dedicated to calm enjoyment!
This is Yosemite’s most iconic vista! From this viewpoint, you’ll enjoy a panorama of Yosemite’s most famous attractions. Look out at Yosemite Valley, with waterfalls cascading and monoliths framing the scene.
The whole view looks magical – you won’t believe you’re on the same planet, so untouched an idyllic is the scene.
Since this is your first stop, we suggest you wake up early and get here as soon as you can! You’ll have the view all to yourself, and you can spend some time exploring the area. It’s so beautiful, you won’t want to leave!
- Cost – Free with entrance
- How Long Should I Spend Here? 1 or 2 hours to walk, take the view and enjoy life
- Getting There – Walk or take the Yosemite bus
When touring Yosemite one of the most fun activities is a little white river rafting! Yosemite is so full of rivers and rapids, it’s the perfect place for it.
You can find Zephyr Whitewater just outside of the National Park, and embark on a half-day trip from there! Watch the gorgeous Yosemite landscape pass you by as you navigate the rapids with your guide leading.
Alternatively (if you’d prefer not to wake up early enough to fit a half-day tour into your Yosemite itinerary), you can rent inflatable rafts! Float along the Merced River on a blissful trip downstream.
This is gonna take much off the day so eat a good, hearty breakfast before you jump in a dinghy!
- Cost – $92 – $117 USD depending on age, solo or group, and season
- How Long Should I Spend Here? A few hours
- Getting There – Walk or take the Yosemite bus.
While you’re on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park, take a trip to one of the fantastic nearby wine farms! You’ll be able to taste a number of wines, and if you like them, take a few bottles home with you to remember this exquisite place by!
Most of the wine farms are open to tastings by booking, or over the weekend – some, however, are closed in winter. We suggest you visit Yosemite Cellars if you’re spending a weekend in Yosemite. The location is fantastic, and their tastings of four to five wines are complimentary!
- Cost: Varies
- How Long Should I Stay Here? – 60 – 90 minutes
- Getting There – We’re going outside the park so either drive or find a ride
The best way to end off a perfect day is certainly watching the sunset from this picturesque location! Be sure to get here before the sun is actually setting, so that you can enjoy the scenery all three ways – in the light, as the sun sets, and under a blanket of stars.
The sky here is so clear that you can perfectly see the Milky Way. You’ll also have a perfect panorama of the park, making the sunset one of the best you’ll ever see! Especially if there are a few clouds dotting the sky.
You can simply drive up to Glacier Point Overlook, making it an easy trip. You won’t have to walk a far distance in the dark! There may be a few people sharing the view with you, but there certainly won’t be the kind of crowd you’ll find in the middle of the day.
Watching the various waterfalls grow golden in the sunset, and Half Dome glowing pink, is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of view. Don’t miss it!
- Cost – Free
- How Long Should I Stay Here? – An hour or two
- Getting There – Walk and take the night air
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighborhood in Yosemite
Winding through the heart of Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley is a must for anyone visiting the region – whether you choose to stay there or not! If you do end up staying there, you’ll find some incredible adventure activities and truly rural accommodation experiences.
- The natural attractions of Yosemite Valley are why the National Park is so famous – you can’t miss out on Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Tunnel View.
- Wawona is a short drive away but a must-visit for history buffs thanks to the collection of historic buildings and pioneer exhibitions.
- Ahwahnee Dining Room is a little bit upscale, but certainly a welcome reprieve from the non-stop adventure of Yosemite National Park.
If you’re lucky enough to have more time in Yosemite, there’s still so much to do! Both in Yosemite National Park and beyond it. Strap on your hiking boots and pack in that camera!
1. Climb El Capitan
One of the most famous and most popular mountains for climbing in the world! El Capitan is an incredible stop in Yosemite! Whether you’re a seasoned climber or a total newbie, it’s worthwhile.
El Capitan, fondly known as El Cap, was made famous by the current world’s best climber, Alex Honnold! He climbed the monolith with no ropes – something you certainly should not try to repeat yourself!
You can find a guide and a few great climbs set up for beginners. They have harnesses and helmets at the ready so that you can enjoy an easy climb with spectacular views! The guides also help you so that you know what you’re doing, making it a great activity for both adults and kids.
If you want to do the whole thing, you will need your own gear including lines and rope protectors.
If you already know how to climb and belay, and perhaps even how to lead climb, things get a bit more exciting! You can get a booklet on all the climbing routes on El Cap, and set out to find some of your favorites.
You can never climb alone, so be sure to bring a trusted belay partner, as well as all the required gear. Yosemite National Park has equipment available, but it can get pretty pricey.
There are, fortunately, no extra fees or permits required to climb here! Once you’ve paid the park’s entrance fee, you can climb wherever you want!
Wondering what to do in Yosemite without hiking? Gold panning is the perfect alternative, keeping you out in the sunshine!
For decades people have been obsessed with finding gold in the Merced riverbed! Once there was so much to be found, and the gold rush fueled the American economy. Feel the excitement of that Gold Fever on this fun activity!
While you can’t pan for gold in Yosemite itself, there are a number of places in Mariposa where you can give it a go! Maybe you’ll ‘strike it rich’ and find that bright golden nugget that has influenced society for millennia!
It’s called ‘prospecting’, and it’s a great activity for solo travelers, couples and families. You’ll have all the equipment provided for you in a lesson. They will also show you how to read the land for signs of gold in this historically gold-rich area!
Join a 1-hour panning lesson for $50 USD, or set out on a 2-hour excursion for $75 USD. It’s all child-friendly and lots of fun.
Or, of course, you can simply wade through the Mercer river and keep an eye out on shiny things while the rest of your crew laze on lilos in the river! It may not be as legit, but it sure sounds great!
Bridal Veil Falls is another important stop on your Yosemite itinerary! One of the park’s most accessible stops, this is a perfect place to visit with anyone with physical constraints or handicaps.
You can enjoy the views with a picnic lunch, or stroll around the area for an hour or two and take in the incredible nature. You will definitely get wet if you’re standing anywhere near the falls! If the sun is shining, you’ll even see a bright rainbow lending the scene a little extra magic.
When the wind blows, this fall truly does look like the veil of a bride. This makes it a perfect place to stop and get some pictures, especially for those traveling here on their honeymoon! In fact, this whole Yosemite itinerary can be extremely romantic if you’re traveling in pairs.
The walk to Bridal Veil is short and easy, but if you want to get close to the water you’ll have to clamber over some rocks. If you do, be careful – the rocks can get slippery when wet! It’s also best to make the trip early, or in the late afternoon. Due to its accessibility, it can get relatively crowded!
With more than a 2-day itinerary in Yosemite, a hike along the Mist Trail is a must! This short hike got its name from the frequently present layer of mist that stretches along it, as it nears the banks of Vernal Falls.
The trail winds its way between the tumultuous river and the granite monoliths beside it. You’ll pass boulders the size of a house, and see so much natural beauty! You may even see the incredibly rare complete circular rainbow!
You can choose to continue your hike past Vernal Falls and onto the twice as tall Nevada Falls. Brilliant views can be found all along the hike, so if you can continue, we suggest you do!
The hike is rather strenuous and steep, so if you have zero fitness or strength, you may have to omit it from your Yosemite itinerary (3 days). However, it is only 3 – 7 miles long and can be tackled at your own pace. Bring along a picnic to enjoy at the top while you’re sunning yourself dry!
You can make the Mist Trail just the start of your adventure and continue onto Half Dome or the John Muir Trail. Just keep in mind that a permit is required for overnighting on the trail, and another one for hiking up Half Dome!
No Yosemite itinerary is complete without our last stop, Sentinel Dome! The rocky monolith provides for an interesting hike, high above sea level. You may even feel the effects of the elevation!
It’s not a difficult hike. Only the final stretch up the granite dome is steep, but it’s short and sweet! The rest of the hike is relatively mild. You can only reach Sentinel Dome when the Glacier Point Road is open, so watch the weather!
This hike is Yosemite’s easiest way to enjoy views of those vast undulating mountains everywhere you turn. This makes it so worthwhile! As long as you can hike, you should. Depending on the time of year you’re traveling, there may be a bit of a crowd. But it never gets too busy!
From the top of Sentinel, you should be able to see almost all of the stops on your Yosemite itinerary! It’s the perfect place to end off your Yosemite trip.
Be sure to bring a camera! You do not want to miss out on taking a few shots of these views. Not to mention yourself, with this epic backdrop! It’s really one of the best places to visit in Yosemite.
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Best Time to Visit Yosemite
Yosemite is a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year. And because of its massive size, you’ll never have too much trouble with crowds, no matter where you stay in Yosemite! When to visit the National Park is determined by how you want to experience it!
We suggest you go in spring (March – May) when the sun is bright and warm, and relativiely few people are roaming the park. The daylight hours are temperate and ideal, but the nights get chilly, so pack some warm clothes.
Summer (June – August) is also a wonderful time to go – the park really comes alive in the warmer months! The mountains are covered in flowers, waterfalls are roaring, and animals can often be spotted.
In winter (December – February) many of the hiking trails are closed off in the cold months due to snow. The area gets really cold, putting off some backpackers! However, this opens up Yosemite’s ski season! That’s a whole other ball of fun, and while skiing is not included in our itinerary, it’s a fantastic activity to enjoy if you happen to be here at that time.
I visited in November. It was generally cool in the days and got seriously cold in the early hours of the morning – bring a good sleeping bag or else thermals and full winter gear.
|Average Temperatures||Chance of Rain||Crowds||Overall Grade|
|January||4°C / 39°F||High||Calm||😐|
|February||5°C / 41°F||High||Calm||😐|
|March||7°C / 45°F||High||Calm||🙂|
|April||10°C / 50°F||Average||Medium||🙂|
|May||14°C / 58°F||Low||Medium||😀|
|June||18°C / 65°F||Low||Busy||😀|
|July||22°C / 72°F||Low||Busy||🙂|
|August||22°C / 72°F||Low||Busy||😀|
|September||19°C / 67°F||Low||Medium||🙂|
|October||14°C / 57°F||Average||Medium||🙂|
|November||7°C / 45°F||High||Calm||😐|
|December||3°C / 37°F||High||Calm||🙂|
How To Get Around Yosemite
The best way to get around Yosemite is by car. You may need to rent a car to do the trip, but it is often worth it to have full freedom in your Yosemite itinerary. With only three/two days in Yosemite, you won’t waste any time waiting for a bus, and you won’t have to rush to catch one! A car will enable you to get around Yosemite and then take a California road trip afterwards!
Still, Yosemite does have its own public transport. A shuttle system runs through the park and stops at most Yosemite points of interest. You can also find a bus from most major cities nearby so that you don’t have to rent a car to get here. If you are happy to stick to the “main parts” of the park then the bus is as good an option as any.
The Yosemite Valley Shuttle operates throughout the year, from 7 am to 10 pm. This is a valuable service! While it may take longer than by car, you’ll get everywhere you need to be. If you’re backpacking in California and don’t have a car, you won’t be left behind!
Note that you can get to Yosemite on
the YARTS bus from Merced train station. Merced is quite a sorry town and caution is advised.
There are few safety concerns in Yosemite National Park! As long as you pack strong walking shoes, water, and sunscreen, you’ll easily make it through your Yosemite itinerary. If you are camping outside of summer, then I highly recomened a good quality sleeping bag as thge nights get painfully cold – please do not underestimate the severity of this.
Wild animals are generally skittish and do not disturb the humans passing through their habitat!
There are a few safety tips to take into account so that you can ensure a safe and happy vacation in Yosemite! The most important tip is not to leave any food in your car. This can attract animals while you are away, and this is bad, both for you, and for the animals!
You may spot a black bear, but consider this an incredible privilege rather than a safety concern. The bears are not dangerous – keep your distance and respect their habitat. If one approaches you, scare them away by raising your arms and making loud noises. And keep in mind, no one has been killed by a black bear in Yosemite!
Drive slowly and safely in the park, to avoid skidding in bad weather conditions, and to ensure that you don’t hit an animal. Keep a first-aid kit on you, because it’s always good to come prepared!
And have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
There is so much life and beauty here, a weekend in Yosemite is hardly enough time. Nonetheless, with this Yosemite itinerary you’ll fit in all the best it has to offer!
This itinerary for Yosemite includes hikes, climbing, river rafting and star gazing – everything you need for the perfect solo trip, active romantic getaway, or family weekend. As long as you enjoy getting a little active! But it’s not all high-intensity fun. Massages and sightseeing will break up your activity lineup perfectly.
If you have more time to spend, extend some of the stops – like Yosemite Falls and Half Dome – into half-day hikes! The views only get better, and it’ll certainly be a trek to remember.
Now all that’s left to do is plan your trip to Yosemite! Incorporate it into a tour of California, or a great American road trip.
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