Yosemite Weekend Itinerary: See the Best in Just 2-3 Days

Yosemite Valley is the crown jewel of Yosemite National Park. From sheer granite cliffs to gushing waterfalls, this 7-mile long valley packed with iconic Yosemite scenery. Even if you only have a weekend to spare, you can still experience the highlights of Yosemite Valley. This 2-day Yosemite weekend itinerary takes you on a whirlwind tour to see the most famous sites and natural wonders. From thundering waterfalls to reflective lakes, you’ll get a healthy dose of Yosemite’s beauty.

Of course, there is far more to Yosemite National Park than just Yosemite Valley! For a comprehensive guide to everything in the broader Yosemite area, be sure to check out my detailed blog post “The Ultimate Guide to Yosemite National Park.” It covers all the park’s attractions – including giant sequoia groves, high country hikes, the historic Wawona Hotel, scenic drives, and more. Whether you have 2 days or 2 weeks, that guide will help you plan the Yosemite adventure of a lifetime.

This 2-3 day Yosemite Valley itinerary is meant to serve as a guide to help you plan your visit, but should not be followed as an exact schedule. The amount you’re able to see and do will depend on factors like your starting location and drive time to the park, traffic conditions, road closures, weather, crowds, your hiking pace and abilities, and unexpected delay

The goal is to see as much as possible while avoiding rushing from spot to spot. Relax and soak in the incredible scenery – you’re on vacation after all! Adjust this guide as needed to create your own perfect Yosemite Valley adventure.

As of 2024 you need reservations to get into Yosemite National Park during peak hours. To learn more about the permit system & get your permits click HERE.

Yosemite Weekend Itinerary Day 1:

Start your day early to beat the crowds and catch the best light. Arrive in Yosemite Valley as the sun rises over the towering granite cliffs.

Bridalveil Falls

Your first stop on this Yosemite weekend itinerary will be Bridalveil Fall. Take the short 0.5 mile paved trail from the parking area to view this year-round, 620-foot waterfall. Feel the roar of the crashing water and get misted as you admire the ribbon of water cascading down. Early morning is the best time to see the breeze blow the mist into ethereal wisps resembling a bride’s veil.

After appreciating Bridalveil Fall, continue into the valley and try to park at Yosemite Village or the Yosemite Valley Lodge. Sometimes finding a parking spot is hard enough (especially in the summer) so any legal parking spot is good.

Valley Floor Tour

Next, take one of the relaxing Valley Floor Tours on the open-air tram in the summer or a bus in the winter to appreciate Yosemite Valley’s iconic sites. You get to make stops to admire views of Tunnel View, El Capitan, and Valley View.

Yosemite Valley Lodge

Here at the Yosemite Valley Lodge you can stop for any meal at the Basecamp Eatery, Grab a coffee at Starbucks, Eat a delicious dinner at the Mountain Room Restaurant (Reservations Required) with views of Yosemite Falls (while the falls are running) or grab drinks at the Mountain Room Lounge.

Yosemite Village

Afterwards, head to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Watch the informative park movie about the history and geology of the valley. Check out the Yosemite Museum and the Art Gallery to gain perspective on how humans have interacted with the valley over time.

While you’re there you can also stop at Deagnan’s for sandwiches & Coffee or the Yosemite Valley Grill during the summers for fast food & ice cream.

If you forgot any groceries or want to look for the perfect souvenirs the Yosemite Village Store is perfect for all your needs.

Lower Yosemite Falls & Cooks Meadow

Take the shuttle to Stop 6 or walk to Lower Yosemite Falls. This towering waterfall is the tallest in North America at 2,425 feet! Walk the 1 mile loop trail to view the massive waterfall up-close. Feel the power of the thundering water and enjoy the refreshing mist.

This is one of the easiest hikes in Yosemite Valley. With it being short and paved (great for strollers & wheelchairs) with a great view at the end it also makes it one of the most popular hikes.

Before or after visiting Lower Yosemite Falls you can walk on the boardwalks through Cooks meadow. This is another easy walk with great views of Yosemite Falls & Half Dome. Come during sunset so see Half Dome light up or come after dark for amazing stargazing.

Yosemite Itinerary Day 2:

Mist Trail

Start your second day on your Yosemite itinerary early by hiking the famous Mist Trail, perfect for visitors of all ages and hiking skill levels. First stop is the Vernal Falls Footbridge in just 1 mile, which gives you a view of 317-foot Vernal Falls with a light misting. Continue another 1.5 miles up steep granite steps to the top of Vernal Falls for thrilling views of the waterfall’s massive cascade. Next is the top of Nevada Falls after 2.5 miles, featuring the Merced River plunging 594 feet down a cliff. Finally, continue 1 more mile up steep switchbacks carved into the rock to glimpse Half Dome’s sheer granite face. The Mist Trail has options for all abilities, from short walks to the footbridge to strenuous hikes to the top of Nevada Falls or Half Dome beyond.

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is the perfect picnic spot after a long morning of hiking. Pack a lunch and claim one of the flat, sandy areas around the lakeshore to spread out your blanket.

On warmer days, you may even want to go for a refreshing swim in Mirror Lake’s cool, pristine waters when water levels are higher in late spring/early summer. The lake waters are exceptionally clear, allowing you to look straight through to the sandy bottom. Be aware that the lake can have very cold temperatures year-round due to the snowmelt sources.

However, by late summer and fall, Mirror Lake often dries up considerably, leaving more of a meadow environment. If you visit during this time, you can still enjoy picnicking and hiking the loop trail, but swimming likely won’t be an option. The exposed lakebed makes for interesting exploring though, with potential to see wildlife making use of the area.

Curry Village

After hiking all day Curry Village has a lot of options for food and drink. If you’re craving pizza, the Pizza Deck is perfect. You can also get drinks & food from the 1890 bar. If you’re seeking something a little more homestyle the Seven Tents Pavilion has you covered. Alternately there are seasonal eateries that may or may not be open when you visit.

Yosemite Itinerary Day 3:

Use this last day to revisit any highlights you may have missed on Days 1 and 2. Or choose one of the seasonal special activities below:

Winter:

  • Go snowshoeing or skiing at historic Badger Pass. Located in the upper reaches of the park, it offers beautiful snowy vistas.

Summer/Fall:

  • Explore the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. These massive trees are a can’t miss.
  • Take in the views at Tuolumne Meadows, a highlight of the high country.
  • Go rafting down the Merced River. You can do this in the park and there are companies in Mariposa that will take you whitewater rafting outside the park.
  • Marvel at the valley views from Glacier Point on a scenic hike or drive.

While Yosemite Valley shouldn’t be rushed, this itinerary guarantees you’ll see the highlights even on a weekend visit. Just come prepared to be awed and ready to get those hiking boots on!

The immense natural beauty of Yosemite will draw you back again and again. For a comprehensive guide to exploring more of the park beyond Yosemite Valley, be sure to check out my other blog post “The Ultimate Guide to Yosemite National Park”. Whether you have 2 days or 2 weeks, Yosemite will exceed your expectations and create lasting memories.

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