The Perfect Yosemite 2 Day Itinerary: Plan an Epic Weekend in Yosemite National Park

If you could only visit one place for the rest of your life, where would you go? For me the answer is easy – Yosemite National Park. I’ve been so lucky to have visited Yosemite over a dozen times in my life. From the towering granite peaks of Yosemite valley, thundering waterfalls, and ancient giant sequoia trees, you could spend a lifetime (and then some) exploring this Park.

But assuming you only have a weekend to spend here, you’re going to need a perfectly planned 2 day Yosemite itinerary.

This guide covers the best hikes, scenic drives, and viewpoints you simply can’t miss on a 2 day visit to Yosemite. If you’re just getting started planning your trip, scroll down for my favorite tips on where to stay, when to visit, and how to get around my favorite National Park.

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links where I earn a small commission from any purchase – at no extra cost to you. This commission helps keep Brooke In Boots up and running. As always, all opinions are 100% honest and my own!

A Quick Look at the Perfect 2 Day Yosemite Itinerary

This 2 day Yosemite itinerary hits the must-see highlights for your first visit to Yosemite National Park.

Day 1

  • Wawona Tunnel
  • Mist Trail
  • Yosemite Falls
  • Dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel

Day 2

  • Cook’s Meadow
  • Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and Glacier Point Road
  • OR Tioga Road, Cathedral Lakes Trail, and Tuolumne Meadows

This guide covers each of these incredible sights in detail, below. I’ve also included my favorite Yosemite tips and must-know information for planning your 2 day Yosemite itinerary.

Yosemite Valley from Clark Point / 2 Day Yosemite Itinerary

Important Tips for Planning Your 2 Day Yosemite Itinerary

Before we get into my absolutely epic 2 day Yosemite itinerary, let’s go over a couple of important things to know about planning a trip to Yosemite.

Different Areas of Yosemite National Park

An important thing to remember is Yosemite is huge – about 748,000 acres, its about the size of the state of Rhode Island!

When using a GPS, make sure you plug in the exact address you’re trying to get to. Asking Google Maps to get you to “Yosemite” and not “Yosemite Valley Visitor Center” could take you hours in the wrong direction!

There are several distinct areas inside Yosemite National Park:

  • Yosemite Valley
  • Wawona
  • Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
  • Glacier Point
  • Tioga Road & Tuolumne Meadows
  • Crane Flat
  • Hetch Hetchy

The main areas covered by this Yosemite 2 day itinerary include Yosemite Valley, Mariposa Grove, Glacier Point and Tioga Road & Tuolumne Meadows.

Entrance Fees & Reservations in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park charges an entrance fee to enter the Park. $35 per vehicle or $20 per person if entering by foot, bike, or horse.

Entrance fees are included if you purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. This annual pass costs $80 and includes entrance fees to all 63 National Parks and NPS managed sites.

As of 2023, there are no reservations required to enter Yosemite National Park. Permits are required for hiking Half Dome and for all backpacking trips. These permits are highly competitive (I’ve learned that lesson the hard way tryign to get Half Dome and John Muir Trail permits). Learn more about permits and reservations in Yosemite, here.

Yosemite from the Top of Nevada Falls / 2 Day Yosemite Itinerary

When to Visit Yosemite National Park

My favorite times to visit Yosemite are late spring, once Tioga Road and Glacier Point roads are open, until late Fall, before the first snowstorms close the roads again.

Summer (June – September) : Summer is by far the most popular time to visit Yosemite National Park. Expect hot days in the valley and lots of crowds. Plan to arrive early (like sunrise, early) to grab a parking spot or hit the trails.

All major roads in the park are open. In early summer, waterfalls are flowing, but nearly dry up by late summer. Temps average in the 90s and 80s during the day, down to the 50s at night. The Valley sees virtually no rainfall during summer, and long summer days mean maximum time to explore.

Fall (October – November) : I love visiting Yosemite in fall. Crowds diminish after Labor Day and the weather is great for hiking. Most high sierra areas like Glacier Point and Tioga Road remain open until the first major snowfall, usually mid-November, but sometimes much later.

Winter (December – March) : Winter in Yosemite is incredible, but if its your first visit to Yosemite, I don’t suggest visiting at this time. Many of the Park’s attractions like Glacier Point Road close for the season, and dining and lodging options are limited. But in exchange, you get to experience an unbelievable winter wonderland, and snow play options aplenty, including Badger Pass Ski Area.

If you plan on driving to Yosemite in Winter (November through March), get familiar with the Park’s chain requirements. I can tell you from experience, take the chain requirements seriously. You will NOT be permitted to enter the Park if you are not in compliance, and you risk serious injury (or worse) if you are unprepared.

Seasonal Road Closures in Yosemite

Check out the historic road and trail opening dates to get an idea of when roads typically close and open for the winter season. While these dates give a good approximation, it is impossible to know when exactly the high Sierra roads in Yosemite will open and close every year. Late spring snow storms are extremely common in this area.

The following is a rough approximation of winter road closures in Yosemite:

Tioga Road: closes by mid-November and reopens by early June.

Glacier Point Road: closes by mid-November and reopens by mid-May.

Mariposa Grove: closes by late November and reopens in May.

Spring (April – May) : Spring in Yosemite is a special time, and my second favorite season to visit Yosemite. There are far fewer crowds and most trails and sights in Yosemite Valley are open, some with “winter route” modifications. As the weather warms, Yosemite’s famous waterfalls become roaring cascades. Tioga Road and Glacier Point are usually open by mid-May, depending on late-Spring snow conditions. Temps range from the 50’s to 70’s during the day, while night’s stay cold in the 30s or 40s.

In March, April, and May, be prepared for snow conditions, including road closures, chain requirements, and blizzards. In fact, March and April are routinely the snowiest months of the year.

Exploring Yosemite in Winter / Yosemite 2 Day Itinerary

The Perfect Yosemite 2 Day Itinerary – How to Spend a Weekend In Yosemite National Park

There are virtually endless things to do and amazing sights to see in Yosemite. This 2 day itinerary includes my favorite “bucket-list” attractions, while making the most of your short weekend in Yosemite National Park.

FYI, this itinerary assumes you are visiting when all major roads and attractions in Yosemite, including Glacier Point, Tioga Road, and Mariposa Grove are likely to be open.

It also assumes you’ll be staying in Yosemite Valley. If you’re staying outside Yosemite Valley, make sure to add in travel time – and arrive as early as possible to get a parking spot! If you’re looking for suggestions where to stay in Yosemite, check out the lodging guide further down.

Yosemite 2 Day Itinerary Map

Day 1: Yosemite Valley Highlights

Wawona Tunnel and Bridelveil Falls

Start your 2 days in Yosemite as early as possible. If you only have 2 days, try and arrive at the Park Entrances by 7am. Don’t forget – it takes 30 to 45 minutes to reach Yosemite Valley once you’ve entered the Park.

If you’re entering via the Wawona / Highway 41 South entrance, you’re in for an awesome view before you even enter the Valley.

After driving through the long Wawona Tunnel (blasted from solid granite bedrock in the 1930’s) you’ll be awestruck by views of Yosemite Valley in front of you. Park in the large lot and and battle buses of tourists for arguably the most iconic photo spot in any National Park!

For visitors entering from all other entrances – don’t worry, you’ll come back for this view later! Continue from the entrance plaza and drive towards Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite Valley from the Wawona Tunnel / 2 Day Yosemite Itinerary

On the way to the day-use Parking Lot, stop at Bridalveil Falls. This waterfall cascades 620 feet into Yosemite Valley. Stop and park and walk the short 1/4 mile trail to the viewing platform. Enjoy the view – but don’t stay too long – you’ve got lots more to see!

The Bridalveil trail and parking area is closed until Fall 2023 for construction of a new boardwalk, parking area, and trailhead facilities. If you are visiting during construction, skip this stop.

Most hotels and campgrounds in Yosemite require a pass displayed in your vehicle, so make sure to check in with Registration and ask for a pass. If you cannot get a pass (check in is usually around 3-4pm, depending on the property), park at the Yosemite Village Day Use Visitor parking for now.

If you skipped breakfast this morning, head into Yosemite Village, the commercial and social hub of the Park, and grab a breakfast sandwich at Degnan’s Deli. You can also visit the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, collect your National Park Passport Stamp , quickly hit the gift shop, and talk to the Park Rangers.

Vernal Falls from the Mist Trail in Yosemite
Vernal Falls from the Mist Trail in Yosemite

The Mist Trail

Get ready, because you’re going on a hike! The hike on the Mist Trail is one of the most famous in Yosemite, and one of my favorite day hikes in any National Park.

In fact, I love this trail SO much, I wrote a whole other post about it – check it out here – covering absolutely everything you need to know about this signature bucket-list hike!

From Yosemite Village, walk to Shuttle Stops #1 (located on the east side of the day-use Parking Lot) or Shuttle Stop #2 (in front of the Village Store in Yosemite Village). Board the East Valley Shuttle to stop #16, Happy Isles.

Depending on your fitness level, and how much time you have, this trail has an option for everyone. Expect breathtaking views and soaring granite cliffs. Climb more than 600 stone steps carved into the side of two spectacular waterfalls: Vernal and Nevada Falls.

Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls

Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Depending on your fitness level, and how much time you have, there are several routes along the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls:

Vernal Footbridge: 1.6 Miles round trip / 1 Hour / Moderate / Elevation gain 400’

Vernal Falls Via Mist Trail: 2.4 Miles round trip / 3 Hours / Hard / Elevation gain 1,000’

Vernal Falls via Mist Trail and Clark Point via John Muir Trail: 4.2 Miles round trip / 4 Hours / Hard / Elevation gain 1550’

Vernal and Nevada Falls Via Mist Trail and Clark Point via John Muir Trail: 6.7 Miles round trip / 5-6 Hours / Strenuous / Elevation gain 1900′

Trail directions on All Trails. Check current conditions on NPS website, here.

Beginner hikers and families with younger kids may want to consider hiking only to Vernal Falls or the Footbridge.

Hiking the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls is a serious adventure. Make sure you are prepared with the proper day hiking essentials, including sturdy waterproof hiking shoes, and rain gear. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and snacks to eat on the trail!

Since you’ve probably worked up an appetite, grab quick snack or lunch in Yosemite Village at Degnan’s Deli (sandwiches, pizza, and other to-go options), The Loft at Degnan’s (pizza, BBQ and other casual lunch and dinner), or the Village Grill (summers only).

Taking in Yosemite Falls / Yosemite Weekend 2 Day Itinerary

Yosemite Falls

Once you are refreshed, it’s time for an easy walk to Yosemite Falls. Walk west of the Yosemite Valley Visitor’s Center and follow signs for Yosemite Falls and the Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead. A fully paved and wheelchair-accessible path winds to the base of the falls.

Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

Difficulty: Easy / Wheelchair Accessible

1.2 Miles / Loop / 50 Feet Gain / 1 Hour

At 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America. While the falls are year-round, they are little more than a trickle during late summer. During the spring snowmelt an astounding 2,400 gallons PER SECOND flow over the top.

Trail directions on All Trails. NPS website information.

At this point you could probably use a break, and definitely a shower if you’re hiking during summer. Check in to your hotel or campground and change out of your hiking clothes, because your next stop is a little more classy….

Dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel

Enjoying a post hike cocktail at the Ahwahnee Bar

If you aren’t staying in the Ahwahnee Hotel, make sure to swing by for drinks, dinner, or at least to people-watch at this stunning historic property. Built in 1927, this National Historic Landmark is considered the epitome of National Park Service Rustic Architecture – better known as “Parkitecture.”

To access the Ahwahnee, take the Valleywide Shuttle to Stop #3, or drive and self-park at the Hotel’s small parking lot. (The East Valley Shuttle does NOT access the Ahwahnee.)

After wandering through the lobby and Great Room, enjoy a drink in the bar and outdoor patio while watching the sunset on the granite cliffs around you. If you budget allows, enjoy dinner at the casually- elegant Ahwahnee Dining Room. Reservations are strongly suggested for dinner, but not required for the Bar. Lunch and Dinner service have been modified due to COVID – check here for current conditions.

Want to learn more about planning an epic National Parks trip? Grab my free Ultimate National Parks Planning Guide, including 70+ pages of National Park packing checklists, planning tips, and everything you need to know to start planning a trip to all 63 National Parks!

Day 2: Mariposa Grove and Glacier Point

With only 2 days in Yosemite, you’ll have to pick and choose which sections of the Park to explore today. First time visitors to Yosemite will probably want to see two of Yosemite’s most iconic sights: the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and Glacier Point.

But, serious hikers and visitors who just can’t wait to explore the high Sierra might want to visit Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows instead. I’ve included this alternative itinerary in the next section, below.

Why not both? The Mariposa/Glacier Point area and Tioga Road areas are in directly opposite directions. In my experience, it’s not really feasible to visit both in one day. If you have more time, extend your trip and see both using my Yosemite 3 Day Itinerary guide.

Breakfast and Cook’s Meadow

Enjoy a filling breakfast at your campsite or lodge (my favorite is the Basecamp Eatery at Yosemite Village Lodge) before heading out. If time allows, take your coffee to-go and enjoy a walk through Cook’s Meadow.

This 1 mile easy loop is easily accessed from Yosemite Village or the Lower Yosemite Falls shuttle stop. The wheelchair accessible boardwalk and paved path has stunning views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.

Half Dome from Cook’s Meadow

Once you’re caffeinated, it’s time to see some really impressive trees.

From Yosemite Valley, drive to the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza, located near the Park’s south entrance on Wawona Road / Highway 41. The drive from Yosemite Valley takes approximately 1 Hour.

If you skipped the Tunnel View on the way into the Valley this morning, don’t forget to stop here now and enjoy the view!

As you drive on Wawona Road, take note of the turn-off for Glacier Point Road, approximately 20 minutes past the Tunnel View. You’ll come back here later this afternoon.

Park at the newly renovated Welcome Plaza and grab the free Shuttle to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. The Shuttle operates seasonally, April through November, depending on conditions. Shuttles arrive every 10 to 15 minutes starting at 8AM and ending between 3:30 and 7PM.

When the shuttle is not operating, the Grove is accessible via a 2 mile (one way) hike on a paved road.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove is home to over 500 Giant Sequoia trees. These iare the largest trees in the world, and found only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The Mariposa Grove is home to several “famous” trees, including the Grizzly Giant, the oldest tree in the grove at over 2,000 years old.

The Grizzly Giant Tree in Mariposa Grove Yosemite

Hike the 2 mile Grizzly Giant Loop Trail for a short introduction to these magnificent, and endangered, giants.

Grizzly Giant Loop Trail

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

2 Miles / 350′ Gain / 1.5 Hours

Trail Directions on All Trails. Check current conditions on NPS website, here.

Glacier Point Road to Taft Point

After returning to your car, retrace your route down Wawona Road towards the Glacier Point Road turn-off you spotted earlier. Follow Glacier Point road as it winds and ascends into the high sierras. Drive carefully and obey all traffic signs – this road is winding with very steep drop offs and few railings.

It takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to drive from the Mariposa Welcome Plaza to your next stop, Taft Point. Parking is available at Taft Point Trailhead Parking.

Taft Point is a large granite promontory with simply stunning views of Yosemite Valley and vertigo-inducing drops to the Valley Floor. “The Fissures” are giant cracks in the granite that drop all the way down to the Valley Floor, nearly 2,000′ feet below.

Hike the short trail to Taft Point – just watch your step! 👀

Taft Point Trail

Difficulty: Easy

2.3 Miles / 360′ Elevation Gain / 1 Hour

Trail Directions on All Trails. NPS Website Information

Take care when hiking in this area, obey all signs, stay inside the railings, and closely watch children near exposed cliffs and fissures.

If time permits, return to the trailhead and take a right for the hike to Sentinel Dome .

Sentinel Dome

Difficulty: Moderate

2.1 Miles / 450′ Elevation Gain / 1.5 Hours

Trail Directions on All Trails. Check current conditions on NPS Website, here.

A short scramble leads to the top of this granite dome, with 360 degree views of Yosemite Valley below, and absolutely breathtaking views of iconic Half Dome in front of you.

Sunset at Glacier Point

After you finish at Taft Point, drive the last 10 minutes up Glacier Point road to Glacier Point.

End your 2 Day Yosemite itinerary at Glacier Point

With breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding Sierra high country, it’s no wonder that Glacier Point is one of the most photographed spots in the entire Park. While sunset here is crowded, there’s simply nothing better than watching the light glow off the granite cliffs and peaks.

Restrooms, a parking lot, and a small gift shop are available at Glacier Point. After sunset, return to your hotel or campground and grab some dinner and well-earned drinks as you celebrate your weekend in Yosemite.

Dinner is available at The Loft at Degnan’s, the cafeteria-style Basecamp Eatery at the Yosemite Lodge, the Mountain Room at the Yosemite Lodge, and the Curry Village Pavilion and Pizza Deck at Curry Village.

Hiking to Nevada Falls in the Mist Trail / 2 Day Yosemite Itinerary

Planning a trip to Yosemite National Park? The Yosemite Itinerary Guide has your perfect 1, 2, or 3 day Yosemite trip completely planned for you! With over 20 pages of detailed hiking guides, printable daily itineraries, lodging and dining suggestions and more, you can spend less time planning and more time making epic memories! Check it out, here.

(Optional) Day 2: Tioga Road & Tuolumne Meadows

If you aren’t exhausted from exploring Yosemite Valley yesterday, consider spending day 2 of your weekend in Yosemite exploring Tioga Road and the Yosemite high Sierras.

 Don’t forget your hiking boots, hiking essentials, and plenty of water!

Brooke’s Yosemite Itinerary Tip: Tioga Road might take your breath away – literally. Tioga Pass crests at an elevation of 9,943 feet. That’s almost 6 thousand feet higher than Yosemite Valley! If you are unacclimated to hiking at higher altitude, expect even easy hikes to be more difficult. Learn more about how elevation affects your hiking here.

Tenaya Lake on Tioga Road / 2 Day Yosemite weekend

Breakfast and El Capitan Meadow 

Grab an early breakfast and head to your car – you have a long day of driving and hiking ahead!

Don’t forget to pack some to-go sandwiches or other lunch fixin’s for your picnic in Tuolumne Meadows, later. Grab-and-go food is available at Degnan’s, the Village Store, and Base Camp Eatery.

Northside drive is the one-way road out of the Valley. On your way, stop quickly at El Capitan Meadow. Roadside parking is available just past the turnoff for El Capitan Drive. Take in this impressive view of “El Cap” (and be absolutely gobsmacked when you remember that Alex Honnold free solo climbed this monolith in 2016).

Continue driving to the junction with Tioga Road. Completed in 1919, Tioga Pass is the highest automobile mountain pass in the Sierras, and the highest in California.

Turn off for the Olmstead Point parking area along Tioga Road. An easy climb/walk over the granite plateau leads to stunning views of Half Dome, Cloud’s Rest, and the Sierra backcountry.

Cathedral Peak and Cathedral lakes / Yosemite Weekend 2 Day Itinerary

Cathedral Lakes Trail

This long but rewarding trail is one of the highlights of visiting Tioga road. It is a moderate hike, taking approximately 5 hours, but if you have time and energy, it is absolutely worth it.

The trail to Cathedral Lakes follows the world famous 211 mile John Muir Trail. If you’ve been following this itinerary, this is actually your 2nd hike on this long-distance trail. The JMT begins at Happy Isles trailhead and follows an alternate route to Vernal and Nevada Falls, that you visited on Day 1.

This is a pretty moderate climb with only so-so views until you get to Lakes. But once you’re there, you’ll get to bask in the sunshine of 2 of Yosemite’s most spectacular alpine lakes.

Cathedral Lakes Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

8 Miles / 1,600′ Elevation Gain (including spur trail to lower lake) / 5 Hours

Trail directions on All TrailsNPS website information.

Alpine Vistas in Tuolumne Meadow / 2 Day Yosemite Itinerary

Lunch and Tuolumne Meadows

After your long hike to Cathedral Lakes, return to your car and head another mile to the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center.

Tuolumne Meadows is a massive sub-alpine meadow surrounded by miles and miles of Yosemite backcountry.The Visitor Center has a small exhibit about the Tuolumne Meadows area and high sierra backcountry, as well as a bookstore and ranger desk.

The nearby Tuolumne Meadows Grill serves hearty hiker-food, like burgers, hot dogs and chili.

Or enjoy a picnic at the Tenaya Lake Picnic Area. This massive alpine lake has beautiful views of the surrounding peaks (without all the hiking of Cathedral Lakes) and a nice beach for swimming and relaxing in the hot summer.

For a better view of the meadow and surrounding mountains, take a short but steep hike to nearby Lembert Dome (1.8 miles / moderate / 1.5 Hours). Or consider the easy and family-friendly hike to the naturally-bubbling Soda Springs and Parsons Memorial Lodge, (1.6 Miles round trip / easy) which hosts seasonal ranger-talks and exhibits

Return to the Valley (about 1.5 hours) and celebrate your absolutely epic weekend in Yosemite with drinks at Bar 1899 (at Curry Village Basecamp Eatery) or Mountain Room Lounge (Yosemite Lodge).

Getting to Yosemite National Park

Tioga Road to Yosemite National Park / 2 Day Yosemite Itinerary

Always check the Yosemite NPS website before traveling to the Park for updated road, traffic, and reservation information.

Flying to Yosemite National Park      

Yosemite is not particularly close to any major airports, making it difficult to get to outside of California. These are some of the most popular airpots for getting to Yosemite:

San Francisco International Airport: 4 Hours / 200 Miles via Big Oak Flat Entrance

Fresno-Yosemite International Airport: 2 Hours 30 Minutes / 95 Miles via Wawona Entrance

Sacramento International Airport: 3 Hours 45 Minutes / 180 Miles via Big Oak Flat Entrance

Reno Airport (Nevada): 4 Hours 30 Minutes / 210 Miles via Tioga Pass (East Entrance. / Closed in Winter)

Regardless of what airport you fly into, you will absolutely want to rent a car for your Yosemite weekend. Driving a car means you’ll have way more flexibility in your 2 day Yosemite itinerary, and will save you substantial time.

Learn more about the best airports for booking flights to Yosemite, here: Closest Airports to Yosemite & Best Tips for Getting to Yosemite National Park.

Driving to Yosemite

Most visitors drive to Yosemite in their own car or a rental vehicle. Apart from traffic and winter conditions, driving to Yosemite is a relatively straightforward and beautiful experience.

As drivers ascend from the foothills into the high Sierra mountains, expect winding mountain roads and steep drop offs. The roads are well maintained in and near the Park. Make sure to follow all traffic signs and posted speed limits.

Do NOT rely on cell service for driving directions to Yosemite. Cell service is unreliable and nonexistent in most areas of the park. Always print or write out your Yosemite itinerary or download it to your phone before leaving.

When planning your drive to Yosemite, double check that your directions are taking you to your specific destination within the Park. Yosemite is massive, with multiple entrance stations, and typing in just “Yosemite” to your GPS or map app will NOT get you where you want to go!

When visiting during peak months of late Spring to early Fall,  expect long wait times at entrance stations, and full parking lots at popular destinations. The key to a stress-free (or at least less-stress) Yosemite itinerary is to exercise patience and kindness, especially during peak hours.

Public Transportation to Yosemite

Unlike many National Parks, public transportation IS AVAILABLE to Yosemite Valley. Daily bus service is provided by Yosemite Area Rapid Transit (YARTS) year-round.

YARTS operates 4 routes to Yosemite Valley and gateway communities and hotels, departing from Merced (including the Merced Regional Airport, Geyhound, and Amtrak Station), Fresno (including Fresno-Yosemite Airport and Amtrak/Greyhound Station), Mammoth Lakes / Highway 395, and Senora.

Reservations are strongly recommended for YARTS buses.  However, visitors arriving via YARTS do NOT need an additional peak-hours or day-use reservation to enter the park.

Only the Merced / Highway 140 Route operates year-round, and services are reduced during winter and holidays.   Learn more about the YARTS bus and make reservations, here.   

Want to learn more about planning an epic National Parks trip? Grab my free Ultimate National Parks Planning Guide, including 70+ pages of National Park packing checklists, planning tips, and everything you need to know to start planning a trip to all 63 National Parks!

Parking, Shuttles & Getting Around Yosemite

Parking in Yosemite Valley

Getting around Yosemite Valley is easy thanks to the excellent Shuttle system. Once you arrive in Yosemite National Park, park your vehicle at your hotel or campground if you are staying overnight.

Guests of the hotels and campgrounds will be provided with a dashboard pass to park at these locations. Makes sure to display your parking pass at all times! If you do not have a pass, do not park at these locations.

If you are staying outside the Valley park in one of the designated day-use parking lots:

Parking Lots fill to capacity early during late Spring to early Fall, especially on weekends and holidays. Plan to arrive before 9AM for day-use parking lots.

Bear Safety and Your Vehicle in Yosemite National Park: Yosemite is home to hundreds of black bears. While most visitors never see a bear, it is important (and legally required) to take proper precautions, especially when it comes to food storage.

During the Day, store your food out of sight inside your vehicle, with the windows rolled up. At night, DO NOT leave any food or scented items in your vehicle. Bring them into your hotel or use a bear-proof food storage locker. Lockers are available at every campsite, Curry Village, and Housekeeping.

Remember, “food” means any scented items, including lotions, sunscreen, trash, and empty coolers.

Violating these rules can get you a hefty fine, your vehicle impounded, or your car totally destroyed by a curious bear. Bears who routinely break into vehicles or begin associating humans with tasty food have to be euthanized. By safely storing your food, you are protecting yourself AND the lives of these beautiful animals.

Yosemite Valley Shuttle

Once you’ve parked your car and secured your food, it’s time to hop on the Shuttle and start exploring!

Yosemite Valley Shuttle – Current as of 2022

Two shuttle lines run in Yosemite Valley: the East Valley Shuttle; and the Valleywide Shuttle. Shuttles are free to use, run between 7am and 10pm, and arrive every 8 to 22 minutes.

Most major sights and trailheads within Yosemite Valley are serviced directly by a shuttle stop, and the rest are just a short 10 or 15 minute walk away.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias: Parking & Shuttles

Parking is available at the Grove Welcome Plaza, approximately 1 hour’s drive from Yosemite Valley and right next to the Park’s South / Wawona entrance. A free Shuttle will take you from the Welcome Plaza to the Grove.

The shuttle operates seasonally when snow is clear, starting around April to November. Planning a Yosemite winter itinerary? When the shuttle is not running, it is a 4 mile round trip walk to the Grove. Learn more about the Shuttle, including seasonal operations, here.

There is no free shuttle between Yosemite Valley and the Welcome Plaza, meaning most people drive their private vehicles and park there. To access the Welcome Plaza via Public Transportation, take the YARTS Bus to Fresno/Highway 41 (3 departures daily, summer only), which stops at the Welcome Plaza.

Tioga Road & Tuolumne Meadows Parking & Shuttles

Most visitors take a private vehicle to Tuolumne Meadows. The drive takes approximately 1.5 hours from Yosemite Valley via Tioga Road. Remember, Tioga Road is open seasonally from approximately late May through October/November, depending on winter conditions.

Parking is available at the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center, Store, Dog Lake, Lembert Dome (closed for construction in 2022), Soda Spring Road (closed for construction in 2022), and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge (closed for construction in 2022).

There is no free shuttle between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. For shuttle service within the Tuolumne Meadows area, including popular trailheads, use the Tuolumne Meadows shuttle. The shuttle operates seasonally when Tioga Road is open, between 7am and 7pm, every half hour.

The Tuolumne Meadows Hiker Shuttle is an alternative shuttle to the Tuolumne Meadows area. The shuttle picks up at the Yosemite Valley Lodge and Curry Village, with scheduled stops at popular trailheads in the Tuolumne Area. You can request the bus driver to drop you off at any trailhead, and flag the bus for pickup, as long as there is space available. Reservations can be made online, here.

Learn more about visiting Tuolumne Meadows, including current road and transportation conditions, here.

Where to Stay for a Weekend in Yosemite National Park

Unlike many National Parks, Yosemite has dozens of in-Park lodges, hotels, and 13 popular campgrounds, many open all year. But if you only have 2 days to spend in Yosemite, I strongly recommend staying inside Yosemite Valley.

Why? Yosemite is huge. But most places you’ll be visiting – Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, the Mist Trail, El Capitan, Cooks Meadow – are within a small area called Yosemite Valley. With traffic, you might waste hours of your Yosemite weekend driving from lodging outside the Park to the Valley.

The grand Ahwahanee Hotel in Yosemite

Having trouble booking hotel or campground reservations? Check out my Tips for Planning an Epic National Parks Trip – including how to book reservations in popular parks, like Yosemite.

Hotels and Lodges Inside Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Lodge: Family-friendly, plenty of food and drink options, swimming pool, recreation rentals, and centrally located to Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Village, and Shuttle Stops. My go-to, and it never lets me down.

Curry Village: “Glamping” style tent-cabins, if you want the camping experience, without having to bring the tent. Curry Village also offers several motel-style cabins that are an incredible value (and reasonably comfortable, I can vouch!). Multiple dining options, bike rentals, winter ski-rink, summer swimming pool, located walking distance to the Happy Isles / Mist Trail / John Muir Trailheads

Housekeeping Camp: Curry Village, with less amenities. More “camping” than “glamping” – but perfect for families and visitors looking for the fully Yosemite experience!

The Ahwahanee Hotel: Widely considered the crown jewel hotel of the National Parks system. Presidents have stayed here. The Queen has stayed here. You will need to sell your firstborn to pay for a room. Not a Rockefeller? 100% come for a dinner reservation at the historic dining room (check the dress code), or grab a post-hike drink at their casual bar (my favorite!).

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Campgrounds Inside Yosemite Valley

The following campgrounds are located inside Yosemite Valley: Upper Pines (Open All Year); Lower Pines (April-October); North Pines (April-October); Camp 4 (Open All Year).

Book your campground reservations as soon as possible. Yosemite campground reservations often sell out within seconds (yes, you read that right) of going online. Reservations are all managed through Recreation.gov. Campground reservations become available 5 months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7AM Pacific Time. Camp 4 offers one day in advance reservations by lottery, available on Recreation.Gov.

Planning a camping trip as part of your Yosemite itinerary? Don’t forget any of the essentials with the Ultimate Tent Camping Setup Guide with printable camping checklist!

Hotels, Lodges, and Campgrounds Outside Yosemite Valley (But Inside Yosemite National Park)

The following lodges, hotels, and rentals are located outside Yosemite Valley (but still inside Yosemite National Park): Wawona Hotel, High Sierra Camps, Redwoods in Yosemite, Yosemite West Rentals, White Wolf Lodge, Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, and Glacier Point Ski Hut.

The following campgrounds are located outside Yosemite Valley (but still inside Yosemite National Park): Tamarack Flat Campground (Seasonal, Tioga Road Corridor); White Wolf Campground (Seasonal, Tioga Road Corridor); Yosemite Creek Campground (Seasonal, Tioga Road Corridor); Wawona Campground (Open All Year); Bridalveil Creek (Seasonal, closed 2022); Hodgdon Meadow (Open All Year, North Yosemite); Crane Flat (closed 2022, North Yosemite); Porcupine Flat (closed 2022); and Tuolumne Meadows (Seasonal, Closed Until 2024 -2025).

Learn more about Campgrounds and Campground reservations in Yosemite National Park, here.

Backcountry camping is also available to wilderness permit holders only. Learn more about these competitive wilderness permits, here.

Take the stress out of planning your trip to Yosemite National Park! The Yosemite Itinerary Guide has your perfect 1, 2, or 3 day Yosemite trip completely planned for you! With over 20 pages of detailed hiking guides, printable daily itineraries, lodging and dining suggestions and more, you can spend less time planning and more time making epic memories! Check it out, here.

More Things to Do in Yosemite National Park

If you have more time to spend in Yosemite, check out my 3 day Yosemite Itinerary guide for more suggestions on how to plan an extended Yosemite itinerary.

More Hikes in Yosemite National Park

Half Dome (Valley) : If you read this itinerary and wondered, “Hey, what about Half Dome? It’s only the most famous hike in the park!” – don’t worry – I didn’t forget! Because the Half Dome hike requires a special permit that is extremely competitive to get, I didn’t include it in the itinerary, here. If you are lucky enough to win the Half Dome permit lottery, I suggest replacing the “Day 2” itinerary with this hike.

Half Dome via John Muir Trail

Strenuous / 15 Miles / 5,000′ Elevation Gain / 10 to 12 Hours

Permit Required

NPS Website InformationTrail Directions on All Trails.

Half Dome Permit Lottery

Hiking to the top of Half Dome via the Cables requires an advanced permit. The Half Dome preseason Lottery issues most permits to visitors looking to experience this bucket list hike.

Preseason Lottery applications must be submitted March 1 to March 31, 2022. Preseason Lottery winners are announced April 11.

The Half Dome Daily lottery is open on a rolling daily basis, and hikers should apply 2 days in advance of their desired hike date.

Learn more about the Half Dome Permit Lottery and apply here.

Mirror Lake (Valley) : (pets allowed on first paved mile) Easy / 2 Miles to Lake, 5 Miles Loops / 300′ Elevation Gain / 1 – 3 Hours. Trail directions on All TrailsNPS website information.

Valley Loop Trail (Valley) : Easy to Moderate / Loop / 1 to 11 miles

Start at the Valley Visitor Center for this flat loop circling Yosemite Valley. Complete the entire loop, or a 7.2 mile half loop by crossing the river at El Capitan Meadow and returning to Yosemite Village. The trail is easily accessible to several shuttle stops if you want to cut your hike short. NPS Website Information.

Upper Yosemite Falls (Valley) : Strenuous / 7.6 Miles / Out and Back / 3,600′ Elevation Gain / 6 Hours (2 Miles Out and Back and 1,000′ Gain to Columbia Rock). Trail directions on AllTrailsNPS Website Information.

Cloud’s Rest (Tuolumne Meadows): Strenuous / 12 Miles / Out and back / 3,000′ Gain / 7-9 Hours Trail directions on All TrailsNPS Website Information. Read a breakdown of the Cloud’s Rest hike from one of my favorite bloggers, SheDreamsofAlpine, here.

Soda Springs and Parsons Memorial Lodge (Tuolumne Meadows) : Easy / 1.6 Miles / 50′ Elevation Gain / 30 Minutes. Trail directions on All TrailsNPS Website information.

Sunset Lakes (Tuolumne Meadows) : Hard / 6.7 Miles / Out and Back / 1615′ Elevation Gain / 4 Hours. Trail directions on All TrailsNPS website information.

Tenaya Lake (Tuolumne Meadows) : Easy / 3.4 Miles / Out and Back / 200′ Elevation Gain / 1.5 Hours. Trail directions on All TrailsNPS Website information.

Wawona Meadow Loop (Wawona and Mariposa) (dog friendly!) : Easy / 3.5 Miles / Loop / 250′ Gain / 1.5 Hours. Trail directions on All TrailsNPS Website information.

Chilnualna Falls (Wawona and Mariposa): Hard / 7.7 Miles / Out and Back / 2,200′ Elevation Gain / 4.5 Hours. Trail directions on All TrailsNPS Website information.

Mariposa Grove Trail to Wawona Point (Wawona and Mariposa) : Moderate / 6.5 Miles / Loop / 1,200′ Elevation Gain / 4 Hours. Trail directions on All TrailsNPS Website information.

Non-Hiking Activities in Yosemite National Park

Looking for more things to do in Yosemite that don’t involve lacing up your hiking boots? Check out these activities:

Adrenaline junkies can get a taste of the best rock climbing in the world with the Yosemite Mountaineering school, offering rock climbing classes for beginners to advanced big wall techniques.

See the park from a four-legged vantage point with a horseback or mule ride. 2 Hour and All Day rides are available from the Wawona stables.

Yosemite Valley has 12 miles of designated bike paths. Bring your own bike or rent one from multiple locations within the Valley.

Rent a river raft or innertube and float down the Merced River. A shuttle can be arranged to pick you up and return you back to Curry Village. Rental season depends on snowmelt and weather conditions.

Looking for more ideas? Check out information on Ranger Programs, art classes, photography classes, guided tours, golfing, and way more, here.

Winter Activities in Yosemite National Park

Whether you’re a seasoned skier or its your first time on the slopes, the Badger Pass Ski Area at the beginning of Glacier Point Road has something for you! Badger Point has miles of downhill skiing, ski lessons, snow tubing, snowshoe rentals, guided snowshoe and cross country ski tours.

Can you imagine ice skating in one of the most beautiful spots on earth? The Curry Village Ice Skating Rink is open seasonally December through February.


Many of the Park’s trails remain open throughout winter in Yosemite. If you plan on hiking in winter, make sure you are prepared with appropriate clothing and safety gear. Learn more about winter hiking basics, here.

The Four Mile Trail, Mist Trail, Half Dome Cables, and portions of the John Muir Trail to Vernal Falls often close during winter due to unsafe conditions, as well as all trails along the Tioga Road / Tuolumne Meadows corridor. Learn more about seasonal trail closures, including historic closing and opening dates, here.

Want to learn more about planning an epic National Parks trip? Grab my free Ultimate National Parks Planning Guide, including 70+ pages of National Park packing checklists, planning tips, and everything you need to know to start planning a trip to all 63 National Parks!

More National Parks

Ready to start planning another epic National Park vacation? Check out these National Park guides:

Big Bend: Epic Big Bend Itinerary Guide

Cuyahoga Valley: 17 Best Things to Do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Great Smoky MountainsThe Ultimate Great Smoky Mountains Itinerary in 2 Days

Joshua Tree: The Perfect Day Trip to Joshua Tree National Park

New River Gorge: The Best Hikes in New River Gorge National Park

Yosemite: Epic Yosemite 2 Day Itinerary – How to Spend 2 Perfect Days in Yosemite

Zion: How To Spend One Epic Day In Zion National Park

National Parks: Get the Ultimate National Parks Planning Guide (for free!) sent to your inbox, full of important planning information, printable packing lists, and the best things to do in all 63 National Parks.

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