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Yosemite 3 Day Itinerary

Oh Yosemite! It is the jewel of California and one of the most beautiful if not the most of all the National Parks in the USA. There is so much to see there, but what if you have little time? Whether this is your first trip or you’re coming back to see it again, this Yosemite 3 Day Itinerary is for you.

Itinerary

We have visited Yosemite several times and our last trip was in October 2021. We’ve had a fantastic time in every season: Spring, Summer or Fall. Check our Itinerary for the summer here.

Over the fall break we had just 3 days to spend there, so I decided to share a must-do in 3 days Yosemite Itinerary. Sometimes we don’t have all the time to explore amazing places, but we can make the most of our trips with the right itinerary, so here I am to share the must-sees for your visit!

Something important to keep in mind when planning your Yosemite trip is what entrance you are closer to. With that information you can plan your itinerary to easily accommodate your time, so you can spend your time wisely.

Yosemite National Park entrances:

  1. Hetch tetchy Entrance Highway 120
  2. Arch Rock Entrance Highway 140
  3. Big Oak Flat Entrance
  4. South Entrance from Highway 41
  5. Tioga Pass Entrance in Highway 120

Yosemite 3 Day Itinerary

Day 1 Yosemite Itinerary: The Valley

On the first day of our Yosemite 3 days Itinerary. Our entrance was an hour away from the Valley – Big Oak Flat entrance. The Valley is an easy place to view the must see spots in Yosemite, and relax with either a picnic or a stroll. It depends how early you start your day whether you can finish this itinerary or not. In the past we have stayed in a hotel 30 minutes from the Valley and in our last trip in October we stayed an hour away from the Valley. Even though we were staying an hour from the valley, we still had plenty of time to see the highlights.

If this is your first time visiting, just keep driving to the Valley. Grab lunch at Curry Village and rent a bike to ride, following the footsteps of John Muir.

From the Valley you can easily see Yosemite Falls. In spring and early summer, the waterfalls are full. During the fall Yosemite Falls is pretty much dry, until the rain or snow come again. However, Bridal Veil Falls was still flowing and you can see it from the Valley, either driving or ridden a bike.

Yosemite meadows are perfect places to see wildlife. On our trip this fall, we were able to spot a baby bear lumbering along in the meadows. It was amazing!!

You can admire El Capitan from different angles in Yosemite Valley.

El_Capitan_from_Yosemite_Village
Cathedral Beach

Renting bikes and riding in the Valley is a really popular way to get around. Start the From Curry Village, take a ride to the Chapel and Sentinel Meadows, either of which is the perfect stop to take a look at Yosemite Falls. Sentinel Bridge has one of the best view of Half Dome, and Cathedral Beach follows the loop and reaches the El Capitan Picnic Area. Your next stop could be the Ahwahnee for some drinks at the bar.

The main viewpoints in the village that you shouldn’t miss by driving or on a bike ride are:

  • El Capitan meadow, located along Northside Drive, is a great stop on your way out of Yosemite.
  • Yosemite Valley Lodge and Yosemite Falls viewpoint is just a short walk for great pictures. In the spring and early summer you can see them at their fullest. During all months of the year, can bring a pair of binoculars for a good chance of spotting rock climbing enthusiasts scaling the sheer granite cliffs.
  • Sentinel Bridge – you have to stop here to check the view of Half Dome reflected in la Merced River.
  • Yosemite Falls view between Sentinel Meadow and Yosemite Chapel is one of the best stops to admire Yosemite Falls.
  • Bridalveil Fall can be seen from the valley at the intersection of Southside Drive and Wawona Road (Highway 41). Don’t miss it!
  • Lastly, the best view from the valley is at Valley View. It is gorgeous any time of the year. Don’t blink and miss it! It is on a one way road on the Northside Dive, just after a view of Bridalveil Fall but immediately before Pohono Bridge. You will find it just before leaving the park.

Visiting Bridalveil Fall in yosemite after COVId 19

Other places to visit:

Explore Mirror Lake. This is an easy hike and leads you to a spectacular place. You can ride your bike there as well and spend the rest of the day, during summer it is a great place to cool down so make sure to bring swimming suits. During the fall it is good for hike. Unfortunately, we started our day late and didn’t have much time to do this hike.

Day 2 Yosemite Itinerary: Hike the waterfall

On Day 2 day of our Yosemite 3 days Itinerary, get the most of your visit and experience the breathtaking view of Vernal Fall, and challenge yourself by hiking up to the top of Nevada Fall.

Mist Trail and Vernall Fall

We started our day early and got our hiking sticks. I think hiking sticks are a must have for anyone who wants to hike comfortably. Be ready for lots of people during the summer. We did this hike in October so the crowds weren’t so bad.

Also this waterfall can be slippery in the summer or spring when the water is really flowing, but during October we had no problem with that. There is not much water, but it was still beautiful.

Start the hike to the Mist Trail – it is named like that because it is usually wet with spray from the waterfall – following the Happy Isles trail. This can be super slippery in spring, so wear good boots and bring those hiking sticks! The walk to the Mist Trail starts as very low inclination but it gets quite steep as you go up. From when you start the Vernal Fall Bridge is a 0.8 mile hike. Next is Top Of Nevada Fall, about 1.5 miles.

It took us about an hour and a half but our kids were up at the top super fast; they just took of and waited for us and as soon as we caught with them they took off again. The stairs to the top when is super steep have a rail and a fence but you still need to hold tight and also some of the steps are big, so I strongly recommend hiking sticks.

After we rested at the top and enjoyed the view, we kept going to the top of Nevada Fall. It is about 1.8 miles more of stiff climbing. My 10 year old couldn’t do it but my 12 year old and I finished and enjoyed the view for half an hour there, and it is just absolutely gorgeous. After a rest we started climbing down which was another challenge. Again I recommend hiking sticks so you won’t lose your balance and make it easier on your knees.

Moderate Hike – Nevada Fall

Yosemite Waterfall and Mirror Lake – Easy Hike

If you are not up to the challenge of this hike, another I’ll recommend is Mirror Lake. It is just 1 mile, and then you can do Yosemite Falls, but this hike is more interesting in spring or summer than in the fall since this waterfall in the fall are dry until it rains or snows again. Mirror Lake is good any season.

Continue towards Curry Village and follow the signs to Yosemite Lodge and Yosemite Falls on Northside Drive. Park at either Yosemite Lodge or by the bus stop labeled “Yosemite Falls” and take a quick stroll to see Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America and the 5th in the world. This trail is easy but can be icy in the winter.

Yosemite Falls
We have a view from everywhere

Day 3 Yosemite Itinerary: Glacier Point Road

This is your last day! Your legs may be tired after all that hiking. We decided to drive to Glacier Point Road, luckily Wawona Road was open in October. Wawona Road closed beginning late fall, or when it snows. It is an hour from the valley floor.

So here are some recommendation for your 3rd Day on our Yosemite 3 days Itinerary:

Glacier point

Glacier Point is open seasonally before the snow comes and is a world famous overlook, towering above Yosemite Valley at 7214 ft and offering spectacular views of the entire Park.

Take the Wawona Road via Highway 41 then turn left to Glacier Point Road. When you arrive, there is a short, paved wheelchair accessible path that you can explore and leads you to amazing views of Yosemite. This view is one of the most popular because you can see all the waterfalls, the Valley and Half Dome.

Make sure to pull off right before the parking lot for Glacier Point at Washburn Point to take a picture at what locals have named “Instagram Rock”.

Glacier_view

Tunnel View

After that, stop for more amazing views. Tunnel View is located at Wawona Road (Highway 41) at the east end of Wawona Tunnel. Do not miss it! Although parking can be limited, it is worth waiting for.

It provides one of the most beautiful views of Yosemite Valley. From here you can see El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall rising from Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in the background. Snow or shine, it’s a must see.

  • Turn left at the end of Evergreen Road and head east on Highway 120, which intersects Highway 140 in approximately 19 miles
  • Approximately 1.5 miles /2.4 km to Tunnel View from Valley floor.
  • Tunnel View will be on the right at the Wawona Tunnel entrance.
Tunnel_VIew

Make your way back to the Valley for snack before leaving or to your next exit!

Itinerary for Yosemite National Park more time

If you have more time or have already visited those places or want to do something different on any day, here are few suggestion.

1 day at Sentinel Dome Taft Point hike

If you want something more challenging you can try the trailhead for Sentinel Dome and Taft Point hike Located along the Glacier Point Road about 5 miles loop and made our way up Glacier Point Road. Park at the trailhead for Sentinel Dome and Taft Point. The sign says both Taft Point and Sentinel Dome are 1.1 miles away. The hike is moderate but for some people it is an easy hike. It depends on what shape you’re in.

After that, drive into the valley, park and have lunch at Degnan’s Deli, that has huge sandwiches! Check out the base of El Capitan and watch people climbing. Bring a chair and have a picnic.

1 day at The Tioga Road

Another place to visit is Tioga Road. It is gorgeous: 39 miles of forest, meadows and lakes. Stop here at Olmsted Point, along the Tioga Road, looking down on Yosemite Valley from the east–and from a very different angle. Though you might not immediately recognize Half Dome, it is one of the most prominent peaks you can see from Olmsted Point. Tioga Road is open to cars from late May or early June to sometime in November.

Tenaya Lake on Tioga Road is the largest natural lake in Yosemite, and during the summer you can do many water activities. It is cold even in the summer but refreshing.

In this area you can see a view of Cathedral Peak, hike the 2.5 mile loop Pothole Dome & Tuolumne River, and take a peek of Yosemite Soda Spring.

1 day at Mariposa Grove

Located in the Wowana area, close to the South Entrance. Buses stop running in the fall, so before you even get to the lower grove, you have to hike up 2 miles. Most people take the Washburn trail from the visitors center parking lot. Once at the lower grove, stay on the road towards the Grizzly Giant.

Take the Perimeter Trail up towards to Upper Grove, a very steady incline. Once you reach the upper grove, The Columbia Tree is HUGE (the tallest tree in Yosemite!) and every other tree is just magnificent. The upper grove has an actual bathroom with flushing toilets!

Keep on the trail and continue the climb to the Mariposa Grove cabin, Fallen Tunnel (Wawona) tree, Galen Clark tree, and of course so many others too! It is a long hike, you don’t have to do it all.

How many days to see in Yosemite?

This question is hard to answer. Some people feel that it will take a life time to see the many beauties in the park. You can make a memorable trip with 3, 5 or 7 days to see the must-see highlights. However, what I’ve shared here are your best choices for a three day visit.

Best Time to Visit Yosemite Park

Yosemite National Park has something magical every season. The weather is warmer and waterfall are full from May to July. For hiking I strongly recommend the fall months since it is cooler but it is fun also to hike during warmer conditions if you stay hydrated. Especially during the fall, the colors are amazing!

The best time to swim the Merced or any river or lake is during the summer when the water temperature is not too cold, but refreshing around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yosemite 3 day Itinerary in the fall

This itinerary is great for any season but especially during the fall season. The weather in October will fluctuate between 60F to 72F with sunshine most of the time, making perfect weather for long hikes. Usually, snowfall starts around November and makes access more difficult. There are parts of the park that close due to bad weather. Also in October, it is quieter and the crowds are not so thick.

Where to Stay in Yosemite?

There are several places to stay in Yosemite. Last October we stayed at the Evergreen Lodge. Another time we lodged at the Yosemite River View. We absolutely loved the Evergreen Lodge! This place is located by the Big Oak Flat entrance. It is a place that combines nature with rustic comfort.

Check here to find more places where to stay in Yosemite

Things to know about Yosemite Park

If you are looking for more things to do In Yosemite check this post.

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