Are you ready for an epic 2 days in Yosemite?! This itinerary is perfect for first timers because you will get to see all of the must-see sights, do a few scenic hikes, hopefully spot some wildlife, and have tons of photography opportunities!
Yosemite is by far my favorite national park to date, and I have no doubt it will be yours too! The views around every corner are absolutely breath-taking. I caught myself saying, “WOW this is so beautiful,” about 100x a day, ha!
Even though this itinerary is only for two days in Yosemite, you could easily spend more time in the park. If you do choose to stay longer, I would recommend spreading out these sights so you don’t feel as rushed OR check out the bonus ideas section at the bottom of this guide.
As always, if you have any questions about Yosemite, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below! I am always happy to help 🙂
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Yosemite 2 Day Itinerary Overview
Vernal Falls / Nevada Falls Hike
Tunnel View Viewpoint for Sunset
Best Spots for Bear Sightings
Cooks Meadow Bike Riding
Washburn Point, Glacier Point & Taft Point
Where is Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite National Park is located in central California, just east of San Francisco. Since it is far from major airports, most people will visit a major city, rent a car and road trip to the park.
When mapping how far the airport is to Yosemite, make sure you plug Yosemite VALLEY into your maps, not Yosemite National Park. Something I didn’t realize until I arrived at the park was that Yosemite Valley (where most of the sites are) is 1.5 hours from the park entrance! This park is HUGE!
The closest major airports to Yosemite:
- Merced – 2 hours to the Valley
- Fresno – 2 hours and 15 minutes to the Valley
- Sacramento – 3.5 hours to the Valley
- Oakland – 3 hours and 45 minutes to the Valley
- San Francisco – 4 hours to the Valley
- Reno – 4.5 hours to the Valley
When To Go
Whichever season you choose to visit Yosemite, I think you will have a completely different experience! I personally went in the fall months, which was amazing, but I would recommend visiting in the spring. Here’s a break down of every season, so you can make your own decision:
In the winter, you will get to see the beautiful snow capped mountains and trees, no bears in sight, and no crowds! The downside of course is that none of the hikes will be open and half of the roads in the park will also be closed. If you want to see famous viewpoints like Taft Point and Glacier Point, these are closed during the winter months.
Spring is by far the most popular time to visit the park. All of the lakes and rivers are full, all the waterfalls are flowing, wildflowers begin to bloom, and the weather is beautiful! The only downside is that the crowds will be INSANE. If you want to see famous viewpoints like Taft Point and Glacier Point, you might have to wait over an hour for parking!
In the summer you will get to enjoy the lakes, most waterfalls are still flowing, and you will get beautiful hot weather. The main downside of Summer is it can get very hot when you are hiking and the crowds are still extremely busy.. meaning you will have to wait for parking at most viewpoints.
I went in the Fall and there were so many pros / cons. None of the waterfalls are flowing, which I feel is a major experience in the park! I felt like I missed out on a huge part of Yosemite, but that just means I want to go back again 🙂
Also, fire season in California is in the fall months. Unfortunately when I visited the park in fall of 2020, the air quality / visibility was not good since there was a huge fire south of the park. This could cause you to cancel your trip if the air quality reaches dangerous levels.
The upside is that you will see the entire valley turn colors, giving an entire new experience in the park. Seeing leaves falling and autumn colors fill the park is SO beautiful! Plus, there were almost no crowds in the park – which means I got front row parking to all of the view points.
Where to Stay
If you only have 2 days in Yosemite, I would highly recommend spending a little extra money to stay in the Valley. This will save you so much driving time and give you time to see as many sights as possible!
There are a few options for accommodation inside the park:
$$$ The Ahwahnee
**I stayed in the Yosemite Valley Lodge and loved it! They had great food options, walking distance to many sights, free bike rentals, pool, and the rooms were very clean!
How to get around Yosemite
Most likely, you are driving to the park since it is pretty remote! But most of the parking areas once you are inside the park are very small! This is mainly due to Yosemite’s conservation efforts to reduce carbon emissions inside the park.
If you want to help Yosemite with their conservation efforts, I would opt into taking their free shuttle! This way you are reducing your own carbon footprint (especially in a place with SO much natural beauty), and you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot at all the famous hikes / viewpoints.
2 Days in Yosemite – A Perfect Itinerary!
Yosemite National Park is HUGE with endless hikes and viewpoints to explore. In this 2 day itinerary I will go over all the most breathtaking viewpoints and hikes, perfect for first-timers. If you are able to spend more time in the park, I will have a bonus section at the bottom! 🙂
Okay, let’s dive in!
In the morning, start your trip off with the most beautiful hiking area in the park. The Mist trail to Vernal falls will give you gorgeous, expansive views the entire way to the top. The hike is very steep and rated strenuous, but it isn’t too long and you will be taking a lot of picture breaks!
I would highly recommend getting a good pair of hiking boots and water resistant clothes. The hike is not only steep, but you are walking alongside a powerful waterfall. You are very likely to get a little wet!
Along the mist trail, you have three options for stopping points: Base of Vernal Falls, Top of Vernal Falls, or top of Nevada Falls. My recommendation would be to do the top of Vernal Falls.
- Vernal Fall Base: 1.6 miles round trip / 1.5 hours / Rated Moderate
- Vernal Fall Top: 2.4 miles round trip / 3 hours / Rated Strenuous
- Nevada Fall Top: 5.4 miles round trip / 5.5 hours / Rated Strenuous
TIP: I would HIGHLY recommend starting the hike early in the morning! Most of the hike is directly in the sun towards the middle of the day. When I started the hike at 10am, most of the hike was in the shade still, making it way more enjoyable!
After you are done hiking, head back to your hotel to shower, grab some food, and head back out to watch the sunset at Tunnel View. This viewpoint is only a 15 minute drive from the valley, and is not a hike. You just park the car and walk to the viewing platform.
I would recommend getting their early to watch the sunset so you can guarantee yourself parking! This parking lot is not huge, so it might fill up fast during the busy seasons.
At this viewpoint, you get to see the entire Yosemite Valley including Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Falls!
TIP: El Capitan Meadows is on the way to Tunnel View. I would definitely stop on the way to check it out!
P.S. On my trip, one of the two days in Yosemite was very smokey due to the wild fires near the park. Usually this viewpoint is a lot clearer and in the spring you will see a few waterfalls!
To start off day two, I would recommend walking to Yosemite Village to grab some coffee at Degnan’s Kitchen. The walk from Yosemite Valley Lodge to Degnan’s Kitchen is about 15 minutes and is where I saw bears every single morning.
The park ranger told us that the best time for bear sightings is early in the morning when they are hunting for breakfast. On my first morning there, I saw a mom and cub in the meadows AND a bear way up in a 50ft tree eating acorns!! For specifics, I walked to coffee between 7am-8am every morning. 🙂
VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Do not feed the wildlife, yes.. not even the squirrels! It not only is bad for their ecosystem and their health, but it desensitizes them to humans and can lead to animal attacks. I think it’s pretty common sense to not try and feed a bear.. but there’s a reason they put directions on shampoo bottles 😉
TIP: Make sure you pack yourself a really good camera because Yosemite is full of picturesque spots! Here is a list of what I have in my camera bag. 🙂
After you fuel up on some coffee, grab some free bikes from Yosemite Valley Lodge or walk over to Cooks Meadow! This area is located right in the valley and has beautiful views of Yosemite Falls.
The boardwalk wraps through the meadow, over bridges, across creeks, and gives you jaw-dropping views. Definitely bring your camera for this spot! 🙂
Now that your camera is warmed up, time to really put it to work! There are three very popular viewpoints on Glacier Road that are very close together (less than 5 minutes apart). You will need to drive over an hour up the mountain to get to the viewpoints, but plan to stay up there for the remainder of the day.
I would recommend leaving the valley roughly 3 hours before sunset to be able to see all of these viewpoints and enjoy sunset at Taft Point.
The first stop is Washburn Point where you will get to see unobstructed views of the famous Half Dome! This is just a viewpoint (not a hike), so you will just park the car and walk out to the viewing platform. If you take my recommendation of hiking to Vernal Falls / Nevada Falls, you will get to see the areal shot of the waterfalls from this view!
Next up is Glacier Point, which will give you similar views to Washburn Point, but you will feel a lot closer to Half Dome. You will also get a clearer view of Yosemite Valley!
Glacier Point is also just a viewpoint not a hike! You will just need to park the car and walk over to the viewpoint. They have tons of signs to read and a few different viewing areas.
This is an extremely popular viewpoint, so expect to wait for parking during busy months / weekends!
At Glacier Point you can sit on the ledge with your legs under the railing! Dangling your feet over the edge will get the palms sweating, but overall you feel very safe because the railing is preventing you from falling off. 😉
This is the only spot in the park where I realized how deep the Yosemite Valley is! All of the massive hotels look like tiny houses from way up here.
Last but not least is Taft Point! This was my favorite viewpoint by far, the views were unmatched! To reach the viewpoint, you will need to park and hike a little over a mile (2.2 miles round trip). The hike is relatively easy and STUNNING! You will walk through mossy forest until you reach the edge of the granite cliff.
Once you get out of the forest area, you will begin to see the edge of the mountain peaking down to the valley. The first viewpoint you will see a metal railing that looks out over the valley and Taft Point (a sharp rock cut out directly in front of the viewing area).
To stand on actual Taft Point, you will need to go back down the mountain a little bit and walk towards the point. On busy days, you may need to wait in a line to get your photo at Taft Point!
TIP: Bring a blanket and a sandwich to enjoy your lunch with the BEST view! And DO NOT FORGET.. always pack out what you pack in! We saw so much trash on the trails, which is always so heart breaking!
To end your last night in Yosemite, be sure to grab some hot cocoa and head outside to do some stargazing! The stars are incredible in the park since it is so far from major cities and there is hardly any lights inside the park. Especially being born and raised in Las Vegas (where the light pollution is one of the worst in the world), I was SO impressed!!
- Tuolumne Grove Trail
- Yosemite Falls Hike
- Mirror Lake
- Sequoia National Park
- Tenaya Lake
- El Capitan Meadow
Okay, that’s a wrap! These 2 days in Yosemite are PACKED with the must-see sights, beautiful hikes, bear sighting tips, and tons of photography locations. If you end up having more time in Yosemite, I would either spread these sights out so it’s more relaxing or add on a few sights from my bonus ideas list!
Yosemite was truly the most beautiful national park I’ve been to and definitely worth the long travel time to get there. You get towering mountains, forest trails, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, wildlife viewing, and star gazing all in one little corner of the world!
Looking for more California itineraries? I think you would love these! 🙂
- One Day in Death Valley National Park
- California Road Trip – 7 Days along PCH
- Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary
- Quick Guide to Monterey
- Day trip to Santa Barbara!
- Wine Bar Hopping and Brewery Hopping in Sacramento
Thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂
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