Yo, so you wanna go to Yosemite? Do I apologize for that terrible joke? No, no I do not. If you’re still reading thank you, and let’s get to the actual good stuff (not bad jokes). So for real, Yosemite National Park is massive, and planning an itinerary for your visit can be difficult. Unless you’re a psycho like me who obsesses over trip planning. But also, another big factor when planning your 3 day Yosemite itinerary is the season. Your experience also can vary tremendously depending on the the time of year you visit. So this is your guide to your Yosemite trip in spring and summer. You could likely use this plan for early fall, but when snow starts, that’s when this won’t necessarily work out.
Like I said, the park is huge. I’m organizing the itinerary by area of the park and then what I recommend you do there. There are tons of things to see and do, but these are my favorites.
The Short Version
- Day 1 – Wander around Yosemite Valley for some of the most famous views of the park
- Day 2 – Do a hike along the Mist Trail and get your share of waterfalls
- Day 3 – Hike some of the trails along Glacier Road and watch sunset from one of the many dramatic viewpoints
- BONUS – If you have the time and it’s open, drive down and explore Tioga Road
The Long Version of Your 3 Day Yosemite Itinerary
Day 1 – Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley might be one of the most famous parts of the park, and for good reason. No 3 day Yosemite itinerary is complete without it. You can see so many of the famous waterfalls and iconic rock formations from this area.
Definitely start your day with sunrise at Tunnel View or Valley View. This is starting your trip off right with some of the most famous views of the park at their best. You won’t run into that many people because it’s sunrise, so you’ll get this incredible view almost to yourself.
If I had to guess – and this is based in 0 scientific fact – I’d say that Yosemite Valley is probably the most trafficked/busiest part of the park. If you’re driving, you’re sitting in and dealing with some car congestion in this spot more than probably anywhere else you’ll be going. You can absolutely drive around the floor and make some of the key stops like the Lower Yosemite Falls hike and hang out at the base of El Capitan. But you’re not there to drive around, right?
Knowing that, and if you’re up for it, I’d definitely recommend the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail. This is a long trail that is mostly flat but it’s an amazing way to explore this area. You don’t have to do the whole thing by any means, which is around 20 miles or so. This is for sure an all day hike, so get there early. To reiterate, you can absolutely just drive around Yosemite Valley but I definitely had more fun when hiking around this area vs. driving around.
If you’re still alive after this long first day, check out sunset on your way out of the park. You’ll be driving west so really anywhere you can pull over with a good vista will be a pretty sunset view.
Day 2 – Mist Trail
Another super common and super loved activity you’ll find on a good 3 day Yosemite itinerary is a hike along the Mist Trail. This trail is chock-full of waterfalls so if you’re a big fan of the falls, you’ll love it here.
The Mist Trail is one of those trails where the hike itself, the journey to the top, is as good or better than the view from the end. This makes it really magical because at every turn you find yourself saying, “shit that’s pretty” and trying not to offend anyone with expletive-sensitive ears along the way.
There are a few hikes you can choose from to see sections of this trail, but I’d recommend the Vernal and Nevada Falls hike. This is the one we did and it was truly magical. You hike like normal until you get to about 500 or so stairs which take you from the base of Vernal Falls to the top. There’s an amazing spot at the top of Vernal Falls to hang out, get in some water, eat some food, and use a restroom! The squirrels are incredibly brave, so be aware that they will try and steal your snacks. Resist the temptation to give them any, they don’t need to get any braver ha.
Day 3 – Glacier Road
This day was my favorite to be honest. Glacier Road is full of hikes with some of the most jaw-dropping views I’ve ver seen. Remember how I talked about all my expletives along the Mist Trail? Well, the views from the hikes on Glacier Road left me speechless, that’s how good they are.
The trails all sort of connect to one another along this ridge, and there are plenty to choose from. You can hike or drive out to Glacier Point; we drove out there and then hiked to see these other amazing views. But here are the ones we did and how much I loved them:
Dewey Point via McGurk Meadow
This is a cool trail that takes you by some open meadows, and then up to Dewey Point. The trail itself is sort of an interest breath of fresh air and felt very different from the rest of my time at Yosemite. At around 8 miles, this is definitely the longest, most difficult hike of the day, but it’s not super hard by any means and the view at the end is very worth it. This was also the least busy hike we went on, so I’d highly recommend it not only for the views but also for the solitude.
This was our first trail out to the ridge view and it truly dropped our jaws. The Taft Point trail itself is pretty easy and short, so you won’t exert a ton of energy, so coupling it with the other hikes on this day won’t be too bad. And you can park at the same trailhead for both Taft and Sentinel (mentioned below), which is very convenient. We saw a wedding photographer at the trailhead and asked her which view was better and she said “Taft Point for sure” so we trusted her and it was amazing.
I recommend doing Taft Point before Sentinel Dome and in the early evening. Not at sunset, but before sunset.
DO THIS AT SUNSET. I’m sorry, was I screaming? But seriously, this was one of the coolest sunsets I’ve ever experienced.
The hike is mostly easy until the very end where you climb the dome, which is a little tougher. But once you get to the top, you’re literally on the top of a dome (kind of duh but it matters I swear). So you watch the sunset literally all around you, in a full 360° experience. It was truly magical and I cannot recommend this enough.
BONUS – Tioga Road
When I was there at the end of May, Tioga Road was still closed for the winter. So unfortunately I wasn’t able to go. But, if it were open, Tioga Road would definitely have been on my 3 day Yosemite itinerary.
So there you go, my 3 day Yosemite itinerary so you can go in like a pro! It’s absolutely beautiful and you’re going to have an amazing time. To see a little more ground-level experience, check out my Instagram story highlights. And as always, holler with any questions.