So, you have 2 days to explore Yosemite. You want to compose an itinerary before hand. Where do you start?
Nestled in the South Nevada mountains of California lies Yosemite National Park. From gorgeous valleys to epic waterfalls to trees of staggering heights, this park is a rugged cornucopia of natural beauty. It’s probably one of the most incredible places to visit in the United States, we reckon.
Read on for a gift-wrapped 2 day Yosemite itinerary to ensure you get the best from this beautiful slice of Mother Nature, and discover what it has to offer.
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Where to stay near Yosemite
This article is written in collaboration with Hotels.com.
Let’s start with where you might want to stay while visiting Yosemite for two days. There are fantastic lodgings within the park itself. Naturally, these are very popular because to wake up to a waterfall essentially outside your backyard is…. well, rather special.
Alternatively, neighboring towns offer accommodation should there be no room at the lodge. Exceptionally close to the South Entrance is the dinky town of Fish Camp providing a handful of hotels. A little further down the road is Oakhurst. This is a bigger town with shops, gas stations and offering again, some great options for accommodation.
Camping in Yosemite
For those that love nothing better than pitching a tent and sleeping right in nature itself, there are also several campsites near the South Entrance. Summerdale Campground has a reservation system here, and a spot in Soquel Campground can be arranged here.
If you are feeling up for a little risk there are additional first come, first served no-reservation campsites. You can find them at Greys Mountain Campsite and Nelder Grove Campground.
2 Days in Yosemite – An Itinerary
So, where to start with planning your trip?
Yosemite National Park is massive. So much so, that it actually has five entrances. The South Entrance to start with is the best option for a shorter visit, then Arch Rock Entrance is recommended for day two.
Dotted around will be rules and regulations posted by the park rangers in Yosemite – follow them. Be careful on steep cliffs and wary of climbing over wet rock. Always stick to the trails and you’ll have a great time!
Now, let’s get started on your 2 day itinerary in Yosemite.
Day 1 – South Entrance
Glacier Park Road
Wake up early and drive down Glacier Park Road. Destination? The iconic Glacier Point. This 360-degree viewpoint overlooks Yosemite Valley, giving you a taste of where you’ll visit tomorrow.
Here you have a perfect view of the valley, with the famous Yosemite Falls cascading in the distance and the ominous Half Dome granite mountain. A description does not do the spectacular sight justice – just go see it!
Many hikers who attempt to scale this grueling semi-vertical stretch advise that once is enough. You’ll see why from the sheer size and steep angle of the climbing cables stretching up it!
Next up is a wander through wildflower filled Wawona Meadow. Springtime is best to visit and see these in full colorful glory. As you are tight for time, take the shorter 5.6 km trail.
Nearby is the Wawona Hotel. One of the oldest resorts still standing, it was constructed in the 1800s. Quite interesting to take a quick peek at.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Jump back in the car and head towards a true wonder – the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. This will be a real highlight of your 2 days in Yosemite.
Here you’ll easily spend the entire afternoon walking through the magical land of enormous trees. Home to hundreds of these giant species, there are several that are celebrated for their age and size.
To get an idea of their magnitude in comparison to humans, check out this video –
The biggest of the bunch is a massive 209ft tall sequoia, a beast going by the name of Grizzly Giant and estimated to be an astonishing 2,700 years old!
Take the Grizzly Giant Loop to visit this celebrity. Along this path, you’ll also see the Bachelor and Three Graces, a congregation of four trees that under the soil have roots so intertwined that if only one fell, the others would also come crashing down.
California Tunnel Tree
Next along the path is the California Tunnel Tree. In 1895, before it was considered somewhat inappropriate to carve into a beautiful feat of nature, a walkway was sliced out in order to attract tourists. Indeed it still does!
This is truly an incredible route around one of the most remarkable places in America.
Day 2 – Arch Rock Entrance
Today is day 2 of the Yosemite itinerary. Wake up early, drive southeast, and enter the Arch Rock Entrance.
On arrival be prepared to be greeted with another spectacular panorama of mountains, trees, and waterfalls in the distance, the majestic Tunnel View. No hike is required here, just drive on up to the viewpoint itself. Perfect when you only have 2 days to explore.
Next is the reason for visiting the park itself, Yosemite Valley. A glacial valley flanked by rocks, filled with forests of pine and with an abundance of streams and waterfalls running through. This is the reason for attracting visitors from all over the world.
The valley is regarded as the ‘centerpiece of Yosemite National Park’, and rightly so!
Next up is a drive down to Bridalveil Fall. Named after the mist that lazily drifts from it, giving the illusion of a fluttering veil. Take a short hike through the valley and you’ll reach the striking 617ft falls.
Last on the list is to walk the Mist Trail. This 11-kilometer path incorporates the Vernal and the Nevada Falls, both stunning features of the valley. The entire trail is gorgeous. Beautiful landscape and breathtaking viewpoints across the valley, with the waterfalls as the cherry on the cake. This is not to be missed!
This is a moderate hike that can get more strenuous the closer to the top, so it depends how far you want to go. At the very top by the falls, the staircase cut into the rock is rather steep and exceptionally wet from the spray. So tread carefully and take a raincoat!
Animals in Yosemite
Not only is there exceptional scenery with verdant pines, colossal trees and blooming wildflowers – Yosemite National Park is also home to many different animals.
You will have heard tales of Black Bears, these are true. Around 500 bears live in the park. Note: do not approach! Check out this post on what to do should you come across a bear.
If lodging in the park you may hear the sound of Coyotes howling at night. These creatures are usually shy however and will steer clear of humans.
Deer and Bighorn Sheep also roam Yosemite. Again, leave the deer to their natural habitat and don’t try to feed them any of your delicious snacks. They have plenty of food and although contact with them is tempting, it’s best not to try and entice them over with a Twinkie.
Park rangers have gone to great efforts to preserve Bighorn Sheep. These endangered woolly creatures are usually strolling at higher elevations, and their namesake features can weigh up to a whopping 14kg.
As well as mammals, many species of birds, fish and reptiles call this park home. See how many you can spot in your 2 days in Yosemite!
What to bring for two days in Yosemite?
Shoes, backpack, water, snacks. Get yourself organized to ensure you have what you need to enjoy yourself to the fullest! Check out the essentials for hiking here.
Staying hydrated is incredibly important. Even more so at higher elevations as you lose water twice as fast as you would at standard sea level.
It looks very tempting to take a drink from those clear springs but don’t unless it’s purified first. Tablets such as Aquatabs or a handy gadget like a SteriPEN eliminate any potential bugs and leave you with safe drinking water!
And so, depart for adventure! The sheer grandeur of the park will ensure that your 2 days in Yosemite experience will stay with you forever.