How to Spend 2, 3 or 5 Days in Yosemite this Summer

Jun 27, 2023Things to Do


You did it! You finally decided to book your dream trip to Yosemite National Park this summer. You’ve been dreaming about the incredible views and searching #Yosemite for years and now it is your chance to see it all up close and personal. But with so many sights to see, how many days should you spend exploring the park? We’ll break down how to spend 2, 3 or 5 days in Yosemite this summer.

How to Spend 2 Days in Yosemite

While it is recommended to stay longer than two days to truly explore all Yosemite has to offer, it is better to experience some than none at all. Luckily, there are many things you can do to truly get a full experience of Yosemite in just 48 hours. Here is the perfect 2-day Yosemite itinerary. 

Day 1: 

  • Hike Mist Trail
    Mist Trail is Yosemite National Park’s signature hike due to its incredible views from start to finish. Along this trail, you will run into beautiful overlook areas and come across two astounding waterfalls with a combined 900ft –  a true sight to see especially with this year’s snow melt. The end of the trail also has a striking view of Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap and the back of Half Dome.
    Hike Time: 2-5 hours
    Miles: 3

    Difficulty: Moderate
    Parking: Catch a free shuttle from inside the eastern side of the park or park at the trailhead parking lot (in peak season, it might be hard to find a spot)
  • Northside Scenic Drive
    To get to Mist Trail, you take Southside Drive. Now it is time to take in a new, memorable view. Exiting Curry Village, take Northside Drive. This is a large loop through this area of the park that will take you to new sights and plops you right back on the route back to El Portal Road. On this drive you will see many lookout spots where you get out and take in the scenery.
  • Rest & Recharge
    By now, you probably want to rest and recharge a bit before your excursions tomorrow. This is a great time to officially check into your room, get comfy and explore the grounds. At Yosemite Resorts, we offer many amenities for you to discover from multiple spas and pools to arcades and outdoor fire pits where you can make s’mores.  

Day 2: 

  • Rise & Shine
    Waking up early is the key to packing a full day of exploration in! Rise and shine by 7am so you can be out the door and checked out of your room by 8am is our biggest advice!


  • Experience Tunnel View
    Just a short drive from any of our properties is the Arch Rock Entrance of Yosemite. Drive through this entrance and take the road to the iconic Tunnel View –  a viewpoint that truly takes your breath away. This is one of Yosemite Valley’s most famous views as it showcases famous rock formations El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, and Bridalveil Fall all in one place. 

  • Hike Sentinel Dome
    10 minutes down the road is a trailhead that leads you to Yosemite’s longest view via Sentinel Dome, and some say Yosemite’s best-kept secret. This hike is only 2.2 miles, but it is steep toward the end. However, once you reach the top, you can take in a view like never seen before no matter which way you turn. 
    Hike Time: 1-2 hours
    Miles: 2.2

    Difficulty: Moderate
    Parking: There is a small parking lot at the trailhead. However, if this is full you can park along the road.

Pro Tip: if the day is clear enough, you can see mountain ranges by the coast of California!

  • Eat Lunch at Cathedral Beach
    Grab your lunch and head to Cathedral Beach picnic area to recharge and take in the beautiful scenery.
  • Spot the Rock Climbers at El Capitan Meadow
    A beautiful spot to take in the sights, El Capitan Meadow is a serene area with grass, trees, water and, of course, incredible views of El Capitan. Here you can usually spot some adventurous rock climbers tackling the large cliffs.
  • Take Photos at Fern Spring
    End your day at the edge of the park gates with Fern Spring. This is a small spring that is popular due to the fact it naturally gets filtered underground (however, we do not recommend drinking it) and is a common stop for visitors on the way in or out of the park.

How to Spend 3 Days in Yosemite

So, you have 3 days to explore one of the most beautiful places on earth. What do you do? Follow this 3-day itinerary to find out.

Day 1

  • See the Iconic Tunnel View
    Tunnel View will always be a recommended stop on the Yosemite exploration map due to its ability to really provide a good look at what is to come over the next couple of days. It is right off of Southside Road and near the Arch Rock entrance so it is the ideal gateway to your trip with views of El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, and Bridalveil Fall all in one place.
  • Vernal Falls Footbridge
    While not a full-on hike per se, this footbridge is a 2-mile, easy hike that provides great views. It is part of the Mist Trail (see our 2-day itinerary above for information on this moderate hike) but provides a great view without the sweat (we’ll save that for tomorrow).
    Hike Time: 1-2 hours
    Miles: 2

    Difficulty: Easy
    Parking: There is a small parking lot about half a mile from the trailhead.
  • Lower Yosemite Fall Trail
    Get a glimpse of North America’s tallest waterfall at the base. Park at the Yosemite Visitor’s Center (and take a peek in) then follow the path to Lower Yosemite Fall
    Hike Time: 30 minutes
    Miles: 1
    Difficulty: Easy
    Parking: Park at the Visitors Center. The YARTS Bus Stop from Yosemite View Lodge or Yosemite Cedar Lodge can also take you to the Visitor Center for a small fee.

Pro Tip: Take the hike in a counterclockwise route for the best views!

  • Recharge & Rest
    Our properties are designed to be your escape from reality and a place to unwind and recharge.  Each of our lodges have multiple pools, spas, trails, an arcade, and cozy fire pits for roasting marshmallows for fun outside the park! Take a peek at the amenities at Yosemite View Lodge here and Yosemite Cedar Lodge here.

    Fire Pit at View Lodge 

Day 2

  • Early Bird Gets the Worm
    Wake up around 6am so you can be out of the room by 7 and ready to explore! It is the best way to ensure you get the most out of your trip.

Pro Tip: Bring a cooler and ice packs so you can stop by the large market at Yosemite View Lodge to grab food for the day.


Day 3

  • Wake up to the Wild and Scenic Merced River
    If you are lucky enough to book a room overlooking the Wild and Scenic Merced River, take the early morning hours to make a cup of coffee and relax while you listen to the roaring river before checking out.
  • Mirror Lake Loop
    Make sure to stop at Mirror Lake to admire the beauty of the water along the 2-mile loop. The first path is paved, while the loop is not. Leashed pets, bicycles, and strollers are allowed on the first paved mile of the trail.
  • Lower Yosemite Fall Trail
    We can never get enough of a good waterfall, especially if it is America’s tallest. As you head out back home, be sure to see Yosemite Fall from the base – a whole new view from the day before! 
    Hike Time: 30 minutes
    Miles: 1
    Difficulty: Easy

    Parking: Park at the Visitors Center

How to Spend 5 Days in Yosemite

Five days in Yosemite Valley is the ideal time to truly explore the area, hike the trails and see the views that you’ve been dreaming about. 

Day 1 

  • Kick off with Tunnel View
    Once you arrive in Yosemite Valley, the start of your adventure-filled 5 days should be at tunnel view. This view will provide you with an incredible glimpse into what you can expect to see over the next few days.
  • Take the Scenic Southside and Northside Drives
    Continue driving around the park along Southside drive as you round about the beautiful trees and along the Merced River. As you drive you will pass by a few of the sites to come over the next few days. At Curry Village, you can turn onto stunning Northside Drive which will loop you back toward El Portal Road.
  • Rest & Recharge
    Day one in Yosemite Valley laid out a good base for the week to come, now it is time to charge your battery for the days ahead. Hang out at the lodge, explore the grounds, and take advantage of the incredible amenities at our lodges.  

Day 2

  • Hike Half Dome 
    Half Dome is one of the most famous hikes in all of Yosemite. The National Parks Service adds two cables each year to help visitors admire the view. The two metal cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment. This hike is incredibly hard, rising nearly 5,000 above the valley, but if you are up for the challenge, it is a can’t-miss experience.
    Hike Time: 10-12 hours
    Miles: 16 miles
    Difficulty: Strenuous
    Parking: Park at the Visitors Center 

Pro Tip: Start this day at sunrise or earlier. You will also need to apply for a permit to hike.


Day 3

  • Take a Drive to Mariposa Grove’s Giant Sequoias
    About an hour’s drive from our properties, you will find one of nature’s most spectacular canvases – Mariposa Grove. Home to over 500 mature giant sequoias, you will find multiple hiking spots for all skill levels. 
    • Big Trees Loop Trail (easy) – 0.3m
    • Grizzly Giant Loop Trail (moderate) – 2m
    • Guardians Loop Trail (strenuous) – 6.5m
    • Mariposa Grove Trail (strenuous) – 7m

Day 4

  • Get Your Oars Ready
    What better way to enjoy the rush of the Wild and Scenic Merced River than by raft? Book your adventure with a local river rafting organization, such as Oars, for an incredible experience. The river has Class III-IV rapids with cold water and a moderate flip/swim potential which makes it rated relatively challenging, but also fun for ages 9 and up. 

Day 5 

  • Lazy Mornings
    You deserve some R&R after the last few days of adventure. Take the morning or embrace the rush of the river from a river view room at Yosemite View Lodge, cup of coffee in hand (and maybe some icy hot in the other).
  • Lower Yosemite Fall Trail
    Before heading out, one can’t miss hiking spot is the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail. Known for being America’s tallest waterfall, it is a site to see and a great way to end your epic Yosemite trip. Be sure to take the hike in a counterclockwise route for the best views!
    Hike Time: 30 minutes
    Miles: 1
    Difficulty: Easy

    Parking: Park at the Visitors Center

Yosemite National Park is one of the most spectacular places on Earth. With its rushing waterfalls and views for miles, whether you have just a few days or a whole week to explore, following the itinerary above will help you make the most out of your adventure. Book your stay today with us today to complete the ultimate summer itinerary.