Your Ultimate Guide to 3 Days in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park | Introduction

Yosemite national park is located in Northern California and is the most renowned and accessible national park in the state. Its intricate geological origins, age-old tectonic movements, and the glacier erosion from hundreds of thousands of years ago have shaped today's breathtaking landscape: tiered mountain peaks, towering rocks, and awe-inspiring waterfalls, drawing in countless visitors.

Yosemite National Park Yosemite National Park 3 Days Tour

Yosemite National Park | Getting There

Visiting Yosemite National Park is most conveniently done by car, aside from joining a tour group. Yosemite has three entrances. Most will either take the western Highway 120 or the southwestern Highway 140 entrances. If you enter from Highway 120, you'll typically start exploring from Yosemite Valley. If coming from Highway 140, you can begin from Mariposa Grove and head north.

Inside the park, Yosemite Valley is the busiest area in Yosemite. Therefore, there are free shuttle buses available in Yosemite Valley, which is an excellent option for those who don't want to drive and find parking. If you plan to drive around this area, make sure to check the locations of the attractions first. To maintain smooth traffic, roads near the bustling Yosemite Village are one-way. If you miss a spot, you'll have to go all the way around to get back.

Yosemite National Park | Itinerary

3-Day Itinerary

During the summer when the entire park is open, planning a three to four-day itinerary allows visitors to explore the key attractions across all four areas. For example, for a three-day summer itinerary entering from the western entrance:

Day 1: Glacier Point area. Along the way, you will pass through Tunnel View. At Glacier Point, walk the trails and visit Washburn Point. Later, hike up Taft Point and Sentinel Dome trails. In the evening, drive to Tioga Road to the Tuolumne campsite. While not entering the valley, you'll still pass important viewpoints like Valley View.

Day 2: Visit Tuolumne Meadow and Tioga Road. Hike up Lembert Dome and Dog Lake, as well as the Soda Springs Trail. In the afternoon, visit Tenaya Lake and Olmsted Point. In the evening, drive to Ahwahnee to stay overnight and stargaze.

Day 3: In the morning, check out from Ahwahnee and head to Yosemite Valley, touring all the major classic viewpoints.

1-day Itinerary

If you're looking for a one-day drive tour, you can focus on Yosemite Valley. Choose two or three trails to complete, and drive to experience the iconic viewpoints.

Yosemite National Park | Where to Stay & Eat

Within Yosemite National Park, the most convenient places for accommodation and dining are in Yosemite Valley. In Yosemite Valley, there are roughly three places to look for shopping or accommodation: The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Valley Lodge, and Curry Village. The Ahwahnee is a luxury hotel, Yosemite Valley Lodge is mid-range, while Curry Village offers the most affordable accommodation.

The Ahwahnee

The Ahwahnee is the most upscale hotel within the park. It's situated between Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Glacier Point, making it close to all these attractions with excellent views. The hotel has shops and a restaurant, and if you have the time, having a meal here is a great experience.

Booking a room at The Ahwahnee

Yosemite Valley Lodge

Staying at Yosemite Valley Lodge is much more affordable compared to the ultra-luxurious Ahwahnee. The location of the lodge is also very close to restaurants. The interior of the lodge is quite satisfactory, and if you're lucky, you can get a room with a balcony that offers an amazing mountain view.

Book a room at Yosemite Valley Lodge

Curry Village

Curry Village is conveniently located with beautiful scenery. However, if you stay here, you'll be using shared bathrooms, and the overall facilities are more basic. If you come with the expectation of a regular hotel experience, rumor has it that after one night, you might start missing the comforts of modern civilization.

Book a room at Curry Village

Looking for a stay at Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite National Park | Attractions

Yosemite is divided into five areas: Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road, Wawona and Mariposa Grove, Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows, and Hetch Hetchy. Typically, visitors frequent the first four main areas.

Yosemite Valley Area

Yosemite Valley is located in the central valley of the park. It's the most famous area in Yosemite and the only region open all year round, attracting numerous visitors. Ancient glaciers carved this U-shaped valley, leaving behind large granite formations, such as the renowned El Capitan and Half Dome.

Glacier Point Area

Glacier Point is located at the southern tip of Yosemite Valley. It boasts the best panoramic views accessible by car within the park and is only open during the summer season.

Tioga Pass Area

Tioga Pass is a scenic area in the northern part of the park. It primarily includes the park's largest lake area, Tenaya Lake, and the Tuolumne Meadows grassland. It's rich in wildlife resources and is only open during the summer season. The area is closed from November to May.

Wawona Area

In the southern part of the park, the main attraction is Mariposa Grove, which is home to giant sequoias. Visitors must take a shuttle to access this area.

Further reading

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