How to Spend 3 Days in Yosemite National Park
Spending three days in Yosemite lets you explore the national park’s main areas, from the big walls of Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows’ subalpine landscape. Great road access and ample scenic overlooks mean you can find amazing vistas by car, while hiking trails lead to waterfalls, peaks, and sequoia forests. Here’s how to plan.
Day 1: Yosemite Valley Hiker
The postcard-ready views from Glacier Point are a spectacular introduction to Yosemite Valley, whose gems include Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, and more. It’s an included first stop on many tours of Yosemite Valley, with a wheelchair-accessible, paved path and a steeper trail that leads to the valley floor. Once you reach the bottom, keep exploring on a hiking tour that’s tailored to your experience level and fitness—options range from kid-friendly walks to steep treks up the valley sides. The best hikes in Yosemite Valley include Lower Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, and Yosemite Falls Trail. A full-day hike up Half Dome might be the most famous in the park; guided tours help ensure a fun, safe day, but you’ll still need to secure a hiking permit months in advance.
Day 2: Visit Tuolumne Meadows
At 8,600 feet (2,621 meters) above sea level, subalpine Tuolumne Meadows shows a different side of the Sierra Nevada, with cooler air that’s especially welcome during midsummer months. Guided hiking tours of Tuolumne Meadows ensure you’re equipped for hiking, and trails can be as relaxed or challenging as you choose: Options include Mono Pass, Cathedral Lakes, Soda Springs, and Parson Lodge. Don’t miss a prehike stop at the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, where you can learn about the area’s plants, animals, and geology. In the evening, the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center sometimes schedules ranger-led stargazing events, too, taking best advantage of Yosemite’s dark skies.
Day 3: Yosemite Photography Day
Snapping perfect shots of Yosemite requires a bit of planning, and photography tours can coordinate the best timing, shooting locations, and lens choices for the park’s constantly changing light. In the early morning, bring your camera to Tunnel View, Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove, or Nevada Falls. Afternoon is great for Vernal Falls, while sunset light illuminates Half Dome and the views from Taft Point. The most famous Yosemite photographer is Ansel Adams, whose black-and-white prints of the park remain touchstones; Ansel Adams–themed photography trips take in the photographer’s most iconic locations and often include tips on replicating beloved images.