The Perfect Yosemite Itinerary: Maximize Your 1, 2, or 3 Day Visit

Yosemite Itinerary: How to spend 1 day, 2 days, or 3 days in Yosemite blog post cover.  Text overlaying an image of a girl watching sunrise over Half Dome from Glacier Point

No amount of time will ever be enough, but a carefully planned Yosemite itinerary will ensure you maximize your time in the best National Park in the USA.

This travel guide provides the perfect itinerary for exploring the park. It has been designed to help you plan for the best possible experience whether you have one day, two days, or three days in Yosemite.

Be aware that the time of year you are planning a visit will drastically impact your options for exploration. Both the Tioga Pass and Glacier Point roads will be closed during winter, limiting you to just the Yosemite Valley. Weather permitting, these roads usually open in May and remain accessible until November.

Before you dig in, you may also want to consider loading some of our other Yosemite guides in a new tab to further assist in planning your visit:

Disclosure: In order to keep providing you with free content, this post may contain affiliate links. If you make a booking or purchase through one of these links we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. So a HUGE thank you to you if you click one of these links 🙂

Quick Facts About Yosemite National Park

A moody morning in Yosemite National Park.
  • Location: California, USA
  • Established: October 1, 1890
  • Size: 748,000 acres (1,169 mi2)
  • Annual Visitors: 2,268,313 (2020), 4,422,861 (2019)
  • Visitor Centers: Valley Visitor Center (year-round), Valley Wilderness Center (May-Oct)
  • Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle; $30 per motorcycle; $20 per individual; $80 Interagency Annual Pass


Summer sunrise at Tunnel View - a must-see on any Yosemite itinerary

Reservations for 2022

Entrance reservations are required to drive into or through Yosemite National Park from May 20 through September 30, 2022, for those driving into the park between 6am and 4pm.

If you enter the park prior to 6am or after 4pm you do not need a reservation. Furthermore, if you enter prior to 6am, you may still remain in the park during peak hours.

Glacier Point Road Closure 2022

Unfortunately, the entire Glacier Point Road is closed in 2022. The only access to Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome, Taft Point, and other Glacier Point Road destinations is via a long, strenuous hike.

Glacier Point: To reach Glacier Point you would need to hike the Four Mile Trail which is a 9-mile round trip with a 3,200ft elevation gain.

Sentinel Dome: From Glacier Point it is possible to hike a further 3-mile round trip with a 1,000ft elevation gain to reach Sentinel Dome.

Taft Point: Getting to Taft Point requires a further 2-mile round trip hike from Sentinel Dome and another 1,000ft of elevation gain.

If you were to hike to all three, it would be a total of around 14 miles with around 5,000ft elevation gain. For this reason, we do not recommend Glacier Point this year.

We have kept Glacier Point on our Yosemite itinerary for future visits. However, if you have two or more days in Yosemite we recommend swapping out Glacier Point for other activities within Yosemite Valley. It is truly a beautiful area and well worth taking more time to explore.

Getting to Yosemite National Park

Winter sunrise view from Tunnel View during a Yosemite Itinerary

By Car

Our Yosemite itineraries are designed to be self-driving. The easiest and most convenient way to get to and around Yosemite for most will be by car. Whether you have your own car or rent a car, having a vehicle will allow you to explore at your own pace without timetable or group constraints. Compare car rental prices here.

By Public Transport

It is possible to reach Yosemite National Park using public transportation. YARTS provides year-round bus services from Merced, as well as additional seasonal routes. This can be combined with AMTRAK or Greyhound services to reach Yosemite Valley.

Once at Yosemite Valley, you can use the free Yosemite Valley shuttle system to get around.

You can find out more about public transportation to Yosemite on the NPS website.

By Tour

If you don’t want to have to figure out all the details yourself, then a tour to Yosemite is a great option. There are a wide range of day trips, as well as multi-day tours to choose from.

Here are some of the best-rated day tours to Yosemite National Park:

For those with more time, you may wish to consider one of these highly-rated multi-day tours:

Yosemite Itinerary Overview

Low clouds burn fiery red on the horizon during sunrise on Day 1 in Yosemite National Park.
Low clouds burn fiery red on the horizon during sunrise on Day 1 in Yosemite National Park.
One Day Itinerary:
Two Day Itinerary:
Three Day Itinerary:
Sunrise: Tunnel ViewSunrise: Glacier PointSunrise: Valley View
Scenic Loop DrivePanorama TrailTioga Pass Scenic Drive
Sunset: Four MileSunset: Taft PointSunset: Tuolumne Meadows

This guide has been designed to begin with a one day itinerary that focuses on seeing the Yosemite Valley, then to subsequently add the more remote regions of the park with each extra day available to you.

It begins with where to watch sunrise in Yosemite each day and concludes with our favorite place for sunset in the region of the park your day will end.

With this in mind, those of you who plan on moving quickly may be able to combine Day 1 and Day 2 by avoiding some of the hikes and keeping close to the car.

Sunrise from Glacier Point on Day 2 in Yosemite

There’s no reason you cannot change the order in which you visit each region, though they have been written in the order that we find most scenic. In fact, those of you traveling into Yosemite from the east (via Mammoth Lakes or Mono County) should actually begin with Day 3 and work backward!

Last, if you have more than three days in Yosemite, there are endless hiking trails throughout the park to explore and other remote regions (such as Hetch Hetchy) you can add to your itinerary!

Discover 65+ Perfect Gifts for National Park Lovers

One Day in Yosemite Itinerary: Yosemite Valley

A snow dusting in front of El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley on a one day itinerary.
If you only have one day in Yosemite, spend it exploring the valley!

How to Spend One Day in Yosemite Valley:

  • Tunnel View
  • Cathedral Beach
  • Bridalveil Falls
  • Swinging Bridge
  • Vernal Falls + Nevada Falls (time permitting)
  • Yosemite Church
  • Sentinel Bridge
  • Ansel Adams Gallery & Yosemite Valley Visitor Center
  • Lower Yosemite
  • Upper Yosemite Falls (time permitting)
  • Valley View
  • Four Mile Trail

If your itinerary only allows for one day in Yosemite, you will want to focus on hikes and views within the valley. Additionally, if you are visiting between November and April, this will likely be the only part of the national park you can access as the other roads are closed.

The good news is that the Yosemite Valley is largely considered the best part of the park, and a day trip is more than enough time to see it.

In the itinerary below, you will find our recommendations for how to spend one day in the park at a leisurely pace and still see all of the iconic sights. If you are visiting in the summer when the days are long, you will have a bit more time and opportunity for additional hikes.

Sunrise at Tunnel View

Day 1 in Yosemite: Sunrise at Tunnel View
Day 1 in Yosemite: Sunrise at Tunnel View

Begin your day at the most iconic viewpoint in all of Yosemite National Park. Sunrise at Tunnel View is one of those lifetime travel bucket-list items that everyone should attempt to experience.

While Tunnel View is the best, you can find out more and discover all of our favorite places for sunrise at Yosemite in this guide.

Sunrise on Day One in Yosemite

In the spring, the sun will rise directly in line with the viewpoint. By summer, it peeks out from behind El Capitan to the left of the vista. In the winter, it actually will not make it over the mountains to the right of the vista for an additional hour or more.

Be sure to get there early! The park entrance gate gets insanely busy and backed up, which will cost you precious hours. Additionally, the parking lot can get full within an hour of sunrise. Do yourself a favor and get parked up at least 15 minutes before sunrise to enjoy the beautiful colors and magical light.

Drive the Yosemite Valley Scenic Loop

At this point, you will have all day to drive the loop and explore the many waterfalls and trails. Be aware that most of the roads through the valley are one-way.

The views are incredible from pretty much everywhere and you will find small pull-offs frequently for photo opps.

Sophie meanders through the meadow boardwalk along the Yosemite Valley scenic loop.
Sophie meanders through the meadow boardwalk along the Yosemite Valley scenic loop.

In order to make sure you have time for everything, I recommend sticking to mostly the shorter hikes and trails. If it is open, consider the hike to Bridalveil Falls as you leave Tunnel View. Other waterfalls with a short hike to consider are Vernal Falls and Yosemite Falls (Upper and Lower).

There are many unmarked places to stop and enjoy the views, but the most iconic are the Swinging Bridge, Sentinel Beach, Half Dome Bridge, and Valley View.

Consider perusing our Yosemite Day Trip Guide for a more thorough and detailed breakdown of our favorite stops.

Sunset at Four Mile Trail

Watching the Yosemite Firefall at sunset from Four Mile Trail.
Watching the Yosemite Firefall at sunset from Four Mile Trail.

Don’t worry, you don’t actually have to hike four miles up!

The trick to seeing sunset in any valley, including Yosemite, is to try and find some elevation. On a one day itinerary, you likely won’t have time to drive to some of the higher vantage points. Luckily, one of the best sunset views in the park is accessible via a short hike up Four Mile Trail.

After about one mile, you will find a clearing with a pile of rocks to the right of the trail. If you are sure-footed and the rocks are dry, one can easily scamper up a bit to get a clear view of the entire Yosemite Valley. If not, you will still have a great view but may have a bit of vegetation partially obstructing the valley floor.

Two Days in Yosemite Itinerary: Add Glacier Point Road

*Important 2022 Update*

As mentioned, Glacier Point Road is closed for all of 2022. We’ve left this part intact for future visitors. For the time being, we recommend filling day 2 of your Yosemite itinerary with more activities within Yosemite Valley.

Day 2 of the Yosemite itinerary focuses on the breathtaking views along Glacier Point road.
Day 2 of your Yosemite itinerary focuses on the breathtaking views along Glacier Point road.

How to Spend Two Days in Yosemite: Add Glacier Point

  • Sunrise at Glacier Point Viewpoint
  • Panorama Trail
  • Illilouette Falls
  • Nevada Falls
  • Washburn Point
  • Mono Meadow
  • Sunset at Taft Point

Those of you wanting to spend a weekend in Yosemite National Park will have time to explore all there is to see and go on the Glacier Point road in addition to driving the Yosemite Valley.

While you will be looking at “the same” natural features for the most part, such as Half Dome, Vernal Falls, etc, you will be doing so from 7200 feet (2195m) up!

There are tons of trails to explore in this region and I recommend doing as many as you are comfortable with based on the heat and your personal level of fitness. Just remember that you are at a higher elevation where the air is much thinner.

Sunrise at Glacier Point

Begin your second day in Yosemite National Park with an unbeatable sunrise view at Glacier Point.
Begin your second day in Yosemite National Park with an unbeatable sunrise view at Glacier Point.

Begin the day watching the sun come up behind Half Dome from the highest accessible viewpoint in the park! Watching sunrise at Glacier Point will require a very early start, which is why this two day Yosemite itinerary suggests attempting it the second day.

For perspective, the drive from El Portal to Glacier Point is 1h 6m according to Google Maps. From the parking area, you will still need to walk about a quarter-mile (5-10 minutes) to get to the lookout. Hey, you didn’t come to Yosemite to sleep through the best time of day!

Hike Panorama Trail (or some of it)

Illilouette Falls on the Panorama Trail in Yosemite.
Illilouette Falls on the Panorama Trail in Yosemite.

If you are in good physical condition and want to see arguably the best views in all of Yosemite, consider hiking the Panorama Trail. The total distance is 8.5 miles but takes most hikers 4-6 hours to complete. Along the way, you will enjoy sweeping views of the Yosemite Valley, as well as several top-down looks at an assortment of waterfalls.

Of course, an 8.5 mile trek is not for everyone! Not to worry, there are shorter options worth considering. As time is precious, I recommend just walking about 1.8 miles to a view of Illilouette Falls. There is some elevation change that makes this a moderately difficult 3.6 mile roundtrip walk, but it is worth the effort. Additionally, there are plenty of places to stop and rest in the shade.

Walk the Mono Meadows

For a gentle meander through open fields, drive back down Glacier Point Road and park up at the Mono Meadows trailhead. Instead of staring at granite cliffs and waterfalls, visitors will enjoy open meadows with plenty of birds and wildlife viewing opportunities.

The Mono Meadow trail is an easy 1.2 mile out and back. Most people choose to also stop by the Sierra Overlook, which increases the distance to 3.5 miles roundtrip.

Sunset at Taft Point

The two day Yosemite itinerary ends with sunset from Taft Point.
The two day Yosemite itinerary ends with sunset from Taft Point.

Assuming you have done a few walks and made time to enjoy your meals, the day will be getting late and it is time to enjoy the best place for sunset in Yosemite at Taft Point.

Westerly views are difficult to find in the park, particularly with ample elevation. Taft Point offers the best west-facing vistas and a series of rock ledges that give the perspective of being above it all. As dangerous as the photos make it look, the ledges are mostly wide and spacious, posing little risk if common sense is applied.

The hike from the parking area to Taft Point is about 2.2 miles roundtrip. It is an easy stroll and mostly shaded throughout. Bring a camera and perhaps a beverage while you watch the light dance and fade on the granite cliffs of Yosemite.

Taft Point is the ideal place to watch sunset and conclude your two days in Yosemite.

Another view of the sunset from Taft Point on Glacier Point Road.
Another view of the sunset from Taft Point on Glacier Point Road.

Alternative Sunset Options: Washburn Point or Glacier Point

If you are not physically able to walk the 2+ mile roundtrip to Taft Point, both Washburn Point and Glacier Point provide beautiful foregrounds for some sunset photography as well. These views both face mostly east, so you will be watching the light and shadow play on the distant mountains and valley rather than looking into the sun.

There is no hike at all to Washburn Point and ample parking is available. If you have already photographed sunrise at Glacier Point as was recommended, consider Washburn Point instead to have some variety in your portfolio.

Three Days in Yosemite Itinerary: Add Tioga Road

The 3 day Yosemite itinerary focuses on exploring stops along the Tioga Road.
Climb the slick rock near Olmsted Point for the best view on Tioga Road.

How to Spend Three Days in Yosemite: Add Tioga Pass Road

  • Sunrise at Valley View
  • Tuolumne Grove Giant Sequoias
  • Lukens Lake
  • Olmsted Point
  • Tenaya Lake
  • Sunset at Tuolumne Meadows

If you are fortunate enough to have an itinerary that allows three days in Yosemite, you will have enough time to see everything included in our one and two day Yosemite itineraries as well as the Tioga Pass.

As was mentioned in the beginning of this guide, both the Tioga Pass (Hwy 120) and Glacier Point Road are only open seasonally. Both roads typically open in May and close in November.

There are too many hikes to list along Highway 120, but listed in this section will be the must-see stops along the way to Lee Vining where the Yosemite park boundaries end.

If you are traveling onward toward Mono County and Mammoth Lakes as part of a bigger California road trip, we have written several guides to hidden treasures and popular destinations that be nearby upon exiting the park.

Sophie Clapton soaking in the upper pool of Buckeye Hot Spring.
Do not miss Buckeye Hot Spring on your way out of Yosemite!

In particular, do not miss the natural, incredible Travertine Hot Springs and Buckeye Hot Springs, located just 30 minutes north of Lee Vining.

Our favorite place in all of California is the city of Mammoth Lakes, located just 30 minutes south of Lee Vining. On the way, you absolutely must at least take a drive through the June Lakes Loop scenic drive. We stayed a week camped on BLM land exploring the myriad of Mammoth Lakes hot springs, soaking in mineral-rich water and enjoying too many sunsets, sunrises, and moonlit nights.

Sunrise at Yosemite Valley View

Day 3 in Yosemite begins with an iconic view for sunrise at Yosemite Valley Viewpoint.
Day 3 in Yosemite begins with an iconic view for sunrise at Yosemite Valley Viewpoint.

Begin your third day in Yosemite with sunrise at Valley View. This is the last stop on the Valley Loop drive and is one of the most iconic views in the entire park. As most of you will be camping either in the park or in nearby El Portal, this will allow you a bit more sleep as the drive is only about 20 minutes from town.

Parking is limited but rarely fills up this early. Bring appropriate footwear as the best photos will be taken from the water’s edge.

See the Giant Sequoias at Tuolumne Grove

Consider including a short but challenging hike to see the giant sequoias at Tuolumne Grove on your Yosemite itinerary.
Consider including a short but challenging hike to see the giant sequoias at Tuolumne Grove on your Yosemite itinerary.

If you haven’t stood at the base of these ancient giants and marveled at their size, consider a brisk one-mile hike to stand with them in the Tuolumne Grove. While the hike down is only a mile, it is steep with a 500 foot elevation loss. Obviously, this means hiking a steep one mile back up following your time amongst the sequoias.

Expect the hike to take you about an hour and be sure to bring plenty of water, particularly in the summer months.

The trailhead to the sequoia grove will be well signposted and will be the first stop along the Tioga Road.

Stop by Lukens Lake

There will be plenty of roadside lakes along the drive through the Tioga Pass, but this is one of the most accessible for those who wish to include a few short hikes in their Yosemite itinerary. The total roundtrip distance is only 1.6 miles and is mostly shaded, making for a pleasant stroll.

Lukens Lake is a beautiful alpine lagoon surrounded by bright green trees and often providing a mirror reflection. Consider packing your late breakfast or lunch to picnic by the water.

Enjoy the view from Olmsted Point

Be sure to walk the short trail for a better view of Half Dome from Olmsted Point.
Be sure to walk the short trail for a better view of Half Dome from Olmsted Point.

As you climb to one of the highest points in the park, you will arrive at the breathtaking Olmsted Point. This is a must-see on your way through! Most visitors will simply admire the scenery from the parking lot, but there is a small trail that provides some alternative views in a short walk.

Just past the Olmstead Point parking area is an unmarked pull-off. In the distance is Tenaya Lake, tucked below Cathedral Peak. If you are feeling adventurous and the weather is completely dry, consider climbing some distance up the slick rock on the other side of the road. With a bit of elevation, the view improves dramatically and is one of the best secret photo locations anywhere in Yosemite.

Picnic at Tenaya Lake

Even on a moody day, Tenaya Lake is the perfect place on Tioga Pass Road for a picnic.
Even on a moody day, Tenaya Lake is the perfect place on Tioga Pass Road for a picnic.

The number of stops and hikes you have done will determine whether or not it’s time to eat. Ideally, you should be arriving at Tenaya Lake around dinner time. This is a great spot to enjoy your meal as the lake is gorgeous and no hike is required to access it.

When you have finished eating, you can walk around the lake if you like and get some nice evening photos. Just make sure you allow yourself time to explore the final stop on our three-day Yosemite itinerary with a sunset visit to world-famous Tuolumne meadows.

Sunset at Tuolumne Meadows

Landscape photography of the Tuolumne Meadows on a three day itinerary for Yosemite NP.
The Tuolumne Meadows is the most popular destination for visitors of Yosemite’s Tioga Road.

Your three days in Yosemite National Park comes to a brilliant conclusion with a sunset stroll through the Tuolumne Meadows. This will be the last stop on Tioga Road before exiting the park and rapidly descending in elevation en route to Lee Vining.

Stretch your legs exploring the large subalpine meadow that is teeming with wildlife and natural beauty. The Tuolumne River snakes gracefully through, surrounded by the large granite peaks that make the region so striking.

A few various hiking trails are available ranging wildly in distance, but you really can’t go wrong. For a short, easy jaunt, consider a quick walk to Soda Spring. Of course, my personal recommendation is to simply read the sky and sunlight and chase that around in pursuit of scenic foregrounds complemented by the evening glow.

Tips for Planning Your Yosemite Itinerary

We’ve covered everything you want to see whether you are sticking to a one day, two day, or three day Yosemite itinerary. Before you hit the road, it is worth considering these factors that will be important to the success of your journey.

Best time to visit Yosemite National Park

A February itinerary for Yosemite means a chance at witnessing the incredible natural event known as "Firefall."
A February itinerary for Yosemite means a chance at witnessing the incredible natural event known as “Firefall.”

If you are only making a day trip to Yosemite, each time of year offers unique benefits and challenges. Winter weather can be challenging but extremely beautiful, for example.

In addition, if you have never seen the natural phenomenon known as the Yosemite Firefall, these occur in February only and are definitely a bucket list experience. In short, there is no one best time to visit Yosemite if your visit is short.

If you are hoping to spend more than two days in Yosemite, you are definitely better off planning your road trip for a time when Glacier Point Road and Tioga Road are open.

Accordingly, the best time for longer-term visits to Yosemite is between late May and October, when these roads are open. In particular, May provides the most impressive waterfalls as they burst with snowmelt. Alternatively, October is a good option to get some fall colors.

Of course, there is no bad time to visit the park, just plan as far ahead as you are able to ensure you have all the reservations you require.

Where to stay in Yosemite NP

The lights from Yosemite Village illuminate the valley floor while the stars dance overhead at Glacier Point.
The lights from Yosemite Village illuminate the valley floor while the stars dance overhead at Glacier Point.

Camping in Yosemite

You are not allowed to sleep overnight in your car or van in any of the national parks, including Yosemite. This is known as “freedom camping” and a park ranger could issue a fine, though it is more likely you will simply be asked to leave.

There are a lot of campgrounds throughout Yosemite National Park, but only one in the Yosemite Valley. The others are mostly primitive camping options (meaning limited amenities) and are dotted throughout the outskirts of the park.

All campsites require reservations and fill up months ahead of time, so plan accordingly. Also, be aware that overnight parking is not permitted anywhere in the park without a permit. You can find out more about camping in Yosemite and acquire a reservation on the NPS website.

Accommodation in Yosemite

For those of you who want a bit of comfort during your stay and want to be centrally located, the Yosemite Valley Lodge is the only hotel within Yosemite village. It is located near the base of Yosemite Falls.

The best option for most who wish to stay nearby will be to look at the options available in the town of El Portal. This is the closest town to the park entrance, and is only a 20 minute drive from the Yosemite Valley.

In El Portal, you will find a variety of accommodation options as well as places to sleep in your vehicle if you are self-contained.

Click here to check for current availability and prices of accommodation near Yosemite National Park.

Gas and services

Surprisingly, there are plenty of gas stations not just near, but within the Yosemite National Park boundaries. Unsurprisingly, you pay a bit extra to fill up in the park, as well as in El Portal.

All services are available in the Yosemite Village, ranging from a small general goods store to a Starbucks!

There is also a cafeteria, gas pumps, and pretty much anything else you might need during on your visit.

Yosemite Entrance fees

Tunnel View sunrise in Yosemite

Note that there are no day-passes to Yosemite. There are too many options to list them all, but the most commonly purchased tickets are:

7-Day Vehicle Pass: $35/ vehicle
7-Day Individual Pass: $20 (must be traveling by bike/bus/foot)
One Year Yosemite Pass: $70
One Year Interagency Pass: $80

We recommend EVERYONE get the One Year Interagency Pass. This will get you into EVERY National Park, Monument, and Recreation Area for a full year, and costs slightly more than double just a one-week pass. You can find up to date prices and more info on the NPS website.

They match your signature to your ID so it cannot be loaned to others, but there is space for TWO signatures if you want to share it with a friend.

Yosemite Itinerary FAQS

Find the answers to the most frequently asked questions when planning your visit to Yosemite National Park.

How many days to spend in Yosemite National Park?

One day is enough to see all of the Yosemite Valley, but 2-3 days is ideal if you wish to take some of the longer hikes or explore Glacier Point and the Tioga Pass.

What is the best itinerary for a weekend in Yosemite?

Day 1: Explore the Yosemite Valley.
Day 2: Explore Glacier Point and the Panorama Trail.

Is 3 days enough for Yosemite?

Three days is the perfect amount of time to spend at Yosemite! This will allow plenty of time to explore the Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road, and Tioga Pass, and to partake in some longer hikes.

What should I not miss in Yosemite? What should I do on my first time at Yosemite?

The things you cannot miss in even a short visit to Yosemite include:

  • Tunnel View (bonus for sunrise!)
  • Valley View
  • Yosemite Valley
  • Lower & Upper Yosemite Falls
  • Half Dome
  • El Capitan
  • Glacier Point (if open)
  • Taft Point (if open)
What is the best Yosemite itinerary for a short visit?
One Day Itinerary:
Two Day Itinerary:
Three Day Itinerary:
Sunrise: Tunnel ViewSunrise: Glacier PointSunrise: Valley View
Scenic Loop DrivePanorama TrailTioga Pass Scenic Drive
Sunset: Four MileSunset: Taft PointSunset: Tuolumne Meadows
1-3 Days in Yosemite Itinerary Overview

Packing List for Yosemite National Park

Depending on the time of year and activities you have planned, your exact packing list will vary. However, there are a few key items that you should consider including:

America the Beautiful Annual Pass

The annual national park pass costs $80 and provides access to all 63 national parks in the US. Additionally, it grants admission to over 2000 federal recreation sites! Discounted passes are offered to some groups, including seniors, military personnel, and 4th graders. Check the NPS website for up-to-date information and to purchase your pass.


Yosemite is an absolute treasure trove when it comes to photography, so don’t forget your camera! We use the Sony a7riii and have loved it ever since the first photo we took with it. However, for beginners, you may wish to consider an entry level DSLR. This will allow you to start learning manual settings and decide whether photography is something you enjoy enough to invest in.

Hiking shoes

Yosemite has some incredible hikes so you’ll want to ensure you pack some comfortable shoes. Ideally, bring a waterproof pair of hiking shoes as rain is not uncommon, particularly if you’re visiting from October and May. I also love my Brooks sneakers and find them perfect for walking when the weather is dry.

Sun protection

Yosemite sits at an average elevation of 4,000ft. (1219m) so you can expect the sun to be strong here. Ensure you have good protection from the sun with a sunhat, sunglasses, and sunscreen as a minimum. We use Stream 2 Sea sunscreen as it’s eco-friendly and most of their bottles are made from sugarcane resin rather than plastic.


The temperatures in Yosemite can fluctuate by 30°F (~18°c) in a day. Additionally, the temperature varies hugely depending on elevation.

With this in mind, you’ll want to pack layers of clothing. A wind and waterproof jacket is also likely to come in handy. I love my Columbia jacket as it’s comprised of two layers. This allows me to just wear the outer waterproof/windproof shell, inner insulated layer or combination of both, depending on the weather.

Reusable Water Bottle

We don’t travel anywhere without a reusable water bottle. Remaining hydrated is even more important in the desert. Bring your own bottle to prevent wasting single-use plastic bottles! Water is available at trailheads and visitor centers.

Portable Powerpack

It’s likely you’ll be using your phone to navigate, take photos, and more! Bring a power pack with you to keep your phone charged on the go.


You’ll want a backpack that’s comfortable and sturdy to carry around during the day. I use the GoGroove camera backpack as it also provides easy side access to my camera while out and about.

Mini First Aid Kit

When out hiking, we always have a mini first aid kit in our bag just in case. You never know when it may come in handy (particularly as I’m clumsy)!

Other Guides to Yosemite & California

Sophie Clapton soaking in a hot spring in Mammoth Lakes at sunset.
Soaking in one of the many free, natural hot springs in Mammoth Lakes near Yosemite.

If Yosemite National Park is just one stop on your California road trip, consider adding some of these nearby gems to your itinerary:

Other Yosemite Guides

Mammoth Lakes and Nearby Hot Springs Guides

Southern California Guides

Northern California Guides

Finally, feel free to browse our Yosemite photography gallery or Northern California photography gallery to purchase fine art prints or simply find inspiration!

Yosemite Itinerary Final Thoughts

Spend a weekend in Yosemite making memories that last a lifetime.
Spend a weekend in Yosemite making memories that last a lifetime.

No matter how much time you have on your Yosemite itinerary, this place will always leave you wanting more!

This is truly one of the most beautiful places in the state of California and indeed in the country. Having visited every US national park, I can say with some credibility that Yosemite is among the very best of them.

Most importantly, I hope you have found this travel guide useful and inspiring in planning adventures of your own.

Of course, mistakes do happen! If you see anything inaccurate or misleading, please let me know in the comments below. Likewise, it makes my day to read comments of appreciation and I absolutely welcome those as well.

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