Explore Yosemite in Two Days

I have been to Yosemite twice since I moved to California. Visiting Yosemite in the summer had some downsides (temperature in the 90s), but the view made it absolutely worth the visit. We spent two whole days hiking through alpine meadows and giant sequoia groves, gazing at the spectacular half dome, north dome peaks, and admiring 750,000 acres of panoramic landscape. As we were there during the beginning of the summer, we had an opportunity to see all the waterfalls. But, unfortunately, last year the snowfall was 40% less than the average. Due to extreme summer weather (temperature 80-90F) in Yosemite snow-capped peaks are melting quickly. So if you want to see the stunning waterfalls, this (June-July) would be the best time.

Itinerary –

Day 1 – Drive to cover Lower Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, El Capitan, Tunnel View & Glacier Point

Day 2 – Hike to Nevada Falls or Upper Yosemite Falls (per your preference and comfort)

Initially, as a first-time visitor, I only did 5-6 small hikes less than 3 miles each and without much elevation gain. The second time, we did hardcore full day hikes which took us almost an entire day to finish. Below is the detailed itinerary (with easy hikes highlighted in blue) –

  • Arriving in Yosemite & Accommodation – Arrive before 10:00 AM to avoid getting stuck in the traffic for a minimum of 2 hours to get to the park entrance. We stayed in Half Dome Village that we booked 6 months prior to our visit. Their cancellation policy is very flexible. You can cancel for a full refund or make changes in reservations 7 days prior to reservation arrival date. They have bear-proof food lockers outside of each heated/non-heated tent.
  • Getting Around Yosemite – Commute inside the park is very hectic due to oodles of cars and finding parking. The park has Yosemite Valley shuttle which operates from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM every 10 minutes until 7:30 PM and every 30 minutes after 7:30 PM. This bus provides service around eastern Yosemite Valley, including stops at or near all overnight accommodations, stores, and major vista points.

  • Hiking
    • Lower Yosemite Fall Trail
      • Distance: 1-mile loop
      • Difficulty: Easy
      • Time: 1 hour
      • Starting point: Lower Yosemite Fall (shuttle stop #6 – see shuttle map above)
      • Best time of the day to visit: Anytime during the day until sunset
    • Bridal Veil Fall Trail
      • Distance: 0.5-mile
      • Difficulty: Easy
      • Time: 1 hour
      • Starting point: There is no direct shuttle, you would need to take your car and hike to the falls.
      • Best time of the day to visit: Anytime during the day until sunset
      • Additional info: Please ensure to carry a puffer vest as the trail is extremely misty and there 100% chance of getting completely wet. Also, while you’ll be driving to Bridalveil Falls, stop by El Capitan Meadow to get a great view of El Capitan and other cathedral rocks.
    • Cook’s Meadow Loop
      • Distance: 1-mile loop
      • Difficulty: Easy
      • Time: 1 hour
      • Starting point: Accessible from shuttle stop #11 (near Sentinel Bridge) or shuttle stop #6 (Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead)
      • Best time of the day to visit: Anytime during the day until sunset
    • Mirror Lake
      • Distance: 2 miles to the lake (until the end of the paved road)
      • Difficulty: Easy
      • Time: 1 hour
      • Starting point: Accessible from shuttle stop #11 (near Sentinel Bridge) or shuttle stop #6 (Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead) or shuttle stop # 16 (Happy Isles/Mist Trail)
      • Best time of the day to visit – 2-3 hours prior to sunset
    • Vernal Falls Foot Bridge
      • Distance: ~2 miles round trip
      • Difficulty: Moderate, elevation gain is drastic
      • Time: 1-2 hours
      • Starting point: Accessible from shuttle stop # 16 (Happy Isles/Mist Trail)
      • Best time of the day to visit – Anytime before sunset
      • Additional Notes: You can use the Mist trail to get back as its all downhill
    • Top of Vernal Falls
      • Distance: ~3 miles round trip
      • Difficulty: strenous, elevation gain is drastic
      • Time: 2-3 hours
      • Starting point: Accessible from shuttle stop # 16 (Happy Isles/Mist Trail)
      • Best time of the day to visit – Anytime before sunset
      • Additional Notes: Continue further up on the Mist trail to reach the top of Vernal Falls. Please note the hike is not paved and has rocks. These rock stairs are wet or mossy due to mist. You can use the Mist trail to get back as its all downhill. Also, remember to carry plenty of water as the weather tends to get dry and hot as you climb (recommended 3-4L per person). Wear sunscreen and a hat.
    • Nevada Falls
      • Distance: ~6 miles
      • Difficulty: Strenous, elevation gain is drastic
      • Time: 6-7 hours
      • Starting point: Accessible from shuttle stop # 16 (Happy Isles/Mist Trail)
      • Best time of the day to visit – Anytime before sunset
      • Additional Notes: Continue further up on the Mist trail to reach Nevada Falls. Please note the hike is not paved and has rocks. These rock stairs are wet or mossy due to mist. You can use the John Muir trail to get back as its all downhill, gorgeous and has good tree cover. Or you can take a U-turn and come down via the same Mist Trail. Also, remember to carry plenty of water as the weather tends to get dry and hot as you climb. (recommended 3-4L per person). Wear sunscreen and a hat.
  • Nevada Falls fro John Muir Trail
    • Upper Yosemite Falls
        • Distance: ~10 miles round trip (including Upper Yosemite Falls overlook and Yosemite Point)
        • Difficulty: Strenous, elevation gain is drastic
        • Time: 7-9 hours
        • Starting point: Accessible from shuttle stop # 7 (Camp 4). Cross the street and you’ll see the signs for ‘Upper Yosemite Falls’ trail
        • Best time of the day to visit – Anytime before sunset
        • Additional Notes: Carry at least 5-6L of water. Plenty of snacks. Apply sunscreen and insect repellant. If possible avoid wearing anything black as it attracts insects (I personally learnt it the hard way).
    Upper Yosemite Falls

    Yosemite Point

Hope you enjoy your time in Yosemite. Have fun hiking! XO

~Rinky

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