Yosemite is almost 1200 square miles of the most scenic wilderness country you could ever set eyes on. The Sierra Nevada Mountains stretch along the eastern part of California and this portion of them have been set aside for your pleasure!
Photographed and captured in stories and poems, Yosemite National Park is popular for outdoor lovers, hikers and anyone who loves to take in the sights and sounds of nature.
If traveling to Yosemite for a weekend, you can see the whole park, but you will need to plan carefully to take in the most possible. You want to be able to see those famous waterfalls, unusual rock formations and the colorful cliffs.
Spring is probably the best time of year to come to Yosemite, as the waters are still running through the meadows and the flowers are abloom. It's less crowded and will take shorter amounts of time to get around.
Here is a sample itinerary for you so you can take your two short days and see as much of the park as possible.
This is where you should make your base of operations. There are any number of lodges and restaurants in the valley, and you can find the accommodations that fit your needs. It is also the area of the most famous sights in Yosemite, so you can spend enough time here to take in everything available.
Start early in Yosemite Valley with your sightseeing. You'll find impressive Half Dome and El Capitan here with incredible views. Walk around because many of the views come from not far off the road. If you arrive on a Friday evening, you can watch the sun set from the tunnel, where you'll also get an amazing view of the entire valley. Cathedral Rocks and Spires are on the eastern side of the canyon can be viewed from the El Capitan Meadow turnout.
The first waterfall you'll see as you enter the valley is the Bridalveil Fall, which flows all year, peaking and thundering in May. You can take a short hike from the Bridalveil Fall parking area to the bottom of the falls for a wonderful view.
Of course, there are many more waterfalls you'll see in Yosemite Valley, from the famous Yosemite Falls (Upper and Lower), Ribbon Fall and Horsetail Fall.
After you tour the valley, you can head south to Glacier Point. For another view of the Yosemite Valley, it's a short walk to the viewpoint from the end of the road. Ansel Adams found this a favorite place for spectacular photos.
From a distance you can see Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall and Illiloutette Fall. You'll have a commanding vista of Half Dome and the High Sierra from this vantage point. It's most definitely worth the trip.
Continue south on this, your first day out into the park. Just before reaching Wawona, you must stop at the tunnel view. It will be your first view of the valley after exiting the tunnel and absolutely breathtaking. It's my favorite stop and I recommend having your camera ready.
Finally you'll come to Wawona, home to a collection of historical buildings. There are a number of things to do here, and you'll enjoy visiting the Pioneer Yosemite History Center to see the horse-drawn wagons, learn how this park was the inspiration for others, and then walk across a quaint covered bridge. Want to get into a virtually unknown corner of Wawona? Ask at the information station how to get to Wawona Cemetery.
Continue south to Mariposa Grove. Here you'll find the largest stand of giant sequoias in Yosemite. You can take a short hike from the Mariposa Grove parking area on a number of trails, or take a longer 3 or 4-hour hike. It isn't very far to Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree.
You'll now head back to your home base in Yosemite Valley, and prepare for an early start tomorrow. On day two, you'll have to start early, as you have a lot of ground to cover and many awesome sights to see!
Traveling north this time from Yosemite Valley, you will head for Hetch Hetchy, a reservoir where San Francisco gets much of their drinking water. You'll see towering cliffs and some amazing waterfalls.
This area is less frequently visited, but has a history that is worth learning. You can see O'Shaughnessy Dam that made the reservoir in this glacial valley and the beautiful Wapama Falls. Check it out from the parking lot at the dam.
You'll now travel back to the Tioga Road or Highway 120 to go to Tuolumne Meadows. This drive to the meadows is 39 miles of wonder, moving through forests, past lakes and meadows. You can take advantage of turnouts to get broad and gorgeous views.
Once at Tuolumne Meadows, you should take part in a ranger-led tour to get the most from the area. The visitor center can give you information on these tours. Take a picnic lunch to sit and enjoy the sub-alpine meadow and fresh, clean air. Visit the Parsons Memorial Lodge and Soda Springs to discover some natural history of the area. You can hike to where John Muir conceived of establishing the park. It's just a short 30-minute hike from Lembert Dome parking area or the visitors' center.
Now you can head “home” to Yosemite Valley, satisfied that your weekend will go down in your personal history as the best vacation ever!
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