This is a family-friendly 3-day trip itinerary through Yosemite National Park. Most hikes included are easy to moderate.
Due to COVID-19, advanced reservations are required for entry into the park in order to limit capacity. Unless you have reserved accommodations INSIDE the gates of the park, you will need to purchase a day pass. The day pass is $35 per vehicle and is valid for 7 consecutive days. You must arrive on the day reserved! For more information, visit the National Park Service's website.
Although the advanced reservation system is limiting the number of vehicles entering Yosemite, most sights recommended in this itinerary are popular tourist attractions and can get crowded. Indoor locations, such as the Ansel Adams Gallery, require face masks upon entry. Please protect yourself and others by wearing a face mask in public areas and practice social distancing.
Bike rentals Yosemite Valley is a great place to explore on a bike! There are designated bike lanes in most of the valley and it is fairly flat. When we visited Yosemite at the end of July 2020, there was a Yosemite bike-share program where you could rent sanitized bikes for free! You should be able to find some in the Yosemite Village Visitor Center parking lot.
Otherwise, there are bike rentals in Yosemite Valley Lodge and Curry Village for a fee.
Day 1 Stop 1: Swinging Bridge
[Wheelchair Accessible to bridge]
This is a wooden bridge spanning the crystal-clear Merced river, but prior to 1965, there was an actual swinging bridge in its place, hence the name. This is an easy 1.5-mile out-and-back hike with picturesque views of Yosemite Falls, Sentinel rock and the Merced river! This is a great place for photos and if you have your swimsuit handy, cool off and take a dip in the Merced river.
Day 1 Stop 2: Cook's Meadow Loop
Walk or bike around this beautiful meadow and soak in the breathtaking views!
Day 1 Stop 3: Yosemite Falls
[Wheelchair Accessible to base of lower Yosemite Falls]
Did you know that Yosemite Falls is North America's tallest waterfall? This trail offers stunning views of lower Yosemite Falls, and you can see both the lower and upper falls near the entrance by the bathrooms along the western trail. The Lower Yosemite Falls trail is an easy 1-mile loop on a paved path.
Day 1 Stop 4: The Ansel Adams Gallery
[Face masks required for entry]
Marvel at the incredible photos of Yosemite and pick up some souvenirs from the Ansel Adams Gallery.
Day 1 Stop 5: Mirror Lake
Enjoy a dip in the calm waters of mirror lake (though the lake may dry up in late summer) while admiring the majestic beauty of Half Dome up above. This is a 2-mile round-trip trail on a paved road, so you can also bike along the path and there are places to park your bike as you approach the lake.
Day 1 Stop 6: Bridalveil Falls
The trail itself is closed for construction until end of 2020, but you can still see Bridalveil falls from parts of Southside/ Northside Drive and it is beautiful at sunset!
See and explore Yosemite from up high! Glacier Point Road is usually closed from November to late May and it is scheduled to close for construction in 2021, so please check if it is open before embarking on your journey.
Caution: winding mountain roads.
Day 2 Stop 1: Tunnel View
No hiking required - Lookout point with views of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall.
Day 2 Stop 2: Sentinel Dome & Taft Point
Moderate 5-mile loop with majestic views of El Capitan and Half Dome
Day 2 Stop 3: Washburn Point
No hiking required - this sight offers incredible views of Yosemite from a more southerly perspective compared to that of Glacier Point (next stop). From here, you'll see Half Dome edge-on and Illilouette Falls.
Day 2 Stop 4: Glacier Point
A short 10-minute walk from parking lot will bring you to a spectacular viewpoint. Watch sunset at this overlook with spectacular views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome.
After exploring Yosemite from both up high on Glacier Point Road and down below in Yosemite Valley, we packed up our bags and drove from Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes along Tioga Road. Tioga Road is California's highest highway pass and reaches an elevation of over 9,000 feet above sea level! The drive is beautiful with broad vistas of deep valleys and forests, but there are also many twisty turns, so be careful and pay close attention when driving!
Caution: winding mountain roads and high altitude.
Day 3 Stop 1: Olmstead Point
Olmstead Point is an overlook with views of Cloud's Rest and Half Dome. The overlook is by the parking lot and the view is breathtaking!
Day 3 Stop 2: Tenaya Lake
Take a dip in the crystal-clear alpine waters of Tenaya Lake! This is a great spot to stop for a lunch picnic.
Tioga Road Scenery
Part of the drive along Tioga Road runs parallel to a beautiful stream - keep your eyes open for beautiful streams and meadows.
Once you reach Yosemite's Tioga Pass Entrance, you will see a beautiful glacial lake - the Tioga Lake.
Day 3 Stop 3: Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve
Mono Lake is an ancient lake over 750,000 years old! Dissolved salts and calciums in the runoff water from the mountains accumulate in this basin, making its waters over three times more salty than the ocean.
After our final stop at Mono Lake, we drove to Mammoth Lakes for the next part of our road trip!
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