I know Yosemite is a magnificent National Park and of course, you need more than two days (and preferably an in-park campsite) to really take it all in. But if you are short on time here is a list of excellent trails and sights to see that are a MUST for the first time or return visit.
My goal of visiting was to get some awesome photos and have a good mix of difficult and easy hikes with some off the beaten path trails mixed in.
For convenience sake, I’m going to list the trails that are close to each other and can be combined in one day.
Length: 2.2 miles round trip. Features: a sweeping view of the Yosemite valley. Ease: Easy.
Not only do you get an amazing view of the Yosemite valley but the cliff edge with a dramatic view of the other side of the valley makes for a photographer’s dream! This is the one I didn’t get to complete due to my own stupidity (see Yosemite beginner tips article!)
Length: 1-mile round trip. Features: Distant waterfall views, Half Dome views, Snack bar. Ease: Childs play.
This one is Taft point’s cousin, alike in so many ways, yet more touristy and crowded with families. Ultimately still worth a visit but I highly recommend hitting up Taft point first.
Length: 0 miles. Features: THE FAMOUS TUNNEL VIEW. Ease: Child’s play.
Pit stop here on the way back into the valley OR park here for the next on the list…
Artist’s Point/Old Inspiration Point:
Length: 2 Miles Features: FAMOUS TUNNEL VIEW without the crowd. Ease: Easy/Medium
By far the top choice for views. Hike part of the Ponoho trail from the south side parking lot at tunnel view, uphill for the first part of the hike but slowly tapers off. Once you reach the old stagecoach road (essentially a point where you can go left or right) go left for Artist’s point and go right for Old Inspiration point. Don’t be fooled by the pseudo view partly covered by trees, this is not it.
Bridal Veil Falls:
Length: 1.2 miles. Features: Bridal Veil falls, sometimes rainbows! Ease: Easy.
This is an easy out and back trail that is very family-friendly. It was refreshing to feel the mist from the falls as you get closer! I saw some families sliding down slippery/watery rocks with their kids, so maybe bring your bathing suit?
Lower Yosemite Falls:
Length: 0.5 miles. Features: Lower Yosemite falls, Moonbows if you go at the right time. Ease: Child’s play.
This trail is another Yosemite classic, it often fills up fast with tour busses and families. In the late summer/fall when the falls are extremely low, you can see people climbing up the granite from the other side of the viewpoint. I do not recommend anyone EVER try this when the water is high, and if you do you’re doing so at your OWN RISK and let me fucking tell you it is risky! Granite is slippery even when it isn’t wet, and the rocks can be hard to maneuver over. NOT recommended for elderly people, children, people with mobility issues, or first-time hikers. Pretty sick view from the top, but again YOU’RE TAKING A GAMBLE HERE.
Length: 3 miles. Features: Beautiful views of the valley. Ease: Medium-Difficult.
At this trail, all the crowd is weeded out by the immediate switchback climb you have to do at the beginning of the trail. This is essentially the Upper Yosemite Trail but for those who don’t want to commit, Colombia rock is a good halfway point and makes a nice half-day out and back hike.
Wawona Meadow Loop:
Length: 3.5 miles. Features: Lovely meadow views and views of the valley. Ease: Easy.
A great choice if you need a break from the uphill battle you face with most Yosemite hikes. Good for physically fit children! And families.
Wawona Swinging Bridge:
Length: 0.75 miles. Features: Picnic area, Swimming. Ease: Child’s play.
Another spot for families to hangout also makes a cool spot to take a dip after some crazy hiking! Move further upstream to escape the crowd. How can you beat swimming with a view of the valley?
And there you have my entire Yosemite itinerary that can be easily covered in two days! Some other recommendations would be the Mist Trail and Mirror Lake although I can’t personally speak for them, I did get some trusted recommendations that they are stellar
Please check out my other blog post about first-time tips and safety when hiking in Yosemite!