Things to do in Yosemite National Park

Itineraries for Your Trip to Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park locals share their perfect days.
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3 Days in Yosemite National Park for Families

Curated by Jacqueline Kehoea travel writer who specializes in America’s national parks.

Few places will inspire natural wonder in the kids like Yosemite National Park—after all, this California spot sparked America’s entire national park idea. When Teddy Roosevelt first came here, he summed his visit up like this: “It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”

Though I might be biased—Yosemite was my first national park, and it inspired a decades’ long obsession—I fervently believe it’s nearly impossible not to agree with Roosevelt’s sentiment, no matter who you are (or what your age). With three days to explore, you’ll soon see why. Here’s what’s in store for you and your family.

Know your elevation (it may change!) and dress appropriately.

If you only have time for one thing, make it hiking one of the trails in Yosemite Valley.


Day 1

Start your trip by seeing the most famous sights in and around the 7-mile (1.6-kilometer) Yosemite Valley. You can hop on the Yosemite Valley shuttle, which runs every 10 to 20 minutes around the valley loop, take a guided tour, or settle in at one spot, like Yosemite Falls.

From here, choose a hike that fits your family’s needs. Lower Yosemite Falls is short-and-sweet, while Mirror Lake offers great views of Half Dome and, if you’re lucky, will give you the opportunity to spot some wildlife. For dinner, grab burgers and shakes at the Village Grill.

Day 2

On day two, rise and shine early to see the valley before the crowds arrive. If you’ve got older kids, now’s a good time to hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls or hit the short-but-difficult trail to Artists Point. You might even catch a black bear, bighorn sheep, or mule deer getting their breakfast on.

Afterward, head to the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center to see the Sierra Nevada Range’s largest high-elevation meadows. You can picnic on the Tuolumne River, hike Lyell Canyon via the John Muir Trail (it’s mostly flat), see Soda Springs, climb up Lembert Dome, or catch a ranger talk at the visitor center.

Day 3

On your final day, head toward the southern end of the park and the famous Mariposa Grove to see Yosemite’s famous giant sequoias. For an extra fun way to see the area, take a Jeep tour and zoom through the forest with the top off, taking it in with all your senses.

Before heading back to the valley (through the stunning Tunnel View at the southern entrance), make a detour to Glacier Point. It’s 3,200 feet (975 meters) above Curry Village and offers a commanding view of the valley. Consider it one final hurrah on a magnificent, hurrah-filled trip.

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