Yosemite National Park was the very first national park I ever visited, and the experience changed my life—decades later, I’ve turned writing about national parks into a career. Today, Yosemite still holds a special place in my heart. As John Muir wrote, “No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite.”
Your experience in the park will vary depending on the season, so for the purposes of this itinerary, let’s say you’re visiting sometime between late spring and early fall. Here’s how to spend three days that might (if my experience is anything to go by) change your entire perspective.
Elevations vary considerably across the park, so dress accordingly.
If you only have time for one thing, make it a hike in Yosemite Valley.
Welcome to nature’s granite cathedral. On your first day, you’ll want to get acquainted with Yosemite’s most iconic landscapes. Most of these can be found in the incomparable Yosemite Valley, 7 miles that contain some of Mother Nature’s finest masterpieces. See them from the Yosemite Valley shuttle or hop on a tour to avoid traffic.
Today, head up to the subalpine Tuolumne Meadows, one of the biggest high-elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada. Stop at the visitor center to get your bearings—you’re at 8,600 feet up here—and you can talk to a park ranger about the hikes and picnicking spots in the area, such as Mono Pass, Cathedral Lakes, Soda Springs, and Parsons Memorial Lodge.
Time to cover some remaining ground. If the road to Glacier Point is open, take it. (Expect 30-minute delays in 2023.) The view from the route is spectacular and worth a trip just to see; go early to beat the traffic and crowds or hop on a tour to avoid parking woes.
For your final adventure, hit up the southern portion of the park, where you’ll find Yosemite’s 500 mature Giant Sequoias in Mariposa Grove; these behemoths are what inspired the entire national park idea. Once in the grove, enjoy hiking one of the numerous trails that wind through the forest.