How to maximise two days in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Natural Wonder of the World. Renown for its waterfalls, giant sequoia trees and Tunnel View – the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall, granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome, make visiting very, very worthwhile!

Things you should know before visiting Yosemite National Park:

  • Timed Entry – Between 20 May – 30 September 2022 it’s not possible to get into Yosemite National Park between the hours of 06:00 AM – 16:00 PM unless you have accommodation inside, OR have a Timed Entry ticket, which can be booked here. This is free to buy, but be warned – they go like hot cakes!
  • Entry into Yosemite National Park costs $30 p/car. This is only reinforced by staff at the outpost during peak hours. You can purchase a seasonal 12 month U.S Park Pass for $80, which will grant you entry into Arches, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Zion National Park. For more information, click here.
  • Use the YARTS shuttle bus to get into Yosemite during peak hours, if your accommodation is located outside. This way, you do not need to pay for the aforementioned Entry Cost or have to worry about the Timed Entry restrictions.
  • Glacier Point Road is closed until further notice in 2022. This means the hikes of Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome and Taft Point are off limits (unless you opt to go on a long and strenuous 15 mile+ hike.
  • Accommodation is very expensive and hard to come by inside Yosemite National Park, so book early!
  • Finally, download the AllTrails app. I couldn’t recommend this app highly enough. It has information for hikes and walks all over the world. As part of the free version, the app tells you the length, elevation gain as well as how easy or challenging the route is.
  • *Continued* – You can get a 7-day free trial of the ‘Pro version’, which includes the downloading of offline maps, more map details and alerts for wrong turns. It then costs just £29.99/year.

Day One – Mirror Lake Hike, Sunset and Stargazing from Tunnel View

The first mistake we made was booking our accommodation outside of Yosemite National Park.

If we had realised you required a reservation to be able to drive into Yosemite during peak hours, we would have tried our best to find the cheapest possible solution inside.

We stayed at the 3 star Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal – around 15 miles outside. (This is the closest accommodation to Yosemite outside of the National Park).

Our room looked out onto the beautiful Merced River and the resort had two restaurants, a shop and a launderette on-sight. The only downside was having to rely on public transport in peak hours to access the Park.

On our first evening, we drove into Yosemite National Park after peak hours at 17:00PM, which meant we avoided having to pay the $30 entrance fee, as well as the Timed Entry requirements.

After finding somewhere to park, (which was incredibly hard), we did the ‘moderately challenging’ 4.2 mile round-trip hike of the Mirror Lake Loop Trail. Believe me when I say, this was a doddle compared to the hike we did tomorrow!

As soon as we left the car, we realised we’d made our second mistake. We’d gone out in T-shirts and shorts without insect repellant spray on! You can imagine what that meant… Em and I got bitten alive.

This took away the relaxing element of the walk and we both came up with mozzy bites the next day. Admittedly, Em had a lot more than me, bless her.

(The pic below doesn’t do it justice of how bad they actually got a few days later).

Unfortunately, in my opinion, Mirror Lake was a little underwhelming when we eventually reached it.

By 20:30pm, we were back at the car. Before leaving our hotel, one of the receptionists had recommended we drive to Tunnel View to watch the sunset into Yosemite Valley and then to stargaze after 21:00pm.

This was an amazing experience, as we watched the shadows on the mountains slowly fade and the head torch from hikers shine as they made their way back down El Capitan from their hike.

Day Two – A long ass but stunning hike…

We woke up early, caught the bus from outside our hotel at 08:00am and set off into Yosemite National Park.

We had intended on hiking Sentinel Dome and Taft Point but we hadn’t realised that Glacier Point Road was closed, which meant these hikes were off limits (unless you did the mammoth 15.4 miles El Capitan Trail).

Considered to be a ‘challenging 4.2mile route’ taking an average of 2 hrs 52 mins with an elevation gain of 1,600m, we ended up doing the Vernal Falls and Clark Point via Mist Trail and John Muir Loop.

This was the hardest hike I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding. The views from the top of Vernal Falls were breathtaking.

Later in the afternoon, we caught the bus back to our hotel and chilled out by the pool. In the evening after peak hours, we drove back into Yosemite, watched the sunset again from Tunnel View and checked out Bridalveil Fall.

*NOTE* – If hiking isn’t for you, then you could always hire a bike from either Curry Village, Yosemite Valley Lodge or Yosemite Village in order to cycle around the Valley. A full-days bike hire costs $40 or $30, if you’d prefer just half a day. For more information, follow this link.

Next up, we’re continuing our drive to Los Angeles, stopping off in Monterey, San Luis Obispa and Santa Barbara along the way.

To read my last blog about our time in San Francisco, then click here.

If you’d like to keep up-to-date with our travels, then you can enter your email to receive notifications of blog updates at the bottom of this article; follow my blog by clicking the link, or drop me a follow on Twitter at @AlecW95 or on Instagram at @alatw95.

Alternatively, you can follow Emily on her travelling TikTok account at @emstraveladventure.

Thanks for stopping by, until the next time…


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