Yosemite National Park, one of the world’s most visited national parks, is truly a site to behold. The moment you drive in through highway 120, you feel like you’ve stepped into a prehistoric Garden of Eden. Majestic sequoias that you strain your neck to see, rock formations that drop off so vertically that you wonder if they were cut with a huge axe, and waterfalls that cascade off in the most aesthetic locations.
We were lucky and unlucky at the same time. Unlucky that it was raining for 60% of the day we arrived, and lucky that we made it in before the entry into the park via highway 120 was closed one day after – so it really shows you how quickly weather conditions can change in these areas so it’s important to stay safe on the roads! Even with the grey, sombre clouds, and getting drenched in the rain, visiting Yosemite National Park over 2 days was one of the best trips in my life.
TWO DAYS IN YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY
DAY 1 – Yosemite Valley
Driving into Yosemite from Stockton where we had stayed the night before, we had the entire first day to explore. This Yosemite Valley Map is really all you need to see all the major scenic points of the park.
Swinging Bridge: Our first stop and the real eye-opener into Yosemite – that became one of my favourite spots in the park. I won’t ever forget the moment I stepped out of the car into the chilly air, ran across the bridge, and gazed around at the rocky domes, the mystic fog and the stately trees. Not much walking here yay! and amazing photo ops on the bridge, and you can also go down to the lake (which was pretty shallow in Winter).
Yosemite Falls: Perhaps the most iconic shot of the park, we did the short walk to Lower Yosemite Falls – but all in all, a little underwhelming and the awesome splash factor from Bridalveil Falls meant it took out the first prize waterfall for me.
Mirror Lake: Didn’t do the full hike but we walked to the lake (which was dry) and back, which took about 1 hour. Another unique spot because it’s the best view of Half Dome without going up half dome, and the dry lake wasn’t a bad thing despite not seeing that iconic Yosemite reflection, because it meant we could walk right into the middle of it and see the different angles of Yosemite in 360-style!
At this point it was a bit too rainy so we had to skip Cook’s Meadow loop (a flat, easy hike that also covers Yosemite Falls and Half Dome), and the longer, much harder Vernal Fall trail – but I will definitely be back in Spring or Autumn for this!!
Valley View: Usually the perfect sunrise spot, and just a scenic stop by the Merced River.
Bridalveil Falls: SO worth it for the effort-view ratio. The splash factor here was insane and even my plastic poncho couldn’t save me from getting drenched by the spray from the bottom of the falls. Climb across rocks and mini puddle of water to reach here!
Tunnel View: Tunnel View is usually the perfect spot for sunset, and you don’t realise its view is captured by its name because your line of sight passes through a tunnel created by all of Yosemite’s major peaks on the border. At this point, it really made me question how on earth did all the rocks, valleys and trees just grow so damn aesthetically by themselves?!
DAY 2 – MARIPOSA GROVE OF GRAND SEQUOIAS
Originally we wanted to see the sunrise at Valley View, but a combination of rain + sleep meant that we wouldn’t have been able to see anything anyway. Just when I thought Yosemite National Park couldn’t get any better, I was proven wrong by on our second day as we ventured down south to the grand sequoias of Mariposa Grove via Wawona Road. (Map to Mariposa Grove) Driving down Wawona road was so nerve-wracking, because the altitude suddenly increases dramatically and you find yourself on sharp twists and turns whilst its snowing and the road is covered in snow. So definitely take care in Winter here and use tire chains in Yosemite if you want to be extra cautious.
On the 3km Grizzly Giant loop trail, other than feeling the magic of wandering through 60-metre high trees, you get to see some special sights like Bachelor and Three Graces (you can guess what that looks like), the Fallen Monarch (leaving a true legacy by showing off its octopus-like roots centuries after dying), the Californian tunnel tree (which can fit a small car in between) and of course, the Grizzly Giant.
A massive 64 metres tall and 9 metres in diameter, the Grizzly Giant is the sequoia to wreck all other sequoias. Standing underneath it and realising that it’s lived 1800 years, makes you feel really, really infinitesimally small and insignificant so don’t go feeling too special 😛
There is usually a shuttle that takes you up from Mariposa car park up Mariposa Grove Road to the trailhead but it closes during Winter so the extra effort of the 30-minute walk up to the actual grove made it all the while more memorable.
So there is our 2 day Yosemite National Park itinerary, including both Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove of Grand Sequoias. I will definitely be back in a few years, (hopefully fitter) and ready to hike up Half Dome!