Yosemite: Your One to Four-Day Itinerary
By Bev Manzano

If your stay is short, here are ideas for "bite-sized" chunks of Yosemite, which will yield satisfying pleasures for everyone.


The suggestion below are based on a compilation of our Yosemite experiences as a family. You can mix and match depending on your length of stay. There are a wide variety of tours offered year-round  you could book online as well. For a complete listing, visit the Yosemite website. Check out the Badger Pass website for winter activities.

1 Day
Take your pick of, or combine parts of the 2-3 day itinerary. On one short vacation, we drove straight through from the Bay Area and visited Tuolomne Meadows before checking in at the Groveland Motel . We left the next day after spending a few hours at Pine Mountain Lake Resort , for which hotel guests receive a courtesy entry pass.

2 - 3 days

Choose from the following:
Tuolomne Meadows-
The high country is less crowded and more rustic than the valley. Drive east on Tioga Road , using the park map to choose stopping destinations. Points of interest: A scenic foray in Tuolomne Meadows along the Tuolomne River (pull off on side of road where you see others); an easy climb up Pothole Dome (even my 5-year old daughter Zoe made it halfway up); swim or splash in Tenaya Lake ; horseback riding.

Yosemite Valley-
So many choices, so little time: horseback riding; bike trails; hiking; rafting; playing at river banks; swimming in the pool; the museum and Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village; the Nature Center at Happy Isles . Easy hikes suitable for young ones are at Vernal Falls . Some energetic 3-4 year olds are able to make it past Vernal and up to Nevada Falls . Bike or hike to Mirror Lake . Shuttle buses run all day into the evening during most of the year, stopping at various locations around the Valley.

Glacier Peak-
You can drive to top of Glacier Peak, which rises 3,200 straight from the valley floor for a breathtaking 360-degree view of the surroundings.

Redwood Groves-
There are three in Yosemite, accessible by tours and/or short hikes. California redwoods can grow to be the largest living things on the planet.

Near the south entrance, the Wawona hotel is a National Historic Landmark. Activities include golf, stables, and a Pioneer History Center. The Mariposa Grove of Big Trees is nearby.

Badger Pass-
Wintertime activities include outdoor ice-skating, snow shoeing, snow tubing, downhill and cross-country skiing, and snowboarding,

4 Days and up

Add classes or special programs from Yosemite. Choose from a variety of guided tours, children’s and family programs, ranger walks, art classes, theater, storytelling and historical tours. Choose from the many other hikes, either with a guide from Yosemite Mountaineering School, or on your own.

Bodie and Mono Lake Area
You might try heading east out of the park boundaries and visiting these unique destinations, if you’re up for the drive.

At Mono Lake you will find a surreal prehistoric landscape of tufa towers, eerily beautiful formations of calcium carbonate that rise from the brine lake. It is also a vital habitat for wildlife, including many species of migratory birds. To get there, take Tioga Road east exiting Yosemite, continue 3 miles to Hwy 395. When Tioga Pass is closed (usually Nov-May), take Hwy 88 over Carson Pass to Minden, NV, then follow Hwy 395 south for about 2 hours to Lee Vining (25 miles south of Bridgeport). Mono Lake is near the town of Lee Vining off of Hwy 395.

is considered to be the best, and most well preserved, historic ghost towns in the country from the gold rush era. Bodie is about 13 miles east of Hwy 395. Take state Hwy 270. Drive 10 miles until the paved road ends, then continue on for the last 3 miles of an unpaved dirt road. Make sure to stop for gas, food and drinking water in Lee Vining before you reach Bodie-there are no services within 14 miles of the Bodie State Historic Park .


If camping, use bear-proof lockers for food storage . You may want to bring several padlocks. Make sure there is no food or scented in your tent or car at night. Never leave camp unattended if food is not stored. Keep a clean camp.
• If you're wilderness camping, you should Bearbag supplies. This simply means suspending your food at one end of a rope with a counter weight on the other end. Sacks should be tied off at least 12 feet off the ground and 10 feet from the tree trunk.
If you do see a bear, do not approach it no matter how small it is. Yell, clap your hands, bang pots together to scare the bear away. If there is more than one person, stand together, pick up small children, to look more intimidating, but do not surround the bear. If the bear is a cub, be aware that the mother will be nearby and will aggressively defend her young.
If a bear happens into your belongings, never try to retrieve anything once a bear has it.

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