Your Perfect 3-Day Weekend in Yosemite

Start Day 1 at Glacier Point and the Merced River. Finish Day 3 with a waterfall, pioneer history, and a stay in a historic hotel..

Follow this multi-day plan for premium Yosemite adventure, scenery, and culture.

Day 1

Start at Glacier Point

Glacier Point Overlook. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Glacier Point Overlook. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Catch the DNC Hikers’ Bus for a ride from the Valley up to Glacier Point (departs seasonally from Yosemite Lodge at 8:30 a.m.). Soak in the panorama from the Point that peers 3,000 feet down into Yosemite Valley and encompasses Yosemite Falls, Vernal, and Nevada Falls.

Hike the Four Mile Trail

Leave the cars behind and hike back to the Valley on the Four Mile Trail, a 4.8-mile path that offers a quad-burning workout on a 3,200-foot descent as well as spectacular views at the end of nearly every switchback of Yosemite Falls and El Capitan.

Go for a Dip in the Merced River

Merced River with El Capitan in the Background

Merced River with Half Dome in the Background

The Merced River through Yosemite Valley has numerous beaches and swimming holes, depending on water levels, including along North Pines Campground (shuttle stops 18 or 19), the west end of Housekeeping Camp (shuttle stop 12), Devil’s Elbow (along Northside Drive), and Cathedral Beach (along Southside Drive). Inner tubes can be rented at Curry Village.

Camp at Yosemite Creek

Spend your first night in this secluded (by Yosemite standards) campground, located above the Valley down a bumpy 4-mile dirt track off Tioga Road. All 75 sites are first come, first served, so get there early in summer. Yosemite Creek flows through the campground and is a cool place to swim.

Day 2

Trek to a High Sierra Camp

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp in Yosemite. Photo by Lela Getzler via Flickr

High Sierra Camp, Merced Lake. Photo: Flickr Lela Getzler

High Sierra Camps (open only in summer) offer an ideal way to explore the backcountry without roughing it. The camps are comprised of canvas cabins with beds and a dining facility serving hearty meals. Each camp is accessible by day hiking or guided pack horse. Camps are located at Glen Aulin, May Lake, Sunrise, Merced Lake, and Vogelsang, at elevations ranging from 7,150 feet to 10,100 feet. Reservations must be made in advance and are available through a lottery system. 

Day 3

See Bridalveil Fall

Bridalveil Falls by Grant Ordelheide

Bridialveil Falls. 

After hiking out from the High Camp, drive through the Valley on your way to Wawona and witness Bridalveil, one of the park’s most accessible and dramatic waterfalls. Located on Southside Drive on the west end of the Valley, Bridalveil flows year-round and plunges 620 feet over granite cliffs. Park in the roadside lot, walk just 200 yards on a paved path to the base of the falls, and bask in the spray.

Learn About Pioneer History

Wawona Covered Bridge by Grant Ordelheide

Wawona Covered Bridge by Grant Ordelheide

Take a trip back to Yosemite’s 19th-century past with a tour of the Pioneer History Center at Wawona. This well preserved village includes a 150-year old covered bridge, blacksmith shop, pioneer cabins, bakery, and jail. Then saddle up for a ride if you have the time. A guided two hour trail ride from Wawona Stable rambles down the wagon road that once ferried park visitors arriving by stagecoach. 

Kick Back at an Historic Hotel

The Wawona Hotel now called Big Trees Lodge. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Big Trees Lodge (formerly the Wawona Hotel)

One of the manmade gems of Yosemite is the Big Trees Lodge (formerly the Wawona Hotel), a national historic landmark built in 1876 that features deep verandas and Victorian interiors. Rooms are retro with no televisions ($130 to $195 per night). Relax in Adirondack chairs on the lawn and sip lemonade just as hotel guests did 150 years ago. In the evening, tap your toes to pianist/singer Tom Bopp’s “Vintage Music of Yosemite” performance in the Hotel Lounge.