Recently I got to spend 2 days in Yosemite National Park in California and it was absolutely incredible. Postcards do not do this national park any justice. In real life it looks like a painted masterpiece, too beautiful to be real.
In this post I’m going to take you through the perfect 2 day Yosemite itinerary, the key spots to visit when you’re on a bit of a tight schedule and where to stay in Yosemite.
Perfect 2 Day Yosemite Itinerary
- Arrive in Tenaya Lodge and check in.
- 6.20pm head to Sugar Pine Railroad for Moonlight Special Dinner Train with barbecue, train ride and campfire.
- Breakfast in Tenaya Lodge and check out.
- Drive to Mariposa Grove and walk through the seqouias.
- Photo stop at Tunnel View.
- Lunch at Yosemite Valley Lodge.
- Walk to Yosemite Waterfall.
- Overnight in the park (camping). If you’re on a tight schedule head back to San Francisco or Sacramento etc in the evening.
Sugar Pine Railroad Experience
This experience is absolutely perfect for families but groups of friends and adults will enjoy it too.
Sugar Pine Railroad is an old railroad which has been restored. It used to be used for Madera Sugar Pine logging trains. It runs April to October so if you’re visiting outside these months then you’ll need to add something else to your itinerary instead.
The first part of the evening is the BBQ. I was a bit worried about this being vegetarian, but they had a Beyond Burger (not actually a fan of them but I appreciate the effort) ready for me and some veggie-friendly smoked beans. The meat-eaters in your party will love this BBQ.
It’s a buffet style meal, with salads and meat a plenty as well as dessert. There is also a bar where you can buy soft drinks, beer and wine. Make sure to grab one for the train ride/campfire sing along.
The Sugar Pine Railroad experience offers a 4 mile trip through the Sierra National Forest on an old logger steam train. There are open air carriages as well as covered passenger cars.
I chose covered on the outward journey and then open air on the return. Probably not the best way round to do it since it was colder on the way back, but really, no matter where you sit it’s a wonderful experience.
The train stops in Lewis Creek Canyon for the campfire and sing along. A band will lead the sing along, playing classic folk and campfire songs. I knew quite a few, surprisingly.
There are a couple of songs that require crowd participation such as singing along or dance moves. Some people might find this a bit silly, but honestly, why take yourself so seriously?! Just get into it and enjoy it.
The whole experience lasts around 3 hours. Bring a coat with you as it gets chilly in the evening. Oh and make sure to check out the gift shop too for a cute souvenir from your trip.
The giant seqouias at Mariposa Grove are the kind of natural wonder that most people only see on nature documentaries and travel programs. So, to have a chance to see them for myself, in real life, was a dream come true.
Mariposa Grove is the largest seqouia grove in Yosemite with around 500 giant seqouias. Mariposa means butterfly in Spanish and you will see PLENTY of them fluttering around between the trees.
Be prepared to leave Mariposa Grove with a sore neck from looking up at the towering trees. Check out the landmarks such as Fallen Monarch, The Grizzly Giant, Faithful Couple and the California Tunnel Tree.
Make sure to arrive at Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza early-mid morning. There are only around 300 parking spots and they fill up fast. Once you’ve parked hop on the free shuttle to Mariposa Grove. They have toilet facilities and seating areas once you arrive.
If you’re travelling with a pet then you won’t be able to visit Mariposa Grove I’m afraid. They are not allowed on the trails and must be on a leash in parking areas.
When it comes to hiking there are plenty of options suitable for all levels. The Big Trees Loop Trail is the easiest. It takes around 30-45mins and is also wheelchair accessible.
Make sure to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated and don’t take anything from the forest. If you see a park ranger feel free to ask them any questions you might have, they will be more than happy to help.
Tunnel View Point at Yosemite
Tunnel View Point is one of the most breath-taking view points I’ve ever seen. You turn a corner, go through the Wawona tunnel and then just on your left (as you’re driving into the park) is Tunnel View Point with stunning sweeping views of Yosemite Valley.
The view includes El Capitan, which is the iconic sheer cliff face known to climbers around the world. If you’ve seen the Dawn Wall and Free Solo then you’ll recognise it instantly.
From the view point you’ll also see Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls. No matter the season this is an essential stop on any Yosemite itinerary. When we visited we actually saw a proposal! Not a bad place for it.
Peak flow at Yosemite Falls is in May, which is exactly when I visited. However, you don’t have to visit in May, the falls can still be seen from November through to July. But May is when they’re really showing off!
The trail to the base of Yosemite Falls is only a short walk from Yosemite Valley Lodge. Be warned, you will get wet, BUT it is a fantastic sight and a gorgeous photo opportunity.
When the water crashes down on the rocks you can catch a glimpse of rainbows in the mist. It’s pretty magical.
Yosemite Falls is around 2,425 ft in height. Well, it actually consists of three waterfalls but if you count them all as one then Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in North America.
If you want a longer hike to the top of the waterfall you’ll need an entire day. It’s around 7 miles round trip to the top of the falls and 9.9miles to Yosemite Point. It is not an easy hike, so be prepared to sweat, it can take up to 8 hours.
If you do attempt this trail, make sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen as you’ll be out in the sun for most of it. You can choose to turn around at Columbia Rock, a lot of people do, as it is said to have the best view of the entire hike (Yosemite Falls with Half Dome in the background) and the hike gets a lot harder after that point.
No matter what way you choose to see Yosemite Falls one thing is for certain, you will be be amazed by its beauty and you will take LOTS of photos.
Where to Stay in Yosemite National Park
During my time visiting Yosemite I stayed at the stunning Tenaya Lodge. I cannot stress this enough, it is MAGICAL.
Tenaya Lodge sits near Fish Camp and is only around 10 minutes from the South Entrance of Yosemite National Park, making it the perfect place to stay for your Yosemite trip.
I stayed in one of their contemporary adults-only (woohoo) suites. When I took the separate elevator down to my floor I realised that my room was going to be special. There were only four rooms on my floor.
When I opened the door I was greeted with a huge separate sitting room complete with wall mural of the mountains, flat screen TV and a gas fire. A free standing tub was the highlight of the spacious bathroom. There was also a separate dressing room with a vanity table and mirror.
I had a lovely private outdoor patio and the bedroom was just as beautiful as everything else in the suite, inspired by the woods and mountains. Honestly, I never wanted to leave this suite. I actually stayed up late, wrapped in the cosy gown, watching TV and eating the complimentary turn down chocolates with the fire on.
The rooms are only a part of the appeal of Tenaya Lodge. I was obsessed with the coffee shop because they served some excellent iced coffee and also sold Cheetos (I’m a simple creature).
Tenaya Lodge has plenty of activities and options to keep all kinds of traveler occupied and entertained. There are archery lessons, paint and wine nights, poolside movies, ranger walks and LOTS more. Not to mention 3 outdoor pools and one indoor.
You can check out the full list of facilities, including the Ascent spa and multiple dining options, on the Tenaya Lodge website.
To book your stay at Tenaya Lodge click HERE.
Camping at Yosemite National Park
If you prefer to be a little bit closer to the wild there are plenty of camping options within Yosemite National Park. The campsites are divided into Yosemite Valley, South of Yosemite Valley and North of Yosemite Valley.
Here are a few things to consider before camping at Yosemite National Park. Only two of the sites have showers – Curry Village and Housekeeping Camp. Campgrounds with tap water have regular bathrooms, the rest have creek water and vault toilets.
Make sure you read all the details about each campground. Some require reservations, some are on a first come first served basis. It sounds more complicated that it is, I swear. You won’t be left without somewhere to stay as long as you’re flexible.
You can find all the info you need about
Yosemite campgrounds HERE.
What Did I Think of Yosemite National Park?
Well, I think it’s safe to say that I LOVED it. I would have liked to spend more time there, but two days in Yosemite was certainly enough to see the highlights.
If I could live in Tenaya Lodge, I definitely would. I wonder if they do a writer/creator in residence program?! Imagine. I’d be straight on a plane, off to live my best life in one of the most beautiful parts of California.
I hope my 2 day Yosemite itinerary has given you a bit of wilderness inspiration and got you in the trip planning mood!
Would you like to visit Yosemite National Park? Let me know in the comments.
DISCLAIMER – Visit California hosted me on this trip. However, all opinions are my own and this articles was not paid for.
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