This July, Taylor and I spent a four-day weekend in Yosemite National Park with friends. Needless to say, the weekend was amazing and jam-packed with the most amazing views of Yosemite National Park.
Where to Stay
Campgrounds or Cabins/Tents/Lodges?
Taylor and I wanted to camp in a remote area of Yosemite so we could stargaze. We decided to stay at Tamarack Flat campground. This campground is located 45 minutes north of Yosemite Valley at about 6,300 feet in elevation. It is first-come-first-serve and costs an affordable $12 per night. Tamarack Flats provides campers with picnic tables and firepits as well as a bear box for storing food. However, remember to bring drinking water, since the only running water is a stream that runs through it.
Our friends stayed at Half Dome Village Tent Cabins for roughly $140 per night. Half Dome Village Tent Cabins are located in Yosemite Valley in close proximity to Half Dome Village and Yosemite Village. Staying at the village tent cabins grants you access to showers, running water, and a short walk to the grocery stores and small eateries in the valley, not to mention most trail heads are located in the valley.
Some other campgrounds in the valley include Camp 4 (first-come first-serve), Upper Pines and Lower Pines (both reservations). For campgrounds that are first-come first-serve make sure you arrive really early especially closer to the weekend. For reservation campgrounds, plan early and book fast, reservations are made 5 months in advance! You can book reservations at www.recreation.gov
Day 1: Upper Yosemite Falls
It is highly recommended to plan the longest hike on the first day of your trip!
Unfortunately, we did not win a Half Dome hiking permit using the lottery so we hiked Upper Yosemite Falls on day 1. Upper Yosemite Falls is a strenuous 3.8-mile hike to the top of the falls. This hike is a VERY steep incline to the top, it’s like being on a stair-master for 5 hours straight. From Upper Yosemite Falls it is an additional 0.9-miles to the top of Yosemite Point. There are several view points of the valley and the falls as you trek your way up to stop and grab a snack.
The views from both Upper Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Point are beautiful and make the trip worth it. As we approached the top of the falls we were hesitant about going to the point due to how exhausted and sore we were. After talking to other hikers heading down as we were heading up, they gave us the motivation to keep going and reiterated how beautiful it is at the top.
Yosemite Point is 2,969 feet in elevation and has panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, as well as Sentinel Dome, North Dome, and the infamous Half Dome. It is completely worth the 1.8 extra miles (round trip).
Day 2: Glacier Point, Taft Point, Sentinel Dome, & Sentinel Beach
On day two we decided to visit Glacier Point, Taft Point, and Sentinel Dome then finish the day at Sentinel Beach.
Glacier Point is an overlook of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. No hiking is involved in visiting Glacier Point unless you choose to do so. We chose to drive there because we were sore from the day prior. If you choose to visit Glacier Point between the months of May and September and also want to drive there make sure to go before 10:00 AM. After 10:00 AM the road is shut down and Yosemite offers a free shuttle service to get people to and from the point from Badger Pass Parking Lot.
There are two main lookouts from Glacier Point. One of Half Dome, Vernal, and Nevada Falls and the other view of Yosemite Falls and El Capitan
Taft Point is another amazing viewpoint and reminds us of the Grand Canyon. This viewpoint will definitely test your fear of heights since there are hardly any guard rails and you can look straight down! You can see Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan at the top of Taft Point.
Also, the hike to Taft Point is only a short hike 1.1-miles (one way).
Since Taft Point and Sentinel Dome share a parking lot you should complete both hikes in the same day. From the parking lot, it’s 1.1 miles to the dome, just like Traft point. There’s an opportunity for a more intense hike, looping around both Taft Point and Sentinel Dome if you’re up for it. We learned the hard way that the loop varies in elevation making it much harder. Our advice is if you are tired from previous hikes and want an easy day, chose the shorter path (that heads back to the parking lot).
Sentinel Dome is 8,100 feet in elevation and is the second highest point in Yosemite. The panoramic views of Yosemite National Park from Sentinel Dome are breathtaking and you don’t want to miss them. You can see Half Dome, El Capitan, both Yosemite and Nevada Falls, and the snow-covered Sierra Peaks.
We finished our day at Sentinel Beach. We enjoyed a few cold ones during happy hour while lounging on our Banzai Unlimited Inflatable Air Lounger.
Day 3: Mist Trail
On day three we hiked the Mist Trail, the most enjoyable trail in all of Yosemite National Park (our opinion). This hike was put off until day three in hopes that we would receive a Half Dome hiking permit since the Mist Trail in actually part of the Half Dome trail.
Mist Trail offers amazing views of both Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls. The first waterfalls seen on this hike is Vernal Falls. Make sure to wear quick drying clothes on the hike because you WILL get wet. The mist from Vernal Falls will soak every hiker on the trail, especially if it’s windy!
At the top of Vernal Falls are fantastic views of the river below and Emerald Pool. Emerald Pool is the deepest pool of water giving off a greenish color where Nevada and Vernal Falls come together. This is where we were able to enjoy a relaxing lunch by the water.
From Emeral Pool continue up an additional 1,900 feet of elevation to get to the top of Nevada Falls, which is recommended (hey, you made it this far already).
Warning: There are some switch backs scaling up the mountain which aren’t that fun, but definitely worth it!
Once atop Nevada Falls you can grab a bit to eat at the river and get your toes wet. Be careful when going in the river because the current is really strong and the falls is not something you want to go down! You can also view Nevada Falls up close (it’s scary), and the river leading to Vernal Falls in the distance.
Day 4: Tunnel View & Bridalveil Falls
On the last day, we woke up at 4:00 am to beat the traffic exiting the park and headed straight to Tunnel View for sunrise. Unfortunately, the sunrise wasn’t amazing but the views were still gorgeous. You can see Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome and Sentinal Dome.
After sunrise, we drove to Bridalveil Falls and completed our last hike. The hike to Bridalveil Falls is short only 0.5 miles but gets crowded fast due to its ease. After viewing the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, and Nevada Falls this waterfall appears small but you have to check it out off your list!
Overall, Yosemite is our favorite National Park yet! We definitely want to go back to tackle Half-Dome and do some other activities. I think this park is a must and should be on everyone’s bucket list!
If you have additional information on Yosemite, please share it in a comment below.