Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park

2 Days in Yosemite National Park: Make the Most of Your Trip!

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Spending 2 days in Yosemite was a once in a lifetime experience for me. It is so amazingly beautiful, it quickly became my favorite National Park.

If you will be visiting Yosemite and only have two days to spare, this post is for you!

I will go over things to do in Yosemite and give you tips on how to make the most of your two days in the park!

UPDATE: Until September 30, 2021, Yosemite is only letting a certain number of cars in the park each day. You are required to purchase a 3-day pass prior to driving into the park. Reservation tickets are $35/car (+ $2 reservation fee) and can be purchased on recreation.gov.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from a link, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read full disclosure here.

photos of Yosemite with "How to Spend 2 Days in Yosemite" written below it

How to Spend 2 Days in Yosemite!

First of all, if you’ve never been to Yosemite, you may be asking…

Where is Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite National Park is located in central California, east of Sacramento. (Read my post for more info on how to get to Yosemite and where to stay near Yosemite Valley)

Yosemite Entrances

You also may be wondering about how to get in the park. There are 4 main entrances that lead you to Yosemite Valley: Big Oak Flat Entrance (west, Hwy 120), Tioga Pass Entrance (east, Hwy 120), Arch Rock Entrance (west, Hwy 140), and the South Entrance (south, Hwy 41).

We entered the park from the Hwy 140/El Portal Road (Arch Rock) entrance, which seemed to be the best option in hindsight. The south entrance is steep and winding, taking you longer to get to the valley part.

Note that coming from the Tioga Pass Entrance will take the longest to get to Yosemite Valley. I recommend staying just outside one of the west entrances and driving in on Hwy 120 or Hwy 140.

Yosemite National Park Map

map of Yosemite National Park. Green areas are parts of the park.

Yosemite Visitor Centers

Yosemite has 3 visitor centers: Tuolumne Meadows (east), Yosemite Valley, and the Wawona (south) Visitor Centers. Stop at any of these to get a souvenir and talk with a park ranger about all the things to do in Yosemite!

Don’t forget to get your National Park Passport book stamped! (Click here to read more about the passport book program.)

Alright, let’s get into the good stuff: what to do in Yosemite!

Things to do in Yosemite in Two Days

There’s so much to see at this park, you definitely need a few days just to see part of it. But with the help of my REI National Parks iPhone app and my Fodor’s The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West book, I was able to plan ahead and make sure we got the most of our 2 days in Yosemite!

Day one consisted of short hikes, viewpoints, the visitor center, and shopping at the valley market/store.

Day two was dedicated to hiking to Upper Yosemite Falls!

Plan on hiking a lot in Yosemite? Check out my post on the best budget trekking poles.

Ready to buy? Click here to get the best-selling trekking poles.

Let’s start things off with my favorite view:

Tunnel View

tunnel view in yosemite: Large rock mountains/formations with green trees below them.
This is the iconic Yosemite National Park shot, Tunnel View.

This is Tunnel View, my absolute favorite view of Yosemite because you can see four major sites in the park.

From this view, you can see El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, Three Brothers, and Half Dome. This was such a breathtaking view. I could’ve stayed here and just stared for an hour or so.

We stopped here during late afternoon, which is perfect for taking pictures. The sun was behind us and didn’t create many shadows on this amazing view.

Tunnel View is off of Wawona Road, which is the road you will be taking if you choose to drive to Glacier Point (I highly suggest it!). More on Glacier Point later!

Bridalveil Falls

Also right off Wawona Road is the Bridalveil Falls Trailhead. We parked in the lot and took the easy, 0.4-mile trail to see the waterfall.

Be warned:

If you take this trail, expect to get wet. The mist from Bridalveil Falls extends out way farther than you’d think. It was hard to take a picture of the falls from the end of the trail because of the amount of mist coming off the waterfall.

waterfall coming down over a huge rock face
Bridalveil Falls.

Related: How to Spend Two Days in Rocky Mountain National Park

El Capitan

giant granite monolith with tall trees in front of it
El Capitan

One thing to do if you don’t like hiking is to take the shuttles and go watch the rock climbers on El Capitan.

At first, I was less than enthusiastic about doing this, but it was something my friend was super interested in. But once we got there, it was pretty interesting.

The park has telescopes set up and focused on rock climbers on the face of El Capitan. What’s crazy is that you could barely see any of the climbers with the naked eye. This 3,000-foot piece of granite makes a 6-foot man look like an ant!

The people working the telescopes are full of knowledge and are more than happy to answer any questions you may have about El Cap.

Of course, my main two questions were about sleeping and how to use the bathroom while climbing. You know, the essentials.

As you are looking at El Capitan, if you turn around there are beautiful rock formations called Three Brothers, with a little lake and a meadow in front of them.

I wasn’t at a good angle to capture all Three Brothers (check out the Tunnel View picture!) but here’s a picture from behind the El Capitan climbers viewing point.

Monolith with lake & tall green trees in front

Across the street from the telescope viewing, there is a trail (not well-marked) that leads to the base of El Capitan.

I’m not sure how far we hiked, it was farther than it looked, but it was pretty easy and totally worth it.

At the base of El Cap, we met two men who were preparing to start their ascent. It’s insane how much they have to carry in their packs! I grossly underestimated the gallons of water and bags of Larabars and Clif Bars they have to haul up there.

granite monolith El Capitan in yosemite national park
Looking up at El Capitan from its base.

Glacier Point

If you want even more breathtaking views, you MUST go to Glacier Point. This is one of the BEST things to do in Yosemite.

You can hike or drive to this point. We chose to drive since we only had 2 days in Yosemite and wanted to see as much as possible.

mountains with a blue sky and clouds
A BEAUTIFUL view from Glacier Point.

The photo above is one of the views from Glacier Point. So beautiful. It’s about an hour or so drive from the Valley, so make sure you plan accordingly. We went in the afternoon, as one of my friends had recommended. The photo ops are better in the afternoon because of the direction of the sun.

Bringing your DSLR or mirrorless camera to Yosemite with you? Make sure you bring your polarizing lens to make those colors pop!

view from glacier point in yosemite: large mountains and two waterfalls can be seen from this point
Another beautiful view from Glacier Point. In this view, you can see Half Dome, Vernal Falls, and Nevada Falls.

The above picture is from Glacier Point as well. In this photo, you can see Half Dome, Vernal Falls, and Nevada Falls.

You can hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls via the Mist Trail, which I’ve heard is about as equal intensity as the Upper Yosemite Falls trail.

The Mist Trail is on my list for the next time I visit!

Yosemite Falls

upper & lower yosemite waterfalls among tall green trees
View of Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls from the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

You cannot visit Yosemite National Park without seeing the infamous Yosemite Falls!

Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America, rising over 2,400 feet tall!

It took me a while to find a spot where I could capture both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls in one picture. Of course, this picture obviously does not do the waterfall justice.

I took this photo on Lower Yosemite Falls trail (an easy, flat, 1-mile loop). Upper Yosemite Falls trail is a different story: not easy, not flat, not just 1 mile.

Our only plan for our second day in Yosemite National Park was to hike Upper Yosemite Falls. We knew it was going to be intense (three days of sore calves type of intense) so we got all of our sightseeing done on the first day!

Read more about hiking Upper Yosemite Falls.

2 Days in Yosemite

2-Day Yosemite Itinerary:

Day 1

  • Visitor Center
  • Lower Yosemite Falls Trail (easy, flat, 1-mile loop)
  • Yosemite Village/shopping/market (expect to wait in line)
  • El Capitan climbers viewing
  • Short hike to the base of El Capitan
  • Bridalveil Falls viewpoint & short hike (0.4 miles, off Wawona Road)
  • Tunnel View (off Wawona Road)
  • Glacier Point & short walk (0.5-mile loop at end of Glacier Point Road)

Day 2

On our way out of the park, we stopped in Tulare and ate at Apple Annie’s. It has a cute diner feel, an outdoor patio, and has food similar to a Cracker Barrel. The breakfast was amazing! And very large portions.

Tips for Visiting Yosemite National Park

When planning your Yosemite trip, it pays to do your research and plan ahead! There is so much to do & see, you will want to make sure you make the most of your time!

If you will only be visiting for two days, I would suggest planning for one big day hike, then fill the rest of the time with viewpoints, drives, short hikes, and visiting Yosemite Valley.

Plan on walking a LOT! There are buses, but you will still have to walk to see some of the viewpoints. So make sure you wear shoes that are worn in and comfortable to spend all day in! When visiting National Parks, I always bring my Asics and my Salomon hiking boots. They are my essentials!

Also, bring some bug spray! Our early morning hikes were unexpectedly met with an enormous amount of mosquitoes.

Another thing that saved me was my hydration pack! This was my first time using one and it was such a lifesaver! It kept me from carrying around water bottles & gave me easy access to sipping on water throughout the day.

Many daypacks are hydration compatible. For this trip, I used an 8L Coleman pack I found at my local Target, with a 2L hydration bladder. (I recently upgraded to an Osprey 24L backpack with a 3L hydration bladder for long hikes and I LOVE them! I don’t think they even make the 8L Coleman one anymore, I can’t seem to locate it anywhere online)

While you are planning, keep in mind:

Most of the Valley Loop is one way. You will drive into the Valley Loop on Southside Drive, then exit via Northside Drive.

Tip: Look up what is along Southside Drive and Northside Drive so you don’t have to loop around several times. There isn’t much on Southside Drive, but Northside Drive has many attractions. El Capitan, Camp 4, El Cap climbers viewing, and Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls Trail are all found on Northside Drive.

– There is not a grocery store located near Yosemite National Park. The Yosemite Village Store has groceries, souvenirs, clothing, books, and much more. And they actually aren’t as outrageously overpriced as you’d expect them to be.

– Staying in the actual park can get expensive real quick.

We stayed about 5 minutes outside the entrance of the park at Cedar Lodge in El Portal. It was a cute little place to stay. It has a sports bar/grill, restaurant, and a pool. Note that there is no cell phone service!! You can pay $8.99/device/12hrs of limited wifi service, no streaming.

Click here to book at Cedar Lodge

After our 2 days in Yosemite, we spent the next day driving through the giant redwoods of Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks.

As you can see, there are PLENTY of things to do in Yosemite in 2 days. I hope this post helped you plan a future trip to this beautiful park! What’s your favorite thing to do in Yosemite? Let me know in the comments below!

Have more than 2 days in the park? Check out these top hiking trails in Yosemite!

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Make the Most of Two Days in Yosemite National Park in California!

yosemite national park with what to see in Yosemite in two days"written above it

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  1. Totally stoked. On way to Yosemite right now with my husband and will definitely try your suggestions . Thanks for the post.

  2. Thank-you for this very helpful article. My husband and I are planning to visit there at the end of May on motorcycles. We wont be doing any hiking, just riding and looking. We won’t mind walking to some of the points to get a better view, though.

    1. So glad you liked it! If you are just riding, definitely check out Tunnel View and drive out to Glacier Point. The road out to Glacier Point is a bit curvy but the views are just beautiful! I could’ve sat there half a day just taking in the views. It would also be a great spot to eat a packed lunch. Come back and let me know what your favorite spots were! Enjoy your trip 🙂

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