Best 1 week in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaYosemite National Park is a great travel destination both for the backpacker and the entire family. Weather you love to backpack for days or you just enjoy day hikes with your family, Yosemite National Park has something for everyone. I have visited Yosemite many times and each time I have done something completely different and fun. However, if you’re visiting for the first time there are some things you must see.

This article appeared first on TouristBee.com and it was titled Best 1 week in Yosemite National Park.

Even a short visit to Yosemite is amazing, but having an entire week to explore this beautiful place will be an amazing experience. Here is my favorite way to spend 1 week in Yosemite National Park.

What to expect in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is a hiker’s paradise so plan to hike. Yosemite is all about natural beauty, so just planning to come and relax by the river is a waste of effort. If you come ready to walk and hike you will be amazed at this beautiful and unique place.
I will try to describe my perfect week in Yosemite as you drive in the park from the southern end on Highway 41 and stopping along the way. These days are packed with hiking and spots along the main road, so feel free to mix and match them to fit your schedule and fitness level.

DAY 1: Mariposa Grove, Tunnel View and Bridalveil Falls

Driving into Yosemite National Park from the south on Highway 41, right after passing the park entrance you will see signs towards the Mariposa grove of large sequoia trees. This is a must see attraction in the park because of the very old trees present there. Kids will enjoy walking through the grove just as much as the adults. The trail is very well kept and level.

Yosemite National Park, California - Large sequoia trees in the Sequoia Grove at Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, California – Large sequoia trees in the Sequoia Grove at Yosemite National Park
See my travel photos from Yosemite

Driving further north, passing through a short tunnel you will come to the famous Tunnel View that shows you the Yosemite Valley surrounded by towering granite walls. You will see the mighty El Capitan, the iconic Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls. It is well worth your time to stop and admire the view.

Yosemite National Park, California - The Yosemite Valley seen from Tunnel View in the summer
Yosemite National Park, California – The Yosemite Valley seen from Tunnel View in the summer
See my travel photos from Yosemite

DAY 2: The Mist Trail and Half Dome with return on the John Muir Trail

This is by far the most popular trail in Yosemite. You get to see two of the most spectacular waterfalls (Vernal and Nevada) and if you’re strong enough you can hike to the top of Half Dome. If you’re going in early Spring (April, May) make sure you take some rain gear on the trail. At least some large trash bag that can cover you head to toe is necessary. This is why they call it the Mist Trail…because there is a constant mist from the waterfalls. Believe it or not, you will get soaked especially until you reach the top of Vernal Fall. Hiking to the Vernal Fall bridge lookout would take about 1 hour and then another hour to get to the top of Vernal Fall. It takes about 6 hours of strenuous hiking to get to the top of Half Dome…but it’s well worth it. Read my travel guide for hiking the Mist and John Muir trails.

Yosemite National Park, California - Nevada Fall seen from the Panorama Trail
Yosemite National Park, California – Nevada Fall seen from the John Muir Trail
See my travel photos from Yosemite

You can take small kids to the Vernal Fall bridge overlook, but not further. If your kids are older they will definitely enjoy to hike further, but they’ll be very tired once they get to the top of Vernal Fall. Make sure you bring plenty of food and water with you. Continuing further on the trail you will come to Nevada Falls which is just as impressive as Vernal. Read my guide for hiking the Mist Trail.

If you have a permit and are still early in the day (no later than 11 am), you can continue up the trail all the way to the iconic Half Dome.

Yosemite National Park, California - Nevada Fall seen from the Panorama Trail
Yosemite National Park, California – Half Dome shadow seen from on top of Half Dome
See my travel photos from Yosemite

On your way back to the valley floor, when you reach Nevada Falls again, take a left and follow the John Muir trail which will give you beautiful views of the falls on your way down.

DAY 3: Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls

This hike is even more strenuous than The Mist Trail, even though it’s not as long. The hiker zig-zags parallel with the waterfall itself all the way to the top. It takes a good 3 hours to reach the top but again like most hikes in Yosemite, you will definitely say WOW once you see the views from the top. Once on top, there is a ledge that was built so that people can walk right next to the point where the water starts dropping down. If you’re there in the spring, the sound of the water going down is deafening. Read my travel guide for hiking the Yosemite Falls trail.

Yosemite National Park, California - Beautiful summer panorama of Yosemite Valley from the top of Yosemite Falls
Yosemite National Park, California – Beautiful summer panorama of Yosemite Valley from the top of Yosemite Falls
See my travel photos from Yosemite

This is a very hard hike for children period. I would say that children would have to be 10 to 12 years old at least to be able to do it. Make sure you bring plenty of food and water with you. Read my guide for hiking the Upper Yosemite Falls trail.

Once you come down to the valley floor, follow the trail back to the lower Yosemite Falls loop trail. This is a very easy and flat trail, which you will appreciate very much after the strenuous climb to upper Yosemite Falls. This loop trail takes about 30 minutes round trip and especially in the late spring, you will be rewarded with lots of water in the falls.

DAY 4: Mirror Lake loop trail, Merced River and Yosemite Valley

This is the easiest day in Yosemite National Park. Mirror Lake trail is the easiest hike in Yosemite. I wouldn’t even call it a hike…it’s a nice stroll mostly on a paved road. This is great for small children as well, but might be a bit boring for older children. The lake is not that exciting but on a sunny day you can see the mountains being reflected in the face of the lake. It is a mirror indeed ! This hike would take about 1 hour the most. Read my travel guide for hiking to Mirror Lake.

Yosemite mountain peaks are seen reflected in the still waters of Mirror Lake.
Yosemite mountain peaks are seen reflected in the still waters of Mirror Lake.
See my travel photos from Yosemite

Mirror Lake loop trail is another great hike for families with children. It is best to do this trail in early summer so that the lake would be filled with water. During early winter and late fall, the lake can be actually completely dry and not very interesting.

DAY 5 & 6: Tuolumne Meadows to the Valley Floor

If you can do this, it will be your highlight of your one week in Yosemite. Backpacking from Tuolumne Meadows all the way to the Yosemite Valley floor is a challenging hike even though it’s mostly all downhill. Plan for two days with an overnight stay at Merced Lake. It requires quite a bit of preparation because the beginning and ending points are very far in distance and elevation. Most people use two separate cars with one parked at each end of the trail: one at Tuolumne Meadows and one in the Yosemite Valley floor.

When backpacking in early spring you can still find plenty of snow in Yosemite National Park, California.
When backpacking from Tuolumne Meadows in early spring you can still find plenty of snow in Yosemite National Park, California.
See my travel photos from Yosemite

This is a moderate hike and you need to get started very early in order to make it to Merced Lake by sunset. You need to be prepared and ready to go very early in the morning, with plenty of food, water and some layered clothing as the weather can change dramatically during one day. Read more details about hiking from Tuolumne Meadows to tha valley floor.

DAY 7: Glacier Point

It’s time to finish your one week in Yosemite with a more relaxing trip. The road to Glacier Point takes about one hour from the Yosemite Valley floor and it is very windy and steep. However, the views from on top are simply amazing and they are well worth the effort.

Yosemite National Park, California - Half Dome with Vernal and Nevada falls seen from Glacier Point
Yosemite National Park, California – Half Dome with Vernal and Nevada falls seen from Glacier Point
See my travel photos from Yosemite

This is a great spot for catching a summer sunset as the evening light is simply gorgeous. Pay attention to wildlife as you drive as you can encounter quite a few creatures along the road.

Directions to Yosemite National Park

It is very easy to find directions to Yosemite…they’re everywhere on the internet including on the park’s official website. It takes about 5 to 6 hours from Southern California…well depending where you’re coming from. Holidays are very, very, very busy and if you can avoid holidays it’s well worth going another time. The main attractions of Yosemite National Park are the many amazing waterfalls. So, the best times to visit are when there is plenty of water in the waterfalls. Water is plentiful in the early spring, and early summer. However, if you visit in the middle of summer or early fall you might be surprised to find many of the waterfalls dry as a rock.

My best resources for planning your trip to Yosemite National Park

Visit the official website for Yosemite National Park. The website has maps and lots of very helpful suggestions. Make sure you check the park alerts as many trails can be closed as well as the Mariposa Grove. Check it before you leave.
For a list of day hikes check out the park’s website at: Yosemite Day Hikes

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