CAR NOTES: LEAVE THE BUG BY 8AM OVER THE HOLIDAYS AND WEEKENDS TO AVOID IN-VALLEY TRAFFIC. OR TAKE THE YARTS BUS IN FROM THE BUG AT 6:41AM, 7:25AM, 7:55AM,9:25AM,10:27AM & 12:10PM. Our excellent June Bug Cafe opens at 6:30pm in fall for breakfast, trail lunches and water to go and dinner is open until 10pm weekends, 9:30pm weekdays for when you return! The spa closes at 10pm as well.
IN YOSEMITE VALLEY, PARK YOUR CAR AT ONE OF THESE LOTS BELOW & TAKE THE VALLEY SHUTTLE . Also there is a furthest east end of the loop hikers parking lot 200 meters past Half Dome Village not marked on here that’s great for Vernal Falls and Mirror Lake.
1ST DAY YOSEMITE VALLEY: Standard Sightseeing With Some Hiking, Waterfalls & Overlook Point In Yosemite Valley
Valley Loop Drive for sightseeing: Half day about 1 hour + bus ride around. We recommend finding a place to park and taking a free Valley Shuttle Bus around Yosemite Valley for your camera to explore. It goes around to the El Capitan Meadow on the Loop now. Get out where you want, another bus is 20 minutes behind. Try to shop outside of Yosemite Valley before your trip into the Park because Yosemite Village is a time wasting mess (unless you need family down time whereas it’s worth it for the Museums).
Vernal Falls Mist Trail & Overlook and John Muir Trail Loop: Get off bus at Happy Isles Trailhead for this excellent falls hike. It is paved until halfway at a view bridge for young children, dogs or strollers. After that plan on getting very wet up the refreshing Mist Trail granite step to the overlook above the Falls. Take the relaxing John Muir Trail back down. You can go all the way to the Nevada Falls further up the John Muir Trail for a day hike. 3 miles R/T 1000 foot gain 2-4 Hours. Almost double for Nevada Falls. Take a lunch and 1+ liter water.
Alternative Overlook Point/Big Day Hike? Mirror Lake Loop and the Snow Creek Trail. So yes, Mirror Lake is crowded and slowly disappears through the summer. But the full loop around in this riparian shaded area is very nice all the time. At the far end of the loop, do a supr up switchbacks to the Valley Rim where the trail flattens. Skip across the logs to the precipice and lunch there with the full intensity of Half Dome, Quarter Domes and Cloud’s Rest in your face. Or you can stop halfway up. 4.5 miles, 1400 ft’ gain take a nice lunch and 1.5+ liters water.
2nd DAY SOUTHERN YOSEMITE: Hiking & Overlook Point, Sentinel Dome for overlook point and Mariposa Grove for hiking, or use this route going out to Los Angeles:
Mariposa Sequoia Grove: The access & interpretive renovated Mariposa Grove is open now off of Highway 41 at the South Entrance to Yosemite. Go early or go late using the Highways 140/49/41 loop through Mariposa and Oakhurst. The lower grove has great interpretation and is okay for strollers, children, and dogs! The upper grove makes the outing a half day, more of a hike and it’s a true grove where you are immersed in sequoias! The Galen Clark cabin visitor’s center is super cool.
Wawona Covered Bridge & Pioneer Center: The bridge is 150 years old and sports stagecoach rides Wed 2-4pm Thurs-Sunday 10-2pm from the carriage barn. The assemblance of the historical cabins from the first superintendents cabin to the Wells Fargo cabin excite. Look up Sugar Pine Railroad beforehand too just south of the south entrance.
Sentinel Dome: Stop at Washburn Point rather than Glacier Point instead to avoid crowds if you are not hiking. Otherwise definitely stop along the road at Sentinel Dome Trailhead and head out on the rolling trail one mile to the Dome. Sentinel Dome is very easy for a stunning 360 degree view of the park and valley! Go little further to Taft Point for a loop walk, it has cool rock formations and views. 2-4 hours depending, take a liter+ water and lunch! On holiday weekends get here very early or late to avoid parking and bussing at Badger Pass. Go back to the Bug through Yosemite Valley.
Alternative Overlook Point/Big Day Hike? All day 4 Mile and Panoramic Trails. Get there at dawn for an all day experience. Why drive to Glacier Point when you can hike there? Start at 4 Mile Trailhead at the Loop Drive, stop at Glacier Point and then continue around Chilnualna Falls then down Nevada and Vernal Falls. Catch the bus and ask the driver where to get off. Take a big lunch, snacks and 2 liters+ water. Our favorite Valley Rim Hike!
3rd DAY YOSEMITE HIGH SIERRA: Hiking, Overlook Point and Lake walk for full day or use this route of Highway 120 East/Tioga Pass going to Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe.
Tuolumne Grove: If you have no time for the Mariposa Sequoia Grove then A stop enroute to Tuolumne Meadows for this grove. Two miles in an out on an old roadbed take 1 liter water.
Olmstead Point: Just before Tenaya Lake this is an excellent camera stop and short trail to look down Yosemite Valley from the east!
Tenaya Lake Loop: One of the most beautiful places in the park! Hike around the lake or just swim and take a lunch for your favorite view spot. OR May Lake Walk: Nice family walk to and beautiful lake under Mt Hoffman. You can also make a day hike and summit for the most impressive Sierra view.
Pothole Dome: For a family friendly half hour walk stop at left just at the entrance to the meadow for a quick hike up Pothole Dome for an uplifting experience of the High Sierra. For a stunning elevated view do Lambert Dome.
Lambert Dome: A fabulous loop hike from the base of the dome parking area this gives a elevated Yosemite High Sierra view. This is the one hike you must do. 4 miles, 850 ft gain, take a lunch and 15 liters+ water. OR Lyell Canyon: Walk up this low elevation gain passive glacial canyon for a beautiful floral alpine sunny day out from Tuolumne Meadows.
IF going to Vegas or Tahoe be sure to see Mono Lake, nearby Crater Walk and Bodie Ghost Town just to the north.
Alternative Overlook Point/Big Day Hike? Cathedral Lakes is a beautiful set of lakes to swim in after a 8.6 mile 1000 ft gain round trip trail. Always in sight is the fascinating Cathedral Peak. From the lakes edge look down into Yosemite Valley from the east. If you overnight, go a little further to Columbia’s Finger to look southwest of park. Take a nice lunch and 2+ liters of water.
Alternative Overlook Point/Overnight Hike? North Dome is a fantastic backpacking overnight for a spectacular view from the dome. From Tioga Pass Road/Highway 120 leave from Porcupine Creek Trailhead to Indian Peak Natural Arch spur to North Dome. You can go out at Yosemite Falls to Yosemite Valley. Permits at the Wilderness Center, take two days of food and water.
HALF DAY or GOING HOME on HIGHWAY 140: Mariposa and Merced River Wild & Scenic Area
At The Bug: Take the two hour Bug Loop trail in the morning or evening. It can be very difficult, slippy, steep and narrow. Look for the green diamond marker on the trees every 50 feet about 12 feet up and at intersections. Red markers are trail back to the lodge. The blue marker is a short cut halving the walk. The swimming hole is good right now, but you must be wary of slippy rocks. Listen for the water falls and trail that zig zags down. If you get lost head back down to the Bear Creek and look up the taller slope. Watch for poison oak.
Music and Smores: at the Firepit Amphitheater Sunday, Tuesdays & Thursdays night sundown to 11pm. Great music, singalong and stories. Grab the extra guitar from the office and jam along. Cancelled if the day is hotter than 95 degrees.
Merced River Wild and Scenic Area From Briceberg Bridge upstream there is a single track trail for dogs or Mountain Bikes. You can also mountain bike up the Burma Grade going up right there or cycle downstream on the dirt road (5 miles each way). Downstream at the end of the dirt road trek along the river you can walk to a cascade just before the North Fork of the Merced with your dog.
Mariposa Old Gold Town & Museums: Shop along the old 1850’s era block and see the Old Jail and the oldest operating western Courthouse. The Mariposa History Museum takes you back to the Gold Rush, whereas the California State Gem and Mineral Museum at the Mariposa Fairgrounds shows what was dug up here and the rest of California. Music on the Green every Saturday eve in summer only.
Further Down Highway 140 is the historic 49’er town of Hornitos where Ghirardelli Chocolates were first made and outlaws ruled. The old Plaza Bar on the small square is a classic stop for a beer. Bear Valley north of Mariposa has some Gold Rush buildings.