CAR NOTES: LEAVE THE BUG BY 9AM ON WEEKENDS THROUGH OCTOBER & THANKSGIVING WEEKEND TO AVOID IN-VALLEY TRAFFIC. WEEKDAYS ARE GOOD. OR TAKE THE YARTS BUS IN FROM THE BUG AT 6:05AM, 6:35AM, 8:20AM & 12:05PM. Our June Bug Cafe opens at 7am in fall for breakfast, trail lunches and water to go!
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: 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 it’s raining whereas it’s worth it for the Museums). Fall color is at beginning of Loop Drive, before Housekeeping Camp, Stoneman & Sentinel Bridges, El Capitan Meadow, Cook’s Meadow, Mirror Lake, and Valley View stop on the way out.
Vernal Falls Mist Trail & Overlook and John Muir Trail Loop: Get off 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 or Big Day Hike? Mirror Lake Loop & Snow Creek Trail. Once past Mirror Lake for fall colors, go as far you you can go up Snow Creek Trail at the far end of Tenaya Valley loop. At top of Valley Rim where the trail flattens, skip over trees on your right for a commanding view of Half Dome and Cloud’s Rest. No reason to go further (unless you can car park at Porcupine Flat on Tioga Road to walk down and have a second car in Yosemite Valley). 4-5 Miles R/T with loop, Just under 2000 foot elevation gain at 3-5 hours R/T depending upon how far you go. Take a lunch and 2 liters water. Dogs can go on Mirror Lake loop part of trail.
2ND DAY: Hiking , Sequoia Tree Grove, & Overlook Point and Sightseeing or going to Vegas/Tahoe. Get out of the Valley and go to the High Sierra while it is still open!
Sequoia Tree Groves: The Tuolumne Grove is open off of Highway 120 going west towards Tioga Pass just 30 minutes north of Yosemite Valley. The Tuolumne Grove is busier and larger. It has small elevation loss/gain on an old roadbed at about a mile in/out. The Tuolumne Grove has great interpretation and is okay for strollers, children, and dogs! Take a liter of water.
Olmstead Point and Tenaya Lake: Continuing on Highway 120 East towards Tioga Pass stop at Olmstead Point and look at Half Dome and Yosemite Valley From the east. The Nature Trail there is worth it at .04 miles. The Point is also an excellent place later for a sunset. Dogs allowed. Tenaya Lake is a great place for a picnic on a beach! Take the time to wander around the Loop on the other side at 2.5 miles total, the outlet facing west will need waded through.
Overlook Points: In Tuolumne Meadows find a spot at Pothole Dome just at the west entrance to the Meadow for something fun for all ages. The Lembert Dome is higher and the views are fantastic of the High Sierra Peaks and the Meadow. Have good boots for this nearly 4 mile loop with an 800 foot gain and take one liter water.
Alternative Big Day Hike: Cathedral Lakes Hike from the Meadows takes you past stunning Cathedral Peak and to the Lakes. Peek over the edge and see Yosemite Valley from the east. You can go further to Columbia’s Finger for a great view of the south. 8 miles total and 800′ gain so take lunch and one liter water.
East Side of the Sierras: If you are leaving Yosemite on this route do try to stop at Mono Lake Tufa Towers, the Cinder Cone Loop hike and the Bodie Ghost Town State Park! If going to Vegas look up the Ancient Bristlecone Forest enroute on Hwy 168.
3RD DAY or HALF DAY Hiking, Overlook Point, and Sightseeing or going to LA! Get a GREAT view of Yosemite!
Sentinel Dome for overlook point: Enroute to Glacier Point Road off of Highway 41 going south, go to the Sentinel Dome trailhead for a great 360 degree view of much of the Park and of Yosemite Valley. A mile in and a mile out not much gain. The cheapest but best view! It is fantastic! Add an hour and 500 foot drop to the Taft Point to elongate to great hike. Take a liter and lunch (or dinner for sunset)
Pioneer Village at Wawona: If you are going out to LA this way see an assembly of historical Yosemite buildings at the Wawona Covered Bridge and carriage barns at Wawona. Just south of the Park exit on Highway 41 is the fantastic Sugar Pine Railway ride. Remember the Mariposa Sequoia Grove is closed for renovation until October 2017.
Alternative Big Day Hike: Panoramic Trail Hike From Glacier Point to Nevada & Vernal Falls to the Valley is super this time of year. You will need a car at Glacier Point and one in the Valley unless you add the 4 Mile Trail up (you can pay for a Glacier Point Tour to get up there). 3200 Feet loss over 7 miles so take 2 liters and a lunch. 4 Mile Trail is almost 4 Miles and 3200 feet up!
4TH DAY or HALF DAY for Hiking, Overlook Point, Sequoia Trees and Waterfalls or going to SF or Sacramento using Hwy 120.
Hetch Hetchy Valley: Not as busy as Yosemite Valley, just take the day and walk over the dam, through the tunnel and along the south facing side for beautiful lakeside cliff views. Flat, turn back as time permits or go all the way to Rancheria Falls for a full day. 1.4 hours from the Bug, take a lunch and 2 liters water.
Merced Sequoia Grove: Quieter and smaller, but a bit longer walk than Tuolumne Grove, stop here enroute to the Hetch Hetchy and the North exit. About 1.5 miles in and 600 foot drop. Take a lunch and a liter of water! Look for Sugar Pines, Douglas Fir and Jeffrey Pines on this route too!
HALF DAY GOING HOME OR RAINY DAY: Mariposa and Merced River Wild & Scenic Area
Merced River Wild and Scenic Area & the Bug 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.
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. Also north on Highway 49 stop at Coulterville for some great gold rush era buildings, John Muir and Coulterville Museum! Go home via Highway 132 or go further up Highway 49 for Gold Towns or Caverns!