Two days in Yosemite National Park

Black Bear in Yosemite National Park

If you want to get some cute critter sightings out of a camping trip, spending at least two days in Yosemite National Park is a great way to start. I’ve been twice and have so far seen various types of squirrels, chipmunks, deer, and the holy grail of forest creatures – a bear.

That’s right, I’ve been rabbiting on (pun intended) about wanting to spot a bear since we camped at Malakoff Diggins, but until last month they were laying low. Apart from the odd berry-laced scat we stumbled upon.

Finally we landed the jackpot – a bear right behind out campsites. Mr M got some fantastic shots without disturbing Smokey, you can find more of them here. But more about Mr Bear a bit later.

The first step is to book your campsite or stay in one of the many lodges.Β We put together a great guide to picking a place to stay and planning a trip. But once the planning’s over, how do you decide what to do in the 3,100 square kilometre park?

Here’s how we whiled away our days at Yosemite!

GETTING THERE

We wanted to make the most of our two days in Yosemite, so we decided to get the car packed and head over on Friday night after work.

Yes, it meant battling through traffic. Some of it not altogether pleasant. But luckily Mr M’s parents had been there for a few days before and had set up our tent for us. All we had to do when we arrived at 10pm, was unfurl our sleeping bags and snuggle in for the night.

Two days in Yosemite getting there
How could you pass up the chance to drive through beautiful country during Golden Hour?

What’s the best news to hear in the dark before getting into a little tent on the outskirts of the forest? That a bear had been spotted in the meadow behind your site a few days before. And that bear had not been chipped so it couldn’t be tracked by GPS.

Sweet dreams!

I may have spent half the night jumping at every sound (including crows squawking), and whispering loudly “IT’S A BEAR!” in Mr M’s ear. I’m not sorry about it. It could have saved our lives somehow.

DAY ONE

Breakfast was spent craning our necks to get a view of the meadow in the hopes that Smokey the Bear would show up. We even wafted the delicious smells of pancakes and sausage (you always eat delicious food when Mr M’s mum is planning and prepping meals and his dad is cooking them).

All to no avail. That bear was not coming out.

Tioga Road Pitt Stops

Our aim was to do a little hike at Tuolumne Meadows, but first we had to get there. It was an hour’s drive from our campsite in Crane Flat though so we broke up the drive with little photo stops along the way.

The view from Olmstead Point

Olmstead Point is a popular rocky outcrop set in the alpine landscape. It’s popularity stems from the sweeping views it offers. You’ll see the northern side of Half Dome as well as the Tenaya Canyon and Lake.

It features a scattering of giant boulders along its granite slopes and is a must-see if you’re travelling along Tioga Road.

Two days in Yosemite Olmstead Boulders
Picture by Mr M. See more great shots here.

Bring your binoculars as well, because on a clear day you’re supposed to be able to see climbers scaling Half Dome. I have terrible eyes, or maybe the climbers were taking a break, because we didn’t see any.

There is also a great short hike that begins at the lookout point and is about a 30 minute round trip offering more great views.

You can also stop a little further down the road at Tenaya Lake.

Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center

It’s a good idea to stop by the Visitor’s Center on your way into the area to get a feel for the place and find out what’s open and shut on the day.

If you’re not quite sure which hike would suit your group best, have a chat to the rangers in the centre, they’ll be able to tell you how difficult or easy each trail is. Sometimes guidebooks can be a little vague.

Two days in Yosemite Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center

There are also flushable toilets there and you can get your hands on some maps and guide books. If you have kids, there are a few displays of butterflies, a collection of granite from different peaks in the park, pressed flowers and animal paw molds.

Tuolumne Meadows Hikes

There are lots of hikes that you can do from the meadows, some more strenuous than others.

We stuck with the Soda Springs and Parson’s Lodge short walk, because of various injuries and the like. It’s billed as an hour’s round trip but you could definitely take longer if you’re capturing photos of the scenery, wildlife and wildflowers like we were.

Two Days in Yosemite Tuolumne Meadows wildflowers
Pictures by Mr M. See more great shots here.

Other hikes will take you to places such as Lyell Canyon, Elizabeth Lake, Gaylor Lakes, Cathedral Lakes, Mono Pass, Dog Lake and Lembert Dome. You’re not going to be bored at Tuolumne Meadows, that’s for sure.

The Soda Springs hike meanders through the meadow before taking you past some small, carbonated mineral springs. A hut was built around a few of these springs by Jean Baptiste Lembert as a way of protecting them from animals.

Tuolumne Meadows Soda Springs. Two days in Yosemite
Picture by Mr M. See more great shots here.

Both animals and people have used the springs as a source of cool water over thousands of years, though their beginnings remain a mystery. Geologists don’t know how they got there, but they do draw inquisitive hikers.

Further up the path and in sight of the Soda Springs is Parsons Memorial Lodge. Built in the summer of 1915, using mules and trucks to bring in building materials, Parsons Lodge was a memorial to a well respected member of the Sierra Club.

Two days in Yosemite
Picture by Mr M. See more great shots here.

New Yorker Edward Taylor Parsons served as the Sierra Club’s director between 1905 and 1914 and was instrumental in fighting against a plan to flood the Hetch Hetchy ValleyΒ to provide water to San Francisco. San Francisco still gets its water from Hetch Hetchy today.

Two days in Yosemite Pond in Tuolumne Meadows
Picture by Mr M. See more great shots here.

After Parsons died in 1914, and a year later the memorial lodge was funded and built. It is now used for exhibitions called the Summer Series. Β It features everything from yoga to book signings to environmental discussions. See Yosemite National Park’s Special Programs for more details.

Tuolumne Meadows is a great place for lunch as well – there are bear boxes to store your food so your car isn’t flattened by a bear – and picnic benches in the shade.

Road Trip Back to Camp

Put me in a car for even a moderate drive and I’m out like a light. Honestly, I would be the perfect baby to get to sleep. In any case, I don’t remember much of the trip back to camp except that we stopped at the Crane Flat Gas (petrol) Station for ice cream.

Fun fact about this petrol station. It has a resident bear. This one is GPS tracked though, that’s how we know it visits the station every single day. The petrol station is surrounded by trees and woods, so he’s easily camouflaged and most visitors don’t even notice him.

But he makes a daily trek to say hello anyway.

Nap/Exploring Time

After a long day of driving, hiking and picture taking it’s time for a nap! Or if you’re me and slept like a log in the car you get to explore the camp ground.

Two days in Yosemite bear trap

This is how you get to find cool and somewhat scary things. Like that bear trap a few sites down from your tent, but isn’t actually baited or set.

Which means it’s totally safe to wader down that path it’s on, right? Well I did anyway and stumbled across some interesting bits and pieces like a cairn made of bark and moss and a lot of trees being cleared.

Build a Fire it’s Dinnertime!

There are two options to consider here. If you’ve got a master fire builder amongst you, get them to work. In the meantime play cards or a board game, continue looking for the elusive bear or listen to some music. You brought portable speakers right? Good.

You can spend the whole evening talking, laughing, telling stories, playing games and eating ‘smores. In fact, I highly recommend this option if you’re only spending two days in Yosemite. Especially when a certain someone looks up recipes for gourmet ‘smores and you end up eating lemon meringue and mint chocolate ones. Delicious!

Two days in Yosemite Campfire

The second option is to do some of the above in the camp’s ampitheatre. Rangers build a fire and tell stories to anyone who wants to come along to listen. Sometimes they’re funny, other times they’re educational, but they’re always interesting.

And you get to meet fellow campers and make new friends. What’s not to like?

DAY TWO

Despite a healthy serving of bacon and eggs, Smokey the Bear is nowhere to be seen. Instead Bambi makes a break for it through our site, just metres from where we were trying to wake ourselves up with vats of coffee.

So we break up the tent and start packing the car. Of course I’m never happy with the million photos I’ve already snapped, so I mention to Mr M that I’m going to visit the meadow behind us after I brush my teeth.

Two days in Yosemite Deer

I return to find him running from the meadow for a different camera lens, whispering loudly “There’s a bear!”. And that’s how we finally saw Smokey behind our campsite. He was happily searching for food, pawing in the grass and having a great old time in that wildflower meadow.

Two days in Yosemite, bear
Picture by Mr M. See more great shots here.

He was a happy camper and so was I, having finally seen and not been mauled by a bear. Take that Bill Bryson! Even after reading all the horror stories in A Walk in the Woods, I still wanted to see a bear and made it through unscathed.

Pitt Stops to Glacier Point

Even though we were all packed up and ready for our 12:00 PM camp checkout, this is a two days in Yosemite trip and we were going to cram in as much adventure as possible.

So off we went on another hour’s trip to Glacier Point – one of the most spectacular views in all of Yosemite. But there are also some great views on the way up that are worth stopping for as well.

The first is Tunnel View, which will give you some breathtaking views into Yosemite Valley, El Capitan on the left and Half Dome on the right. You’ll also catch Bridalveil Fall if you look closely on the right.

Two days in Yosemite Wawona Tunnel View

You’ll want to stop again at Washburn Point, even though you’re so close to Glacier Point. Washburn lets you see and hear Vernal and Nevada Falls better than you will further up the road.

Two days in Yosemite, Yosemite and Vernal Falls
In height order, Yosemite and Vernal Falls. Picture by Mr M. See more great shots here.

Then you hit Glacier Point – the jewel of Yosemite. It’s the place to gaze down into Yosemite Valley and marvel at the beauty of the mountains, the trees and waterfalls all at once.

Nothing else I could say would do the views justice, so instead, I’ve got some more pictures for you.

Glacier-Point-waterfalls
Picture by Mr M. See more great shots here.

And that was our two days in Yosemite. It might not seem like a lot packed in but you want to be able to enjoy what you’re seeing and not be rushing non-stop. The whole point of Yosemite is to relax and enjoy nature, which we did.

Have you been to Yosemite before? What did you think? And, more importantly, what did you do?

Two days in Yosemite | Mountains | Yosemite Valley | Valley | River | Yosemite camping | Yosemite National Park | Aussie Expat | Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US | expat lifePin me for later!

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41 thoughts on “Two days in Yosemite National Park

  1. I can actually say I’ve been to Yosemite! I saw a few wolves and a bear. I recognise some of your views. Such a great place. I’m thinking of perhaps going back soon. I’d like to do the Vegas to Yosemite to San Fran trip with the kids and then down the coast road to LA. Perhaps even fly into LA and drive to Palm Springs first maybe … then Vegas …. then around to Yosemite. That would be fun

    1. Woo! You did better than I did. I didn’t see any wolves. Sounds like you’ve got the trip worked out in your head already! I hope you do it, it’d be so much fun!

  2. That was an amazing and really interesting post with great pics to go with the info. Wow. That is some place alright. I am so NOT a camper but I can see why many people are. Thanks for linking up this week for #lifethisweek. Next week: Ideal Meal

    1. Thanks Denyse! We had such a great time there that I didn’t want to leave. Haha, lots of non-campers go there and stay in hotels and lodges. It’s nice that it’s so accessible!

  3. Wish we could have stayed longer in Yosemite and gotten to explore more – We were literally only there for half a day, driving down from Sacramento. #WanderfulWednesday

  4. Wow, you some some amazing things. My fav NP in the USA for sure, and you saw a bear!! Scary and amazing at the same time I assume.
    #WanderfulWednesday

    1. The bear was far enough away that I wasn’t scared and we were careful to be very quiet so that we didn’t attract any attention. Yosemite is gorgeous though!

  5. This has me wanting to be in Yosemite right now!! I want to see a bear in the wild soooo badly! These are gorgeous shots and I can’t wait to get the chance to see the beauty for myself one of these days! #wanderlustwednesday

    1. Thanks Melanie! I’ll pass on your comments to Mr M. He’s pretty handy with his fancy camera, whereas I get too excited to take proper photos at moments like these!

    1. It has been the top thing on my camping list for two years. I can’t even begin to describe how happy it made me.

  6. Looks like a great way to spend 2 days! I love your shots of bambi and the bear! It’s always so thrilling to see animals in their natural habitats!

    1. There’s always something great to see in nature! I spotted some butterflies as well but they’re too quick for photos.

  7. Love your pictures! SO nice you got to explore the Tioga Road. A lot of people do not make it there. I didn’t see bears in Yosemite but I am sure some were around when we visited. We heard weird noises here and there. I saw a mountain lion though. #wanderfulwednesday

    1. I’m lucky that I got to explore it twice. It was so beautiful! I guess I should put mountain lion on my list next. Every park I go to warns me about them but I’ve never actually seen one.

  8. I remembered going to Yosemite in the mid 1990s but could not remember the details. But I remembered the hikes, our tent and yeah, we spent two night as well in the national park – it was awesome! Love your pictures – great images πŸ™‚

  9. Yosemite looks gorgeous! I didn’t get there on my western parks trip with my parents, but it’s definitely on my list for someday soon. A few of my friends just went camping there and looking at their photos, I know I will! Look at all those little critters you saw too! Wildlife is the best when camping! πŸ˜€

    1. Oh no, you’ll have to go there one day! And if you’re not keen on camping there are heaps of other ways to stay and experience the place πŸ™‚

  10. Ah awesome! We didn’t see much wildlife when we were there but we were only there for the one day and it was insane amounts of rain so that could explain it!

  11. I loved Yosemite when I went as a child; it’s definitely a place I need to come back to now that I’ll be able to remember it better haha. Always love seeing pictures of Half Dome! & the little furry friends you saw on your trip–so cute!

    1. You’re so lucky to have gone there as a child though! I can imagine it would have been exciting and there is so much fun for kids to have out there!

    1. YAY! This makes me so happy Erin πŸ™‚
      The photos are always what make me really want to go to a new place. It’s great to get a little taste.

  12. This is a wonderful and educational guide to this amazing National Park. Your photo’s are just stunning! They make you feel like you are right there. I have never been to Yosemite but I sure am adding it to my bucketlist now!

  13. Oh wow! The scenery from the Tunnel View is really something! This blog post is so eye-pleasing with all those gorgeous pictures. I’d really really love to spend some days at Yosemite National Park one day and meet Mr. Bear, hahaha. Thanks for sharing πŸ˜€

    1. Thanks so much! I think I went a little overboard with the photos but there were so many gorgeous ones that I couldn’t whittle them down as much as I should have.

  14. Your photos are so fantastic, Katherine. These Yosemite posts of yours are really making me want to visit! I’d be absolutely thrilled at the thought of seeing a real bear although properly scared too at the thought of sleeping so close to one. I was a bit like that when we slept in a tent on safari and kept hearing the lions roaring! Fabulous share for #FarawayFiles

    1. Thanks Clare! I think I wasn’t scared because we were leaving that day and our tent was already packed up. And we were careful to be very quiet so that we didn’t attract attention.
      I can’t imagine what it would be like to sleep in a tent on safari though. I’m not sure I’d sleep a wink!

  15. Oh Yosemite! I was there ages ago and remember the incredible beauty. We stayed in a permanent tent at one of the major camping grounds and it was an amazing experience. Love that you can light fires there, it’s such a shame we cant really do that in Australia anymore. Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

    1. I think we’ll have to do that next time, I want to try one of the permanent tents! Yep, it is a shame that you can’t light campfires in the bush in Australia. I experienced that in Tassie, but I guess it makes sense since we’re so prone to bushfires.

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