A Traveling Itinerary from East to West across the Sierra Nevada through Three National Parks

The Sierra Nevada is blessed with Three of the most majestic National Parks. The best park might be that they are practically connected from one to another via a series of Scenic routes and mountain communities. Try the Loop in 3 days or take your time and discover more area treasures. You can follow this sample itinerary, reverse the order, or make up your own… possibilities are endless!  

DAY 1 – Experience Yosemite National Park

The majestic beauty of Yosemite is cherished by many visitors for many years. Traveling across Yosemite from the East via Tioga Pass into Yosemite Valley is filled with possibilities for any visitor. Take in scenic wonders such as Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake, Olmstead Point and more while traveling to the valley for an incredible day of waterfall chasing.

Here are our “One Day” suggestions for the highlights of Yosemite National Park. We have also listed suggestions if you can stay longer… Download PDF

STOP 1 – Headwaters of the Tuolumne

Just inside the East gate on Tioga Pass is a pullout on the Left side of the road. This is a great place to view the headwaters of the Tuolumne with panoramic views of Dana and Mammoth peaks. At 9’941 feet it is also the highest point along Yosemite’s Road structures in the park.

STOP 2 – Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne meadows gives you several options in taking in one of Americas most scenic high meadow environments. Everything from a quick stop for photos and move on or a short walk out to Soda Springs or a more adventures trek up the backside of Lembert Dome.

On a tight three day national parks itinerary we might suggest just a quick photo op on this visit.

STOP 3 – Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Lake is a can’t miss feature on this trip. plan your trip accordingly and have a picnic on the shores of one of the National Parks Systems highest roadside Alpine Lakes. This gorgeous mountain lake is crystal clear and dressed with panoramic granite features on all shores. Brave swimmers can capture the energy of the park with a quick dip in the cold and clear waters of Tenaya Lake.

Tip: Stop on the West side of the lake for the best panoramic Views of the Cathedral Range.

Extreme Adventure Option – Hike to Clouds Rest

Extend your itinerary on this trip and take the time to make a trip into Clouds Rest a priority, if you have the time and stamina. Clouds Rest trailhead is located at the West edge of Tenaya Lake. This 14.5 mile round trip hike will test you , but you will take in one of Yosemite’s most stunning and wide-ranging 360-degree panoramic views, plus experience Yosemite Back country. Challenge of this trip is the 1800 plus feet of elevation change and one mentally challenging section for some hikers of walking the top ledge of granite right before the peak.

STOP 4 – Olmsted Point

Not as famous as it western counterpart, Glacier Point, Olmsted Point is your first opportunity to view Half Dome. This scenic overlook will feature great views of Half Dome from the Eastside as it explodes from the granite shelf of Yosemite Valley. If you skip the stop at Tenaya Lake this is also a place to take a great mountain shot East with Tenaya Lake below and the Cathedral Range as a backdrop.

STOP 5 – Tunnel View

As you Comedown the mountain and into the Yosemite Valley, take a right at the base of Bridalveil falls and head on upto Tunnel View. On Highway 41 is one of the most photographed vistas in the world. It provides a panoramic view of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, and Bridalveil Falls. Be prepared to pull into the parking area to the right or left immediately past the tunnel. Open year round.

STOP 6 – Yosemite Valley (After 2pm)

You have had a very full day at this point. But you have made it to Yosemite Valley. Park your car here in Day Parking or at the Yosemite Lodge and hop on the Yosemite Valley Shuttle. See Yosemite Falls, Ansel Adams Gallery, Indian Museum, the historic Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Lodge, gift stores & eateries, Curry Village, Happy Isles with access to Vernal & Nevada Falls and Mirror Lake.

For the best experience during peak season (summer and holidays), it is best to go into Yosemite Valley before 10 am and after 2 pm, when there is less traffic congestion. For the most relaxing itinerary, plan on staying in the Valley if possible. Watch the night fall on Yosemite Valley and experience life after dark in on of the most majestic places on earth.

sierrarecmagazine

sierrarecmagazine

Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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