A Weekend in Yosemite National Park

Posted August 18, 2017 in Yosemite National Park, adventure travel, active travel, hiking, California travel, Yosemite, California, hike

While it would be easy to spend more time in Yosemite National Park, you can see a lot in just two days! I spent a weekend in Yosemite National Park, and I'm sharing all the adventures from my trip.


In June, the fiancé and I met my cousin, Kristi, and her husband, Avery, in San Francisco, and the four of us drove to Yosemite National Park for a weekend of adventure. 

You can read about our time in San Francisco here.

Kristi and Avery had been planning on going to Yosemite for Avery's 30th birthday. They had most of the trip planned when I mentioned that Yosemite was on our bucket list, and they invited us to come along. We bought our plane tickets four weeks before we left!

It ended up being such an amazing trip, and we were so grateful for Kristi and Avery for doing so much planning and coordinating. 

I took so many photos on this trip because Yosemite is absolutely breathtaking. So this post is photo heavy!

Where We Stayed:

Half Dome Village 

The first two nights, we stayed in a rustic cabin in Half Dome Village. The cabins were super simple with two beds, a dresser and a bedside table. We used a shared campsite bathroom that had toilet stalls and showers. 

Half Dome Village also has canvas glamping tents you can rent. 

This location was perfect for our first full day in the park because we were able to walk to the trailhead for Half Dome Trail. 

Half Dome Village also has a general store, a gift shop, a pizza restaurant, a bar with local craft beer on tap and a casual sandwich/burger restaurant. Everyone in our group got pizza, and I got a veggie burger at the sandwich shop. I wish I would have just had pizza because the veggie burger was awful. 

Yosemite Valley Lodge

On our last night in the park, we stayed in Yosemite Valley Lodge, which was a major upgrade from our cabin.

It was a hotel with a gorgeous view of Yosemite Falls right outside our door. 

Yosemite Valley Lodge has cafeteria-style dining. I had a salmon burger, which wasn't that great. Although it was convenient to have restaurants nearby since we only brought hiking snacks and lunches, and there's no way to cook meals in the cabins or hotel.

Trails We Hiked:

Half Dome Trail

Distance: 14-16 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Elevation Gain: 4,800 feet

Half Dome is one of the most well-known hikes in Yosemite National Park. When you get to the base of Half Dome, you have to have a permit to summit the top, which you get to using cables. 

We had no intention of climbing Half Dome, but Kristi and Avery wanted to hike to the base of Half Dome and watch people climb to the top. I'll be honest, I didn't do a whole lot of research about this hike beforehand. I swear I heard someone say we were doing a six mile hike, so I threw a bottle of water in my bag along with some snacks and my lunch. I later realized that it was about six miles one way. 

We left our cabin around 7 a.m, and the hike was absolutely stunning from the beginning. 

Just a few minutes into our hike, we came to the Vernal Falls footbridge. 

At every switchback, we were rewarded with another stunning view of Half Dome, mountains and waterfalls. This is Nevada Falls, which we ended up hiking to. 

So gorgeous.

Part of the trail was under water falling from a cliff. It was the perfect cool down since it was starting to get hot. 

But by the time we got to the top of Nevada Falls via the John Muir Trail, which was a four-mile hike, I realized we still had a long way to hike before our turnaround. I started to get nervous about my water situation. The temperature was over 90° at this point, and a lot of the hike was exposed. 

After a short break at the top of Nevada Falls, we kept hiking up. 

At this point, I could feel the altitude gain. My breathing was labored, and I felt like I was moving at a turtle's pace. I was also, most likely, pretty dehydrated. 

We ran into a ranger, and she encouraged us to turn around when she saw me drinking the last drop out of my water bottle. Honestly, I was not doing well at this point. I should have just turned around. But I knew how much everyone else wanted to get to the base of Half Dome, so I downplayed how I was feeling and we kept hiking.

Although this was a mistake on my part, I learned a really important lesson about myself. I sometimes downplay how I'm feeling so I don't ruffle any feathers or for fear of ruining someone else's experience. In this case, not advocating for myself could have been dangerous. Becoming dehydrated along with having altitude sickness on a mountain is serious. Park rangers and emergency crews put a lot of time and resources into mountain rescues because people haven't properly cared for themselves. 

We hiked another couple of miles before everyone realized that the hike was too long for the amount of water they brought, and we turned around.

We got back to the top of Nevada Falls, and we took off our hiking boots to give our feet some respite. The water, which is snow melt, was the coldest water I've ever felt. I could only keep my feet in for a few seconds at time it was so cold. But it felt good. It was also torture because I was so thirsty and you can't drink river water in Yosemite because it's full of bacteria. 

After our short break, we put our hiking boots on and began to make our way back down the trail. We still had a few hours ahead of us. 

Even though we were all exhausted and a little worried about our water, we were still feeling grateful to be in such a beautiful place together. 

I'm so so grateful that my cousin and I have remained close over the years, and that we got to have such an amazing experience together. 

I'll be honest, the rest of the way down the trail, all I could think about was water. I was so thirsty, I just kept repeating the mantra, "Get to the water." There was a water refilling station about a mile away from our cabin, at the Vernal Falls footbridge, and we had a long way to go before we got there. (FYI, the recommendation is to have at least 1 gallon of water when hiking to Half Dome and at least 2 quarts when hiking to Nevada Falls.)

We ended up hiking for about nine hours and probably covered about 16 miles. 

Looking back, I wish I would have done more research. I probably wouldn't have attempted that hike if I would have known more about it just because I'm not accustomed to high altitudes or distance hiking in mountains (I live in Nebraska). We did train for this trip by walking on trails and climbing stairs, but there's nothing we could do to prepare for altitude. We also didn't bring our camping water filter because we didn't think we would need it, but it would have been helpful.

However, hiking to the top of Nevada Falls was totally doable, and worth the gorgeous views. I highly recommend that hike. 

When we got back to Half Dome Village, I went to the outdoor store and bought a 3 liter Camelbak hydration reservoir for my backpack for our hikes the following day.

Sentinel Dome Trail

Distance: 2.2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

After our strenuous hike the day before, we decided to spend our second day in Yosemite doing shorter hikes. Sentinel Dome was a perfect short hike that rewarded us with amazing views. 

At the top of Sentinel Dome, you get a 360° panorama view of the park, which is pretty incredible. We were also able to get a good look at El Capitan from here. 

El Capitan up close and personal.


Tunnel View

Tunnel View is a tunnel that is carved into a mountain. When you exit the tunnel, you get this magical view of Yosemite Valley with Half Dome in the background. You can park your car and take your time here. 

This was our first stop in the morning, and we got a gorgeous view of the sun rising over the valley.

Glacier Point

Glacier Point is an overlook with a view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite’s high country. 

It's absolutely gorgeous. We drove there first thing in the morning, and it was stunning.

Since we were there so early in the morning, there weren't many other tourists there. 

We really took our time here and enjoyed the views. Perfect opportunity for a Half Dome selfie.


The fiancé really likes to test the limits when we're in the mountains. This makes my heart race and has me panicking. 

Bridalveil Fall Trail

This was an easy half-mile trail to the base of Bridalveil Falls. We wanted to go here because it's said that newlyweds who breath in the mist of Bridalveil Falls get a blessing for the marriage. Even though we're not married yet, we figured it would still work. 

There were so many tourists in this area that it was difficult to spend a lot of time here. 

Lower Yosemite Fall Trail

Since Yosemite Falls were so close to our hotel, we walked to the lower falls. Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world, and it's absolutely gorgeous.  

This area was also heavily populated with tourists. 

Still smiling after two days of hiking! 

At the end of the trip, all of us decided that we want to go back. The fiancé and Avery really want to go back and climb to the top of Half Dome. I'd be OK going back and exploring some different trails. 

Have you been to Yosemite National Park? What was your favorite thing to do? Share in the comments!

Also Read: Yosemite National Park Hiking Packing List

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