I spent the past week in Yosemite National Park. I was there to run a half marathon but decided to go a few days early to spend some time hiking and exploring. Yosemite has been on my bucket list for 5+ years. I have applied for the permit to hike Half Dome a few times and figured when (if) my name was drawn I’d take a trip to hike and see the park then. That day has not come so I decided to go anyways and run this race. My mom came with me and over the 4 days we hiked 33 miles and I ran 13.1. We spent a lot of time on a lot of trails and I’m excited to share our itinerary with you here!

Since we went in early May, the snow was still melting off trails and roads so not everything was open. Yosemite is also experiencing a ton of rain right now (Spring 2023) on top of the melting snow so there were some flooded areas and trails we could not access. With all the snow melt and rain, the waterfalls were incredible! At the end of our itinerary, I’ll add the hikes I wanted to do but didn’t get to due to time, energy, trail/road closures, etc. so they can stay on your radar for the next time you visit Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park Map (source)

Spring Road Closures

In the spring, Glacier Point Road & Tioga Road are still closed from winter and typically reopen at then end of May or early June depending on when the snow melts. The main areas that are accessible in spring are Wawona, Yosemite Valley, Hodgdon Meadow, Mather and Hetch Hetchy so there is still a ton of hiking access!

Yosemite Winter & Spring Road Closure Map (source)

Where to Stay

When I first started planning this trip, I booked an Airbnb in Fresno (where we flew in to and rented a car) which is about an hour and a half drive from the south entrance gate (Wawona) of Yosemite. When I started doing more research on where the hikes were located in the park, I realized Yosemite Valley was over an hour from the Wawona entrance gate which would make for an almost 3 hour commute to the park each day. I switched our lodging to stay in Oakhurst which was much closer to the entrance gate to the park and cut down on our commute time significantly. Oakhurst was actually a very cute town with some yummy restaurant options and was in a great location for accessing the park.

Next time I go, I will camp in the park as there are a lot of beautiful campsites (which are open in the spring) and access to hiking is that much closer! It did snow and rain while I was there so I am happy to not have camped this time.

Lower Yosemite Falls

Day 1

When you drive into the park towards Yosemite Valley from Wawona, after you pass through the tunnel there is a parking lot you can immediately pull into to see the iconic Yosemite view. It’s worth stopping at a few times as the view changes with clouds throughout the day and it is gorgeous. We also stopped at every pull off on the way in to Yosemite Valley and each pull off offered an incredible view so don’t skip out on those!

I start all hiking trips with a visit to the visitors center. I like to talk to a ranger to make sure what I want to hike is open and to see if there are other trails they recommend so naturally, the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center was the first stop on this trip.

View from Columbia Rock

After I got oriented with the park, we parked and did the short walk to Lower Yosemite Falls (1.2 miles, 55 ft. gain) which was flowing with a ton of water. We then decided to do Upper Yosemite Falls (about 4.5 miles, 1350 ft. gain to Lower Gate). The first view point you get to on this hike is Columbia Rock which has beautiful views of Half Dome and the valley. If you keep hiking you’ll get to Lower Gate which has incredible views of Upper Yosemite Falls. This is where we stopped as the last bit of the hike to the top of the falls is another 2000 ft. elevation gain and still had some snow. I would definitely recommend going up to the Lower Gate to get a view of Upper Yosemite Falls. It is well worth it even if you don’t do the whole hike to the top.

Lastly, we hiked to Mirror Lake (2 miles, 108 ft. gain). We didn’t take the road, we took the trail to the right of it and it was a pretty hike. There is a longer loop you can do around Mirror Lake as well if you’re interested in that.

California Tunnel Tree

Day 2

On Day 2 I wanted to see the big sequoia trees. The road that the shuttle bus takes you to the trailhead (Mariposa Grove Road) was closed due to road damage. Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park were also closed due to road damage so our only option was to walk the 2 miles to the start of the Mariposa Grove trailhead to hike the Grizzly Giant Loop Trail (6.5 miles, 1000 ft. gain with the additional miles to get to the trailhead) in Yosemite. Instead of hiking up the road, you can take the scenic Washburn Trail making the extra miles much prettier. I was blown away by the sequoia trees! This loop takes you to see the Grizzly Giant which has a 30ft. trunk diameter and it also takes you to the California Tunnel Tree which is massive and beautiful to walk through. You get to view a ton of massive sequoias throughout the trail which in my opinion are must sees. Sequoia trees can live for over 3000 years and if trees could talk, I bet they’d have a lot to say. With the extra miles to get to the trailhead, this hike ended up being 6.5 miles.

We then headed to the visitors center to get some souvenirs and spent the rest of the day walking around Yosemite Valley viewing waterfalls again. It was wonderful.

Day 3

We headed back into Yosemite Valley on our third day to hike to the top of Vernal Falls via the Mist Trail (about 4.5 miles, 1,300 ft. gain to the top of Vernal Falls). The Mist Trail had just opened 3 days prior after being closed for the winter. If you continue up past Vernal Falls you can also hit Nevada falls which I hear is very much worth it! Due to the massive amounts of runoff from snow melt and rain, the waterfalls were huge and we got SOAKED hiking up the Mist Trail. It was such a fun and rewarding hike and I definitely recommend hiking it and hiking it early as this is a very popular one. This trail is also the start of the hike to Half Dome. Half Dome was not open yet (the cables are not usually installed until the end of May) but next time I’m back, I hope to pull a permit to hike that 🙂

Vernal Falls

After Vernal Falls, we stopped at more viewpoints on our drive to Swinging Bridge Trail (1.4 miles, 88 ft. gain). This was a short hike to a swinging bridge and was a nice way to stretch our legs. When driving to this hike, you also get to see the town that exists inside Yosemite National Park complete with a school and a library. I did not know there could be residences in National Parks so it was a cool thing to learn.

My mom and I after my run in the rain

Day 4

On the fourth day I ran a half marathon around Bass Lake which is located near Oakhurst. This half marathon was actually the catalyst for the whole trip. The race started at 6am and it was raining. The route was gorgeous and muddy and exciting.

After the half, we started making our way to Fresno. On the way we stopped to hike Pincushion Mountain Peak Trail (2.8 miles, 994 ft. gain) in the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area. There are so many hikes in the areas surrounding Yosemite and on your way to Fresno it would take months to explore all the areas I want to but I’m glad we were able to get this hike in. It was very pretty!

After the hike we went to a farmers market near Fresno and checked in to our hotel before we had to catch an early flight home the next day.

Pincushion Mountain Peak Trail

Trails we didn’t get to but will next time:

  • Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Loop (5.1 miles, 1,105 ft. gain)- This trail is not accessible until Glacier Point Road is open.
  • Clouds Rest Trail (12.2 miles, 3,100ft. gain)- This trail is not accessible until Tioga Pass Road is open.
  • Chilnualna Falls Trail (7.7 miles, 2,201 ft. gain)- This trail is open in the spring and is located near the Wawona park entrance.
  • Wapama Falls Trail (4.7 miles, 1,108 ft. gain)- This trail is located in the Hetch Hetchy area which is quite a far drive from Yosemite Valley but is an area I definitely want to explore. This area is open in the spring.
  • Half Dome (15.3 miles, 5,213 ft. gain)- This is a permitted trail that opens around the end of May.
  • Four Mile Trail (9.7 miles, 3,418 ft. gain)- This trail is located in Yosemite Valley and is open in the spring.
  • Cathedral Lakes Trail (8.6 miles, 1,624 ft. gain)- This trail is not accessible until Tioga Pass Road is open.

As you can see, there is so much to explore at Yosemite. It is a place that calls for multiple trips and boundless energy. Enjoy your time in this breathtaking place!

Until the next tale… Happy trails.



  1. Great read! Those waterfalls look so cool and it looks like you and your mom had tons of fun. Also, congrats on finishing the half marathon!

    Liked by 1 person

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