One of the most prolific photographers of all time, Ansel Adams, inspired many to fall in love with nature with his beautiful black and white images of Yosemite National Park. Millions of people visit Yosemite each year, but many don’t realize that just a few hours south is another slice of paradise that should be included in your itinerary. This 1 week itinerary will take you trough the Sierra Nevada Mountain range that gives Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks their spectacular views.
Yosemite National Park
Day 1: Travel Day
The best combo of drive time and price was to fly in was the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport which is about 4 hour drive. Closer airports are more costly and the additional layover time doesn’t save you much time. Plan on spending the first day of your trip traveling and getting settled in.
Day 2: Hike Mist Falls and John Muir Trail
Mist Falls? More like drenched falls, so come prepared to get wet! The Mist Falls trail is a moderate 1.5 mile out and back trail that ends at the base of Vernal Falls, if you are up for a challenge continue on the John Muir Trail to see the top Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls.
The base of Vernal Falls – Moderate
Top of Vernal Falls – Difficult
Nevada Falls Loop – Strenuous
Mist Falls Out And Back – 3 miles round trip
Vernal Falls Out and Back – 4 miles round trip
Nevada Falls Loop – 7.5 miles
Please enjoy this short video featuring Mist Falls’ namesake attraction! This video was taken with a phone as my camera was packed safely in my Osprey Daylite Plus which kept my pride and joy bone dry.
Pro Tip: Don’t know how to tell if your gear is 100% waterproof? Create a seal around the material and your mouth and blow. If you can feel the air on your hand on the other side, it’s not 100% waterproof.
Day 3: Bridal veil Falls and other Quick Hikes In Yosemite Valley
Each of these hikes are flat and a mile or less (except Mirror Lake which is a flat 3). I recommend utilizing Yosemite’s very efficient bus to drop you off near all the main points of interest, If you don’t manage to hit all of these lookout points, just add them the morning you leave for Kings Canyon. You won’t need all day at Kings Canyon, so that morning is a great buffer zone for fitting in the things you missed.
Photography Tip: To capture the soft, flowy waterfall look use a long shutter speed.
Swinging Bridge View
The swinging bridge at Yosemite National Park provides an excellent view of the rushing waterfalls and rocky cliffs below. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful stroll across the bridge, taking in the natural beauty of the park all around them.
Mirror Lake Trail
Mirror Lake Trail is a short, flat trail that leads to the namesake Mirror Lake. The trail passes through a forested area and offers great views views of the valley and the surrounding mountains, and the lake is a beautiful sight.
Bridal Veil Falls and creek
Bridal Veil Creek is one of the most beautiful features in Yosemite National Park. The creek cascades over a series of dramatic waterfalls, creating a lovely sight for visitors. The area is also popular for hiking, with trails leading to the best views of the falls.
Tunnel View is one of the most popular stops on the Yosemite Valley Tour. From here, visitors can see El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall. The view from this vantage point is so popular that it has been used in many advertisements and postcards for the park.
Perched high above Yosemite Valley on the south rim of the park, Glacier Point offers visitors a stunning view of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Yosemite Valley. The drive to Glacier Point is spectacular, as visitors wind their way up the winding road that hugs the cliffs of Yosemite Valley.
Lower Yosemite Falls Vista Point
Lower Yosemite Falls Vista Point is a wonderful spot to take in the beauty of Lower Yosemite Falls. The viewpoint is located at the end of a short, wheelchair-accessible trail that provides lovely views of the waterfall and its surroundings.
Day 4: Upper Yosemite Falls Trail
Hard – Very Steep Incline
- Columbia Rock: 2 miles round trip
- Base of upper falls: 4 miles round trip
- Top of the Falls: 7 miles round trip
King’s Canyon National Park
Day 5: General Grant Tree and the King’s Canyon Scenic Byway
The drive through Sierra National Forest from Yosemite to Kings Canyon is about 2 hours and is equally as stunning as the parks themselves. The byway begins at the General Grant Tree in Grant Grove and ends at the Copper Creek Trailhead; without stopping, the scenic byway takes about an hour each way. How long you stay at each of the 25+ lookout points is the real deciding factor in how long this highly underrated detour will take.
Roaring River Falls
Junction View Lookout point
Sequoia National Park
Day 6: Giant Forest Trail and Moro Rock Hiking Trails
Start on the Giant Forest Trail and meander your way to various points of interest in the area – Bear Hill Trail, Hanging Rock, Moro Rock, Auto Log, and Tunnel Log. The trails in the area converge several times so it’s not critical to stay on the same path.
Moderate- There are steep inclines to access some of the view points, but there are also long periods of flat terrain.
This is a “choose your own adventure” kind of hike. It can range from 3-7 miles depending on how many points of interest you include.
Day 7: General Sherman Tree and Big Trees Trail
The famed giant sequoia, General Sherman, is the world’s largest tree by volume and it’s hard to imagine the magnitude of that until you see it yourself.
Photography Tip: Use a wide-angle lens to capture the giant sequoias.
Moderate – The way down is easy, it’s getting back up that’s the problem.