Yosemite camper van rental Travel Guide & Itinerary

Complete Guide to the Best Stuff to Do in Yosemite National Park, California

Here’s a 3-day itinerary for Yosemite National Park van campers

Don't have a van yet? Rent one of ours and take it on this trip!

Overview of Yosemite National Park

With towering Sequoia trees, countless stunning waterfalls, soaring granite cliffs, and peaceful meadows, Yosemite is truly a nature lover’s paradise. 

All this beauty, however, isn't a secret. Don’t be surprised if you encounter crowds and busy roads. Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks in the U.S., attracting more than 4 million visitors each year. 

Although three days is hardly enough time to see the entire park, you can certainly enjoy some of the more iconic spots in Yosemite. 

The drive from Las Vegas to Yosemite is about 6 hours if you head to the Tuolomne Meadows (East) entrance, and 8 if you head to the Yosemite Valley entrance (West). If you're making round-trip journey from Vegas, it makes sense to enter the park from one direction and exit out the other. Either way, you’ll want to wake up early to get to the park before dark. 

This guide will assume you're heading to the more popular West entrance.

Along the way, consider stopping to stretch your legs with a walk to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. The walk can last one to four hours depending on the loop you choose... and there's even a 'drive-through' tree (our camper vans will not fit through... please don't try!)

Visitors pay $35 per vehicle for a 7-day pass to the park. Camping is $20-$36 per night.

(If you're visiting more than one park, consider the NPS annual pass. Military, seniors, and a few other discounts are also available)

Day One in Yosemite National Park

Your Yosemite adventure begins!

When you arrive at Yosemite National Park, stop at the Tunnel View Outlook along Wawona Road to take in your first breathtaking Yosemite vista before checking in at the Visitors Center. Stop by the Village Store in Yosemite Valley to pick up any supplies you’ll need during your stay before heading to your campsite.

Most Yosemite campgrounds are van-friendly, but make sure you have a reservation and confirm that you’re allowed to sleep inside your van. Options are plentiful, but reservations can be tough to come by, so we recommend the Campendium, Recreation.gov, and Hipcamp apps for other options.

Luckily, getting around the park is pretty easy. A free shuttle runs to the popular trailheads and services so you won’t have to worry about finding a parking spot. Simply set up camp and let the shuttle whisk you around the park!

In my opinion, the best option for the day is to let the shuttle do the heavy lifting as you hit Yosemite falls, the sixth highest waterfall in North America, then grab some photos at the iconic Valley View, catch a view of the big wall climbers on El Capitan from Yosemite Valley Meadows and take your time as you stop at any of the multitude of other shuttle stops that catch your interest. Be sure to catch at least one more waterfall!

If you have the time and energy remaining, sunsets at Glacier Point is incredible, but that will require breaking down camp as the shuttle doesn't go there.

Day Two in Yosemite National Park

Get ready for some serious hiking and amazing views. 

Yosemite National Park is home to some of the best hiking in the United States, so this isn’t the morning to sleep in. 

The most challenging hike you’ll find in Yosemite is the steep, 14- to 16-mile Half Dome trail. You’ll need a permit to hike the trail and about 10 to 12 hours to complete the trip. It's a truly spectacular hike that passes the iconic Vernal Falls and ends with a climactic ascent up the cables. Not for the faint of heart, nor the wobbly-legged hiker! So that you know what you're getting into, here's a video of my Half-Dome hike in Yosemite.

If you’re not quite ready for Half Dome, try hiking the intense 4.8-mile hike from Glacier Point back down to Yosemite Valley. Take the bus to Glacier Point and hike down into the valley. Make the hike longer by continuing on the Mist Trail or John Muir Trail for more waterfall stops.

If you’d rather take it easy, take a short hike up to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome, which happen to both be great spots for a picnic overlooking the park.

Day Three in Zion National Park

If you’re not too sore from yesterday’s hikes, get up early for one last trek before making your way home. 

Spend a quiet morning hiking to Mirror Lake where you can gaze up at Half Dome as the sun rises. 

Finally, give your feet a rest and hop on Tioga Road for a scenic drive to explore the park from the comfort of your van. You can squeeze in one last short hike along May Lake Trail, which is accessible just off the road. 

Get out along the way to explore Tuolumne Meadows in the eastern section of the park before leaving the park. If you have extra time, the views and lake at Cathedral Peak are world-class.

Also in the Area...

Other recommended, google-able tromps:

Tuolomne Meadows is an underrated treasure. I could spend a week there and do something new every day.

Climbing here is world-class and can last anywhere from a few hours to multiple days. Many outfitters operate in the area. 

Whitewater companies operate nearby.

Mono Lake is creepy, but worth stopping by to see the weird salt formations.

This is one of America's great adventure hubs, so your options are truly endless!

Where to Next?
(We have travel guides for those places, too!)

Don't have a camper van? No Problem!

VegasCampers has a small fleet of fully stocked camper vans ready for your next adventure to Zion National Park and other popular destinations. Reserve your van today.

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Pickup is 3pm or later and dropoff is 11am or earlier. Click for info.

Later in checkout, you will be given the option to select an 'early pickup' and 'late dropoff.' 

Each is a 4 hour extension, so...

  • Early pickup lets you pick up at 11am or later. 
  • Late drop off lets you drop off at 3pm or earlier.
  • *Any earlier or later than those times requires an extra night's rental.

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