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One day in Yosemite Itinerary: Visit Yosemite in a day

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Disclosure: This post on one day in Yosemite itinerary is sponsored by Hotels.com to bring forth some of the stunning wanderlust destinations in the USA. As always the opinions and ideas are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Yosemite National Park is one of the amazing parks located in California USA. If you are heading there for a day, you will find this one day in Yosemite itinerary super helpful in making the most of your trip.

“John Muir called Yosemite “the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter”.

Yosemite National Park is one of the world’s most scenic wonders, filled with stunning mountain views, easy to difficult hikes, waterfalls, rivers and valleys and of course groves of giant sequoias.

Note: As travel, today remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. Things are changing by the minute, so check the official website for guidelines, shuttle services, and latest closures, and the status of local businesses.

One day in Yosemite Itinerary: Easy hikes, sightseeing, and planning

Planning for Yosemite day trip

To reach Yosemite, you can use any of the following airports (if traveling internationally)

  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • San Jose International Airport (SJC)
  • Fresno-Yosemite International (FAT)

You can reach Yosemite Valley by car (rentals available at the airport) or use bus service. Buses are available via Amtrak and Greyhound to take you to Yosemite Valley from SF, and the rest of the United States. 

At Yosemite Park, you have to pay a park fee. We highly recommend getting America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass ($80 USD per annum), if you are a frequent national parks visitor. Or you can pay a daily fee of $35 for entry with a car.

For accommodation options in the Yosemite Valley, remember to plan and book ahead of time. There are only 1-2 lodging options inside the park – Yosemite Valley Lodge is one, and it gets booked 4-6 months in advance. Staying here will get you to hikes, trails, and views instantly as you sleep inside the national park.

Second best option is to stay in Yosemite West, where you will find a variety of accommodation options (and within 30 minutes of drive).

The east end of the Yosemite Valley also has accommodation options. The Majestic Yosemite Hotel aka the Ahwahnee is one of the most iconic hotels in the valley. From the hotel grounds you can take in the views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and the Glacier Point. 

You can also book at camp sites (RV, tent campgrounds) for staying overnight. 

Vernal Fall is a 317 feet waterfall on the Merced River just downstream of Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park, California. 
Vernal Fall

Ride the Yosemite Valley Free Shuttle Bus

Yosemite Valley shuttle provides FREE and convenient access around Yosemite Valley. This service has about 20 stops, and it gives you a nice tour of the various attractions the national park has to offer. This shuttle operates all year from 7 am to 10 pm.

There are other services available too like the – El Capitan shuttle, Glacier Point (favorite one as you take a one way tour to the viewpoint, and then walk down), and the Tuolumne Meadows shuttle bus (access to Tuolumne Meadows area between the Tioga Pass and Olmsted Point (including Tenaya Lake)). You can find more shuttle options on the NPS website here

Stop by the Yosemite Valley Museum 

If you love history, you will enjoy exploring the Yosemite Valley Museum and learning about the early inhabitants of the valley. This museum is located near the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. There is a parking lot located about a 5 to 10-minute walk from the visitor center and the museum. 

It is interesting to note that the Yosemite Valley has been inhabited for about 3000 years, and the occupation by the Native Americans dates back to even 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. 

Soak in mesmerising views from the Tunnel View

The Tunnel View is an easy way to capture the majestic beauty of the prime attractions in Yosemite Valley, starting with the El Capitan, Half Dome and the Bridal Veil Falls. It is located on State Route 41, and greets you when you approach closer to the valley.

Getting to Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

Check out climbers on the mighty El Capitan mountains

El Capitan was first climbed/conquered in the 1950’s, and today you will see many climbers attempting and completing the same feat. The El Capitan meadow gives you a great view of mountains. 

Embark on the Lower Yosemite Fall Loop

Lower Yosemite Falls are one of the most iconic views in the park. The water falls from 2,425 feet, and you can visit this natural wonder all year round. Getting there in the winter will require shoes/boots with crampons as it could get slippery. 

It is best visited and explored at its peak in the spring and early summer months. If you visit in the fall, the waterfall is often dried up (from late July or August through October). 

There is a 1 mile/1.6 km trail loop that takes you closer to the falls. It takes about 30 minutes to complete, and it starts at the Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead (shuttle stop #6).

Half Dome, Mt. Lyell, and Glacier Point all visible in the background.
Half Dome, Mt. Lyell, and Glacier Point

Stop for Lunch near the Falls

You may not find a ton of places to eat inside the Yosemite National Park, so we recommend carrying snacks and lots of water. Take breaks when needed (as some trails have an incline). There is nothing better than the lower falls area to sit down, rest your feet and grab a bite. 

Admire the Bridalveil Waterfalls

Bridalveil Fall is another set of waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley. This waterfall is 188 metres in height, and unlike the Lower Yosemite Falls, this one flows all year round. You can view the falls from the parking lot too, or embark on an easy hike to get there (depends on how much time you have left on your one day in Yosemite). 

View of El Capitan Bridalveil Falls in one day in Yosemite itinerary
El Capitan

Head to the Glacier Point for more stunning views

Now we are heading higher up, above the Yosemite Valley. The Glacier Point is a viewpoint located on the south wall of Yosemite Valley. It is at an elevation of 7,214 feet. 

Glacier Point provides a stunning view of the Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite’s high country. If you are driving to the national park, you can access the viewpoint by car. Glacier Point Road is accessible from approximately late May through October or November. (In winters, it is used for cross-country skiing).

If you are not driving, you can hop on the Glacier Point Tour (one way), and then hike back down to the valley floor. (Note: There are no regular shuttle services between Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley, other than this tour which runs seasonally).

So once you arrive at the Glacier Point parking (or tour unloading area) embark on a short walk to reach 3,214 feet above Curry Village to soak in those stunning views. This short trail is also wheelchair-accessible. 

Hike to the Sentinel Point or Taft Point for sunset views

From the Glacier Point, hike to the Sentinel Point or the Taft Point for sunset views. Depending on how much time you have, you can opt to do both or just one. If you only have time for one hike, we recommend the Taft Point for more expansive beautiful views.

Note that you can only access the two trails, when the Glacier Point Road is open. 

  • Sentinel Dome: Distance:  2.2 miles round trip – This is an easy hike for the majority of the trail (until the final stretch where you climb up the dome itself). When you hike up there, you will be welcomed to stunning views everywhere you look –  capture the Yosemite Valley below, check out the Merced River canyon, Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Nevada Falls and a multitude of mountain peaks. 
  • Taft Point and the Fissures: Distance:  2.2 miles (3.5 km) round trip – Taft Point is another viewpoint in Yosemite, west of Glacier Point. The giant granite, and the views of the Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls and El Capitan, makes this a much sought after location for Instagrammable shots. The main attraction of Taft Point is the giant fissures in the mile-high granite rock; and when the golden hues fall on the rocks and peaks it is very beautiful to look at.

As you can see the distance for both is the same, and it will roughly take only 2 hours to complete. If pressed for time, just choose one of the viewpoints. 

View of Half Dome Yosemite National Park
Half Dome USA

Additional Items to add to your one day Yosemite itinerary

Here are some additional items to add to your Yosemite itinerary for an extended trip. 

  • Mariposa Grove – Add a visit to the Mariposa Grove to check out the Grizzly Point Giant Sequoia trees (there is a Mariposa Grove shuttle bus too, and is a quick and easy ride). You can go on a 2.50 mile trail to check out the large fallen sequoia trees in a woody setting!
  • Mirror Lake Trail – This is another 2 mile trail, where you can get glimpses of the Half Dome from the valley bottom. 
  • Mist Trail Hike – A 3 mile (round trip) trail hike with views of the Vernal Fall from the footbridge.
  • Other viewpoints and attractions – Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake, Cathedral Beach 

Don’t forget to check out the following USA travel posts for your upcoming trip

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