Is one day enough in Yosemite? No, it would be better to have more time. However, it is possible to go on an excellent day trip to Yosemite. Although Yosemite Park covers more than 3,000 square kilometers, most visitors spend most of their time within ten kilometers of the Yosemite Valley. This is for a good reason as this area contains some of the park’s highlights. However, if you only have one day in Yosemite, e.g. For example, at 9 a.m., you can see more than that World Heritage with some good planning!
Yosemite in one day – arrivals and tours
Yosemite Park is located in Eastern California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s a 4-hour drive from San Francisco and a 6-hour drive from Los Angeles. The closest airports to Yosemite Park are in Fresno and Merced, but they are quite small. If you are arriving from San Francisco International Airport, this is your best choice.
The best and easiest way to travel from San Francisco to Yosemite Park is by rent a car. There are plenty of rental car options at San Francisco International Airport. In fact, there is a four-story building full of car rental companies at the airport! Getting to the car rental desk from arrivals has been fairly easy (it is well signposted), and picking up the car is very smooth and easy.
San Francisco International Airport is south of San Francisco, so it is possible to avoid driving in San Francisco and access the highways directly from the airport. I highly recommend taking a navigation device to get to Yosemite and to explore the park once you are there. The Yosemite site contains instructions. There are four entrances to Yosemite Park.
If you don’t want to rent a car, the next option is to take one bus, However, the bus ride takes 11 hours each, so you travel a lot in the park for just one day! The other shorter option – 7 hours – is a Transfer from San Francisco but that is significantly more expensive than the bus.
The best option to spend a day in Yosemite without a car is one Guided tour from San Francisco, A day trip from San Francisco to Yosemite is a long day – around 15 hours – but someone else will take the ride, take you to the best spots in the park, and then take you back to your hotel.
⇒ If you are in San Francisco, don’t miss my post at the top 17 unique restaurants in San Francisco
Get around in Yosemite Park
Even if you are arriving by car, there are several good transportation options to get to some of Yosemite’s top attractions. YARTS or Yosemite Area Regional Transport System has been active in the park since 2000. In summer, YARTS will pick you up from the hotel so you can leave your car behind. YARTS offers the same in winter, so you don’t necessarily have to attach snow chains to your tires.
YARTS is meeting with some bus companies to facilitate connections to the park, but the bus ride is still very long!
Where I found YARTS most helpful was the busy one Yosemite Valley, Although all of the attractions in Yosemite are well signposted, it can still be difficult to figure out where the signal is, and it’s not too consistent. With free YARTS buses, visitors can park their cars and then get around Yosemite Valley with ease – a real bonus if you try to see Yosemite in one day.
1 day in Yosemite – The top tourist attractions
You may find that there are a few things listed here, and you may think I could never do all of this in one day. This is true. However, if I do research somewhere, I find the things I want to do and then exchange what I can and can’t do in the time I have available.
So I’ll list all the options and then give you a couple of different Yosemite 1-day itineraries to choose from. I will also include in the itineraries what I think of the things that you really need to do in Yosemite, as well as factors such as the season that may affect your selection, e.g. B. that there is no point going to a waterfall when there is no water. The best Yosemite day route depends on these factors. I hope that makes sense!
1. Yosemite Valley
The beautiful Yosemite Valley is the heartland of Yosemite Park. It is essentially an 8-mile loop full of breathtaking deciduous trees (especially beautiful in the fall), which contains some of the main attractions of Yosemite Park, such as the Half Dome and the El Capitan Rocks. This is my yosemite must for a one day trip.
The descent has some great vantage points that are literally on the road – you can tell by the number of well-placed points that you have to drive past! Don’t miss the pretty church that is on the right on the way to Yosemite Village.
In the middle of the loop is Yosemite Village, which I will cover in my next point. This is the best place to park. As soon as you have parked your car, you can use the grandiose free shuttle bus system to get around the Yosemite Valley. If you are here in the summer or at other peak times, you should definitely use this as the traffic in this part of Yosemite Park can be terrible.
Once you’ve parked, you can mix a shuttle bus and walk to get to some of the park’s top highlights. Stop 6 of the shuttle bus takes you to Cook’s Meadow Loop and Sentinel Bridge with a breathtaking view of the Half Dome. Or you can walk from the parking lot to Sentinel Bridge for this shot.
However, my favorite prospects in the Yosemite Valley were towards the end of the Yosemite Valley loop. Just behind the El Capitan Bridge is a small picnic area on the Merced River. The views of El Capitan and Half Dome are breathtaking from here. I was there late in the morning and already had great light for my photos.
2. Yosemite Village
Yosemite Village is located in the center of Yosemite Valley and has a visitor center, restaurant, gallery and everything you need for a great day in Yosemite Park. I would recommend starting with the great one Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, There are tons of maps, guides, souvenirs etc. I also sat down with one of the guides and a map of Yosemite Park and we went through what was open and closed, what was in bloom, what waterfalls are running, etc. I can recommend it only Do this at the beginning of your time in the park to maximize the efficiency of your visit to Yosemite National Park in one day.
Next to the Yosemite Valley visitor center is the lovely one Ansel Adam’s gallery, This is definitely the place to go if you are looking for nice and unique souvenirs to visit.
A great place to have lunch and a drink Degnan’s kitchen, This is what I would call a classy cafeteria with pizzas, soups, sandwiches, fries and snacks and most of the things you need for the day. If it’s not midday, I’ll take something for lunch from Degnan’s Kitchen Yosemite Valley.
3. Yosemite Park waterfalls
Yosemite Park is famous for its breathtaking waterfalls. Which waterfalls you can see depends on the season and the time available. Basically, the waterfalls are rather dry in winter. However, this can of course vary from year to year. Check this carefully, especially if you’re visiting during the shoulder months like October and March.
The easiest of them Yosemite Park waterfalls to visit is Bridalveil Falls. The walk from the street is only 800 m – and the top of the waterfalls is visible from the street if you have very little time. Bridalveil Falls is in the Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America and flows in three sections. The upper and lower Yosemite Falls are also in the Yosemite Valley. The Lower Yosemite Falls Trail is a one mile loop and a fairly flat trail that leads you to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. The starting point is the shuttle bus stop number 6. This should take about an hour. Visiting the Upper Falls is a full day activity. Yosemite Falls is highest in May.
The trails to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls are accessible from the Nature Center at Happy Isles. However, these are also very long walks and are unlikely to be done within a day.
4th glacier point
glacier point is famous for its breathtaking views over the Yosemite Valley – especially at sunset. The view is really fantastic and I think this is a must for any day trip to Yosemite Park. The drive from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point takes about an hour. The good news is that the parking lot for Glacier Point is only 300 meters from the view, so it doesn’t take time to get there.
If you arrive in summer, you should arrive at least an hour before sunset to get a good seat. If you are visiting outside of peak hours, all you have to do is worry about when the sun will go down!
Washburn Point is very close although you have to drive there. Washburn Point is essentially the extension of the glacier view to the east. To be honest, I felt like I had captured everything I needed at Glacier Point. So if you only have a day, you can miss it.
5. Tunnel view
tunnel view is located at the beginning of Yosemite Valley Loop Road and is only a short detour from the main road. The prospects are fantastic! Glacier Point offers better views since you are closer to the Yosemite Valley (in my opinion), but since it is so close to the main path, there is no reason not to drop by and look at Tunnel View. Tunnel View definitely offers the best view in the park at sunrise.
6. Mirror Lake
It’s all about the season Mirror river! I was in October, unfortunately there was no lake. This is the situation for most of the summer and autumn. Mirror Lake is fullest in spring and early summer. To be honest, I haven’t looked at Mirror Lake. There are two ways to go this Yosemite way. The first is a 3.2 km loop. The second is an 8 km loop. I was told that the hike to Mirror Lake was very nice and that the longer hike offered some fantastic deciduous trees to change leaves, but unfortunately you can’t do everything!
The Mirror Lake Trailhead can be reached from shuttle bus stop number 17.
7. Mariposa Grove and the Sequoias
Mariposa Grove is home to 500 giant Sequoia trees and is quite impressive. A part of the Mariposa Grove leads a simple route with a length of 0.5 km. The drive from Yosemite Valley south to Mariposa Grove takes about an hour.
Park at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza. From here it is necessary to get a free one shuttle bus to Mariposa Grove. At peak times, this parking lot fills up quickly. So plan your trip in the morning or late afternoon. The shuttle buses run every 10 to 15 minutes depending on the season. The shuttle bus takes about 10 minutes to get to the Mariposa Grove.
NB: There is no shuttle service from December 1st to March 15th.
The itinerary for a day Yosemite
Don’t miss the Yosemite Valley. No matter what else you want to do on your day, make sure the Yosemite Valley is part of it, as it is a fairly small area that is home to some of the main attractions of Yosemite Park. And it is beautiful. And it’s also home to the best food options that are open year round and work on multiple levels!
The weather is a key factor in choosing a Yosemite day trip. Essentially, various streets and facilities within the park will be closed from September through May. In addition, the waterfalls are at their peaks in May and then usually dry out around October, as is Mirror Lake. And the alpine wildflowers of the Tuolumne Meadows peak in July and August.
Here is my recommendation for Yosemite on a summer day:
Waterfalls – Bridal Veil, Lower Yosemite – don’t have time for the others
And 24 hours in Yosemite in the fall:
Glacier Point Road behind the Badger Pass is closed in winter (usually December – May).
Guided Yosemite tours in the park
Yosemite Park offers a range of Guided tours in the park, The two-hour Valley Floor Tour takes place all year round. Glacier Point is a four-hour return trip between May and November. The Grand Tour lasts 8 hours and includes Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. It runs from May to September. And there’s a full-day tour to and from Tuolumne Meadows that takes place in the summer months.
All tours start in the Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite day tour from San Francisco
A one-day Yosemite tour is a long day – about 15 hours – from San Francisco. It is possible to spend about 5 hours in the park Yosemite National Park day trip from San Francisco,
⇒ California is home to a fantastic wine. Check out my posts on California’s hidden gem Livermore Wine Valley, the best things to do Calistoga in the Napa Valley and in beautiful living Solage spa in Napa.
Where to sleep?
If you want to stay in Yosemite Park then the Ahwahnee (formerly The Majestic Yosemite Hotel) is the only AAA 4 star hotel in the park. It is located at the eastern end of the Yosemite Valley and offers a fantastic view of the main attractions of the Yosemite Valley.
The 5-star Chateau du Sureau is located in Oakhurst, just outside the park. It has 10 rustic rooms with exposed beams, an outdoor pool and a wellness area.
Another great option is the nice one Evergreen lodge, The lodge is located in Groveland, just 10 km outside the park. Evergreen Lodge has more than 80 cabins and was renovated two years ago. They also have firm tents with air mattresses for a little glamping!
Evergreen is a lot of outdoor space, so it feels wonderfully rustic. But they also have a great restaurant and bar with a large outdoor area and an excellent general store with a very good selection of California wines! Evergreen Lodge is a great mix of comfort and the feeling of being in the great outdoors.
What to bring to Yosemite Park
⇒ Bring decent hiking shoes, sunglasses, a hat or cap, sunscreen, water and a daypack
⇒ There are limited supply options in Yosemite Park. A visit to Yosemite Village is perfect for a day – but remember to take everything you need for the day with you
⇒ Are you planning a trip to the USA? Check out my posts Things to do in Las VegaThere are not only games of chance, there are also great things to do Philadelphia and the top attractions in Baltimore,
There are ATMs in Yosemite Valley, Curry Village, Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows. The shops and restaurants in Yosemite take all cards.
Yosemite is open all year round and only closes in exceptional circumstances. It is also open 24 hours a day. There is a admission charge in the park, which is calculated per vehicle.
The weather can be an important factor in Yosemite National Park – especially in winter. When planning your trip, make sure you have the Yosemite Road state leader to make sure you choose the most appropriate routes for the season you’re traveling. Closer to your trip, make sure you check Yosemite regularly Weather updates,
Fall is one of the best times to visit Yosemite. September and October are perfect months for hiking, as the days are generally still warm and sunny, but the nights are cool. This is also the time when the leaves are the most colorful as the seasons change.
Summer in the Yosemite Valley is fairly warm and sunny throughout. Temperatures are cooler in the higher elevations of the park. Spring can initially be wet and cool, but then becomes warmer and sunnier.
Winter is breathtaking, but brings some snow and closures to certain areas of the park. If you like outdoor activities in cold Yosemite, this is a fantastic place to visit. However, careful planning is required.
⇒ If you love nature, check out my posts you can find online every day Everest Base Camp Trek, the best things to do Verbier Switzerland. Climb Ben Nevis in Scotland and climbing Mount Kosciuszko in Australia.
Yosemite tours for solo travelers
There are many options for solo travelers to Yosemite – from multi-day guided tours to day tours.
⇒ Tour radar offers tours in Yosemite between 3 and 8 days for solo travelers
⇒ Exodus offers various Yosemite trips for solo travelers
⇒ G Adventures also offers organized tours through Yosemite with offers for solo travelers
⇒ If you are already in Yosemite, Rush Creek Lodge offers a variety of different half-day and day group tours that you can take part in.
⇒ Traveling alone? Check out my posts on 30 top Solo tour groupshow to have a great time travel alone if you are over 40 and the best Solo spa breaks.
Who Paid for What in this Yosemite One Day Itinerary Post
My visit to Yosemite and the surrounding Tuolumne County was hosted by Visit Tuolumne County – thank you! I paid for my flights to California and my car hire and Visit Tuolumne covered all of my costs eg meals, accommodation, transport etc. But as always my views are my own.
This post also contains affiliate links. This means that if you click through on these links and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I just wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.
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