Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited National parks in the United States of America, and for good reason. There are so many amazing things to see and do inside of its 761,267 acres. Because the park is so large you could never see everything in one day, however here you will find a list of the highlights that you can experience in just a day trip to Yosemite.
How to Plan for a Day Trip to Yosemite
Before heading to Yosemite you will need to plan your trip out, especially if you want to see as much as possible in a single day. Cell service can be spotty or nonexistent inside of the park so it is best to have a paper map of the park and highlight the areas you are planning to see. While there are food, beverage, and gas options available in certain areas of the park it is a good idea to arrive with a full tank of gas, some snacks, and water.
If you do need to stop for a meal or to grab some quick snacks while you are in the park you can visit the Yosemite Valley Grocery or Dagan’s Cafe. There is also a food court with several dining options including a Starbucks at the Yosemite Valley Lodge.
There are currently no public transportation options inside of the park so to make the most of your day in Yosemite you will need a vehicle. Try to begin your day in the park early, or you may spend a fair amount of time simply waiting your turn to park, especially during the late spring and summer months.
8 Places to See and Visit in Yosemite on a Day Trip
For a single day trip, you likely won’t have enough time to hike up to the Upper Falls, but you will have plenty of time for the half-mile looping trail of the Lower Falls. Park at the Yosemite Falls parking area and enjoy the easy ½ mile looping trail that takes you to the falls. This trail is paved and is easily stroller and wheelchair-accessible with minimal elevation changes.
Cook’s Meadow Loop
After witnessing the amazing power of the waterfalls, take another easy walk to explore Cook’s Meadow and see the breathtaking views of Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Glacier Point, and Yosemite Falls. If you want to walk the full loop the trail is about 2.5 miles long, but if you don’t have that much time to spare in one spot you can experience some of the best views the meadow has to offer with a 30 minute trek.
If you want to see some of the most photographed views of Yosemite National Park during your day trip to the park then you need to head over to Tunnel View. From here you will be able to see Half Dome, Bridal Veil Fall, and El Capitan. Tunnel View is located just outside of the Wawona Tunnel on Highway 41. You won’t have to hike because there is parking available in lots on either side of the road.
Tuolumne Meadows is a grassy wide expanse that stretches on for more than two miles beside the Tuolumne River, making it the largest subalpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. There are many hiking trails, waterfalls, a lake, and of course grand peaks and domes as far as the eye can see. During the summer you can stop in at the Tuolumne Meadows visitor center and the Tuolumne Grocery store for a quick snack. ‘
Bridal Veil Fall
Bridal Veil Fall is the second largest waterfall in Yosemite National Park coming in with a height of 620 feet. The Bridal Veil Fall is active year round but if you want to see it at its strongest you should visit in spring. There are several paved short hiking trails around Bridal Veil Fall for you to explore, be prepared to get wet, especially in the Spring. There is parking and restrooms available at the trailhead here.
Olmsted Point is a popular viewing area located off of Tioga Pass Road. From this vantage point, you will be able to see Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows. Clouds Rest High, and Half Dome. There is a parking lot available near the viewing area so that you can stop and get some great pictures if you visit the park between the months of May and November. The road is closed due to snow for the rest of the year.
Glacier Point is another must see attraction at Yosemite National Park if your day trip is during the right time of year (May to November). Glacier Point is located at an elevation of 7,200 feet and to reach it you have to go all of the way down the winding Glacier Point Road which takes about an hour one way. Once you get there you will be able to see all the way from Half Dome to the top of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Note: Glacier Road will be closed for the entirety of the 2022 season for road improvements.
Mariposa Grove is home to Yosemite’s forest of approximately 500 giant sequoia trees. Some of the trees are nearly 3,000 years old. Mariposa Grove is located at the end of Mariposa Grove Road right off of Highway 41. There are two trails here that you can walk into the forest on the Big Trees Loop Trail is a short 0.3 miles, and the Grizzly Giant Loop trail is about 2 miles long and takes you to two of the most famous Sequoia trees, the Old Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree.
These are not the only things to see and do in Yosemite National Park but they will give you an overview of what is there in just a single day trip. Unfortunately, not all parts of the park are open year-round for safety reasons, and there are some planned road closures for the 2022 season for maintenance.
Make sure that you visit the Yosemite National Park webpage for the most up-to-date information before your trip. What are you the most excited about seeing at Yosemite?