Main Nav

a California mom’s guide to 24 hours in Yosemite

a California mom's guide to Yosemite Valley


If you’ve been following me for awhile then it will come as no surprise to you that I love National Parks, and California sure has some beautiful ones. However, if you’re like me then you probably think of a National Park as a destination that’s more suited for a long weekend. For those of you that are fortunate enough to live near one though, you have the unique opportunity to just go for the day. As much as I love having lots of time to explore, sometimes that’s just not an option and a day trip to visit one of our national parks can be a great option.

It can be a little overwhelming when you’re thinking about trying to hit all the major spots in less than a day though so today I’m excited to share with you some tips for visiting Yosemite for a day trip. It should be noted that I’m focusing on Yosemite Valley, but if you’re going on a day that might be busier (like a weekend or holiday) then it would probably be better for you to explore one of the other beautiful parts of the park, such as Tuolumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, or Wawona.


a California mom's guide to Yosemite Valley


Planning a Yosemite Day Trip

First and foremost, you must get an early start, definitely try and be in the park by noon (earlier is better, and a 9:00 am goal is even better during the summer or weekends). We happen to live four hours from Yosemite Valley so that means an early start for us! Parking can fill up quickly so it’s best to get there early, find a good place where you can stay parked all day, and then plan to walk, utilize the shuttle buses, or ride a bike while you’re there so you don’t have to lose your spot.

I recommend parking at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, if you can. It is centrally located and from there you can walk to see several sites easily, or hop on a shuttle to visit other parts of Yosemite Valley.

Places to walk to from the Valley Visitor Center parking:
  • Yosemite Falls (the lower falls if you have a stroller or young kids, try the upper falls if your family is more able. Note that the hike to upper falls is strenuous, plan accordingly.)
  • Yosemite Village (visitor center, food, and gift shops)
  • Yosemite Museum
Consider taking the shuttle bus to:

When you’re ready to head home at the end of the day I highly recommended stopping at Bridalveil Fall. It will mean some extra driving around due to the one way roads in Yosemite Valley, but it’s worth it. Bridalveil Fall gives you the unique opportunity to take a very short walk right to the base of a waterfall, you’re able to get much closer than even at Yosemite Falls. Since the walk is so short this also means that most people are not sticking around for very long and it’s easier to find parking here.


a California mom's guide to Yosemite Valley


A note of caution always–Yosemite is beautiful but the waterways and falls can be very dangerous. Always obey posted signs and take precautions.

Have you spent much time in Yosemite? What’s your favorite national park?

My friend Sarah is sharing her favorite southern California over on her blog, be sure to check it out!

Sarah at Foxy’s Domestic Side

, ,

5 Responses to a California mom’s guide to 24 hours in Yosemite

  1. Felicia August 28, 2017 at 9:16 am #

    Nice! Just a note – Only do Upper Yosemite with seasoned hikers and kids you trust on rocky edges! Even doing 1/2 way up Upper Yosemite is quite challenging!

  2. Sarah @ Foxy's Domestic Side August 28, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    So funny you mention Yosemite as that is where we went this weekend! 🙂 It was so much fun. I can’t wait to go, except our drive is more like 7.5 hours with no stops…so let’s just call it 9 hours. Yikes! But it was so worth it! We hit up Lower Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls and went swimming in the river, although not me…way too cold!

  3. Crystal August 29, 2017 at 9:51 am #

    Yosemite is definitely on our bucketlist of places to visit! It’s so beautiful!

  4. Jessica September 1, 2017 at 10:37 pm #

    This is truly an awesome place! Yosemite is an place to visit on my USA tour next year.

  5. Danielle @ A Sprinkle of Joy September 12, 2017 at 3:41 am #

    We went on a road trip in fifth grade (from MI to CA and back to MI. We stayed in a pop-up trailer). Yosemite was so pretty! I hope to take my girls there one day!

Leave a Reply