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.
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:
- Mirror Lake
- Nature Center at Happy Isles
- Half Dome Village
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 note of caution always–Yosemite is beautiful but the waterways and falls can be very dangerous. Always obey posted signs and take precautions.