Things You Must See In Yosemite In One Day – Itinerary & Tips

Millions of visitors head over to Yosemite National Park every year. The park had a record of over 5 million visitors in 2016. While this National Park is roughly equal to the size of the state of Rhode Island, would you believe that these visitors spend their time mostly only in the six-mile square radius of the Yosemite Valley? Well, there's good reason for it, too. The downslope movement of ancient glaciers from a million years ago, sculpted and designed the beautiful valley that is the major attraction today. Providing incredible vistas and other natural wonders that are a must see, this area is sure to impress.

Though Yosemite National Park is massive and offers tons to see and do, there are some bucket list places that can be experienced even in one day. A day that is filled with jaw-dropping views, peaceful walks through shaded forests, and short hikes to towering waterfalls.

Yosemite itinerary - Must See Tunnel View

Voted as one of the top places to visit in the U.S. over and over, Yosemite National Park is a great vacation spot that doesn't require a passport or a big budget. Known for its giant sequoias, valley vistas, historical lodging, rustic camping, and adventures like rock climbing and hiking, there's lots to do here for any type of visitor on any budget.

Note: If getting there with your own car is not an option or you feel that public transportation will take too much time and hassle, get there from San Francisco and explore with a tour.

Top Places To See In A Day In Yosemite

Glacier Point

If we had to pick just one spot to recommend on your day in Yosemite Park, it would be Glacier Point. This is hands down, one of the most picturesque and breathtaking places we have ever been! You don't even need to drive too far into the park to get to Glacier point, so it's certainly offers that quick satisfaction factor. A short walk from the parking lot will deliver you a magnificent panoramic scene that includes several of the famous landmarks.

Yosemite must see one day - Half Dome View from Glacier Point

Atop this cliff, you'll be presented with the ever majestic Half Dome, practically, in center stage. A bit to the right of that you'll recognize Nevada Falls in the distance, and down below, the unmistakable Yosemite Valley. Pictures could never convey the feeling of awe that one experiences with all of this in their field of vision.  Don't miss Glacier Point for the most "bang for your buck." at Yosemite!

Tunnel View

A panoramic viewpoint area, located directly east of the Wawona Tunnel portal. Visitors entering Yosemite Valley from points south on state Route 41 will run into this view just after passing through the tunnel. Here, you will be presented with the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome.
Yosemite Valley - The valley floor may not sound as intense of a scenic point as the above-mentioned locations, but you'll be surprised by the humbling effect it will have.

This is where the grandness of the park really hits home. There's a special silence that echoes in the Yosemite Valley; it may even be compared to the vastness that the ocean presents to a deep sea diver. Nevertheless, be ready for a sore neck as you tilt your head up for the views of soaring granite rock demanding their place against the blue skies above.

one day yosemite itinerary - El Capitan View

Pro-Traveler Tip: Yosemite Village is located in the valley. This is where you can find shops, restaurants, medical clinic, visitor center, and theater, as well as lodging.

Yosemite Falls

One of the easiest and quickest places to sightsee in the park is the falls with which it shares its name. One of the WORLD'S TALLEST waterfalls, much taller that even the waterfalls in these small towns of New York, it's made of three tiers and has its maximum flow during the month of May. You can view Yosemite Falls from the base or a distant viewpoint. For the extra adventurous, it can even be hiked, but that will require a full day! Though there are lots of signs around the base warning visitors of the dangers of climbing the slippery rocks to get up close, we took our time going forward carefully.

The rock here is VERY slippery even when not wet, and we wouldn't recommend doing the hike unless you really feel that you can handle the risky terrain. As you make your way through the rocks penetrated by the icy flow of water, you'll once again be mesmerized by the exquisite nature of this national park.

We absolutely love being immersed in nature and Yosemite Park is one of the best places we have ever visited to experience this. Our trip to Hawaii gave us a chance to hike and see waterfalls but it was quite different terrain than this!

Yosemite one day - Lower Falls

Mirror Lake

The 1.2 Mile walk to Mirror Lake itself could be listed separately as one of the top things to see in Yosemite. There is a path to walk on, or you can just follow the street directly leading to the lake (it is closed off to cars unless they have accessible plates). At a normal pace, it will take approximately 20 minutes to reach Mirror Lake by foot, and it is an easy walk with gorgeous forest views all around. Visiting in late September gave us a bit of a disappointing view of the lake itself, though.

The small pond that was all that was left of the lake after the summer season still reflected the cliffs and sky in its own way. Just resting here for a few moments and taking in the surrounding was certainly worth the stroll through the forest. This would be a great place to hang a hammock for a couple of hours of relaxation. I can imagine the lake reflecting the surrounding cliffs and trees when it is filled with water after the spring season. May would probably be an awesome time to see the full potential of this lake.

Yosemite 1 day trip - Mirror Lake Must See

Mariposa Grove

Mother Nature takes another opportunity to show off her true beauty in this majestic Sequoia tree orchard. The ancient giants will have you tripping backward as you try to glance up to their heights.

The Mariposa Grove restoration project was underway at the time of our visit. So we were unable to get a quick look or walk through the trunk of the famous California Tunnel Tree. However, the project is due to end in November of 2017 and will provide better facilities as well as more trails! In the meantime, Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove are other great places to see giant Sequoia trees on your visit to Yosemite National Park.

one day Yosemite - Mirror Lake Trail

How To Get There And Get Around For A Day Trip

Driving the scenic route: A day trip from San Jose will take just under five hours. This is pretty much the length of drive from most places around the San Francisco Bay Area. We recommend entering the park via CA-140. This route will give you some nice scenery along the way as you drive alongside the Merced River.

Coming in from this direction, it will be about an hours drive to Glacier Point. You can stop to see Tunnel View first as you drive up Wawona Road. However, if you arrive there around noon, it may be very crowded. We suggest going to Glacier Point and then stopping at Tunnel View on your way down. We recommend sightseeing in the following order as you drive through the park:

  1. Glacier Point
  2. Mariposa Grove
  3. Tunnel View
  4. Yosemite Valley
  5. Yosemite Falls
  6. Mirror Lake.

Note: The entrance fee for Yosemite is $30 per vehicle (regular cars) and allows entry for up to 7 days.

Day Trip from San Jose Yosemite - park entrance by car

Go With Tour: Check out some options below.

Take Public Transportation: BART and Amtrak in the Bay Area are great public transportation option for those who don't want to drive on their own or do not have a car. For instance, if you are going to Yosemite from San Jose, You would need to get to Fremont BART vis the VTA 181. You will take BART to the Richmond Station and then get on the Amtrak to Merced. Once you arrive at the Merced Station, the YARTS bus will take you right to Yosemite Valley.

Take A Bus: Greyhound Bus provides transportation to Merced as well. Again, from Merced, you can take YARTS to Yosemite National Park.

things to see in yosemite in one day - Valley Animals

Transportation Inside Yosemite: The National Park Service provides a free shuttle inside the park. This bus system goes around the Yosemite Valley and gives you plenty of stops to key locations such as Yosemite Village, Valley Visitor Center, Lower Yosemite Fall, Mirror Lake Trailhead, Half Dome Village, and many more. The Yosemite Valley Shuttle operates from 7 in the morning to 10 at night year-round.

Where to stay

After our packed day of sightseeing, we drove through Yosemite on Tioga Road and exited out the other end.  We could only see the park in one day because we had planned to drive to Lake Tahoe and spend a couple of days at South Lake Tahoe. After leaving the park, it took us about an hour to get to Bridgeport.  

We spend the night at the historic Bridgeport Inn. It was a delightful stay in this quaint little motel, just outside of Yosemite, and we would highly recommend it.

If you prefer to stay inside the park, Camp 4 is a great option for campers, and if you are the luxury-type, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel may be a fantastic option for you. Other places to stay include Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, Yosemite Valley Lodge, or Tenaya Lodge.

Some additional lodging recommendations:

If you're planning more time in California, you might be interested in some other amazing romantic and quick getaways near San Francisco. Check out the article we put together on the best places to go for romantic getaways Northern California.

What To Bring For The Day

one day Yosemite itinerary guide-what to bring

Here are our favorite travel resources that you can use to plan your trip:

Yosemite 1 day trip - Can't Miss The Valley

Check Out These Other National Parks Around The World:

Plitvice and Krka - Croatia National Parks

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Taiss Nowrouzi

About the Author

Taiss Nowrouzi

Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!

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Abinash K Nayak

Hey Thank you for your post. I am planning to visit the park on 15-16th Oct 2020. Want to to cover all the place you have mentioned. So I am curious to ask is it advisable to take the RV? I am planning to come from Sunnyvale, CA.'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    I think it would be better to take a regular car because some of the roads are not suitable for a big RV.'
Viaje a marruecos organizado

Grand Canyon is fantastic (I saw it as a child but would love to see it again!)'

Hi Aloha, I always wanted to visit this park as a national parks lover, your article is really helpful! thank you so much'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Great! I hope you enjoy your time there!'
Suzanne Kayne

Hello Aloha
My husband and I are travelling tomorrow 17 September to Yosemite Park from Carson City. Can you recommend where to stay in that area and what would be the best sights to see from that direction. Many thanks. Suzanne'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Hi Suzanne, I put a lot of that info in the post. Basically, you can see all the sights in the order written following the direction of the drive. I prefer staying just outside the park at Bridgeport Inn, but staying in the park can be nice too (may need advanced reservations months ahead sometimes). Here are some hotels there we recommend: Yosemite Magic “A”, Yosemite Pines, Lower Cascades'

hi your posts are fab and so informative.. I just have a question, we will be visiting from the uk later this month, flying to vegas for two nights, then driving to la, San Diego etc…. we would really like to see Yosemite Park and I am very optimistic now I have read your post about the key sights can be seen in a day… which way would you suggest to drive in, to get the most out of the day (or maybe we may even stay one night), on the list of points to see on the shuttle bus, glacier point wasn’t mentioned – is that visible on entering.. can you possible advise pls? many thanks in advance..'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Hi Jennie! Glad you got some good info from our post! If you are driving from San Diego you can still come up the 99 and take 140. As we mentioned in the post, this is a great scenic route to take in and you can just follow our recommendation of places to see along the way for the day. Glacier Point is up above the valley that is why the park shuttles don’t have any routes going to it. You may want to just drive your own car up there. There is parking there, and it will take about an hour to drive up. When you enter the park you will be down below in the valley area so you won’t see Glacier Point there. Hope you have a great time on your visit!'
Maui boy

Aloha Taiss:

Thanks for the fine guide for trip to Yosemite Park in one day. It saved me a lot of time spent researching. Now if you could write a guide showing how I could get my work done in One Day. That would really come in handy!'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Hi There! Glad this was a helpful guide for your Yosemite trip! I’m still trying to figure out how to get all my work done in one day! I’ll be sure to write a post as soon as i get it figured out! LOL'

I would like to thank you for your very detailled post on this very helpful topic 🙂 This will be my first time EVER road tripping in the US so thanks again ANNNNND a million thanks for the $20 off 🙂'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Hey Alyzee! I’m glad this was good info to help you out for your trip! Must be so excited for you road tripping in the US and visiting Yosemite! I hope you have a safe and amazing time. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if there’s anything we can do to help with your visit!'

      How did Alyzee get $20 off?!!?!?! Please share!!'

Hey! I am planning on going on August 8 for the first time. I just wanted to ask you. we booked an ARBNB on the west side exactly in Sonoma, but we will be coming from LA we were thinking to get of course first to Yosemite and spend the whole day there and then head to that place. Do you think there is a way that we can see all of this mosts and end up on the west side?? Thank you for your time!'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Hi Diana!

    If yo uare coming from LA it will be a very long drive to get to Yosemite. I think almost 6 hours. You might want to have a very early start in order to see everything in one day. I would suggest staying one night in the park if you can just because you might be so tired from the long drive up. You will have to get into the park via Route 41 and go through Glacier point first and then Tunnel View and exit the park via Route 120 to head to Sonoma.'

Hi I’m just curious as to why you would say, When coming up from the south on 41 to go to glacier point and Tunnelview first and then come all the way back down to Mariposa? That seems like a lot of backtracking. Just curious.'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Hi Tony,

    I see what you mean. The order I recommended was based on coming in from the 140. There is some backtracking but only to avoid dealing with the crowds at Tunnel View by going there later in the day. But, yeah, if you are coming in from the 41, then it makes more sense to go to Mariposa first. Sorry for the confusion!'

Your post is excellent info, we have been once but def need to go again, your guide will help us tremendously to really take in the beauty!!'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Thanks so much Laura! Hope you have a nice visit on your next trip and get to see more of this beautiful place!'
My Travelogue by Bhushavali

I haven’t been to the American Continent yet, but a lot of my friends have kept saying so many things about the gorgeous national parks of both USA & Canada. Yosemite is definitely one of the most mentioned places. Glad to see this one day itinerary. Will keep this in mind when I venture there.'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    The national parks in both countries are pretty spectacular and worth seeing if you are ever there! Hope that you can spend more than a day but at least you can get the highlights in one day, too!'

This is such a helpful post for everyone who is planning a visit to the Yosemite National Park. Although I haven’t visited the park it is high on my travel list. Every single spot you mentioned in the post seems to offer the best experience of the park. The Mirror Lake and Mariposa Grove looks majestic! Thanks for sharing.'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Thank you Suma!The park is fantastic and certainly deserves more than one day, but it was still so awesome.'
Bruce Schinkel

I’ve yet to visit Yosemite, but this seems like an amazing way to spend a day there. Definitely saving this post for later!'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Than you, Bruce! Hope this post comes in handy when you visit!'

Yosemite looks just stunning. I especially like your picture of Glacier Point. What a view! It’s also great to learn that there are public transportation options available which is not always a case as far I understand.
Thanks for sharing!'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Yes, very true about public transportation in the US not being always available. It may take long to get there that way but it’s still an option.'
Madhurima Maiti

Yosemite is so beautiful you can hardly take off your eyes every time you visit. I loved your photos and the blog post is very informative. Thanks 🙂'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Glad you liked the photos! it is a memorable spot for sure!'

Great article. Yosemite has always and will remain on my lists of must do’s. I know we would like to see some off the popular path places while in the park for sure. You took some great photos especially with the valley and half dome.'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Thank you! I hope next time we have more time there to experience it more in depth!'
Anthony Jury

I can see why you would choose Glacier Point as your favourite spot, breathtaking views as far as the eye can see. It does look mighty.
No don’t I would love to get to anything with water involved because quite simply I just love the sound and look of water, so without being to Yosemite National Park before, i reckon Yosemite Falls and Mirror Lake would be my favourites, along with everything else to do with the park.
Excellent post Taiss and really enjoyed your pictures.'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Thanks a lot Anthony! I love being near water, too! Some thing very calming about it. I just wish mirror lake was not so dry but I guess it was just the season that we went…'
Abigail Sinsona

Aside from the Grand Canyon, this is another national park that I’ve always wanted to see in the US. It is absolutely beautiful and your pictures have done it justice. Your guide was so helpful for those traveling here for the first time!'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Thank you! Hope you get to visit both parks soon! The Grand Canyon is fantastic (I saw it as a child but would love to see it again!)'
Amrita Sen

Yosemite is on my bucket list for long. Your post makes me yearn for the place all the more.'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Great! Hope you can get it checked off your list soon!

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