One Day in Yosemite National Park

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If you only have a day to drive through Yosemite, then this is the guide for you.

Let's start at the South Entrance of the park. Take the Wawona road, and the first stop is the Mariposa Grove, with giant sequoias.

Drive through the Wawona Tunnel Tree.

No one is mad about driving through more tunnels, am I right?

Keep driving on Highway 41 through to Tunnel View, then stop at the overlook to get a juicy shot of the Yosemite Valley.

A short 5-minute drive from Tunnel view takes you to the Bridalveil Fall Trailhead.

It's an easy quarter-mile paved path to a big and beautiful waterfall if you're into that sort of thing.

Since your into falls, go check out the most famous and longest falls in the park, nay in North AMERICA! Yosemite Falls. The shuttle drops you right at the Trailhead, from there it's a paved half-mile walk to the bridge. Most people scramble the slippery rocks beyond the bridge to get a closer look. It's a little dangerous, so if you do, be careful! The snowmelt falling water feeds into the Merced River, and it be COLD. You can go a little way down from the bridge, and find a quiet spot to dip your feet in the icy water. I dare you!

A 20-minute walk from the Trailhead will take you to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Here you can buy adorable souvenirs, talk with rangers and tour the museum and informational centers. You can learn the history of the park, about the tribes that occupied this land first, and how conservationists like John Muir helped protect this special place.

I always ask rangers what their favorite spot in the park is. The answers are treasures! They have thoughtful and valuable insight into the park.

We're usually reluctant to go on a ranger-lead activity, because ugh! And there's not enough time, and blah blah, blah. But I will say that every time we do one, we learn a ton, and we're glad we went! They offer a different perspective, and it's fascinating and thoughtful, I promise. If you have the time, do it!

Float down the Merced. Grab yer inflatable hot dog, and find a comfortable place to dip in. Make sure you check the river conditions first with a park ranger. Never enter if the river is rushing or seems dangerous. During the summer months, the water is cold and refreshing, and usually calm. Most people start rafting at Stoneman Bridge (near Curry Village) and get out at Sentinel Beach Picnic Area. DANG IT! You forgot your novelty junk food-themed float! That's fine. You can rent rafts and life jackets in Curry Village.

Hike to Mirror Lake from shuttle stop 17. It is a chill 2.3 mi loop with little elevation gain and a mirror-like reflection of half dome. Go in the early summer for wildflowers.

Check out Sentinel/Cook's Meadow. It's a relaxed trail through the grasses with views of the valley and waterfalls. While you're in the meadow, spend time at the Yosemite Valley Chapel for sunset pics.

Then, end your day with drinks at the Ahwahnee, Yosemite's classiest hotel. You deserve it! Sit by the enormous fire and feel self-conscious about how dirty and sweaty you are. It's okay, you don't smell that bad, and the staff is probably used to it.


Phew! You did the valley in a day.