How to Spend One Day in Yosemite National Park

How to Spend One Day in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a display of some of Mother Nature’s finest work. Dating back millions of years, the valley is home to cascading waterfalls and granite rocks whose size seems to defy the laws of nature. But no matter how unbelievable this landscape appears, we can assure you it’s all too real – the yearly 3.5 million visitors can vouch for it. Given its enormity, it’s difficult to know where to start when planning how to spend just one day here. But don’t let this natural paradise overwhelm you – we’ve picked out some of the best valley trails, views and waterfalls to explore during your visit. Ready to travel back in time? Read on to discover how to spend one day in Yosemite National Park.


  1. Morning
  2. Lunch
  3. Afternoon
  4. Evening


Marvel At El Capitan

Yosemite National Park doesn’t waste time. Eager to show off, one of the most jaw-dropping views of El Capitan’s sheer rock face can be seen as you approach the park by vehicle in the morning. The approaching drive can be windy, so if you’re prone to motion sickness we recommend taking travel sickness pills before you set off. After driving through a tunnel, immediately pulling off left will bring you into a car park (keep your eyes peeled – it’s easy to miss). From here you can drink in the cinematic views of the valley, including the mighty El Capitan which towers into the heavens. If you’ve watched the documentary Free Solo, seeing El Capitan in person will add another layer to its never-ending impossibility – how do people climb this thing? Daredevils aside, its beauty can be appreciated from a distance and is a fantastic thing to add to the list when planning how to spend one day in Yosemite National Park.



Visit Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Falls

Armed with a packed lunch, set off to discover Yosemite’s mighty waterfalls which add a little bit of magic to the park. When the sun shines through the waterfall’s delicate mist, creating dazzling rainbows, it’s easy to see why this National Park is commonly referred to as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Bridalveil Falls flows year-round and is the most photographed waterfall in Yosemite Valley, plummeting an impressive 620ft. Parking at Bridalveil Fall trailhead and walking just over half a mile will bring you to the base of the waterfall, where you can revel in the spray of the waterfall – breathing it in is said to bring good luck to anyone looking to marry. Next up is Yosemite Falls, perhaps the most well-known waterfall in the park. It can be seen from several spots – head to Yosemite Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge for some of the best views. Falling from a height of 2,425ft, Yosemite Fall gushes with water in spring (watch out for the mosquitoes) but has been known to dry up in August. But with there being more than 25 waterfalls in the park, there will certainly be plenty to see no matter the time of year.



Cycle Around Cooks Meadow Loop and Yosemite Loop Trail

You’ve seen it on screensavers, and you’ve seen it in the movies, but now it’s time for the real deal. Yosemite’s Half Dome can be spotted from Cooks Meadow Loop and Yosemite Loop Trail. Top tip: rent bike from Curry Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge to save your feet and your time. The two-and-a-quarter-mile ride around Cooks Meadow Loop is completely flat and can easily be completed by even the biggest exercise avoiders. Vibrant meadows and lush clusters of trees flank the vast granite rocks, and once you reach Sentinel Bridge, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the infamous Half Dome. If you can’t get enough of the cooling breeze cycling provides, a longer ride can be completed – Yosemite Loop Trail is an eight-and-a-half-mile ride around the edge of the park and offers the chance to see Half Dome reflected in the waters of Mirror Lake. You’ll need to drop off the bikes at one of the secure racks and take a short walk to the lake, which has a hiking trail looped around it if you find yourself with the time (and energy).



Sunset at Glacier Point

When it comes to planning how to spend one day in Yosemite National Park, Glacier Point is a fabulous finale, with its views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Yosemite Valley and the surrounding Sierre Nevada mountains. After returning the bikes from your afternoon’s outing, hop back into the car and head up to the viewpoint on Wawona Road. If you’ve got a head for heights, there’s a trail that takes you from the car park to an exhilarating 3,200ft viewpoint above Curry Village on the valley floor – that’s about twice the height of the Empire State Building – and is the last chance to take those all-important holiday snaps. Time your arrival for the end of the day, and you’ll get to watch the setting sun drench the landscape in golden light, highlighting Yosemite National Park as a day to remember.

Written by Evie Buller