24 Hours in Yosemite

The Pacific Northwest is known for open spaces, and its vast beauty is easily explored by car. A few summers ago, I spent a week driving from Seattle to Northern California with one of my girlfriends. Once in Cali, we drove across the state to Yosemite, and then doubled back to spend a few days in wine country before making our way back to Seattle.

Our one day in Yosemite didn’t even scratch the surface of what Yosemite has to offer. It’s simply not possible to do the park justice through words.


Yosemite offers a spectacular collection of thundering waterfalls, breathtaking views and  fantastic hiking trails. One visit is life-changing, as time seems to slow down when nature takes over.

I’ve heard every National Park should be visited at least twice. I take this approach to a lot of cities I visit- the first time, I try to experience some of the popular spots that make the city what it is, and the second time, I travel a bit more off the beaten path.

Because we only had one day in Yosemite, we opted to check off a few of the must-sees everyone raves about.

One day in Yosemite National Park

  • Tunnel View: We started our day here, after entering the park from southwestern entrance (we stayed in Merced the night before visiting)
    • If you want to camp in Yosemite, reserve space at a campground months in advance. By the time we started checking availability, almost everything was booked. We decided it made more sense to stay in Merced (about an hour outside Yosemite). It would have been great to wake up in nature, but having Starbucks for early mornings and In-n-Out burger to refuel after a long day of hiking worked out well for us


  • Bridalviel Falls: When we visited in mid-June, the falls were already a mere trickle. It’s a quick (
  • The Valley floor gets mixed reviews, some people say it’s overrun with tourists and too commercial. While these things are true, it’s also part of what made Yosemite so famous to begin with and worth checking out to see Upper & Lower Yosemite falls, as well as Mirror Lake. And, if you’re an Ansel Adams fan, spend five minutes admiring the photo collection that’s taken home here, the shots are stunning
  • Lower Yosemite FallsThe shuttle stops directly at the Lower Yosemite Falls and it’s an easy walk to the base (you’ll also see Upper Yosemite Falls). When we visited, the falls were flowing but we were still able to climb a few dozen rocks at the base to get closer. If you’re trying to save time, get on a bus from the visitor’s parking lot and take it to stop number 6 to walk the trail out to see these falls.


  • Mirror Lake has to be the definition of serenity. Even though it was a relaxing hike, if I’m at Yosemite again, I’ll probably opt to do Taft Point- a slightly longer hike, but unparalleled views


  • Glacier Point is, in one word, breathtaking. Half Dome is spectacular and so are the views of Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Fall and El-Capitan. We ended our day with a drive to the lookout


  • Bonus recommendation: We opted not to see Mariposa Grove after spending a few days in the Redwood National and State Parks on our road trip, but I hope I’m able to stand face to face with the giant Sequoias in Yosemite someday

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