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  • Writer's picturetheunexpectedtype

our one-day yosemite itinerary

Four million people visit Yosemite on average per year. FOUR MILLION! It's actually the fifth most visited national park in the USA - pretty cool right?! Nathan and I ventured up for a quick 2-day trip last week on a whim - we knew we had to get up there before summer officially ended. We've actually been to Yosemite in winter, but have never gotten the chance to explore the park in the summer until now! I know... we do all the traditional CA stuff pretty late, haha. Thanks to a family cabin up at Bass Lake, we had the perfect place to stay for the quick trip we wanted.

There is A LOT to see in the park. and like other larger national parks, you most likely won't be able to see the entire thing in a day due to how far some of the sights are (unless you are an expert planner extraordinaire). Because we only had a day, we JAM packed it with a few things that had been on our bucket list, including a very long hike - another post on this later - and a visit to Glacier Point. If you live within 5-6 hours of the park, you could totally make a Friday-Sunday trip happen if you really want to go, soooo we hope this one-day itinerary inspires you to get in your car & GO.

Fair warning, we love to pack things into our trips to make the most of your time, so the itineraries below are just guidelines and what we've done!


Lucky for all of us, Yosemite is open year-round! Most visit between late spring + early autumn, with winter months (Dec-Feb) being the least popular visitation times. We went last January and LOVED IT, so don't be discouraged by dwindling numbers. You can see our past post on that visit here. The landscape is truly stunning! I definitely want to visit in the Fall and watch the leaves change colors - eeek!

Since this park is so iconic, I also wanted to share a few fun facts:

  • Yosemite was designated a World Heritage site in 1984 and covers an area of 747,956 acres!

  • Today, more than 95% of the park is designated wilderness, with minimal impact from human activities.

  • After visiting Yosemite, John Muir famously called it “by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter”, while President Teddy Roosevelt likened a day trip to Yosemite to “lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”

  • The park is situated in the western part of CA's Sierra Nevada mountains. You can also explore Highway 395 on the way if you take the Eastern route. We have another blog post on what to see on 395 here!


We continue to observe and execute CDC suggested practices to stay safe including wearing masks, staying 6ft apart, and keeping our hands CLEAN anytime we travel. The reason we love road-tripping right now is because of the self-isolation you have and out in nature, you're in the fresh air.

Most national parks are also following CDC guidelines and have timed reservations for entry to avoid crowded parks. Yosemite is one of them! In order to get into the park, you need to make a reservation two days before your day of entry. The pass you get is good to use for 7 days! Obviously, if you camp or are backpacking, you need additional permits and passed. Get them + read more here.


Our Quick Look w/ Mist Trails Hike:

*Coming in from the West Entrance

  • 6:30am: Stop at tunnel view for sunrise

  • 7:00am: Drive through Summit Meadows + stop for photos

  • 7:30am: Arrive at Happy Isles Trailhead (YARTS shuttle stop #16, within walking distance of Curry Village and parking lot).

  • 8:00am: Start The Mist Trails Hike to Nevada Falls (9 miles RT, 2,200" elevation gain)

  • 2:00pm: Arrive back at the Car / Lunch it

  • 3:00pm: Drive by Yosemite falls + El Capitan (get out + take photos!)

  • 4:00pm: Head up to Glacier Point

  • 5:00pm: Walk up to Glacier Point (bring your camera!)

  • 6:00pm: Explore Taft Point and watch the sunset (again, camera!)

  • 7:00pm/Dark: Head back home

A Quick Look (long-ass hike not included):

*Coming in from the West Entrance

  • 6:30am: Stop at tunnel view for sunrise

  • 7:00am: Drive to Tuolumne Meadows (Iconic meadow with the boardwalk)

  • 9:00am: Make your way back to Yellowstone Valley, drive through Summit Meadows + stop for photos

  • 11:00am: Grab lunch!

  • 12:00pm Hike to Mirror Lake (4 miles, about 3 hours max)

  • 4:00pm: Check out Lower Yosemite Falls (The entire falls is the tallest in North America!)

  • 5:00pm: Head up to Glacier Point

  • 6:00pm: Walk up to Glacier Point (bring your camera!)

  • 7:00pm/Dark: Head back home

I love these quick itineraries like the one above because sometimes it's sooo much work to scroll through everything. If you're curious about some of the things we saw, keep on scrolling for photos + some tips

Wawona Tunnel View

Also just known as Tunnel View is the iconic views of all iconic views. You'll drive through a tunnel to get down to Yosemite Valley and emerge to a panoramic view of Half Dome, El Capitan, Thee Brothers & Bridalveil Falls. This is where you'll want to take all of your family photos, ha! There's a good amount of parking on both sides of the road but be sure to look at signs and drive safely to avoid cutting across the road.

We stopped here at both sunrise and in the afternoon. My phone didn't capture the best sunrise photos, but man, was it stunning! There is something so magical about being in the park before anyone else as the sun crests the granite tops. Worth the early wake-up call!


Honestly, this hike, YOU GUYS! First and foremost, I am so fucking proud of both Nathan and I for completing this! We've done hikes that have been around 6-7 miles, but this 9-miler was our longest and most strenuous yet. It was also the most BEAUTIFUL. After around 4.5 miles, you've scaled two waterfalls and sit at the top of a granite masterpiece overlooking the valley and just across at Glacier Point. It is HUMBLING. I'm also going to brag that it was halfway to Half Dome (on our hiking bucket list)!

I love hiking because it's almost like a challenge - you push your mind and body to a limit to get somewhere. You arrive at a destination where cars or modern-day society can't really make it. You are wholly surrounded by nature and its magic. We've always been pretty lax hikers, but for some reason, the pandemic has really pushed us to push ourselves to complete some hard, but amazing treks.

This hike took us about 6-7 hours (honestly the pain makes me forget exactly how long) and we used our handy-dandy trekking poles to help us along the way. Hiking poles are 1000% the best investment in my opinion, although they do slow you down a little. Infants and children aren't recommended since there are some steep inclines and plenty of rock steps to scale up. All in all, 10/10 for this hike even if my feet were dead at the end!


Hands-down one of the prettiest views I've had in my life. I don't care how many times you see it on Instagram or in magazines or on Pinterest, it is BREATHTAKING in person and worth the drive. There are some really fun pull-outs along the way on this solo road to Glacier Point too, like Taft Point, so be prepared to break and shoot!

We got here around 5pm when the sunrise was juuuuust starting to happen and secured a spot to watch the sun fade away. There was a small crowd, but everyone was spaced nicely and it still felt like an intimate moment with Yosemite Valley and the park. The coolest part for us was seeing Vernal and Nevada Falls from Glacier Point and being able to pinpoint what we had just hiked. It made us even more proud about the hike we just accomplished and went a little crazy with the photos, haha! No matter what you do, I highly suggest Glacier Point for sunset. It's AMMMMAZING.

Have any suggestions on what else you should ABSOLUTELY do in Yosemite? DM us on Instagram and we'll add it in!

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