What do you do when you only have 24 hours in Yosemite National Park?
Maybe you’re on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip and you just HAD to make a detour to the High Sierras to see Yosemite Valley for yourself (We don’t blame you, it’s gorgeous).
Or maybe you had a free weekend from the Bay Area and you couldn’t wait to get your feet on one of those famous Yosemite hiking trails!
Regardless of the reason, we’re here to show you how to make the most of your quick trip to Yosemite National Park.
In this post, we’re sharing the most beautiful stops in Yosemite National Park, easy hiking trails, and routes to drive to make the most of your day in this amazing national park.
Let’s get started!
** Before this trip began, we knew Yosemite would be a highlight. Therefore, we invited our good friend Phil Tran to come and photograph our first year anniversary here in the park. His photos are throughout this post, and you can see more of his work here! Thank you, Phil!
How To Spend 24 Hours In Yosemite National Park
Did you know that Yosemite National Park is over 100 years old? Established in 1890, this park now preserves the tallest waterfall in North America (Yosemite Falls) and nearly 800 miles of hiking trails!
Yosemite was the highlight of our Pacific coast road trip for its historical significance and grandeur. For Berty, it was the most anticipated stop and a new experience for both of us.
Our first few minutes in the valley were spent craning our necks to look at the towering rock formations and picking up our jaws off the bottom of the car floor. Little did we know, this would be our posture during our whole time in the park!
Here is a quick overview of our 24 hours in Yosemite National Park:
- Glacier Point for sunrise
- Tunnel View
- Yosemite Valley hiking during the day
- Taft Point For sunset
Keep reading for more detailed information about these Yosemite National park locations, and the easiest way to get to each of them!
1. Start Your 24 Hours In Yosemite National Park at Glacier Point For Sunrise
If you don’t visit anywhere else, Glacier Point is an essential stop during your 24 hours in Yosemite National Park. This epic viewpoint sits 7,214 feet above Yosemite Valley!
Glacier point provides some of the most spectacular views in the entire park. From this point, the sun rises directly behind Half Dome, creating a surreal scene as the sun lights up the valley. You will also be able to see views of Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and Clouds Rest Mountain.
There are many viewpoints along the short paved trail to view this gorgeous scene. We recommend grabbing a blanket and a cup of coffee, to sit and enjoy the rising sun.
The road to Glacier Point is a short drive from Yosemite Valley. At the top are bathrooms, and an accessible parking lot. It’s only open when the snow melts, so this is why we think the summer season is the best time to visit Yosemite!
Early riser? We started our day in Yosemite before the sun rose. 3:00 am to be exact. It’s important to note that if you are planning things to do in Yosemite National Park during the summer, the sun rises very early in the day. Plan ahead and make sure to consider driving times if you are wanting to make a certain time of day!
Read More: How To Prepare Coffee On The Road
Sunrise at Glacier Point will never disappoint. Sun rays burst to life right behind Half Dome, creating a magical and quiet moment here in the mountains. Berty and I spent quite some time enjoying the calm of the morning and each other’s company.
2. Tunnel View Is One Of The Best Views In Yosemite National Park
After sunrise at Glacier Point, drive down to see an iconic view of Yosemite Valley called Tunnel View. This destination in Yosemite provides an impressive perspective of El Capital, Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome, and a clear view down the valley.
This is a must-see Yosemite National Park destination! You can find this location on State Route 41, which is one of the main roads that leads into Yosemite National Park.
It’s crazy that this picture looks like autumn with the red-leafed trees, but it’s in fact mid-June! I love this view of Yosemite because it shows the depth of the valley, the grandeur of the cliffs, and the waterfalls.
Expect this place to be popular at all times of the day, but especially busy during sunrise and sunset! This is a favorite spot for many Yosemite photographers.
3. Spend The Day Hiking and Taking Photos In Yosemite Valley
One thing we loved about our one day in Yosemite National Park was the sheer amount of amazing attractions all clustered in the same area. This meant that you are essentially guaranteed a gorgeous view no matter where you are in the park!
Yosemite Valley is one of those areas that provides a ton of activities in one central place. From here you can grab a meal, visit a museum, or even take a walk to the famous Yosemite Falls. While this area of the park can get crowded, there is a convenient loop road that will take you back around if you miss your stop!
Here are some fun and easy hikes in Yosemite National Park to take:
They are ordered by the shortest trails to the longest (but still short!) in and around Yosemite Valley for your planning convenience. As a reminder, make sure to pack enough water, wear sturdy hiking shoes, and remember the seven Leave No Trace principles. Let keep these trails beautiful for generations to come
- Lower Yosemite Falls (0.5 miles)
- Happy Isles (0.5 miles)
- Turtleback Dome (1.2 miles)
- Bridalveil Falls (1.2 miles)
- Artists Point (2 miles)
- Sentinel / Cook’s Meadow Loop Boardwalks (2.25 miles)
- Mirror Lake (2.4 miles)
- Mist Trail (3-miles round trip)
We spent the afternoon walking along the Cook’s Meadow boardwalks and paths in the Valley. Yosemite Valley has a driving loop which connects people to the main attractions in the area. You can easily park your car and take pictures at practically any point and drive to many easy hiking trailheads in Yosemite Valley.
4. Enjoy Sunset At Taft Point
For the day’s finale, head over to Taft Point to watch the sunset and capture the beauty of Yosemite Valley during golden hour. This is a pretty popular Yosemite location for sunset – the dramatic cliffs and stellar perspective of the setting sun makes it hard to beat!
The trail to Taft Point is located on Glacier Point Road, about a mile before the Glacier Point viewing area. Make sure to arrive early here, because the Taft Point trailhead parking lot is small and fills up very quickly before sunset!
Taf Point Trail is 1-mile with the first half in a covered, shaded forest area. The second half of the trail requires a bit of downhill climbing to finally reach the cliff’s edges.
Once you arrive at the end, there is only one granite ledge with a safety guard rail. Take extreme precaution when approaching an open cliff edge, as many people have lost their lives here.
Read More: 8 Vital Reasons To Travel With Your Friends
Read More: Our Complete Pacific Coast Road Trip Route
Pictured above is Profile Rock, a prominent and popular scene to capture in Yosemite National Park.
Thank you Philip Tran for the gorgeous photos! Check out his website here for more information!
More Location Ideas For 24 Hours In Yosemite National Park
While we shared only a few beautiful locations in Yosemite National Park, there are so many more to see! Here’s a running list of other popular locations around the park:
- Bridalveil Falls
- Half Dome
- El Capital
- Tuolumne Meadows
- Mirror Lake
- Mist Trail
- Yosemite Falls Trail
Should I Go Camping In Yosemite National Park?
Because of how busy Yosemite gets during the summertime, we weren’t able to secure a campsite on our last trip here. We were forced to reserve a camping spot just outside the park – a 2 hour’s drive away! We didn’t let the distance stop us though – we were determined to experience a full 24 hours in Yosemite National Park!
Pro Tip: This is for all of you that have one FULL day in Yosemite National Park, and want to spend the night in Yosemite Valley. (Example: arrive on a Friday, spend all day in Yosemite Saturday, depart Sunday). To maximize your one day in Yosemite National Park, it’s crucial that you try and reserve a camping spot in the park.
Click here to find any Yosemite National Park camping sites. You can also opt to drive into the park and see if there were any last minute camping cancellations. This last piece of advice is cautioned for a last resort as cancellations are rare!
If you want to spend the maximum amount of time you can in the park, here’s what you should do:
- Reserve a camping spot early. At least 6 months in advance. Trust us, you need to do this ASAP.
- Don’t risk not getting a camping spot. You can’t sleep in your car in the park.
- Avoid June, July, August (that’s when most of the crowds go + kids are out of school)
- Best time to visit (but a little colder) would be April/May or September/October.
Read More: How To Survive Camping In The Rain
Read More: Camping In The PNW (Things You Should Know)
Map For 24 Hours In Yosemite National Park
Below, you will see our curated list of stops for spending one day in Yosemite National Park. This list includes sightseeing, Yosemite hiking trails, and beautiful viewpoints. This can all be accomplished in 24 hours at Yosemite!
Additionally, with over 800 miles of trails, it can be hard to choose the best Yosemite hiking trails. We’ve shared ones that are beautiful and near all the other main attractions for your convenience.
Want To Stay Longer Than 1 Day in Yosemite National Park?
We don’t blame you! There’s a lot to see, so extending your Yosemite itinerary is a great way to experience things that go beyond the Yosemite Valley. Here are some of our favorite suggestions to spend a few more days in this awesome national park:
Hike Half Dome: If you love hiking, the Half Dome trail is probably on your hiking bucket list! Clocking in at 15.35 miles, this strenuous hike includes all-day travel, cables, climbing, and LOTS of views! It’s important to plan ahead and obtain the proper paperwork. Here’s how to get a Half Dome permit before your climb. There’s a maximum number of 300 hikers per day.
Go Camping In The Backcountry: Some of the best ways to enjoy Yosemite for a day is spending time in the backcountry, beyond the Valley crowds. Make sure to obtain a camping permit and research your route before embarking on the journey.
Explore Mariposa Grove: Come see the giant Sequoia trees for yourself! This part of the park is a little quieter than the valley, and not too far of a drive from all the action.
See Tuolumne Meadows: Sitting at 8,600 feet, Tuolumne Meadows is one of the highest elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains! Come here for Yomseite photography, landscapes, and wildlife viewing!
What did you think of our 24 hours in Yosemite National Park list? Have you ever visited Yosemite? Tell us in the comments below!
MORE CALIFORNIA ADVENTURES
Want more inspiration for 24 hours in Yosemite National Park? Follow our Adventure Board on Pinterest!