"Yosemite in a day" Top 5 Page for this destination Yosemite National Park by goingsolo

Yosemite National Park Travel Guide: 1,521 reviews and 3,527 photos

A park ranger was asked during an interview what he would do if he only had one day to spend in Yosemite, and he responded, "I'd weep." Easy for him to say, as he gets paid to spend his days there. I, unfortunately, get paid to spend my days elsewhere. In deference to this quote, I decided to allow 1.5 days of a very brief trip to exploring Yosemite. Needless to say, this was not enough time to fully experience the park, especially since an unfortunate flat tire took away about half of one day. But the alloted day and a half would not have been enough time to hike Half Dome or to wander along the enough of the nearly 800 miles of trails or into Yosemite's backcountry. But I did get a glimpse of the wonders that this park contains. Be forewarned that this page is merely an overview and is more an on the beaten path journey among the popular tourist spots in Yosemite and not a detailed exploration of its unexplored reaches. But I'll do my best to capture some of the surface magic in words and photographs from my barely scratched the surface and much too brief visit to this park.
It goes without saying that trying to visit a national park in a day, or even a day and a half, is an overly ambitious undertaking and destined to result in an incomplete experience. Yosemite is no exception to this rule. This length of time is just not enough for a mere drive-through visit. The park roads stretch for too many miles, road conditions make for slow driving and there are too many places to explore in this short of a period of time. But if that's all you've got, then this page may help you make the most of it.

Yosemite is a huge park; roughly the size of Rhode Island. It is also one of the most popular and receives over 3 million visitors per year, making it one of the most popular parks in the United States. While it is easy to see why millions flock to Yosemite, the drawback to the park's popularity is obvious. Its really, really crowded.

Like many of America's National Parks, Yosemite was founded due to the efforts of naturalist John Muir, who sought to protect the meadows and forests. Muir was one of many who have been drawn to Yosemite's incredible beauty and unique and diverse landscape.

The Sierra Nevada was formed between 10 and 80 million years ago due to a shifting of plates beneath the earth's surface which pushed layers of granite upward, creating the mountains. The valleys and canyons were created from cracks and rifts in the rock. During the last ice age, melting glaciers streamed through the valley, creating the sheer vertical walls we look at with awe today.

The waterfalls were actually created by retreating glaciers, whose runoff cascades from side canyons along the valley. These falls are maintained by the runoff from snowmelt from mountains, which explains why some falls run dry in the summer months.

Much like the Grand Canyon, most of Yosemite's guests stay on the beaten path and head to Yosemite Valley. For this reason, and to allievaite some of the congestion resulting from the hordes of tourists who flow through Yosemite, especially in the summer, the park has a shuttle service (see transportation tips) which takes visitors to the most popular spots.

Outside the valley, the road heads south to Glacier Point (see must see activities). From here, a short stroll leads to an overlook with great views of Half Dome. Heading past Glacier Point, you'll come upon Wawona and the historic Wawona hotel (see accommodations.) On the west side of the road is a large golf course, an unusual sight in a national park. Continuing south and near the south entrance is Mariposa Grove (see must see activities). A 2 mile road leads to a grove of gian sequoias.

Two popular areas north of the valley are Tuolumne Meadows (see must see activities) to the northeast and Hetch Hetchy to the Northwest.
Tioga Road (see transportation) winds east rising and falling on a pretty steep grade past some of the best scenery in the park before reaching the meadows. This was the area I liked the best. Away from the bulk of the crowds who flood Yosemite Valley, this is about the best you can get for having some space of your own on a one and a half day trip.

I'm hoping to head back to Yosemite some time next year and hike to the top of Half Dome. I probably won't be alone up there, as many, many people do this hike. But I'll be able to stand 8,000 feet above sea level (always exciting for a Florida girl) and view the valley thousands of feet below. And, hopefully on that next trip I'll be able to see more of Yosemite than ta quick drive through and give this park more of the attention it deserves.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Striking scenery and lots of great hiking opportunities.
  • Cons:Crowded, congested and hot, hot, hot during the summer
  • In a nutshell:Visit in either the fall or winter as this is a park worth exploring.
  • Last visit to Yosemite National Park: Aug 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (85)

Comments (17)

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Apr 22, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    Well done. Sure you only spent less than two days here?

  • Knoto's Profile Photo
    Sep 3, 2008 at 11:22 AM

    Wow, wonderful presentation of these area. Thanks

  • johncudw's Profile Photo
    Nov 3, 2006 at 9:14 PM

    Really thorough coverage of the details of Yosemite. Nice photography. John and Gail in NJ

  • chewy3326's Profile Photo
    Jul 7, 2006 at 6:31 AM

    Great page on Yosemite (although 1.5 days really isn't enough). I like your tips and photos on Tioga Road and Olmsted Point; that was my favorite section of the park, too.

  • KiKitC's Profile Photo
    Oct 20, 2005 at 11:49 AM

    Great tips for Yosemite. I think I'll be visiting your pages often.

  • johanl's Profile Photo
    Oct 14, 2005 at 1:27 PM

    excellent information on Yosemite. Thanks. Will be there by the end of this month.

  • dharmabum222's Profile Photo
    Aug 14, 2005 at 6:26 AM

    Thanks for such great information. I will be in Yosemite for only 2 days and want to see as much as possible, your pages are a great help! Nicole

  • BluBluBlu's Profile Photo
    Aug 8, 2005 at 8:15 AM

    Very informative tips...and great photo's!

  • Iteris's Profile Photo
    Jul 17, 2005 at 4:58 PM

    Did the Half Dome hike recently, as part of a 15 mile which included Vernal + Nevada Falls. Amazing, but very exhausting!

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    Jun 21, 2005 at 1:02 PM

    You covered a lot in the short time you had here in this beautiful national park Loved you pictures & interesting tips The Tunnel view was just magic


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