A daytrip to Yosemite National Park isn’t exactly the best way to appreciate this unique natural wonder but time constraints makes it the most popular option for most tourists. There are a number of tour busses that hail from San Francisco, the Central Valley cities, and Sacramento that take visitors to a few popular spots and allow them a couple of hours to explore on their own. If you only have one day however, the best option is to take a car rental to allow yourself more freedom to explore the park at your own pace. It’s not possible to see and experience everything during your Yosemite National Park day trip, but you can certainly make the most your time there through these helpful tips.
Yosemite National Park Day Trip
The Perfect Itinerary
Get in early and plan to arrive around 8:30-9:00 a.m. If you’re entering the park through Big Oak Flat or Arch Rock entrance, plan to stop by the Tunnel View lookout first in order to get a fantastic view of the valley’s curvature. It will also be your first glimpse of the imposing El Capitan. From here, you’ll also get to see the path of the Merced River. From the Tunnel Point Lookout, follow the path towards Glacier Point, a high point lookout that gives visitors impressive views of the infamous Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, and Yosemite Falls. This is also one of the best places in the park to watch the sunset. After Glacier Point, head towards Yosemite Valley and stop by Sentinel Beach. Take a dip in the cool but clear waters of the Merced River or just relax on the beach in between the towering Brothers and Eagles Peak. There are some picnic tables nearby as well, which makes it a great place to eat lunch.
What to Bring
What you’ll bring on your Yosemite National Park day trip will depend on the season you’re visiting. Most people come in spring, summer, and fall so standard hiking gear and essentials are highly recommended. Appropriate footwear tops the list, followed by maps, water, and some snacks. If going on longer hikes, it might benefit you to bring a raincoat since the park is prone to the occasional showers and thunderstorms. At the same time, the sun too can be particularly hot during summer season so don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sunrays that are particularly strong in higher elevations. Some people who plan to camp for a few hours bring tents, portable chairs for picnics, and their own bikes or kayaks as well.
What to Do
There are a number of activities you can do on your Yosemite National Park day trip. The majority of visitors come to hike, cycle, cross-country ski if visiting in winter, or just simply enjoy the beautiful sceneries that surround them. 95% of the park is considered wilderness so it’s very easy to find a quiet spot to relax for a few hours. Swimming, especially in summer, is also a popular activity. Most do so on the banks of the Merced River or at watering holes in Tuolumne Meadows and High Sierra campsites.
If you’re traveling with young children, Yosemite National Park has a Junior Ranger program that makes learning about nature and the history of the park more fun. Some of the lectures include learning about the animals that naturally inhabit the park, how glaciers helped shaped the peaks and troughs, and the lives of the Native American Indians that once called the park home. There are also interactive exhibits and a 20-minute movie inside the Visitors’ Center that provide guests an overview of the park.
Things to Keep In Mind
Yosemite National Park is first and foremost, a wilderness preserve, so you will see animals roaming in the wild. It’s imperative to keep them “wild” by never approaching them or giving them food we as humans consume. There are placards and signs all over the park that remind visitors never to feed animals, whether it be birds or squirrels. Second, the park is a natural wonder, enjoyed by millions of visitors annually. Respecting it by keeping it clean ensures that it remains available for future generations to enjoy. Finally, adhere to the instructions and precautions posted and set by rangers within the park particularly when it comes to road and hiking signs. They are there for your safety. As I explained to my four-and-a-half old niece on our recent Yosemite National Park day trip, we are visitors to the park so it’s important for us to be respectful of the animals and plants that call the park home.