Yosemite (pronounced yo-sem-it-ee) National Park has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Since I decided to move to Vietnam, I wanted to complete one last road trip down the west coast to see some more of my country before I left. And Yosemite was the grand finale of that road trip. I was on a strict schedule, so I challenged myself to see Yosemite National Park in 24 hours.
Most people visiting Yosemite fly into the airport in San Francisco and rent a car. Since I was already driving, I came straight from San Francisco in my Subaru Crosstrek, which is perfect for car camping. Yosemite is just under a four hour drive from San Francisco and about a three hour and twenty minute drive from Sacramento.
Since I wanted to start my day exploring the park early, I drove in the night before and stayed in an Airbnb located in Mariposa. It’s a small town with cute restaurants, shops, and ice cream parlors. It was a great home base during my trip and only an hour outside of the park’s entrance.
What to See
Because I only had a day to see the park, I decided to keep my hiking to a minimum to be able to see as much as I can. While there is lots of hiking options in the park, you would need to have more than one day to be able to see everything and get a good hike in. Most of my day was spent driving the roads and getting out for views and short walks.
This was a short walk on a trail to show a really pretty waterfall. There were rocks to climb for the adventurous, but the trail was easy to walk overall.
There’s a parking lot right before the Yosemite Tunnel, and it was one of my favorite views in the park. It was the perfect way to kick off the nature views on this road trip. You can get a good view of the tunnel, but you can also turn around and see the vast landscape of Yosemite Valley. It’s probably the most photographed area in the park.
Pro Tip: Artist Point Trail is just across the view point, and offers a nice 2 mile trail with great views of the valley.
This was the one hike I decided to do during my trip to see Yosemite National Park in 24 hours. It’s a quick four mile trail that loops around the lake and Tenaya Canyon. There’s almost no elevation gain, so it was a really nice stroll in the Yosemite wilderness. I pretty much had the trail to myself (although not the case in summers), and it was gorgeous. I saw views of Half Dome and North Dome, while providing a beautiful reflection on the lake.
Yosemite Falls & Cook’s Meadow Loop
Cook’s Meadow was a great place to view Yosemite Falls and get a view of the meadow in the center of the valley. It loops around for about two miles and connects you to the Sentinel Bridge.
Pro Tip: You can jump onto the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail head to hike up to the Lower Yosemite Fall Vista Point
Yosemite Village is a developed area in the valley that has restaurants and cabins. I didn’t do a whole lot here, but it was cool to get out and look around the area.
Other Sites to Keep a Lookout for During Your Adventure
These are the places that were visible during the trip, but there’s wasn’t a specific viewing point for them. A lot of them you could see from the road. They’re all stunning so definitly worth the mention for your trip to seeing Yosemite National Park in 24 hours.
- Yosemite Falls
- Half Dome
- El Capitan
- Tunnel View
- Glacier Point
- Omsted Point
- Three Brothers
I had so much fun visiting Yosemite National Park in 24 hours. I happened to be there during the winter, so the crowds weren’t very bad. However, there were some road closures due to the snow. The road that lead to Glacier Point was closed, so I wasn’t able to visit it, but I know it’s one of the best views in the park. Let me know what your favorite sight in Yosemite was in the comments below! Make sure to contact us if you need help planning your next trip.