As anyone who’s been there will tell you, it would easy to spend a week exploring Yosemite National Park. With endless trails, spectacular hikes, and magnificent waterfalls, there’s a beautiful view hidden behind every rock and tree. But sometimes, a week isn’t on your cards – sometimes, not even a weekend is. So, if you’ve set a day aside and you’re trying to work out where to go, we’re here to help.
Whether you’re a seasoned climber or not, there’s no way you’ll have to time to scale all 2,694m of Half Dome – nor take the 10 hour hike to see it up close. But Half Dome is a natural granite masterpiece, so you want to get a look. If you’re on the ground, you can get amazing views from the Cook’s Meadow Trail – or, for a bit of lift, catch a glimpse from across the Columbia Rock Trail. Gaze towards the eastern end of Yosemite, and if you get there at the right time, you’ll see the most spectacular sunrise of your life.
Yosemite Falls & Lower Yosemite Falls
If this sounds like an obvious one, it’s only because it is. There’s a reason it’s got the same name as the park, after all! Towering above you at a whopping 1,647m tall, Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park – and the fifth tallest in the world. It’s actually made up of three waterfalls, with Lower Yosemite as the final 98m drop. While its size means you need to stand back to get a sense of just how big it is, heading to the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail takes you right up to the base. You’ll get some glorious views right above your head – but don’t forget to pack your anorak!
As the main river running through Yosemite, you’re spoiled for choice with all the riverside picnic spots, trails & bridges. However, heading to the eastern end of Yosemite yields another beautiful feature of the river: sandy beaches. Swimming is permitted in the Merced River, so if you’ve some time to spare or some sunburn to soothe, head down to one of the small beach areas for a dip in the refreshing waters.
Vernal Falls Footbridge
The Mist Trail, which heads up to Vernal Falls & Nevada Falls, is a tough hike. While it’s a firm favourite of walkers worldwide, if you’re trying to see as much of Yosemite as possible in a day, it might be prudent to stop short before starting the full, very steep climb. Instead, soak (literally) in the views from the Vernal Falls Footbridge. About a mile into the trail, it crosses to the other bank of the Merced River with a small footbridge, and it’s here that you’ll get your first proper glimpse of Vernal Falls. While this stretch of trail is paved, it’s still almost entirely uphill – so make sure you’re wearing your walking boots!
You can visit Yosemite for a day on our California Calling tour – click here to find out more.