The Ultimate Guide to One Day in Yosemite on a Budget

The Ultimate Guide to One Day in Yosemite on a Budget

Planning a one day Yosemite trip and looking for how to spend one day in Yosemite on a budget? Look no further and continue reading as in this one day Yosemite itinerary guide I have put together all the frequently asked questions like what to do in Yosemite in one day, best places to visit, where to stay, best day hikes to Yosemite, where to eat, Yosemite one day travel cost, and so much more!

Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the United States to explore in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is packed with natural wonders, awesome hikes, and breathtaking views. If you want to make the most of your nature experience; from waterfalls and valleys to gorgeous rock formations and pristine lakes, follow our guide on one day Yosemite itinerary.

one day Yosemite itinerary

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BEST TIME TO VISIT YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

There is no offseason in Yosemite National Park, however, in winter many of the roads through the park are closed due to snow and ice. Yosemite receives maximum footfall between late spring and early autumn. Some visitors come only to see the fall colors of Yosemite National Park.

If you come to see the waterfalls, March to May is the peak time for water flows. Yosemite is busy even in winter weekend. It is the time for winter adventure activities – downhill and cross-country skiing, ice-skating, and snowshoeing.

Another advantage of winter is you can find some great deals on hotels and Airbnbs. November to February is the best time to visit Yosemite for budget travelers.

HOW TO GET TO YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

Getting to the National Park is very easy from anywhere in the world. If you fly to California you can rent a car from San Francisco(3.75 hours drive from Yosemite) or Sacramento(3.5 hours drive from Yosemite) and drive through the scenic route. There are several entrances from the east and west of the park. I recommend entering the park via CA-140. This route will offer you some nice scenery along the way as you drive alongside the Merced River. Yosemite park entrance pass costs $35/vehicle and is valid for seven days.

Tips: Parking is available throughout the park, but it is very limited. Try to reach as early as possible to reserve your parking.

Yosemite Tunnel
Yosemite Tunnel

Please Note: Check the road reports if you travel to Yosemite in winter as many of the roads are closed during winter.

Don’t have a car? Or want to avoid renting a car? No worry, budget travelers can use YARTS – public transportation to reach Yosemite valley. Their service is available year-round from Merced. You can take the Greyhound bus service to Merced. Amtrak offers train service to nearby cities and then take a bus to Yosemite. 

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HOW TO GET AROUND YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

You can use the free Yosemite shuttle service that will take you around to all of the major places such as Yosemite Village, Visitor Center, Lower Yosemite Fall, Mirror Lake Trailhead, Half Dome Village, and many more. I will recommend to park your car in the Village Visitor Center in the peak season and then just plan to take the shuttle service all day.

Yosemite shuttle service is FREE and available from 7 am to 10 pm.

Yosemite shuttle service
Yosemite Shuttle Service

ONE DAY IN YOSEMITE ITINERARY

So, a question will arise if one day in Yosemite is enough. It’s certainly not ideal, but 100 % possible to get the best of Yosemite in one day if you have proper planning and manage your 1 day Yosemite itinerary efficiently.

There are plenty of natural wonders and tourist attractions in Yosemite National Park. It’s obvious that you have to skip some sightseeing in Yosemite for the lack of time, but if you follow our 24 hours in Yosemite itinerary, I can assure you won’t be disappointed. So, be ready for an early wake-up and start your journey toward Yosemite National Park.

WHAT TO SEE IN YOSEMITE IN ONE DAY

As I already said, there are ample places to visit in Yosemite National Park, but if you are going to visit Yosemite in one day by car, I will highly recommend sightseeing in the following order as you drive through the park:

GLACIER POINT

If you tell me to choose only one spot in Yosemite National Park, I will pick up Glacier Point. It doesn’t matter whether you are on a long trip or a short weekend trip to Yosemite, you can’t afford to miss Glacier Point. It takes around an hour from the Valley Floor to reach the top by a twisty road driving up the mountain.

Shuttle buses are also available to Glacier Point. It is one of the most picturesque and breathtaking places I have ever seen. From Glacier Point, you get a fantastic panoramic view of Half Dome, as well as of Nevada Falls and the Yosemite Valley far, far below.

one day in Yosemite | Glacier Point
Glacier Point

MARIPOSA GROVE

An hour from Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove is the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite and home to over 500 matured trees, most famously the Grizzly Giant, a 1,880-year-old tree that stands nearly 210ft. The hikes through the giant sequoia trees aren’t tough, which makes it often as one of the most crowded places in the park.

Take some amazing pictures of some of the coolest trees that can be reached within half an hour on the trail.

Yosemite in one day | Giant Sequoia at Mariposa Grove
Giant Sequoia at Mariposa Grove

TUNNEL VIEW

This panoramic viewpoint is located at the east of the Wawona Tunnel portal. You can expect the best view of Yosemite Valley is from Tunnel View. This iconic vista stretches out to El Capitan on the left, Bridalveil Fall on the right, Half Dome in the distance, and also takes in the lush valley at the base of the huge granite walls.

The best time to visit Tunnel View is in the afternoon when the walls are highlighted in sunlight. You can park your car at the parking ground just beyond the tunnel as you enter Yosemite Valley from Wawona Road.

One day Yosemite itinerary | Tunnel View
Tunnel View

YOSEMITE VALLEY

Yosemite Valley if the heart of the National Park. It is the busiest part of the National Park. If you are planning to visit Yosemite valley by car, try to arrive here as early as possible to reserve your parking.

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Enjoy a two-hour-long Yosemite Valley Floor Tour in an open-air tram(during summer months) led by the park rangers. The tram stops at the highlighted spots and you will get to know the history, flora, and fauna throughout the park.

YOSEMITE FALLS

A day in Yosemite is incomplete if you don’t visit Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America. The waterfall has three tiers which can be seen from different vantage points. The water comes down with the echoing noise through much of the valley in the spring, and the rainbow that surrounds it on sunny days is one of the most magical things to see in the park. For those of you who want to have perfect sunny days for romantic weekend getaways, Yosemite is the perfect place.

Yosemite Falls | Planning a one day yosemite trip
Yosemite Falls

One can hike to the upper falls, but that would take an entire day. The Lower Yosemite Falls trail that leads to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls offers the best view and it takes only thirty minutes to hike. You can see most water flows from March to May.

YOSEMITE DAY HIKES

Yosemite is heaven for hikers. There are several options for hiking depending on your skill level. When you have only one day in Yosemite, you can either hike one long trail or several smaller trails. 

Short Easy Hikes

Glacier Point Hike(1-mile round trip): Probably the best short hike in Yosemite National Park. It offers 270- degree panoramic view of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Nevada Falls, Yosemite Valley, and many more. It is also the best sunset viewpoint in Yosemite.

Lower Mariposa Grove Hike(2.2 miles round trip): This hike involves some ascent but not hard. Visit the Grizzly Giant, the world’s oldest sequoia. Go at your own pace, explore, and take some great pictures of year-old sequoia trees.

Bridalveil Fall Hike(1.2 miles round trip): This short hike offers the best view in Spring when the falls are at their peak flow and in the afternoon, you might see rainbows in the spray.

Mirror Lake Hike(2 miles round trip): There is a path to walk on, or you can just follow the street directly leading to the lake. It is an easy walk with spectacular forest views all around that includes huge rocks, lovely meadows, and excellent views of Half Dome.

day hike in yosemite | Mirror Lake Hike
Mirror Lake Hike

Some other short day hikes in Yosemite: Lower Yosemite Falls hike, Tenaya Lake hike, Vernal Fall Footbridge hike, and many more.

Instead of these short hikes, if you would like to go for a long hike that offers the ultimate scenic beauty, I will recommend hiking the Mist Trail.

The Mist Trail(3 miles round trip)

It is the signature hike and one of the most spectacular hikes in Yosemite. The Mist Trail provides the steepest most intimate experience of Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. As you climb, the falls seem almost near enough to touch; their roar drowns any conversation.

Sometimes a rainbow forms at Vernal’s base, created by the billowing, cloudlike mist that gives the trail its name. There is a high chance to get drenched if a breeze blows.

It is a medium category hike and takes around 2-3 hours depending upon how far you go.

Rocky Mountain Cliff in Yosemite National Park
Rocky Mountain Cliff in Yosemite National Park

THE BEST YOSEMITE DAY TOURS

Yosemite is not all about travel by car; even some people find it difficult when it is about finding a parking area due to high traffic. In that case, I will suggest you book any of these day tours to get the best of Yosemite seamlessly.

WHAT TO BRING IN YOSEMITE TRIP

For a day trip to Yosemite in the summer months, be sure to wear sunscreen, bring plenty of water (you will hike at higher elevation), and some snacks(as there are no services in the park). Don’t forget the sturdy hiking shoes.

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WHERE TO STAY IN YOSEMITE FOR 1 DAY AT CHEAP

It doesn’t matter when you are planning to visit Yosemite, book your accommodation in Yosemite as early as possible. Yosemite hotels, campground fill months in advance.

CHEAP ACCOMMODATIONS IN YOSEMITE

Yosemite is not a cheap place to visit in the US. So, finding cheap accommodation can be painful. However, if you like to stay at a campsite you could save decent money. The best place in Yosemite to stay is Yosemite Valley, the hub of the park-like in Mariposa, Wawona, El Portal, Yosemite West, or Fish Camp. There are nine more camping grounds outside of the valley, some of which operate on a first come first serve basis. You can book a camp for two at just $45.

Camping in Yosemite Valley
Camping in Yosemite Valley

If budget is not a factor, you may prefer to stay in some well-reviewed hotels. Surprisingly hotel options near Yosemite are limited, but you can find a few good hotels in the nearby small towns.

HOTELS IN YOSEMITE VALLEY

  • The Ahwahnee Hotel (The Majestic Yosemite Hotel): The historic Grand lodge in Yosemite. 
  • The Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth: Best for Honeymoon couples.
  • Yosemite Valley Lodge: Budget-friendly hotel in the valley.
  • Curry Village: Budget-friendly cabins or canvas tents in the valley
Booking.com

HOTELS NEAR YOSEMITE

WHERE TO EAT IN YOSEMITE

Yosemite National Park has a decent amount of restaurants to satisfy your hunger. Whether you’re looking for breakfast, a packaged lunch or a romantic dinner, you will find everything here. You can check out some of the best restaurants in Yosemite here:

  • Wawona Hotel Dining Room
  • The Ahwahnee Dining Room
  • Degnan’s Kitchen
  • Glacier Point Snack Stand
  • Curry Village Dining
The Ahwahnee Dining Room | Restaurant in Yosemite
The Ahwahnee Dining Room in Yosemite

ONE DAY IN YOSEMITE TRAVEL COST

Yosemite is a place where you can enjoy the majestic scenery and natural wonders on either a backpacker budget or in five-star luxury. Here is our suggested cost breakdown for a day in Yosemite trip.

Food and water: $15-20 per person

Camp: $25/night($45 for 2 persons)

Hotel: $50/night

Local Transport: Free Shuttle service

Entrance Fee with Vehicle: $35

TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITING YOSEMITE IN ONE DAY

  • Plan your journey early in the morning to avoid parking issues in Yosemite. This popular National Park is very crowded in the summer.
  • Be careful by the waterfalls and cliff edges. People have regularly fallen to their deaths.
  • Use YARTS, public transportation in Yosemite. No need to be worried about parking. Leave your car in Sonora or Fresno and take the bus to Yosemite
  • Camping in Yosemite is very popular and it will save your money too. Bring a picnic dinner and enjoy watching the sunset.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks so you don’t have to find at the general store.

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