With only four days left of our time in California, and one more big bucket list item, we headed to Yosemite!! We decided to drive through the night so we could have as much daylight as possible during our day trip. We made it to Oakhurst, CA at about 1am and took a nap until 430am to try to make it to Glacier Point for the sunrise. As we’re driving along the long windy road through the forest wondering if we’re going to make it before sunrise, we suddenly round a corner, the trees clear, and BOOM there it is, in all its glory, the famous half dome of Yosemite. I admit both Josh and I start screaming and laughing like little kids the second we rounded that corner… It was that epic… Those who have seen this place I’m sure know the feeling.
We quickly park, grab our cameras, hustle to the clearing, and there are three deer just hanging out! As if the half dome wasn’t epic enough!! They were so chill and weren’t spooked as we walked around and took pictures. Coolest morning ever!!
We took pictures for a while, absolutely in awe of the beauty of the valley and these majestic rocks! (Side note to photographers: these pictures technically aren’t from the actual”Glacier Point” Viewpoint, they are from the first viewpoint as your coming from the parking lot)
The sunrise alone was worth the 6+ hour drive, by far the most beautiful thing we saw at the park!!
Random: There are beautiful blue birds (Stellar Jay Birds) and squirrels EVERYWHERE. This squirrel decided to put on a cute little show for us on the way back to the parking lot.
The whole park is absolutely incredible! There are so many hikes and tons of other recreational things to do! We only had the day to experience this beautiful park, so I tried to find the best things to see in Yosemite for our day trip. Here is what we saw, and some tips and info for friends who are planning on going themselves:
- Glacier Point: MUST SEE! (the shuttle does not take you this far, but it is definitely worth the drive for the view!)
- Tunnel View: If driving into the valley from Wawona Road, it is right after the tunnel (hence the name) Gorgeous spot for taking pictures/selfies!!
- Bridal Veil Falls: Not the most epic waterfall in the summer, but a nice easy .5 mile walk.
- El Capitan: You can see this while driving in the Valley, we stopped on the side of the road to get a picture.
- Nature Center at Happy Isles: Has a lot of information about the wildlife in the area and the old fish hatchery.
- Vernal Falls via John Muir trail: decent uphill 4 mile hike. We recommend doing at least one hike, the views of the cliffs around you and the beautiful scenery is breathtaking. The water coming down from these cliffs turns into mist and is so refreshing when you get up close to these waterfalls!! (The hike is paved)
- Yosemite Visitors Center & free short movie: The visitors center had lots of geological information, historic information, and of course souvenirs. The short movie we saw was essentially how Yosemite became first State Park during the Civil War, and later made into a National Park. It was also nice to give our legs a break and get some Air Conditioning!
- Lower Falls: (easy 1 mile loop) Beautiful redwood trees!
- Dinner: some deliciously expensive pizza in the Curry Village
- Valley View: On your way out, it is super easy to miss! It’s right next to the river and is very picturesque
- Park the car and use the shuttle! It’s free, has AC, and takes you pretty close to all the major sites in the valley!
- The Village store has a bunch of snacks and ice cream and basic stuff people need when camping if you forget anything!
- We went at peak season so I was worried about the crowds, but the park is so huge it really wasn’t that bad. If you want pictures without tourists, sunrise is the best time. I was surprised at how few people there were at Glacier Point for the sunrise (maybe 10-15)
- This website was helpful with things to do & see in Yosemite Escapetraveler.com
And here are some pictures of the scenery!