Outbound Collective logo

How to Spend the Perfect Day in Yosemite National Park

We couldn’t stop gawking and taking photos...

By: Vancity Wild + Save to a List

We try to make the pilgrimage down south to California once a year to drink in the beauty that is Yosemite National Park. It's a must visit! This fall, we got the itch to make the trip again. Our favorite time to head to the park is mid-late Autumn when the leaves have turned and the traffic is lighter. There is still warmth from the sunshine, but a chill hits the air as soon as you pass into the shade, it’s literal magic! Here are a few of our top tips for a great stay in YNP.

We drove into the park after sunset and landed at our favorite place to stay – Curry Village. The village consists of heated and non-heated tents, (can you guess which we chose?! Heated tents are such a treat!). It’s so nice to wake up feeling cozy warm when the temperature dips below zero at night and the ground is covered in frost.

After a toasty sleep our alarm got us out of bed at 5am, because when one is in Yosemite, one MUST witness a Yosemite sunrise. No negotiations. The prospective view made waking up easy, and no matter how many times we’ve been to the park, stepping outside the tent and gazing up at the surrounding mountains is always a breathtaking experience. In the dark haze of early morning, we set out to Tunnel View, a scenic overlook that spans across Yosemite Valley. To the left, the face of El Capitan borders the edge of the valley, Half Dome sits regally in the distance, and Bridalveil Fall is off to the right. Standing in front of Tunnel View makes you feel as though you’ve entered the land before time – untouched and peaceful, the best place to watch the sun come up.

For a mid-morning stop along the way we highly recommend the lookout at Glacier Point Road, where you can get a good view of Half Dome. Fyi, Glacier Point Road closes when the snow hits, and last year November disappointed us an early snowfall so we couldn't make it in. However, pros and cons; Yosemite is also incredibly beautiful covered in snow! So perhaps a win-win either way. Bring a blanket and a thermos full of coffee and Glacier Point makes the perfect spot for that morning snack. 

A late lunch along the river, flanked on both sides by golden meadows and wildlife makes for an afternoon well spent. Waterfalls pour from above, and if you can stay here for magic-hour, the entire area is drenched in sunlight.

As for sunset, when you're Yosemite you gotta do it right! And doing it right means hiking to Taft Point to watch the sun dip below the valley. From the trailhead, it’s about a 20-minute trek. Once you reach the point, the sheer cut-offs on the side of the rock are the truest test of whether or not you’re afraid of heights. It's steep. Any fear however, might be upstaged by the grandeur of the view. You can walk towards the edge, but there are no guardrails so we recommend exercising caution. In fact, from this elevation, you actually look down on El Capitan. As we’d never been to the park during a time when Glacier Point road was open, this was a first for us and we loved it! We couldn’t stop gawking and taking photos–essentially a photographer's dream. The perfect end to another amazing stay in Yosemite.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


The 6 Best Hikes In Yosemite National Park

Kyle Frost

Pushing Boundaries in the Outdoors: The Grand Canyon of Tuolumne

Kristen Fuller

20 Incredible Adventures in Yosemite National Park

The Outbound Collective

Yosemite National Park Reclaims Historic Names

Aaron Rickel Jones

How to Beat the Crowds in Yosemite Valley

Joseph Gulizia