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Yosemite Valley | © Kevin Cole/Flickr
Yosemite Valley | © Kevin Cole/Flickr
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How To Spend 24 Hours In Yosemite National Park, California

Picture of Josh Bahns
Updated: 9 February 2017
Yosemite is Disneyland for the outdoorsman, with so many incredible adventures that will keep you busy for hours. It’s a beautiful spot where granite walls stretch up to the sky and water falls down to the valley floor. If you have a free day, make it a Yosemite day.

Yosemite’s Big Oak Flat entrance is about a three-hour drive from the general Bay Area, but it is worth it. When you enter the park, you’ll be surrounded by people from all over the world.

© Josh Bahns
© Josh Bahns

Before you make it into the park, there’s a great breakfast restaurant you must visit. Priest Station Café is a perfect little spot hidden in the hills. It’s owned by the world-class climber, Conrad Anker, he was part of the three-person team that made a documentary on their ascent on Meru. Order the steak and eggs if you plan on having a strenuous day in the park. If you plan on having an easy day, still order the steak and eggs because they’re amazing, and you deserve it.

Priest Station Café, 16756 Old Priest Grade, Big Oak Flat, CA, USA, +1 209 962 1888

After grabbing breakfast, finish up the last stretch of your drive. Try and get to Yosemite as early as possible if you’re going on a weekend. You don’t want to spend the beginning of your day in nature waiting in a line of SUVs.

Once you finally make it through the gate, drive into Yosemite Valley and make the full loop. Stop wherever you find an eye-grabbing view. Pull out a lawn chair and look up at Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, or any of the amazing sights in Yosemite National Park.

© Josh Bahns
© Josh Bahns

After the loop, head to Curry Village. It’s a little area filled with shops and food spots. Go into the cafeteria and grab a pizza for the family, friends, or even just for yourself. Sit back and enjoy your meal in the cozy lobby area surrounded by the rest of your fellow Yosemite adventurers.

Curry Village, Yosemite National Park, CA, USA, +1 801 559 4884

Once you’ve done your sightseeing, and you grabbed some fuel, go for a little hike. Mist Trail is perfect for a beginner, it has great views all along the way. You can keep the walk short and stop at one mile, or you can keep powering to the top of the waterfall for about five miles. Either way, you’ll have a breathtaking view that’ll make you forget about your burning calves. Mist Trail isn’t just a fun or catchy name, the trail is literally misty. The trail is so close to the waterfall that, during the spring and summer, it creates this damp mist over the entire trail. It makes it easy to walk on a hot day when you’re constantly being freshened by water, but be careful because it can be slippery!

After you’ve worked off your lunch, head on over to The Ahwahnee Hotel. This place will probably remind you of that one hotel from The Shining. The Ahwahnee bar and grill serves up a mean pulled pork sandwich with some great fries. Order an iced cold beer and enjoy a lovely moment in a world-class hotel. When the President of the United States feels like visiting Yosemite National Park, they stay in the Ahwahnee Hotel. It’s just that swanky kind of a place.

The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite National Park, CA, USA, +1 801 559 4884

The Ahwahnee Hotel © Ray Bouknight/Flickr
The Ahwahnee Hotel | © Ray Bouknight/Flickr

Your little lunch/dinner was relaxing, but now it’s time for some more nature. Head up to Glacier Point for one of the best views of the park. It’s 4,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor, and you can see the entire stretch of the park – trees, granite, waterfalls, and all of that good stuff. After locking in this view, head down south to Mariposa Grove, home of the Sequoia trees. Whether they’re filled with snow, or blocking the sun, these trees will humble you.

The sun is setting soon, so it’s time to find a good spot to sit down and relax. Head out of the park and into Hetch Hetchy Valley. It’s outside the gates of Yosemite, but it’s technically still apart of the park. Hetch Hetchy is like the little brother of Yosemite Valley, and it’s possibly prettier. Park your car in the lot, and walk down the quarter mile road. It should lead you to this dam, and a stunning view. Embrace the lack of cell service, and the separation from all the hustle and bustle. Throw down your chairs and enjoy the sight of the sun setting in the valley.

Hetch Hetchy Valley, CA, USA

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir © Sergey Gabdurakhmanov/Flickr
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir | © Sergey Gabdurakhmanov/Flickr