A guide to travel in Yosemite National Park

By Stephanie Nuzzo October 9, 2017
Yosemite Valley Travel

Thinking of exploring the Californian valley but low on time? This is how to get the most out of your mini adventure. 

Yosemite National Park is famous for its good looks. Travellers from all across the globe are drawn in by the promise of desktop-background-worthy panoramas, hikes that’ll get your blood pumping and a ton of wildlife. 

However, when it comes to planning a journey into the nature-packed destination, working out the logistics can be a little overwhelming for first-timers. 

How do you get there? 

How long should you spend at the park? 

Which hikes should you complete? 

Well, the truth is that there are a wealth of options available for you. If you’re keen to dive into a road trip, you can hire a car and drive on down. If you’re hoping to cut costs, you can make your way with public transport (if you’re travelling from San Francisco, you’ll need to hop on the Amtrak train from Richmond station). 

When it comes to time spent at the park, some people choose to duck in and out on a day-trip, while others can easily spend an entire week exploring the area.  

And looking at hikes, well, with the park sitting at over 3,000km² in size, it’s pretty safe to say that the list of “must-see” hikes is about as tall as the Yosemite’s tallest rock formation. 

If you’re low on time and want to make sure you get to see the very best of this natural beauty, your best bet is going to be a tour. Extranomical Tours is a top option – their two-day tour gives a jaw-dropping introduction to the park while removing the worry of planning out transport and accommodation. 

This is what that experience looks like:

Early morning – 6:20am:

The team will pick you up in San Francisco where the (approximately) five-hour journey to Yosemite will kick off. Your tour guide will treat you to little pieces of information about the park and what you can expect to see while you are there. 

(The drive is cut into two parts so you have a chance to stop off for a bite and a bathroom break mid-way through)


Arrive at the park – yay! 

Take a hike down to see the Giant Sequoia trees (which are truly impressive) and be sure to take a few snaps. 


Descend into Yosemite Valley and hop out of the bus to take in some seriously impressive scenes. In this time you’ll be treated to views of Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Inspiration Point, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. 


Yosemite THURSTON/AFP/GettyImages

Free time! Take a break for lunch and then head out on your independent hikes. Your bus will return back to San Francisco at this time and you a free to explore. We highly recommend taking some time to check out the Mist Trail (depending on how far you hike, this can take two to five hours). 

6pm onward: 

Chances are, you’re going to be worn out after a long adventurous day. Head back to your hotel for a shower, a hearty meal and a good sleep nice and early. 

Yosemite View Lodge is a great option for those looking to find a bed just outside of the park – if you’re lucky your room might even open out onto the beautiful Merced River. YARTS buses regularly travel between the park and the surrounding hotels, making travel between the two simple (just keep a close eye on the timetables). 

The on-site restaurant, River Restaurant and Lounge offers a yummy feed and, if you’re in the mood, a great wine selection, too. 

7am - 2:30pm: 

Yosemite Valley Travel

After a solid rest, hop up, get some breakfast in your belly and make your way back into the park with the YARTS bus (this will take about an hour). Once in the park, how you spend your time is up to you. 

Perhaps take a low-intensity hike to see Mirror Lake (this should take about an hour) or take a close up look at Yosemite Falls. 

Take some time out for lunch and perhaps some souvenir shopping, then at 2:30pm meet with your new tour guide and bus driver and begin the journey back to San Francisco, with a few photo stops along the way, of course. 

Image: THURSTON/AFP/GettyImages, Instagram