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Yosemite in a Day
Yosemite Falls Spring
Itineraries Yosemite In A Day - Spring
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Yosemite in a Day - Spring

Spring is an ideal time to be in Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada. The waterfalls are flowing, dogwoods are in bloom and the river is rushing. Get an early start! This is a full day’s worth of activities.

Note:  As of May 21st Yosemite has implemented a temporary Day Use Reservation system through September 30, 2021.  Click HERE for more details on how to visit this summer.

From the Visit Yosemite | Madera County visitors center in Oakhurst: Go northbound 14 miles on Hwy 41 to the Yosemite Park south entrance.  Stay on Hwy 41 (Wawona Road) all the way to Yosemite Valley. (Park entry fee is $35 per car, good for 7 days; if you are 62 or older and a US citizen or permanent resident, you can obtain a Senior Pass for $80, good for life for all National Parks).  

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

A walk through the giants...

This area may open in late spring if there is heavy snowfall in the winter. Stroll or hike among our Gentle Giants, the largest living things on earth. The giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove approach 2,000 years old and provided the impetus for the creation of Yosemite National Park. The Native Americans stepped here first, followed by adventurers such as Galen Clark, John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt. 

Park in the welcome area and take the free shuttle up to the arrivals area. (Please Note: All Yosemite National Park Shuttles will not operate in 2021. A two-mile walk or bike ride is necessary to access the grove. Vehicles with handicapped placards will be accommodated - click HERE for current details. )

Walking/hiking is required to see most of the trees in the grove. Go prepared with a hat, good hiking shoes, and plenty of water. Take refillable water bottles since no disposable water bottles are sold in the Welcome Area gift shop. There are drinking fountains to fill your bottles at the Welcome Center and at the Arrival Station stroll to the Fallen Monarch, an easy trail, about .3 mile loop - EASY

Hike to the Grizzly Giant, the largest tree accessible to the public, two miles round trip - MODERATE Journey to the Upper Grove cabin and Wawona Point, seven miles round trip – STRENUOUS (check to make sure this trail is open – may be closed due to snow) For those with a handicap placard, you can drive to the parking area near the Grizzly Giant to enjoy a short, accessible walk to the Griz. Seven handicap spaces are available in that lot, along with restrooms.

Historic Wawona Hotel

The historic Wawona Hotel at dusk

Things to do and see: 

  • Wawona Hotel
  • Pioneer History Center
  • Walk the Meadow Loop (easy, 3.5 mile loop, flat)
  • Hike Chilnualna Falls (moderately easy to first cascade—2 mile round trip. strenuous to upper cascades, 8 mi round trip, 2,300 ft elevation gain, possible snow on trail). 
  • Play Golf at Wawona Golf Course (Not available in 2021)
  • Have dinner in the Wawona Hotel and listen to Tom Bopp (musician/Yosemite historian) Tuesday through Friday 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm

Travel to next Point of Interest:

Take Glacier Point Road out 16 miles to the point; return the way you came (seasonal road). Special note: It may be closed due to weather. The Park Service tries to have Glacier Point Road open by Memorial Day weekend.

Glacier Point Panoramic

Stunning views of Half Dome from Glacier Point

  • Hike McGurk Meadow – spectacular wildflowers in late summer - easy 2 miles. If you hike to creek crossing, you may find head-high wildflowers in bloom.
  • Hike to Dewey Point – moderate, 8 miles round trip, stunning views.
  • Hike to Sentinel Dome - moderate, 2.2 miles round trip, best 360-degrees views of valley and high country.
  • View Nevada and Vernal Falls from Washburn Point and Glacier Point.
  • Birds’-eye view of Yosemite Valley from 3,200 ft above valley floor.

Travel to next Point of Interest:  From Glacier Point, turn right on Wawona Road; continue down to Yosemite Valley. You will go through a mile-long tunnel.

  • Tunnel View – Immediately after exiting tunnel, park on right or left. Watch for traffic! Spectacular view of Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, Clouds Rest, El Capitan. Quintessential photo opportunity!
  • Bridalveil Fall – Walk ¼ miles to base of fall. (Be prepared to get wet!)
  • Continue along the road to the Yosemite Chapel which is the oldest building still in use in Yosemite Valley, dating from 1879, and spectacular view of Yosemite Falls from outside chapel. 

  • From Yosemite Chapel continue to Sentinel Bridge. Turn left over Sentinel Bridge and park at Shuttle Stop 11.  Walk back to middle of bridge. This is one of the best-known photo locations in Yosemite - Half Dome over the Merced River.

NOTE:  The Yosemite Valley Shuttle will not be operating in 2021.  You can use the referenced "stops" for your car or bike stopping places. 

Shuttle Stop 1

  • DAY PARKING:  – Park your car and forget it for the rest of your visit to Yosemite Valley, until you’re ready to leave.
  • Take the free Yosemite Valley shuttle bus to all the major spots in the valley 

Shuttle Stop 6

  • Yosemite Falls – ½ mile walk to base of Lower Yosemite Falls

Shuttle Stop 5/9

  • Valley Visitors Center
  • Visitors Center & Bookstore - watch "The Spirit of Yosemite" in Theater
  • Ansel Adams Gallery
  • Indian Museum

Shuttle Stop 3

  • The Ahwahnee Hotel. Great for LUNCH 1-209-372-1489. Dinner reservations only necessary (dress code applies for dinner; none for lunch) 

Shuttle Stop 8

  • Yosemite Valley Lodge - Valley/Glacier Point tours depart from here – info and reservations 1-209-372-4386 

Shuttle Stop 16

  • Happy Isles - See the Fen and the Happy Isles Nature Center
  • Hike to Vernal Falls Footbridge - .8 miles UP
  • Hike to Nevada Falls – 1 mile to top of Vernal Falls (very steep stone steps; you will get quite wet in spring/early summer) – another 2 miles to top of Nevada Fall.

Shuttle Stop 17

  • Mirror Lake – walk out about 1 mile to Mirror Lake for an up-close view of the face of Half Dome. It’s an easy walk for a big payoff. 
  • Those are just a few of the adventures you can have in Yosemite Valley. One more awaits you as you’re leaving the valley via Northside Drive -->
Valley View

A perfect place for a picnic with a view

  • Watch for the big pullout on the left as you approach the Pohono Bridge. You'll often find "green dragon" tram tours there. This view from here is a panorama of Yosemite Valley from a different perspective.

A Parting Gift

If you have time and the road is open, don't miss the opportunity to view the Yosemite high country up-close-and-personal by traversing the Tioga Road, which goes across the park to the east side of the Sierra Nevada. For some of us, this is the most beautiful, most spectacular part of the park.


Like what you see? Save any (or all) of these pins to your travel planning board(s) to give you any easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other itineraries and blog posts for more ideas and pins!

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
Visit Yosemite - Madera County
Oakhurst Visitor Center, 40343 Highway 41, Oakhurst, CA 93644
(559) 683-4636
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