In my recent article about Safari West, I felt compelled to warn you to expect a lot of photos, and this article on The Secret to Seeing Yosemite in a Day will be much the same. Heavy on photos and totally worth the looksee, if I do say so myself <smile>. So grab a cup of Joe and settle in, and then start planning your trip to San Francisco to see these amazing sites. You'll be glad you did!
Tip: Want to learn more about the beautiful sights pictured? It's easy! Just click on the photo, and a new window will open.
Visiting Yosemite National Park is the first thing we did after arriving in San Francisco, and it set the bar high for the rest of our San Francisco adventure! Yosemite is amazing!
It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of nature I was ever permitted to enter ~John MuirOne of the secrets to seeing Yosemite in a day is you have to get up early in the morning, even if you just flew in from the East coast hours earlier. Our daughter recently moved all the way across the country for a sweet new job in San Francisco, so naturally we had to go check things out. We flew into San Francisco on a Friday night and woke up super early Saturday morning, jet-lag and all, to meet the tour bus and head out on a day trip to Yosemite National Park.
That, my friends, is my best secret to seeing Yosemite in a day. Book a tour! It is one of the BEST decisions I made when planning our trip to San Francisco! I'd never been on a group tour before, so it was a little risky, but read on to learn how Extranomical Tours changed my whole viewpoint on group tours...
Someone else handles all the stress of getting there:
Once we boarded the bus, our driver, Geno, shared the good news that even so it snowed overnight in Yosemite, the road was open leading to the "big trees"! I was so excited, I let out a little squeal! I really wanted to see the tunnel tree, and Geno was rearranging the schedule to make sure we would get there before anymore bad weather ruined it for us!!
BTW - Snow? in May? We're Floridians! We don't do snow. Drive in a hurricane? Sure, no problemo, but we've never driven in snow, so I was extra glad to have a driver to manage the curvy mountain roads that could possibly be icy too. Right off the bat, I'm patting myself on the back for taking a risk and booking a group tour.
On board entertainment:
Geno was a great driver with a strong Russian accent. He was very entertaining and had unique ways to describe things such as using the word 'dozers' for what we typically call 'boulders'. From this point forward, we will always remember our Yosemite day trip fondly when we see a big 'dozer' in our travels.
Tour drivers know all the best places:
It's a bit of a drive from San Francisco to Yosemite, so along the way Geno made a pit stop to give us an opportunity to stretch our legs, use the restroom, and pick up lunch if we like. And like we did! We made a beeline to the sandwich counter and ordered up a Santa Cruz Turkey Sandwich to have a picnic lunch in Yosemite later in the day. That sandwich was sooo good, I just had to duplicate it at home. Click here to subscribe to Life Tastes Good to get my upcoming recipe remake of this sandwich, as well as all of our recipes, free in your inbox. Until then, here is a sneak peek of all the yumminess...
Less driving. More family time:
The drive to Yosemite is beautiful and Geno entertains by pointing out the sights along the way. It was much nicer to be a passenger. As I mentioned, we had just gotten to San Francisco, so by having a driver, we were able to focus our attention on catching up with our daughter, and enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way, instead of worrying about the road.
The one con is really not a con at all:
There is one con to going on a tour, but it's actually a pro (IMHO). Being on a tour limits the time you spend at each attraction. This is actually a good thing for me. I loved the Tuolumne Grove so much, I could have stayed there forever! I surely would have missed seeing the beauty and wonder that is the Yosemite Valley if I wasn't on a group tour.
The drivers know the best spots to visit:
The hike to the grove was easy, albeit a little icy from the snowfall, but it was so peaceful, and the views didn't disappoint the whole way...
Although, the more popular grove, Mariposa Grove, is closed for restoration until 2017, we very much enjoyed the Tuolumne Grove. The "big trees", as Geno calls them, are inTREEguing (that little bit of cleverness is courtesy of my nerdy husband haha)
Not all the trees in the grove are Sequoias, but they definitely stand out on the trail. You cannot miss the Giant Sequoias! Their unmistakable red bark, along with their imposing size, gives them away!
Before heading back to the bus, we made sure we found the tunnel tree. I think we lingered just a little too long, but it's hard to pull yourself away from such a picturesque and peaceful spot. I could have stayed there for hours!
Just a little past the tunnel tree, Madison found a spot she fit into...
The hike to the Tuolumne Grove is all down hill, so be warned you will have to hike uphill all the way back to the tour bus. Some of which is pretty steep. Give yourself plenty of time, or you will suffer much deserved nasty looks from your tour-mates.
Next stop was Inspiration Point, also known as Tunnel View, offering a beautiful, panoramic view of the Yosemite Valley, El Capitan (on the left), Half Dome (in the center), and Sentinel Rock and Bridalveil Falls (on the right). I'm not usually rendered speechless, but this view left me staring in wide-eyed wonder. I wish my pictures could do it justice, but it is nearly impossible to get a sense of how truly spectacular Yosemite is unless you experience the grandeur in person with all 5 senses. It is AH-MAZING!
Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space ~Ansel Adams
Let someone else deal with the crowds:
Tunnel View is a VERY popular spot in Yosemite! We visited at a non-peak time of year and the place was still packed, making this another great reason to go with a guided tour. To be honest, If I were driving, I would have kept on going right past when I saw ALL the people and cars! There is NO WAY I would have braved all that chaos, but all I had to worry about was getting off the bus without tripping and falling on my face. Yep! It's true, taking a tour really is the secret to seeing Yosemite in day!
Our last stop for the day was another very busy spot in the park, and again, I would have kept on going right by. Clearly, if we weren't on a tour, we wouldn't have seen anything but the inside of the car!
Thankfully, Geno is a patient man and had no problem with the crowds, because this last stop was truly a lovely spot to enjoy our Santa Cruz Turkey Sandwich we picked up earlier. Our tummies were definitely telling us it was time to eat, so when we arrived at Yosemite Falls, we found a quiet spot and sat down on a cluster of rocks to enjoy our sandwich and chips, while taking in the beauty all around us.
The main attraction during our picnic lunch was Yosemite Falls. At 2,425 ft., Yosemite Falls is one of the world's tallest waterfalls. We're told the falls vary in water flow throughout the year, and sometimes even disappear entirely during drought conditions, but most agree, the best time to enjoy the majesty of the falls is in the spring after the winter thaw. We're told, this winter, Yosemite had higher than normal snow and rainfall, which made for an impressive amount of water flowing over the falls while we were visiting.
Again, I wish I could share with you all the greatness we witnessed, but you simply have to be there to drink in the intoxicating beauty at every turn while you breathe air so fresh and crisp, you can taste it! You simply must feel the dampness on your skin from being so close to the falls, and hear the deafening roar of the water thundering down the side of the giant rock wall to get the full experience that is Yosemite National Park. Add this trip to your bucket list!
There you have it! The Secret to Seeing Yosemite in a Day is to book a tour! What a great day trip from San Francisco! Because Extranomical Tours took care of all the details, we didn't have to worry about anything and were able to just show up and enjoy the day stress-free. We got to see many of the well-known favorite spots in the park, and came home with great memories and lots of beautiful photos. In my opinion, it's the best way to see Yosemite in a day.
Disclosure: I'd like to thank Extranomical Tours for inviting us on a complimentary Total Yosemite Experience while we were visiting San Francisco. No further compensation was provided, and I was under no obligation to write this article. As always, all opinions are my own.
Did you know there is an African Safari just north of San Francisco? Check out my article to learn more. Safari West: Winos & Rhino Safari is definitely one for the bucket list!
For more tips on what to see and do while in the San Francisco area, be sure to visit San Francisco Travel - the place to find out about all things San Francisco.