From “The City” To Yosemite: My Take On The One-Day Tour

How many of us California non-natives dream of spending a day in Yosemite National Park?

These days, that’s actually easy enough to suss next time you’re San Fran-bound (who doesn’t love San Francisco?).  Still, you may wonder: what do you actually get to see and experience on a Yosemite day tour?

Well, what you definitely need to factor-in is the commercial nature of your so-called (ad)venture; so, there are certain things you’re absolutely bound to do – imperatives, essentially.

And the rest..?


One thing you should do is stop for food en-route, because without a doubt all you’re going to want to do when you finally enter the park is explore, given that time is overwhelmingly tight.

Plus, you’re far less likely to leave feeling “underdone”.

So, when your tour guide empties the bus of all passengers at your group’s designated supermarket: get cracking, Sunshine.

Back on board, the ascending journey through the awesomeness of the Sierras is pretty fine “prep” for what’s to come (those next-level vistas, yo), and pre-park entrance there should eventually be some mention of a grove of giant redwood sequoias (‘Tuolumne Grove’ traces along the San Fran route).

When the time comes, disembark; and disregard any cautionary talk about the altitude effects, the limited time-frame, or the many respiratory challenges of hiking back up the hill.

The wilderness and everything that comes-with is exactly why you’re here.

You signed-up for this – remember?

As a rather interesting aside: to translate the word “Yosemite” is to delve into a somewhat painful past, despite all the apparent serenity.

We’re all familiar with the perpetual suffering(s) of America’s many Indian nations (#NoDAPL, *hello*).  Well, ‘Yos s e’meti’ is a direct Miwokan reference to “those who kill” – in this case, the invading Mariposa Battalion (c. 1851) (*our guide’s version).

The term was uttered so incessantly by natives during said invasion that battalion members assumed they were referring to their surrounds, their ‘space’.

Turns out they were simply calling a spade a spade.


Okay, so, with your arrival at ‘Tunnel View’ pending shortly past said grove, my advice is to park-up, pause, and prepare to breathe deeply.

This is easily one of the most photographed vantages in the park, complete with every person and their dog “en-fringe”.

You’ll need to scrap a little to get the shot (and space) you want; check your camera for any “strays” (oh, the puns) posing on your periphery before you go, and try to remember just how iconic that thurr view is.

From here, you’ll meander for a few miles before eventually settling alongside El Capitan’s ‘Camp 4’ campground(s), and finally be free of that “tin-can travel” feeling (bus journeys, *ugh*).

Here’s where you get to beat your feet wherever you choose, and honestly, the best advice we could’ve ever been given in all this was to simply follow the river to Swinging Bridge, and picnic ourselves silly.

The route there ensures mad-, rad-as views of some of the key aspects of this place; you’ll pass beneath moody, broody “El Cap” (be sure to gasp accordingly), and notice omnipresent Half Dome in the surrounding landscape.  This’ll also be your very best view of Yosemite Falls, and if yours is anything like ours was, you’ll be fighting-off hungry ravens while you snack on your sammie (that slightly unnerving “wild bird combo” of tame and ravenous (ha, *sorry*)).

The Merced River route to Swinging Bridge; Half Dome (2,693m) sits in the distance.
El Capitan (2,307m).
Yosemite Falls from Swinging Bridge – our lunchtime view.

A return-trip along the same line allows for some quality time in the park’s gift shop-slash-visitors’ centre, and you’ll want this if you’re keen on souvenirs.

The coffee’s pretty darn decent, too.

Expect your guide to remain relatively staunch in terms of ‘timeline’; from my experience, you’ll be boarding your bus after accomplishing approximately as much as I’ve described here.

I can’t say for certain whether our guide’s open-mindedness was attributable to this particular day comprising something of a “last hurrah”, or whether we were just lucky (*he was coming to New Zealand, and handily, some of us were New Zealanders (that whole “cool, let’s kōrero” thing)), but additional stops on the way back included a sensational wide-lens perspective of El Capitan from Northside Drive (there were climbers, we wanted to watch ’em – ants, effectively).

Making photographic memories – Northside Drive…

Valley View’s views were also much appreciated (auē, *grins*).

Finally, be prepared for heavy traffic in the evening, especially on the oft-problematic (San Francisco-Oakland) “Bay Bridge”.

Save some camera battery so you can pore over the day’s many, many highlights, maybe…


(*See here for our tour provider (*thumbs up*));


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