Here is another TripList that I'm converting to a forum thread to preserve the ideas. This is feasible in Summer or early Fall.
Daylight hours: www.SunriseSunset.com
=> 1. Start with a Basic Map
Get an overview of the areas in the 1200 square mile National Park you're about to explore.
=> 2. What to see as you drive into Yosemite Valley
Get into Yosemite Valley early in the morning. Take an early morning view from Tunnel View, stop at Bridalveil Fall and make the short walk up to the waterfall, then park in a Visitor lot. The Yosemite Falls parking lot west of Yosemite Valley Lodge is the best choice for this busy itinerary as it's the easiest to exit Yosemite Valley.
=> 3. Jump on the shuttle to your chosen destination (or ride the shuttle later, if you're beginning the hike from your car.)
Grab your picnic lunch, get on the shuttle and head out. Choose one of these:
- Valley Floor Trail from Lower Yosemite Fall to Mirror Lake / Meadow
- Upper Yosemite Fall to Columbia Rock
(Or rent bikes at Yosemite Valley Lodge and pedal the loop around the Valley.)
When you're done with your hike & picnic, ride a shuttle back to your car.
=> 4. Drive up to Glacier Point & Sentinel Dome
Drive 1 hour up to Glacier Point. Walk around for some nice views. Then drive back to Sentinel Dome and take the 2.2 mile round trip hike. Move quickly. Descriptions of Glacier Point and of Sentinel Dome are in the Top Questions. You might choose to use the Sentinel Dome short-cut parking.
Note that you are likely to need to use the shuttle from Badger Pass Ski Area parking lot, if you visit during the busy summer.
=> 5. End the day with Mariposa Grove
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias will reopen this fall. www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/mg.htm
Drive almost an hour down to Wawona. Stop at the Wawona Store if you need to pick up any more food supplies. Continue on to Mariposa Grove. Arrive after most of the visitors are gone, probably after 6:00. At this time there should be room in the small parking lot. Grab your picnic dinner, your printed map, and head out on the trails to the Grizzly Giant & California Tunnel Tree and beyond.
=> 6. Off to your hotel
Drive to your reserved lodging outside the South Gate. Be careful driving on the roads as some animals will be out and about.