Yosemite is open year-round. There are four entrances to the park: Highways 140, 41, 120 West and Tioga Pass/120 East of Crane Flat (closed in winter). Check road conditions prior to your trip by calling Yosemite National Park’s road conditions hotline (209) 372-0200 (then press 1 then 1) or check the Yosemite National Park website.
In the summer when traffic is heavy, try to arrive before 10.00 am or after 4.00 pm to avoid the congestion and delays!
During the peak summer season when traffic is very heavy in the park, it is best to park your car and use the shuttle services and guided bus and tram tours that are available to different parts of the park. Avoid driving in Yosemite in winter by taking the YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transit System). The YARTS bus picks up at several hotels along the Hwy 140 corridor in winter, so you can relax and enjoy the view and enjoy door-to-door service from your car to the park.
Hwy 140 is the all season highway, and is a less strenuous drive along the beautiful Wild and Scenic Merced River.
When the ice and snow is melting in the mountains, the waterfalls are all running and impressive. Be alert around the swift, ice cold and dangerous water!
Autumn, Winter and Spring are the best times for booking accommodations in the park. The park is beautiful during these seasons, less congested and more relaxing.
During the peak summer season when accommodations are full in Yosemite Valley, reserve your accommodations in one of the gateway communities of Mariposa, Coulterville, El Portal, Fish Camp, or Midpines. These towns are a short drive into the park. You can also leave your car at your hotel in these locations and catch the YARTS shuttle for a leisurely and relaxing ride into the valley from these towns. Once in the park, there are shuttle services and guided bus and tram tours to different parts of the park.
Yosemite Vacation Planner View this vacation planner online, or request a high quality conversation piece for your coffee table, with beautiful photos of Yosemite. A Trip Planner is available for you to select items in Yosemite that interest you, by clicking the “Add to Itinerary” button at the top of each interest page. Visit the Trip Planner page to get more information. Visit the Gateways to Yosemite page to see how you can enter Yosemite through one Highway and leave by another.
Weather ConditionsWeather conditions are always important to know before visiting Yosemite. You can view the road and weather conditions by visiting the Traffic, Weather, Distances page. Traffic Conditions Driving through Yosemite can be an amazing experience, although heavy traffic can interrupt this peaceful drive through the scenic routes. Schedule to enter the park at non-peak hours by viewing the traffic forecast for each day at NPS Traffic Forecast. No Gas Before entering Yosemite, fill up with gas. There are NO service stations in Yosemite Valley. The nearest gas station to the Valley is in El Portal on Highway 140 (13 miles), Crane Flat on the Big Oak Flat Road (15 miles), and in Wawona on the Wawona Road (27 miles).Plan ahead and be sure you have plenty of gas before you drive into the valley. A repair garage is open all year behind the Yosemite Village Store. A towing service is available 24 hours a day by calling (209)-372-8390.
Shuttle Buses In the park, there are free shuttle buses serving the eastern end of the valley. You are encouraged to park your car, either in one of the day use parking lots, or in the parking area associated with your accommodations if you are staying over. The buses serve some areas, such as the Happy Isles Nature Center (trailhead for Vernal and Nevada Falls, and Half Dome), the Mirror Lake trail, and the stables, closed to private cars.Free shuttle buses also provide service from the valley to Glacier Point (in summer), Badger Pass (winter), and Tuolumne Meadows (summer).
RV’s and Trailers RVs and trailers are permitted in the park. In the valley, the maximum length is 40 feet for RV’s, and 35 feet for trailers. Be aware that the number of camp sites that can accommodate RVs or trailers of that length is limited. Campsites in the park do not include hookups.
Entrances There are four entrances into Yosemite National Park but only three are open all year. 1. The Arch Rock Entrance overlooking the Merced River is on Highway 140 from Mariposa and Merced. 2. The Big Oak Flat Entrance is on Highway 120 from Manteca. Highway 132 from Coulterville and Modesto comes in to Highway 120 at Smith Station, about eight miles west of the Big Oak Flat Entrance. 3. The South Entrance is on Highway 41 from Oakhurst and Fresno. This entrance is also convenient for Mariposa county locations on Highway 49 South, which joins Highway 41 at Oakhurst, especially if your destination is Wawona, Badger Pass or Glacier Point. Also on the west is the Hetch Hetchy Entrance (open all year), on Hetch Hetchy Road which branches off Highway 120 just before the Big Oak Flat Entrance. 4. From the east, the Tioga Pass Entrance on Highway 120 from Lee Vining and Highway 395, is open late May or early June through October or November, depending on snow conditions.
Snow Chains Since weather conditions can change quickly in winter, it is recommended that drivers carry tire chains from November through March. Depending on actual snow conditions in the park, chains may be required at any time during this period (you will be turned back at the entrance if you do not have them). You can inquire at the Visitor Centers in Mariposa (for Highway 140), Coulterville (for Highway 132 / 120), Groveland (for Highway 120), and Oakhurst (for Highway 41) to determine current chain requirements. Chains can be rented or bought at these locations (except Coulterville). You are somewhat more likely to encounter snow conditions on Highways 120 and 41, which both reach 6000’ elevation, but if there is snow in Yosemite Valley, at the 4100’ level, you will need chains regardless which highway you use.
Key Phone Numbers: Wilderness permit reservations (209) 372-0740 Current wilderness conditions (209) 372-0307 For more information about making a reservation or obtaining a permit call (209)372-0310.
Unfortunately, microscopic organisms known as Giardia lamblia are present in wilderness lakes, rivers and streams. They can cause illness (sometimes quite severe), so you should not drink from these sources without first treating the water. Your options are to boil it for three minutes, to use a chemical disinfectant like iodine or chlorine (less effective than boiling), or to use a Giardia-rated water filter available from outdoor equipment stores.
Many wilderness trips begin at elevations much higher than you may be accustomed to and then go even higher. It’s a good idea to arrive a day early to let your body adapt to the thinner air. Don’t over-exert, and drink plenty of fluids to avoid altitude sickness.
Though just being in Yosemite should be enough to keep young people occupied and engaged, there are lots of activities and programs that will enhance their visit to the park. During your stay, be sure to check the Yosemite Today newspaper for scheduled events that are specially designed for kids.
With just about every park locale offering flat to moderate walking, a family hike is a great way to burn youthful energy and to reach undeveloped, uncrowded spots with remarkable views and natural beauty. Take a picnic and make a day of it!
The best park bicycle riding is in Yosemite Valley, which features miles of bike trails. Bring your own, or rent bicycles at Yosemite Lodge or Curry Village. Don’t forget your helmets.
The Nature Center at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley is devoted to kids, with wildlife exhibits, nightlife display and a number of other presentations. There are books for sale and “Explorer Packs” on a variety of topics can be checked out. They include activities for children designed to help them learn more about the natural world they live in.