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Yosemite National Park

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Yosemite National Park Itineraries

Yosemite for First Timers

An outdoor playground for families and adventurous spirits in all four seasons

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Yosemite is a North American icon and one of the USA’s best-loved national parks. Over four million people come each year to find rejuvenation in its wild craggy Sierra Nevada heights, its lush wildflowers meadows, and its glacier-sculpted river canyons and sylvan valleys. A classic trip to Yosemite, California, should be on your travel life list – and once you’ve visited, you may find yourself returning time and again.

For travelers, especially those visiting for the first time, Yosemite Valley is the beating heart of the park. Cut through by the meandering Merced River, the valley is loftily bordered by granite monoliths with world-famous names like El Capitan and Half Dome. Over the tops of soaring cliffs, waterfalls swollen by melting snow that tumble to the valley floor include North America’s highest cascade, triple-tiered Yosemite Falls. A visit to Yosemite Valley will leave you awestruck in any season: come for waterfalls in spring; camping, swimming, and hiking in summer; photography (and fewer crowds) in fall; and snowshoeing in winter.

===> Ready to hit the road? Check out our itinerary for Yosemite National Park for First-Timers.

In summer, the siren’s song of the high country tempts many visitors to leave Yosemite Valley and venture up to Tuolumne Meadows. Fed by the Tuolumne River, these high-elevation meadows are bedecked with wildflowers in early summer. The way to get to Tuolumne Meadows is via Tioga Road (Highway 120), which winds its way up to Tioga Pass (9943 feet), the highest elevation in the entire park that you can drive to. On the way, Tioga Road passes inspiring Olmsted Point, tranquil Tenaya Lake, smooth granite domes for rock climbing, and over a dozen trailheads for hiking and backcountry trips. Tioga Road is only open from late spring or early summer into autumn; the road closes completely after the first major snowfall, usually in November.

In just a weekend, you could begin to get acquainted with Yosemite’s astounding diversity of landscapes and wildlife, but there’s a lifetime of exploration here. Even if it’s your first trip, make time to detour to Glacier Point, which overlooks the valley from what feels like the rooftop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Following Highway 41 south brings you to Wawona, with its Victorian-era hotel and pioneer history center. It’s nearby the impressive Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, where some of the largest trees on earth grow. Though the Mariposa Grove is closed for restoration until spring 2017, Yosemite harbors two smaller groves of giant sequoias that you can still visit, the Tuolumne Grove and the Merced Grove. Both of those groves are in the northwest region of the park, not far from Hetch Hetchy, which resembled a mini Yosemite Valley until it was flooded in 1923 by the O’Shaugnessy Dam to supply drinking water for a burgeoning San Francisco.


When To Go

What’s the best time to visit Yosemite National Park? And how much time should you spend once you get there? The answer is ultimately up to you, but we have a lot of advice and insider tips to help you start figuring it out.

There are really two ways to visit Yosemite National Park. You could plan your trip up to a year in advance and book the best lodgings, plus any wilderness permits for overnight trips or hiking Half Dome. Otherwise, you could go at the last minute and cross your fingers for last-minute lodging cancellations or show up at no-reservations campgrounds by mid-morning, when last night’s campers may be checking out.

Summer is the busiest season in Yosemite, and for good reason. All park roads and hiking trails are open and snow-free. Sunny days and refreshingly cool nights are the norm, except in late summer when a little rain may fall. The downsides to a summer vacation in the parks are the crowds, more expensive lodging rates and fully booked accommodations, and the potential for wildfires that might interrupt your trip.

Spring and fall are the quieter shoulder seasons in Yosemite. Not all of the park roads are open until late spring or early summer, and some close again in fall. But you’ll always be able to access the most popular area of the park, the Yosemite Valley. Overnight low temperatures get chilly at higher elevations during spring and fall, so dress in warm layers. Bring a sleeping bag and a three-season tent with a rainfly if you’ll be camping.

Winter is the most peaceful time to visit Yosemite. You can go snowshoeing among majestic groves of giant sequoias or in the Yosemite Valley. Go skiing, snowboarding or tubing downhill at Badger Pass, where cross-country ski trails head out to Glacier Point. The main highways entering the park from the west remain open during winter, except when snow temporarily closes them. Carry tire chains in your car at all times, just in case. Remember that Tioga Road (Highway 120) through the Tuolumne Meadows area and over Tioga Pass into the Eastern Sierra is completely closed during winter and spring.

Most people visit Yosemite National Park for a couple of days. It’s possible to see a bit of what the park offers in just one day, if that’s really all you have, but ideally you should take at least two days. Three or four days lets you hit the park’s major highlights with some time to explore and take shorter day hikes. Five days lets you roam around at a more leisurely pace and reach the remotest areas of the park. If you have a whole week to spend, you could plan to take an overnight backpacking trip into the wilderness, too.

How Much Time To Spend

How much time have you got?

You could drive through Yosemite National Park in one day – yes, it’s technically possible, without going over the speed limit on park roads and endangering the park’s wonderful wildlife. But you would only get to see a few of the park’s highlights, and you would hardly have time to get out of the car and walk around, let alone go for any hikes.

Two days is really the bare minimum for experiencing Yosemite, though you’ll still probably feel rushed. Be sure to spend one entire day exploring Yosemite Valley, perhaps with a quick detour around sunset to Glacier Point. Then spend another day in the Tuolumne Meadows high country off Tioga Road (open from summer to early fall).

Three days lets you get better acquainted with Yosemite. It gives you time to visit all the major areas of the park, including the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias (note the grove is closed for restorations until the spring of 2017, however). You’ll also be able to take at least one day hike, perhaps the waterfall Mist Trail or the epic hike to Half Dome (advance permits required), both starting from Yosemite Valley.

Four days lets you do all of the above at a more relaxed pace, which is an especially smart idea during summer when nearly everywhere in the park is crowded with people and traffic. If you have a full week to explore the park, you can plan for an overnight or two-night backpacking trip into the wilderness (advance permits required). The most popular backcountry trails leave from Tioga Road in the park’s high country near Tuolumne Meadows.

High and Low Season

Summer is high season all across the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite National Park is most crowded between mid-June and early September. Although summer officially kicks off over the Memorial Day long weekend in late May, not all of the park’s roads, such as Tioga Road (Highway 120) over Tioga Pass between Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra, are open by then. The biggest crowds arrive for the July 4th holiday and the Labor Day holiday weekend in early September.

During high season, lodgings can be twice as expensive and fully booked throughout the entire summer. You can reserve accommodations up to 366 days in advance at in-park lodgings, which is essential if you’re planning to visit anytime during summer. Only a few campgrounds are first come, first served; the most popular ones require reservations. Campgrounds on national forest service land and lodgings in gateway communities just outside the park also fill up during summer. For last-minute vacancies, start checking online or calling lodging reservation lines directly about a week in advance of your trip.

The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are less expensive and crowded in Yosemite. Spring is prime time for waterfall watching in the Yosemite Valley and at Hetch Hetchy, but elsewhere around the park, the Glacier Point and Tioga Roads as well as most hiking trails will still be closed by snow until at least April or May, and sometimes into June. Early autumn is a gorgeous time to visit the park, after the summer crowds have departed and the days are still sunny while nights are cool, but not freezing cold. Glacier Point and Tioga Roads usually stay open until late October or even into November.

Winter is low season in Yosemite National Park, but it’s still a beautiful time to visit. Lodgings in Yosemite Valley do fill up during winter, but advance reservations aren’t as difficult to get (though you should still plan at least a few months ahead). Lodging rates are usually much cheaper during winter, too. If you’re camping, only one campground in Yosemite Valley stays open year-round.

Weather and Climate

Unlike coastal California, the Sierra Nevada Mountains experience all four seasons.

Summers are sunny and hot, but pleasantly so at higher elevations. That said, temperatures in Yosemite Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills can spike over 90°F (32°C). Temperatures at higher elevations such as Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows are usually 10°F to 20°F cooler. In late summer, the Sierra Nevada’s “monsoon” rains bring a few days of precipitation and cooler weather. Late summer is also when the most wildfires, both natural and accidentally human-caused, occur.

Winters are cold and snowy, with daytime highs in the 30s and 40s and overnight lows dipping below 0°F (-18°C). In recent years, severe drought has meant that the Sierra Nevada has not seen much winter snow, but forecasters predict that the winter of 2015/16 will see higher than average precipitation due to the El Niño effect of warmer ocean currents. During winter, many mountain passes and roads are closed from the first snowfall until the snow melts in late spring, including Yosemite’s Tioga Pass, Tioga Road (Highway 120), and Glacier Point Road. Some park access highways may also shut down temporarily during snowstorms, or else require that drivers have cars equipped with snow tires and chains.

Spring and fall bring more moderate weather to the Sierra Nevada. Snow usually doesn’t start melting until mid-April, possibly even May or early June at higher elevations. Later in autumn, the first snow usually falls sometime between late October and mid-November, which is usually when Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road close until the following spring.

For current weather conditions and detailed area forecasts, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration online.

Wildfires

One other factor that greatly affects the weather in California – and it may impact your travel plans unexpectedly – is wildfire. Wildfires are most common during the hottest months of July, August, and September, but can blaze anytime from spring through fall. For the latest information on wildfires burning in California right now, click here.

Why is California’s wildfire season worse than ever before? Ongoing drought is partly to blame for more frequent and larger fires. But the main culprit is previous decades of forest mismanagement plans, which called for putting out all wildfires instead of allowing some to burn naturally. Since some forests  have not burned in over a century, their flammable fuel load is high, which is what creates ever bigger and more dangerous conflagrations. Some wildfires begin naturally with lightning strikes, while others are the result of human carelessness (such as a campfire that is not completely put out).

Tip: Please do your part to help prevent wildfires by making sure that campfires are kept small and closely monitored (or better yet, don’t build them at all). If you smoke, never dispose of your cigarette butts outdoors. Instead, put them in a designated ashtray or douse them with water before throwing them in a trash can.

Events and Holidays

National & State Holidays

January 1: New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February (third Monday): Presidents Day
March 31: César Chávez Day
March/April: Good Friday (two days before Easter Sunday)
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
July 4: Independence Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
September 9: California Admission Day
September (fourth Friday): Native American Day
October (second Monday): Columbus Day
November 11: Veterans Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December 25: Christmas

Time Zone

California is located in the Pacific time zone (GMT-7).

To check the local time in California now, click here.

Daylight Savings Time (DST) begins in spring on the second Sunday in March, when clocks are advanced one hour. In the fall on the first Sunday of November, clocks shift back one hour to standard time. With few exceptions, the entire country (including California) participates in this ritual of “springing forward” and “falling back.”

What it Costs

Yosemite National Park can be a reasonably cheap or an extremely expensive place to visit, depending on your travel style.

Budget If you’re camping or staying in hostels, cooking for yourself or eating cheap take-out meals, and getting around on public transportation, you can get by on about $50 a day.

Moderate If you’re traveling with someone else and renting a car to get around, staying at cheaper lodgings outside the park, and eating out for at least some of your meals, plan on spending at least $125 a day. That doesn’t include any guided outdoor activities, such as rock climbing or horseback riding.

Luxury If you’re a luxury traveler, $400 a day will cover staying at the best lodges and hotels; dining out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; enjoying daytime tours and guided activities; and renting an SUV with 4WD (four-wheel drive) or AWD (all-wheel drive).

When you travel makes a difference. For example, winter off-season prices for lodgings may be 50% less than summer high season rates, when there may be no available rooms anyway. Weekdays may be cheaper than weekends year-round.

Entrance Fees & Passes 

Entry to Yosemite National Park costs $30 per vehicle for a seven-day pass. The entry fee is discounted to $25 per vehicle between November and March. If you’re going to be visiting more National Park Service (NPS) sites within the next 12 months, an annual “America the Beautiful” interagency pass ($80) might save you money. You can buy the pass at any park entrance station.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in $US.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person

Sleep
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $100 to $300 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double

Eat
$ => Up to $15 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $16-22 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => $23 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)

Shop
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$ => Tickets $26 per person

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Airfares

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need them to be low, they’re high. And when prices dip, what happens? You have no free time to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from online booking websites like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type in your destination and the dates you are watching, and boom! When there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your email inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline websites.

That said, it’s advantageous to also visit an airline’s own website before booking. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator sites. Most airlines share time-limited, super-discounted specials via their social media pages or in email blasts. So it pays to be their “friend” or subscribe to their e-mail lists.

Car Rentals

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Online booking websites like Hotwire and Kayak offer comparison price shopping. So does the Costco Travel website (for members only).

There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell them what you want to pay and maybe they can hook you up with a car rental company who fits the bill. They have some great deals, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental or which company you rent from.

If you’ll be traveling to the Sierra Nevada in winter when there’s a possibility of snow, consider paying more to rent a car with 4WD or AWD (all-wheel drive) and high clearance. Ask your rental car company if your vehicle has snow tires and chains, which are often required on mountain roads and highways during winter when there’s snow on the ground, especially during storms. Tire chains can often be bought or rented, although not cheaply, in gateway towns as you drive up and into the Sierra Nevada.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to and around California goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other countries. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000. U.S. travelers should check if their medical insurance at home will cover them while traveling in California.

Trip Interruption For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to cut your trip short, the insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage (up to a certain amount only).

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a storm-prone area during winter, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case.”

Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include free concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz, and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkely, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International, and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregator sites like InsureMyTrip.com and Squaremouth.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight; it’s often contracted with the above major players.

If you have pre-existing health conditions Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But they also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain timeframe after paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance If you buy your airfare or make other travel bookings with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO), Homeaway, and Airbnb become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.

For more information, contact the US Travel Insurance Association.

Exchange Rates and Currency

Exchange Rates

The U.S. dollar fluctuates against other world currencies, but its value has steadily risen since early 2015. For current exchange rates, click here.

Currency

U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans may have a tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen.

Coins in wide circulation include the penny (one cent), nickel (five cents), dime (10 cents), and quarter (25 cents). The 50-cent and one-dollar coins are seen occasionally.

Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so have twenties or smaller bills in hand. ATMs usually dispense $20 bills.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

Most Californians do not carry a large amount of cash with them on an everyday basis, and neither should you.

ATMs

If you withdraw cash from an ATM machine, most banks apply a surcharge of around $3 per transaction. Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, banks in California will allow you to get cash without an extra charge. Some grocery stores, gas stations and major retail outlets such as pharmacies will allow you to get a limited amount of “cash back” when paying for your goods with your debit card – this is an easy way to get some cash while on the go without paying a surcharge.

Keep in mind that ATMs are rare outside of major towns in the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite National Park has a couple of ATMs, usually located at busy shops or visitor lodgings. But you can’t entirely rely on these in-park ATMs, because they are not always in service and they sometimes run out of cash.

Credit & Debit Cards

Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout the U.S.

Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card issuer before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. This goes for U.S. residents traveling out of state, and even Californians traveling far from home. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card declined when you try to use it at your destination in California.

You should also call your bank or credit card issuer immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card – which doesn’t help if it is lost or stolen. Make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access, for example, by taking a photo of the back of the card with your smartphone.

Recently cards with embedded chips to deter counterfeit fraud have been issued. Banks and merchants that don’t offer chip readers may be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details about your specific cards.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

Tipping

Tipping is a cost you must build into the budget for any California trip. Tipping is most relevant to dining out and hotel stays, but a few other special situations also apply.

Restaurants

For excellent service, plan to tip 20% of the total bill, before taxes. For less-than-stellar service, 10% to 15% is customary, as an imperfect experience is often not solely the responsibility of the server. In most places, servers work for below minimum wage and live mostly on tips, so consider the ramifications of your tipping decisions.

Oh, and one more complication: Sometimes a tip is automatically included, usually for groups of six or more people. But at least it will be itemized on the bill – if you look closely for it, that is.

Hotels

Bellhops normally receive $1 to $2 per bag that they assist with, but if someone carts all of your bags up to your room, tip them $5 to $10.

Tips for housekeeping are also good form. The rule of thumb is $2 to $3 per day, left under the card on in the envelope provided. Tip $5 per day at higher-end properties.

Spa employees (massage therapists, aestheticians, etc.) deserve a 20% tip for their services when performed well, whether at the spa or in your hotel room.

Other Services

At bars, tip bartenders and cocktail servers at least $1 or $2 per drink, up to 15% to 20% per round.

Airport porters are normally tipped $2 or $3 per bag.

Taxi drivers are tipped 15% to 20% of the total fare, rounded up to the next whole dollar amount. Limo drivers expect a minimum $20 tip.

Tip parking valet staff a minimum of $2 when they hand back the keys to your car.

Sales Taxes, Lodging Taxes & Resort Fees

In California, the combined total for state and local taxes on all retail goods and services varies from 7.5% to 10%, depending on where you are. Taxes are not usually included in display prices, unless otherwise stated.

Lodging tax also varies by location in California, ranging from 6% to 14% This tax applies whether you are staying at a private vacation rental, a bed-and-breakfast, or a full-fledged hotel. Taxes are not usually stated up front in the advertised room rate. Neither are the mandatory nightly “resort fees” being charged by an increasing number of hotels. Sometimes this fee covers internet access, parking, and a few incidentals, while at other times it’s merely a surcharge for amenities that should be free. Beware that third-party booking agents, especially online, often don’t include resort fees in their reservation charges, so you may be unhappily surprised by the final bill when you check out.

National Park Entrance Fees & Passes

If you’re only going to be visiting one national park during your trip, go ahead and pay the one-time entry fee, which costs $30 per vehicle for a seven-day pass to Yosemite National Park. The entry fee is discounted to $25 per vehicle between November and March.

If you’ll be visiting multiple parks and also plan to see more National Park Service (NPS) sites within the next 12 months, an annual “America the Beautiful” interagency pass ($80) will save you money in the long run. You can buy the pass at any park entrance station or online in advance. U.S. citizens aged 62 and over are eligible for a lifetime senior pass, which costs $10 in person or $20 by mail. U.S. citizens with qualifying permanent disabilities are entitled to a free lifetime pass (apply in person, or pay $10 by mail). Active duty U.S. military personnel are also eligible for free passes. All of these passes cover free entrance to all 397 NPS locations across the country. The senior pass also entitles users to 50% off fees for certain activities, such as camping – that’s a bargain!

Transportation

Getting There

The most popular way to get to California is to fly, though many people do drive here. Long-distance Amtrak trains are a scenic option for getting to major cities and some towns in California, with connecting buses to Yosemite National Park from the Amtrak station in Merced in the Central Valley.

Long-distance Greyhound buses are a reliable, though less comfortable option for getting to major cities that will save you money. From the bus stations in Merced and Fresno in the Central Valley, Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) runs a few daily year-round buses to Yosemite Valley. Another YARTS bus connects Yosemite Valley with Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra, but this route only runs during the summer (daily during July and August, weekends only during June when Tioga Road is open and also during September).

Most people fly into major airports in the San Francisco Bay Area, then rent a car and road trip to the Sierra Nevada. A smaller regional airport in the Central Valley, Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) is only about an hour closer to Yosemite Valley. Given that airfares are usually more expensive for flights into Fresno, however, you may as well fly into the Bay Area instead and save yourself some money.

Getting Around

Getting around Yosemite National Park without a car can be logistically difficult, and sometimes it’s just not possible to coordinate bus schedules for sightseeing day trips.

By Car

Traffic jams are common and parking availability is limited in Yosemite Valley and at Glacier Point and Tuolumne Meadows in summer high season. Whenever possible, leave you car parked for the day in a parking lot, then ride the free park shuttle buses instead to get around.

If you’re driving to the park during winter, be sure to have a car or truck equipped with snow tires and carry tire chains at all times, in case of snowstorms. It’s also helpful, though not essential, to have a vehicle with 4WD (four-wheel drive) or AWD (all-wheel drive).

Remember that Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road are usually only open during summer and fall. Both roads typically close after the first ?major snowfall in November and don’t re-open until the snow melts in April or May (Glacier Point Road) or May or June (Tioga Road). These opening and closing dates vary annually due to weather and wildfires.

Regional YARTS buses

YARTS bus services are most frequent during summer, but even then they might only run a few times daily. You can use the Highway 41 route between Yosemite Valley and Fresno to reach Wawona in the southern area of the park. Some YARTS bus routes only operate during summer, including the Highway 120/395 route between Yosemite Valley and Mammoth Lakes that will take you to Crane Flat, White Wolf, and Tuolumne Meadows and the Highway 120 route between Yosemite Valley and Sonora in the Gold Country that will also take you to Crane Flat, as well as Big Oak Flat.

Park Shuttle & Tour Buses

Yosemite National Park offers free visitor shuttle bus services that you should take advantage of, not only to be more eco-conscious but also to avoid parking headaches and traffic jams. Year-round, the Yosemite Valley is well served by free shuttle buses that run on a loop route. In summer and early fall, another shuttle runs out to El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and the Four-Mile Trail trailhead. In winter, a free shuttle connects Yosemite Valley with the Badger Pass ski area on Glacier Point Road.

During summer and early fall, free park shuttle buses connect Wawona with the Mariposa Grove (closed for restoration until spring 2017) and loop around the entire Tuolumne Meadows area, from Olmsted Point all the way east to Tioga Pass.

The park’s concessionaire service offers pricey bus tours between Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point ?or Tuolumne Meadows. Hikers and campers can pay to ride these tour buses just one way.

Note that no public transportation is available to visit the Hetch Hetchy area of the park.

By Bicycle

Bicycle touring isn’t very realistic, given the heady elevation changes, narrow mountain roads, and long distances involved. That said, cycling can be a fun way to get around the Yosemite Valley. Bicycles are usually rented from spring through fall at the Lodge at Yosemite Falls and during spring and summer at the Curry Village recreation center. To save money, bring your own bicycle.

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Background

Recommended Reading

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir (1911)
The Yosemite by John Muir (1912)
Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada by Clarence King (1902)
Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws (2007)
Sierra Nevada Natural History by Tracey I. Storer, Robert L. Usinger & David Lukas (2004)
History of the Sierra Nevada by Francis P. Farquhar (1965)
Geology of the Sierra Nevada by Mary Hill (2006)
Assembling California by John McPhee (1994)
Califlora: A Literary Field Guide (2012)
California Indians and Their Environment by Kent G. Lightfoot & Otis Parrish (2009)
The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream by H. W. Brands (2008)

Websites & Maps

National Park Service (NPS): Yosemite National Park
The park’s official website is jam-packed with useful information. Download the free seasonal park newspaper, ? Guide, before your trip for current information and events.

YosemitePark.com
Peruse the helpful website of the park’s authorized concessionaire, which runs all in-park lodgings and restaurants, as well as many guided activities and tours.

California Highway Information
Enter the highway number you’ll be traveling on to get up-to-date information about road closures and construction. It’s invaluable in winter, especially in the mountains and along remote stretches of the coast. The toll-free phone number is (800) 427-7623.

DeLorme’s California Atlas & Gazetteer
When your GPS fails or you lose your cellphone data signal and Wi-Fi, you’ll be glad to have this along on any road trip, especially in wilderness areas such as the mountains and the deserts.

Recommended Reading

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir (1911)
The Yosemite by John Muir (1912)
Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada by Clarence King (1902)
Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws (2007)
Sierra Nevada Natural History by Tracey I. Storer, Robert L. Usinger & David Lukas (2004)
History of the Sierra Nevada by Francis P. Farquhar (1965)
Geology of the Sierra Nevada by Mary Hill (2006)
Assembling California by John McPhee (1994)
Califlora: A Literary Field Guide (2012)
California Indians and Their Environment by Kent G. Lightfoot & Otis Parrish (2009)
The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream by H. W. Brands (2008)

Websites and Maps

National Park Service (NPS): Yosemite National Park
The park’s official website is jam-packed with useful information. Download the free seasonal park newspaper, ? Guide, before your trip for current information and events.

YosemitePark.com
Peruse the helpful website of the park’s authorized concessionaire, which runs all in-park lodgings and restaurants, as well as many guided activities and tours.

California Highway Information
Enter the highway number you’ll be traveling on to get up-to-date information about road closures and construction. It’s invaluable in winter, especially in the mountains and along remote stretches of the coast. The toll-free phone number is (800) 427-7623.

DeLorme’s California Atlas & Gazetteer
When your GPS fails or you lose your cellphone data signal and Wi-Fi, you’ll be glad to have this along on any road trip, especially in wilderness areas such as the mountains and the deserts.

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