Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View

Yosemite National Park is a United States National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains in east-central California. Approximately four million visitors each year come to Yosemite to marvel at its spectacular granite cliffs, towering waterfalls, remote wilderness, massive sequoia trees, and high mountain meadows.


The park encompasses a massive 750,000-acre, 1,200 square-mile area and contains thousands of lakes and ponds, 1600 miles of streams, 800 miles of hiking trails, and 350 miles of roads.


Humans may have first visited Yosemite as long as 8,000 years ago, and there is evidence that people have lived in the area for nearly 4,000 years. In 1849 the lives of the native Miwok population changed dramatically as the California Gold Rush brought thousands of miners into the region, resulting in a massive disruption to the way of life practiced by the existing people. By the 1930s the population of Native Americans had dwindled to the point that the last Indian village was disbanded, and by 1969 that last private Indian residences were abandoned.

The beauty of Yosemite Valley inspired early visitors to the area and led to concern about exploitation by commercial interests. After prominent individuals advocated for its protection, on June 30, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill granting Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to the State of California as an inalienable public trust. This was the first time in history that the US federal government had set aside scenic lands for the purpose of preservation and public use. Following further lobbying by the conservationist John Muir, additional restrictions were put in place against grazing in the subalpine meadows surrounding Yosemite Valley, and on October 1, 1890 the area was declared America's third national park.

Despite its national park status, California controlled the initial grant area until 1906. Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that city began looking to Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley as a source of drinking water and hydroelectric power, and a bitter political struggle ensued between environmentalists and the city. In 1913, with the passage by Congress of the Raker Act, permission was granted to San Francisco to build the O'Shaughnessy Dam, allowing the Tuolumne River to flood the valley. Today, efforts to remove the dam and restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley continue.


Nature's Forces

Natural forces often wreak havoc on the infrastructure in and around Yosemite. In January 1997 warm winter temperatures, a late-season tropical rainstorm, and a heavy snow pack combined to produce the greatest flooding on record. The Merced River rose nearly ten feet above its normal level, producing over $178 million in damage in Yosemite Valley. As a result the Valley was closed for over three months, and vast changes were made to the area's management plan. Today numerous structures have been relocated, roads have been re-routed out of the flood plain, and nearly fifty percent of campsites have been removed. Signs showing the floodwater height are still posted throughout the Valley.

Landslides also play a major role in the park. A 1996 slide resulted in 162,000 tons of rock and debris descending to the valley floor near the Happy Isles trailhead, with an impact comparable to a magnitude 2.15 earthquake. Another rockslide, with a volume equivalent to 200 dump truck loads, resulted in several Curry Village cabins being closed in 2008. A 2006 slide buried Highway 140 in up to 300 feet of debris, resulting in a closure that lasted several months and forced the creation of temporary bridges to route traffic to the other side of the Merced River.

Yosemite is best known for its impressive granite cliffs and domes. These formations were born approximately ten million years ago when the Sierra fault began uplifting the Sierra Nevada mountains, forming relatively gentle western slopes and more extreme eastern slopes. Erosion, combined with at least four glacial periods, exposed the underlying granite and resulted in many of the cracked, rounded, and weathered formations that make the park famous. Streams cut deep, narrow valleys, while glaciers covered the area in up to 4,000 feet of ice and generated wide, U-shaped valleys.

The Tuolumne and Merced rivers are the two major river systems in the park, carving canyons that are 3,000 to 4,000 feet deep. In addition, smaller rivers flow through the extreme elevations, generating some of the most impressive waterfalls in the world. In Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, at 739m (2425ft), is the tallest waterfall in North America, while Ribbon Falls has the highest uninterrupted vertical drop at 491m (1612ft).

Flora and fauna

95% of Yosemite has been designated as wilderness, making it a haven for wildlife. In addition, over 225,000 acres of the park is old-growth forest, having never been significantly altered by logging. The protected habitat, combined with the wide range of elevations, supports a wide array of animals. Over 400 species of vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish live in the park, along with thousands of different plants.

Herbivores in the park include the commonly seen mule deer and golden-mantled ground squirrels, and less commonly seen animals like mountain beavers, pika, yellow-bellied marmots, white-tailed hares, and the rare Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep that are found only around Tioga Pass. Predators include black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcat and gray fox. While once common, bear incidents have declined significantly in past years due to careful management, but be aware that while visitors are unlikely to see a bear, the animals are particularly active at night throughout the park, including in Yosemite Valley, and will seek out food sources that are available to them; heed all park regulations regarding storage of food items or items such as deodorants that have a smell that might interest a bear. Other animals found in the park include 17 species of bats, as well as over 150 species of birds such as great gray owls, spotted owls, white-headed woodpeckers, Steller's jays and northern goshawk. Reptiles are not common but include the mountain kingsnake and Gilbert's skink.

With elevations ranging from 1,800 feet up to 13,000 feet the park's vegetation zones range from scrub and chaparral communities at lower elevations to subalpine forests and alpine meadows at the higher elevations. Visitors will most commonly experience the park's extensive coniferous forest, but will also be drawn to the isolated groves of giant sequoias, the largest trees in the world. At elevations above 8,000 feet beautiful subalpine meadows flower during July and August, while the treeline ends at 9,500 feet and the vegetation is limited to hardy plants that bloom quickly during the few snow-free months.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 48 52 58 64 71 81 89 89 82 71 56 47
Nightly lows (°F) 29 30 34 38 45 51 57 56 51 42 33 28
Precipitation (in) 6.5 6.7 5.2 2.8 1.7 0.7 0.4 0.1 0.7 2.1 4.6 5.5

The above measurements are for Yosemite Valley (elevation 4,000 ft). Note that temperatures at higher elevations are typically 10-20°F (6-11°C) cooler. Data from NOAA (1981-2010).

Weather can change rapidly during all seasons of the year, and will also vary greatly with elevation. When visiting it is wise to pack for any season with clothing that can be layered, ready to peel off or add on as conditions dictate. Always include some kind of rain gear; the park receives most of its precipitation in the winter months, but storms are common during the transitional spring and fall seasons, and spectacular thunderstorms may occur during summer.

For Yosemite Valley and Wawona (subtract 10-20°F (5-10°C) for Tuolumne Meadows), average weather is as follows:

Get in

Yosemite National Park roadmap

By car

Warning: There are no gas/petrol stations in the Yosemite Valley!

There are four major entrances into the park. All of these routes are relatively windy mountain roads and appropriate time should be budgeted for them.

A secondary entrance exists to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir exclusively (no Yosemite Valley access) off of State Route 120 from the west. It requires taking a side road near the main Route 120 west entrance of Yosemite. Please note that Hetch Hetchy has restricted hours for access due to security for the Reservoir.

During the snow season, usually November through March, snow chains may be required. Chain requirements are strictly enforced in Yosemite with potential fines being as much as $5,000, so chains should be carried during those months.

Note: During summer months traffic becomes heavily congested in Yosemite Valley, and parking can be nearly impossible to find. Summer visitors to Yosemite Valley are therefore highly encouraged to use the YARTS shuttle system (see below) to get into the park.

By plane

There are no landing strips within the park. Airports in surrounding communities include:

Bay Area airports including San Francisco International Airport (IATA: SFO), Oakland International (IATA: OAK), and San Jose International (IATA: SJC) are much larger than any of the above airports and have more frequent flights to many more destinations. Driving distance from the Bay Area is approximately four hours. However, landing at SFO requires crossing one of the San Francisco Bay bridges which are usually congested during the late afternoon and early evening commute. (Likewise, in the morning for the return flight, and this direction includes a toll booth.) Sacramento International airport (IATA: SMF), north of Sacramento, is another large airport option that is also about a four-hour drive from the park. Visitors arriving from the east may choose Reno/Tahoe International (IATA: RNO) in Reno, which is approximately 3.5 hours (by car) from the Tioga Pass Entrance (summer only).

Small private aircraft land at Mariposa-Yosemite Airport (KMPI) about 5 mi/8 km northwest of the town of Mariposa on State Route 49. There is no control tower, and car rentals in the area are very limited. The YARTS shuttle (see below) is another possibility. Park entrance is an additional 27 mi/44 km via State Route 140.

By train

Amtrak offers service to Yosemite by means of a motorcoach bus that meets its San Joaquins trains in Merced. The San Joaquins provide several departures each day along its route from Bakersfield in the south, Sacramento in the north, and the San Francisco Bay Area in the west. With ample motorcoach connections to and from the trains, this train service serves most of the state, allowing quick and easy access to Merced from most places within the state. However, by driving from San Francisco to Yosemite, it will take 4 1/2 to 5 hours. By train, it will take closer to six hours.

By bus

Many tour bus companies run tours from the Bay Area. Some will just take you to Yosemite Valley; others provide full tours to see the Giant Sequoias and/or Glacier Point.

By shuttle

The Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) offers reasonably-priced transportation into Yosemite Valley from locations east and west of the park including Highway 41 (Fresno, Oakhurst, Coarsegold), Highway 140 (Merced, Mariposa, El Portal), Highway 120 (Sonora, Jamestown, Groveland) and Highway 120/395 (Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes). Ticket price includes park admission, and adult tickets include a free ticket for one child 12 or under. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time or from the shuttle driver, and round-trip fares are between $7 (from El Portal) to $36 (from Mammoth Lakes) into Yosemite Valley (2015 prices); reduced fares are available to seniors, disabled individuals, and children 12 and under. When combined with the free shuttle service that operates within Yosemite Valley, YARTS can eliminate many hassles for summer visitors.


All entrance fees are valid for seven days. The Yosemite Annual Pass is available for $60, allowing park entry for one year. Entry fees were increased on March 1, 2015, the first increase in park entrance fees since 1997:

There are several passes that allow free entry for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes are valid at all national parks including Yosemite National Park:

In 2016 the National Park Service will offer several days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), April 16-24 (National Park Week), August 25-28 (National Park Service's 100th birthday weekend), September 24 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).

Get around

The road to Glacier Point

Yosemite has grown from a little visited, yet historically significant, park to one of the "crown jewels" of the US National Park System. With this stature comes difficulties; Yosemite is currently the third most visited national park in the United States, with an annual visitation of approximately 4 million, and a majority of those visitors are concentrated in the 12 square miles within Yosemite Valley (about 1% of the total park land).

By car

With most of the park visitors destined for Yosemite Valley, traffic and parking are significant problems during the busy summer season. As a result, while a car is a great way to tour the park, if visiting between Memorial Day and Labor Day the shuttle bus may be a vastly better option. Be aware that the Tioga Pass Road and the road to Glacier Point are seasonal and close as soon as the first major snow falls. Other park roads may close during storms, but in general are always open. Note that the speed limit in all areas of the park is fairly slow, and is strictly enforced by rangers with radar guns; the speed limits are for your own safety on the twisting mountain roads, as well as for the safety of pedestrians and the many animals that use the area.

The loop road through Yosemite Valley is now one-way. For many years this was a two-lane road, but motorists travelling slowly to admire the scenery often created a long backup of annoyed drivers, so the Park Service converted most of the roads in the valley into one-way roads to allow passing. As a result, when driving in the valley be aware that a wrong turn can send you on a one-way five-mile detour.

The one-way routing affects those entering from Oakdale on Hwy 120 the most. You will have to cross over to Southside Drive at the Pohono Bridge. Likewise upon leaving the park, those taking the south exit on Hwy 41 to Fresno also cross the Pohono Bridge, backtrack one mile, before turning right onto Wawona Road.

Fuel stations

There are three fueling stations located inside Yosemite. Fuel may be paid for with a credit or debit card 24-hours a day.

There are no stations inside the Valley proper. The nearest to the Valley is Crane Flats, a 16-mile drive from Yosemite Village so plan appropriately

For disabled drivers, an attendant will assist with pumping gas during business hours.

By shuttle

To limit traffic congestion the park service runs several free shuttle buses throughout the park (note that these are not the YARTS system):

The shuttle buses all have wheelchair lifts and tie-downs. Drivers provide assistance.

By bicycle

Yosemite Valley has a network of bicycle paths along its north and south sides. Bikes can be rented for the day at Curry Village & turn a thirty-minute walk into a five-minute ride.

By foot

Although the road network covers the most popular sights in Yosemite, the vast majority of the park's area can only be accessed using the park's network of trails. Trails including the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail lead to areas outside of the park's north and south borders.


Yosemite Falls

If you only have a single day to visit the park, a drive around Yosemite Valley is probably the best option. Longer visits provide options for hiking, visiting sites outside the Valley, and getting a fuller experience of what the Sierra Nevadas have to offer. Visiting in winter provides the opportunity to see dramatic winter landscapes in Yosemite Valley or to ski in Badger Pass, but much of the park will be inaccessible due to winter road closures. Spring is the best time to see the waterfalls at their strongest. During the summertime all park roads are open, and Tuolumne Meadows will be snow-free and full of flowers. The Fall offers a time with smaller crowds, cooler weather, and access to the entire park (unless there is an early snowstorm).

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley is the reason why Yosemite was America's first place set aside by the federal government for its scenic beauty. The cliffs rise around the valley at impossibly vertical angles, waterfalls tumble down unimpeded from a thousand feet above, and the Merced River meanders aimlessly along the valley floor. The Valley is also one of the most accessible places in the park, with roads open year-round and plenty of amenities including lodging and food (but no gas stations - plan accordingly!). During summer months traffic can make the valley highly congested, so consider using the shuttle to cut down on stress.

Those entering the Valley via Highway 41 will be treated to the spectacular viewpoint known as Tunnel View. Named for the tunnel that bores through the granite, the eastern side provides a dramatic view of Yosemite Valley with El Capitan on the left, Bridalveil Fall on the right and Half Dome in the center. Photographers should consider this area for pictures after storms, as many of the most famous pictures of the Valley have been taken from this spot as rough weather clears. There are two small parking lots that can get congested, so arrive early in the day if visiting during Summer to ensure a spot.

The sights in the valley include the granite monolith of Half Dome, a mountain that looks like it was split in two, leaving only a vertical face and rounded granite summit behind. In reality Half Dome was formed in the same way that many of Yosemite's granite formations were created - long ago an intrusion of magma deep underground solidified to form a massive granite block, and that block was eventually exposed to the surface via a combination of erosion and uplift. Glaciers that flowed through Yosemite did the rest, carving out the wide, U-shaped valleys that are bordered by sheer vertical walls. These same forces created the wall of El Capitan, a mecca for rock climbers and another of the Valley's famous formations.

Waterfalls in Yosemite Valley include Yosemite Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the world at 2425 feet (782 m). Bridalveil Fall is another easily accessible waterfall, while Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall can be reached by those willing to do some hiking. While some water flows over the waterfalls year-round, by mid-Summer flows are significantly diminished - plan on visiting in the Spring to see these waterfalls at their grandest.


The California Tunnel tree in Mariposa Grove.
NOTE: Starting July 6, 2015 and lasting for about 24 months, a restoration project will severely limit access to the Mariposa Grove. During this time the only access will be to the Upper Mariposa Grove for those traveling by foot or by horse using the Outer Loop Trail. When completed the project will restore the grove to a more natural state by removing structures, roads and parking; see the NPS Restoration of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias Project page for further details.

Wawona is the home to the historic Wawona Hotel, dating from the late nineteenth century. The Pioneer Yosemite History Center, a collection of historic buildings, is located just over the covered bridge from the hotel. Wawona is accessible by car year-round.

The Mariposa Grove is the largest of the three giant sequoias groves in the park (the Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove are the other two) and is home to over 500 mature trees. While not the tallest or oldest things on earth, by volume the giant sequoias are the largest living organism known to man. The grove is located south of Wawona near the entrance station and is accessible via the two-mile Mariposa Grove Road, which is open from approximately April through November. During summer the small parking lot fills frequently, so the free Wawona-Mariposa Grove shuttle is recommended. Trails lead from the Lower Grove to the Upper Grove - traversing the entire route is a 3-4 mile hike, depending on the paths chosen. Trees located within a short walk of the lower parking area include the Grizzly Giant, a massive 1800 year old tree, and the California Tunnel tree, which was cut in 1895 to allow carriages to pass through. Further on, in the Upper Grove, is the Clothespin Tree, which has a natural tunnel in it created by fire that is large enough for a car to pass through, the Wawona Tunnel tree, another tree with a man-made tunnel in it that fell in 1969, and the Telescope Tree, a living tree that is hollow inside, allowing visitors to enter its trunk and stare upwards.

Glacier Point and Badger Pass

Glacier Point, an overlook with a commanding view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite's high country, is generally regarded as the most spectacular viewpoint in the park. It is accessible by car from approximately late May through October or November. Driving time from Wawona and Yosemite Valley is about an hour, but during the busiest summer weekends delays of up to two hours are possible if the Glacier Point parking lot fills. From the parking lot a quarter mile long paved walkway leads to a viewpoint 3214 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor. From mid-December through March the road is usually closed, but cross-country skiers can experience this view after skiing 10.5 miles. The area is particularly popular late in the day to watch the light changing on Half Dome, and is also an excellent area for stargazing. Washburn Point, located just south of Glacier Point, offers views of the southern side of Yosemite Valley.

Badger Pass is the oldest ski area in California, and is located along the road to Glacier Point. The road to Badger Pass is plowed year round, and this area is the starting point for both downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing during the winter. During winter months a free shuttle runs twice a day from Yosemite Valley to Badger Pass.

Tuolumne Meadows

Sunset in Tuolumne Meadows

The Tioga Road (Highway 120 East) is an amazingly scenic route through Yosemite's high country that crosses the park from west-to-east and provides access to the Eastern Sierra and Mono Lake. This road is closed in winter and usually opens to vehicles only from late May or early June through the first snowfall in November. It offers a 39-mile scenic drive between Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows through forests and past meadows, lakes, and granite domes. Many turnouts offer broad and beautiful vistas. From Tioga Road all the way to the south of Mount Whitney, no other roads cross the High Sierra, making this the northern end of the largest contiguous roadless wilderness in the continental United States. The high point of the Tioga Road at Tioga Pass (elevation 9943 feet) is the only place in the park where visitors might encounter the endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep.

Located along the Tioga Road at 8600 feet elevation, Tuolumne Meadows is one of the largest high-elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada. The Tuolumne River meanders across the meadow while rugged mountain peaks and glacially carved domes surround it. During the brief snow-free summer season the meadow is the site of a massive wildflower bloom, making this an excellent area for day hikes and photography.

Crane Flat

Crane Flat is a pleasant forest and meadow area located 16 miles (30 minutes) from Yosemite Valley. Crane Flat is accessible by car all year. Bears can be spotted in the meadows in this area regularly, so keep your eyes open and don't block traffic if you see one!

The Tuolumne Grove has about two dozen mature giant sequoias and is located on the Tioga Road just east of Crane Flat. Sequoias are only visible after a one-mile hike with 500 feet of elevation loss. (The one-mile hike back to the parking lot gains 500 feet and is strenuous.) The drive takes about 1.5 hours from South Entrance. Parking is limited.

The Merced Grove is located on the Big Oak Flat Road east of Big Oak Flat Entrance and is home to about two dozen mature giant sequoias. Sequoias are only visible after a 1.5-mile hike with 500 feet of elevation loss. (The 1.5-mile hike back to the parking lot gains 500 feet and is strenuous.) The drive takes about 1.5 hours from South Entrance. Parking is extremely limited.

Hetch Hetchy Valley

Until the completion of the O'Shaughnessy Dam in 1923, the Hetch Hetchy Valley was said to rival Yosemite Valley for beauty. The fight over the dam was a bitter battle between environmentalists including John Muir and the city of San Francisco, and efforts are still ongoing to remove the dam and restore the valley. Today, the dam is used to deliver water from the Tuolumne River 167 miles west to San Francisco. Even though Hetch Hetchy Valley is flooded, it is still home to spectacular scenery and is the starting point for many less-used wilderness trails. Although the road to Hetch Hetchy is open year-round, on a day-to-day basis it has restricted hours due to security for the reservoir. It may close periodically due to snow in winter and spring. Swimming and boating are not allowed in the reservoir.

The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne lies upstream from Hetch Hetchy and is accessible to hikers. Hikers can also visit two of North America's largest waterfalls located in the Hetch Hetchy Valley: Wapama Falls, at 1,700 ft (520 m), and Tueeulala Falls, at 840 ft (260 m).



Yosemite is one of the world's most spectacular hiking destinations, and all visitors should consider at least a short hike. The Vernal Fall trail is a short and rewarding trek for valley visitors, numerous trails in the high country along Route 120 are suitable for brief trips to see alpine lakes or granite domes, and the sequoia groves all offer the option of short hikes that can easily be extended. More adventurous and physically-fit hikers might consider the Half Dome trail or any of the park's backcountry trails. Prior to hiking check with rangers for trail conditions; snow and hazards from falling rock close many trails in winter, and the cables on the Half Dome trail are only up from late May through early October (ascending Half Dome when the cables are not erected is possible but is dangerous and strongly discouraged). No permits are required park-wide for day hikes, with the exception of the Half Dome Summit.

Yosemite Valley

Many of the meadows have short trails, some of which are handicap accessible. For those staying in the valley, walking to get around is easy, scenic, and avoids the stresses of car travel in the valley.

The cables on the Half Dome trail

Glacier Point

Tuolumne Meadows

Lower Cathedral Lake

Wawona & Mariposa Grove

Hetch Hetchy

Rock climbing

Half Dome from Glacier Point

The Valley also offers some of the most challenging and spectacular rock climbing in North America, with vertical faces 3,000 and more feet tall. Wilderness permits are not required for nights spent on a wall, but it is illegal to camp at the base of any wall in Yosemite Valley. Additional regulations:

  1. Do not litter or leave anything behind, including food or water "for future parties". Pick up any litter you see, including tape wads and cigarette butts.
  2. Don't leave fixed ropes as permanent fixtures on approaches and descents. These are considered abandoned property and will be removed.
  3. Minimize erosion on your approach and descent. If an obvious main trail has been created, use it. Avoid pushing soil downhill and avoid walking on vegetation whenever possible.
  4. If an unplanned bivouac is necessary on a summit, fires are allowed only in an existing fire ring and building a new windbreak is prohibited. Make sure your fire is completely out before you leave.
  5. Clean extra, rotting slings off anchors when you descend. Bring earth-toned slings to leave on anchors.
  6. Check the Camp 4 Kiosk or the Mountain Shop for the current peregrine falcon closures.
  7. Minimize the impact of first ascents by choosing routes that minimize erosion, bolts, and loss of vegetation. "Gardening", e.g. killing plants, is illegal in Yosemite. Motorized drills are prohibited.

Commercial guided climbing trips are also available:

Horseback riding

There are still commercial horseback-riding concessions in the Yosemite Valley, Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows areas.


Water activities

Swimming is allowed in most bodies of water in the park, but is either prohibited or strongly discouraged near waterfalls due to the extreme danger of being swept away - to cite just one tragic example, as of 2010 the total number of people who have died after underestimating currents and being swept over Vernal Fall stands at seventeen. Other places where swimming is prohibited include the following:

Rafting is permitted on the Merced River between Stoneman Bridge (near Curry Village) and Sentinel Beach picnic area between 10AM and 6PM when the river stage (depth) is less than 6.5 feet at Sentinel Bridge and the sum of air temperature and water temperature is greater than 100°F. All raft occupants must have a personal flotation device immediately available, and children under age 13 must be wearing one. Rafting is also allowed on the South Fork of the Merced River below Swinging Bridge (in Wawona).

Fishing is allowed in streams and rivers from the last Saturday in April through November 15, with the exception of Frog Creek near Lake Eleanor, where fishing season does not open until June 15 to protect spawning rainbow trout. Fishing is allowed in lakes and reservoirs year-round. A valid California fishing license is required for anyone aged 16 or older. Fishing supplies, including fishing licenses, are available at the Yosemite Village Sport Shop and at the general stores in Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows.

Special regulations that apply when fishing in the park include the following:


Winter activities


View of Yosemite Valley

Souvenir shops abound in Yosemite. Stores are run by the park concessionaire (DNC), the Yosemite Conservancy, or the Ansel Adams Gallery, with a few smaller family stores. DNC, YC, and the Ansel Adams Gallery offer some form of mail order. The Yosemite Conservancy stores specialize in educational materials about Yosemite, many of which are published by the organization; membership offers a 15% discount on most purchases.

Gas is available for purchase at Crane Flat, Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona, and in towns located outside of the park. Gas prices tend to be 60 cents to 1 dollar higher than communities like Fresno, Merced, and Modesto.

Yosemite Valley

Other locations


The Grand Dining Room of the Ahwahnee Hotel

Groceries can be purchased in Yosemite Village, Crane Flat, Curry Village, Wawona, and Tuolumne Meadows.

Yosemite Valley



Glacier Point



Bear trap. Follow park rules regarding food in cars as bears will break into vehicles if they smell something interesting inside.

Demand for lodging in Yosemite Valley in both the hotels and the campgrounds is extremely heavy during the peak season, so you need to book well ahead of time during the late spring, summer and early fall; vacancies are more common during the off-season. As an example, by mid-May in 2015 not a single reservation remained in any campground for any night during the summer season. Cancellations occur on a random basis, so it is also advised to call back frequently for a desired reservation date.

Cheaper and more abundant lodging can be found outside the park. The nearby towns of El Portal, Mariposa, Groveland, Fish Camp, and Lee Vining have lodging. In addition, the community of Yosemite West borders the park and offers numerous rentals; it is accessible only from within Yosemite and provides a convenient option to visitors planning to stay near Wawona or Yosemite Valley. Be aware that despite names like "Yosemite View", no lodging outside the park has a view of the Valley. Lodging is particularly close to the park near the Route 140 entrance and the Route 120 East entrance; for those approaching from the Route 41South entrance, there are many affordable lodging options in Oakhurst, but at the cost of a longer commute distance. In addition, Yosemite is surrounded by national forests that offer numerous campgrounds.


Park Lodging

The following lodging options are "official" park lodgings, operated by the National Park Service through a concessionaire.

Private cabins

In addition to the lodging operated through the park service, there are also a handful of private cabins located within the park boundaries that can be rented.


Camping is by far the cheapest way of staying within the park, but campgrounds fill quickly during summer months and may require making reservations months in advance. Reservations can be made through the National Park Service from 7AM-7PM PST, or by calling 1-877-444-6777 or +1 518-885-3639 from outside the United States. Written reservation requests can be made by including desired location, type of equipment you will be camping in (i.e.,tent, RV,etc.), as well as method of payment. Send written requests to NPRS, P.O. Box 1600, Cumberland, MD 21502.

All campgrounds offer bear-safe food storage containers, tap water (except where noted), and flush toilets. Pay showers and laundry are located in Curry Village in Yosemite Valley. During summer, showers are also available afternoons at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.

For backpackers, North Pines in Yosemite Valley and the Tuolumne Meadows campground both have "backpacker camps". These are walk-in sites offered for people with valid wilderness permits to stay the night before and the night after their backcountry trips. For more information contact the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center or any park campground office.

Yosemite Valley

Use Southside Drive to get to the Pines Campgrounds. Do not cross the Sentinel Bridge, but make a right turn just before this bridge. If staying in the North Pines, cross the river at Clark's Bridge. (The one-way roads in the valley have been reversed to make it easier to get to the campground.)


Glacier Pass

Crane Flat

Tioga Pass Road


Backcountry permits are free and are required year-round for all overnight trips into Yosemite's wilderness. Wilderness areas operate under a quota system that limits the number of people who may begin overnight hikes from each trailhead, each day. While permits may be reserved for $5 per party plus $5 per person, at least 40% of each trailhead quota is available on a first-come first-served basis the day of, or one day prior to, the beginning of your trip.

Permits can be obtained in person from the wilderness stations in Yosemite Village, Big Oak Flat, Tuolumne Meadows, Badger Pass, Hetch Hetchy and Wawona. In addition, permits can be reserved up to 24 weeks in advance for a fee. There are three ways to reserve a wilderness permit, and forms for advance reservations can be found on the Yosemite wilderness permit web site:

  1. By fax. A fax sent to +1 209-372-0739 is park service's the preferred method of obtaining a wilderness permit. Forms can be found on the Yosemite wilderness permit web site. Faxes received before 7:30AM are processed before phone calls.
  2. By phone. Reservations for summer trips are accepted from 2 days to up to 24 weeks in advance by calling +1 209-372-0740. Phones are staffed from 8:30AM-4PM Monday through Friday, with extended hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day (8AM-5PM Monday through Friday, 9AM-4PM Saturday). You must know your entry and exit trailheads prior to calling.
  3. By mail. Reservation requests for summer trips are accepted from 2 weeks to 24 weeks in advance by writing to Wilderness Permits, PO Box 545, Yosemite, CA, 95389. See Yosemite's web site for the reservation form to include with written requests. If your requested trailhead and dates are available, you will receive a confirmation letter in the mail. A payment method must be provided with all written requests.

All backcountry campers are expected to leave the wilderness in the same condition as they find it, meaning no trash, fire scars, or other evidence of your visit should be left behind. Backcountry campsites must be at least four trail miles from Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Hetch Hetchy or Wawona, or at least one trail mile from any road. Groups are limited in size to 15 people. Pets, weapons, bicycles, strollers, and mechanized vehicles of any kind are not allowed in the wilderness areas, while fires are only allowed in existing fire circles, and are not allowed above 9600 feet elevation.

Bear canisters are required in all areas of the Park and highly recommended in areas close to Yosemite's borders. These canisters must be used for food storage, as well as for storing scented toiletries such as soap, deodorant and toothpaste, and should be stashed at least 100 meters from your campsite. Canisters can be rented from the ranger station where you pick up your backcountry permit for $5, good for up to two weeks.

Stay safe

For any emergency in Yosemite National Park, dial 911 from most phones (hotel and retail phones may require 9+911). Yosemite NPS runs its own dedicated emergency dispatch. If you dial from a cell phone, first mention that you are in Yosemite as many cell phones route to a call center in your number's area code



Over the years the park's bears have become accustomed to scavenging trash and food left out by humans, and will even break into cars and tents to get it. While not the larger grizzly bears that once roamed California, black bears are strong enough to tear a door off of a car with ease. Luckily they usually prefer to avoid humans, so they'll most likely do their work on vehicles left at trailheads or in parking lots. Prevention is remarkably simple: never leave food or scented items (deodorant, air fresheners) in your car or bring them into your tent. Heed this advice! Leaving even just a tube of toothpaste or empty food wrappers in a car may result in thousands of dollars of damage to your vehicle should a bear choose to investigate the smell! Bear-resistant storage units are provided at park campgrounds and overnight parking areas: use them.

To avoid bear encounters while hiking, make noise so that the animal knows you are coming. This approach will also help to avoid encounters with mountain lions, which also inhabit the park. Other animals, such as the herds of deer which can be found in the park's meadows, can be equally dangerous; a young boy was killed by a deer in Yosemite Valley several years ago. Give all animals their space, and never feed any park wildlife.


Yosemite Lodge (and possibly other accommodation areas) has no outside lighting. This is to reduce light pollution and allow the stars to shine down. If moving about the area at night (even to go to the reception office or restaurant) ensure that you have a flashlight (torch), as walking in the dark can be quite hazardous.


Other natural dangers in the park come from the weather. Hypothermia can be a concern at higher elevations where temperatures can drop below freezing throughout the year. Dress in layers, and be prepared for storms and rapid changes in temperature. When storms are approaching avoid open areas such as the summits of the park's many granite domes; lightning strikes these areas regularly. If a storm does approach, get off of high, open ground. When hiking wear sturdy footwear and drink plenty of water - if you are thirsty that is an early sign of dehydration. Be aware that the sun can be intense at higher elevations and when reflected off of snow, so sunscreen is important. In the winter, take the weather term "Winter Storm Warning" very seriously as it means a significant storm is definitely coming.

On the trails

Hikers should follow all posted signs - if a trail is closed due to ice, landslide, or some other reason do not ignore the closure as doing so endangers both the hiker and any area that must be traversed to go around the closure. On the Half Dome trail hikers should ALWAYS remain inside the cables for both their ascent and descent - people have died on this section of trail as recently as Summer 2009.

The park's waterfalls pose another potential hazard. Do not attempt to get close to the waterfalls, especially in the spring. This includes swimming above the waterfalls at a distance of less than 1 mile (about 1600 meters) The force of the water will easily sweep a person off their feet and over the falls. Being swept over any of Yosemite's waterfalls is invariably fatal.

Other Concerns

Currently, the greatest danger in the park comes from the thousands of park visitors. Petty thieves and traffic accidents are two issues to be aware of. Follow park speed limits, lock your vehicle, and be aware of your belongings, especially in Yosemite Valley. Violent crime is extremely rare in Yosemite, but given the numbers of people that visit you should expect that a few unsavory characters will be visiting too.

The National Park Service provides the primary law enforcement and fire protection in the park. NPS is supplemented by DNC Security, who handle a number of calls for service on DNC land assignments. DNC Fire is paged out along with NPS Fire, and handles a large number of calls in Yosemite Valley.

Lost and Found

There are two major Lost and Found operations in Yosemite. One is run by the National Park Service. It can be reached at 209-379-1001. The other is run by DNC, and can be reached at: 209-372-4357. They coordinate as best as possible, considering they are a half-hour away from each other. They process thousands of items each year and surprisingly get a number of items back to the rightful owner. Because of the thousands of items lost or found, generally, you will not get a return call unless your item has been found and turned in correctly.

Items that are found that cannot be returned to the owner are generally turned over to recognized charities. So, if you don't get your item back, and if it is turned in by the finder, at least you can rest easy that it will eventually go to a good cause.

Go next

The towns of El Portal (west on SR140), Mariposa (west on SR140), Groveland (west on SR120), Fish Camp (south on SR41), Lee Vining (east on SR120) and Yosemite West (midway between Yosemite Valley and Wawona) are all within a few miles of the park border. Other nearby destinations include:

Routes through Yosemite National Park

Fresno Fish Camp  S  N  END
Manteca Groveland  W  E  Lee Vining Benton
Merced El Portal  W  E  END

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