Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park embraces a spectacular tract of mountain-and-valley scenery in the Sierra Nevada, which was set aside as a national park in 1890. The park harbors a grand collection of waterfalls, meadows, and forests that include groves of giant sequoias, the world's largest living things. Highlights of the park include Yosemite Valley, and its high cliffs and waterfalls; Wawona's history center and historic hotel; the Mariposa Grove, which contains hundreds of ancient giant sequoias; Glacier Point's (summer-fall) spectacular view of Yosemite Valley and the high country; Tuolumne Meadows (summer-fall), a large subalpine meadow surrounded by mountain peaks; and Hetch Hetchy, a reservoir in a valley considered a twin of Yosemite Valley.
There is so much to do in Yosemite, and it offers opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. If you're planning a trip to Yosemite, first decide during which season you plan to visit, then decide where you'll spend the night (if you spend the night) so you can make lodging or camping reservations. Then, you can find the answer to the age-old question about what there is to do in Yosemite.
Rafting along the Merced River is popular during summer. You can rent a raft (typically in June and July, but it varies from year to year, depending on water level) or bring your own. (Other nonmotorized vessels, such as kayaks, are also permitted.) Rafting is permitted on the Merced River between Stoneman Bridge (near Curry Village) and Sentinel Beach Picnic Area between 10 am and 6 pm under the following conditions: the river stage (depth) must read less than 6.5 feet at Sentinel Bridge and the sum of air temperature and water temperature must be more than 100°F. You must have a personal flotation device immediately available for each occupant of the raft. Rafting is also permitted on the South Fork of the Merced River in the Wawona area.
Some visitors enjoy kayaking the calm waters of Tenaya Lake.
Over 12 miles of paved bike paths are available in Yosemite Valley. In addition, bicyclists can ride on regular roads (if they obey traffic laws). Helmets are required by law for children under 18 years of age.
Off-trail riding, mountain biking, and use of motorized bicycles or scooters on bike paths are not permitted in Yosemite National Park.
Bicycles are available for rent in Yosemite Valley. .
All of the roads in Yosemite National Park are scenic, but the most famous scenic drive is along the Tioga Road, a 39-mile (62 km) drive from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass. The road is typically open from late May or early June through sometime in November. (Check current road conditions.)
The Yosemite Road Guide, available at visitor center bookstores, contains descriptions of each road inside the park and includes suggestions of where to stop along the way.
Yosemite National Park has 13 popular campgrounds, of which up to seven are on a reservation system. From April through September, reservations are essential and even the first-come, first-served campgrounds often fill by noon from May through September.
Reservations are required March 15 through November for Yosemite Valley's car campgrounds and summer through fall for Hodgdon Meadow, Wawona, and half of Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows. Campground reservations are available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 am Pacific time. Be aware that nearly all reservations for the months of May through September and for some other weekends are filled the first day they become available (often within minutes after 7 am)! Call 877/444-6777 (or 877/833-6777 for TDD), (or 518/885-3639 from outside the US & Canada) for reservations.
Yosemite is one of the world's greatest climbing areas. Climbers here can enjoy an endless variety of challenges--from the sustained crack climbs of the Merced River Canyon to pinching crystals on sun-drenched Tuolumne Meadows domes to multi-day aid climbs on the big walls of the Valley. Yosemite is not just a climber's playground, however: its walls and crags are an integral part of a larger ecosystem, protected as Wilderness, which was set aside for people to enjoy in a natural state for generations to come. At the current time, wilderness permits are not required for nights spent on a wall. Half Dome: Camping at the base of Half Dome is legal, but a wilderness permit is required. To have the best chance of getting one, go there early in the morning the day before you hike up. Camping on the summit of Half Dome is prohibited.
Climbing Instruction and Guide Service can be contracted by contacting Yosemite Mountaineering School at 209/372-1000 for information on rates and schedules.
Fishing regulations for Yosemite National Park follow those set by the State of California, including the requirement that people 16 or older have a valid California fishing license.
The season for stream and river fishing begins on the last Saturday in April and continues through November 15. The only exception is Frog Creek near Lake Eleanor, where fishing season does not open until June 15 to protect spawning rainbow trout. The late opening includes the first 1/2 mile of Frog Creek up to the first waterfall, including the pool below this waterfall. The late opening also extends 200 feet from the mouth of Frog Creek out onto the surface of Lake Eleanor and along its shore for a distance of 200 feet from the creek's mouth. Otherwise, all lakes and reservoirs are open to fishing year-round.
Yosemite's Wawona Golf Course was the first regulation course in the Sierra Nevada when it opened in 1918, and has provided golfers challenging but rewarding rounds ever since. The nine-hole, par-35 national park golf course measures 3,050 yards and includes two par-five holes and three par-three holes. Different tee positions per side provide a par-70, 18-hole format.
The course uses reclaimed gray water for watering the greens and uses no peticides at all, making it one of the few organic golf courses in America.
For more information and tee time reservations, call the Wawona Golf Shop at (209) 375-6572.
One of the best ways to experience Yosemite is by taking a hike. Some of the best hikes available include Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road, Wawona and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Hetch Hetchy, White Wolf and Tuolumne Meadows. Snowshoe and cross-country trails for Badger Pass/Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove, and Crane Flat area (these areas are usually snowy from mid December through March).
Guided mule rides and both pack and saddle trips are available through DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite from spring through fall.
Overnight boarding facilities, spot packing, and day rides are available from DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite (DNC) whose liveries are located within Yosemite National Park. Horse owners are responsible for making advance arrangements for overnight use and reservations are suggested for all services. Information may be obtained by calling DNC at 209-372-4386, or by visiting DNC's website.
Several commercial pack stations are authorized to provide certain services in Yosemite. If using trailheads within Yosemite, please use DNC. If you are starting outside the park at a US Forest Service trailhead, contact the pack station in the appropriate area.
In the front country, privately owned stock may be kept overnight only in campgrounds with designated stock sites.
Stock sites are available seasonally at Wawona Campground, Bridalveil Creek Campground, and Tuolumne Meadows Campground. Reservations are required. There is no stock camp in Yosemite Valley.
The Wawona and Bridalveil Creek horse camps have two sites each; the Tuolumne Meadows horse camp has four sites. Each site can accommodate up to six people and six head of stock. There is a limit of two vehicles and two stock trailers per parking area.
Wilderness stock users may also use one of two sites at the Hetch Hetchy Backpackers' Campground.
Picnic areas are available throughout Yosemite on a first-come, first-served basis (reservations are not available) from dawn to dusk.
Unless otherwise noted, all picnic areas in Yosemite have picnic tables, vault toilets, garbage and recycling receptacles. All picnic areas have grills except Cascades, Lower Yosemite Fall, Church Bowl, Yosemite Creek, and Lembert Dome. No picnic areas have potable water.
Besides the outdoor pools available to the public during summer at Curry Village and Yosemite Lodge swimming is permitted in all bodies of water in the park except Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and above waterfalls. Swimming in the Merced River is a great way to cool off--but help protect the river by entering and exiting only on sandy beaches. Swimming in rivers is not without hazards, including swift currents, cold water, and hazards within the river (e.g., trees).
Yosemite National Park supports more than 400 species of vertebrates including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. In Yosemite Valley, home to the mule deer and black bear, visitors should watch for species that depend upon meadow habitat. Animals come to feed on the green grasses and use the flowing and standing water found in many meadows. Overall, the park's widespread coniferous forests--with a relatively mild climate and a mixture of plant species--provide a lush habitat for animals to live. Wildlife species typically found include bobcat, gray fox, mountain kingsnake, Gilbert's skink, white-headed woodpecker, brown creeper, spotted owl, and a wide variety of bat species.
Several marked winter trails are available, generally from mid December through March. Yosemite Valley usually doesn't have sufficient snow for skiing or snowshoeing. Badger Pass ski area is home to the oldest downhill skiing area in California and offers downhill skiing and snowboarding from mid-December through March. DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite rents downhill and cross-country skis, snowboards, and snowshoes at Badger Pass. DNC also offers skiing and snowboarding lessons at Badger Pass. Snowshoes (but not skis) are also available for rent at the Crane Flat store. An outdoor ice skating rink in Yosemite Valley (at Curry Village) is open from mid-November to mid-March.
Yosemite National Park is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, and no reservations are required to visit. However, the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station is open only during daylight hours (approximately) and some roads are closed due to snow from around November through May or June.
Yosemite Conservancy is the only philanthropic organization dedicated exclusively to the protection and preservation of Yosemite National Park, while enhancing visitor experience. The Conservancy creates opportunities for individuals to experience and connect with the park by funding trail repairs, habitat restoration, outdoor programs, volunteering and other essential programs that otherwise would not happen. (Yosemite Conservancy is the nonprofit formed by a merger of the Yosemite Association and The Yosemite Fund.)(800) 469-7275
As the contracted concessioner for Yosemite, Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts (DNC), provides lodging, dining and services within Yosemite National Park. There are 1,667 guest rooms, 25 Food and Beverage units, 19 retail locations, a wide range of exciting and informative guest activities, and the support services needed to keep these operations running, including office staff, maintenance, warehouses, transportation and employee housing.(801) 559-4884
From San Francisco/Bay area take I-580 east to I-205 east to Highway 120 east (Manteca) or Highway 140 east (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.
From Sacramento take Highway 99 south to Highway 120 east (Manteca) or Highway 140 east (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.
From Reno & Lake Tahoe, approximately June through October, conditions permitting, Take US 395 south to Lee Vining; take Highway 120 west into Yosemite National Park (open late May/June through October, depending on conditions). Year round take I-80 or I-50 west to Sacramento; take Highway 99 south to Highway 120 east (Manteca) or Highway 140 east (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.
From the Los Angeles area Take I-5 north (or I-405 north to I-5) to Highway 99 north to Highway 41 north (Fresno) into Yosemite National Park.
From Las Vegas June through October, conditions permitting, take I-15 south to Barstow; Highway 58 west to the junction with US 395; go north on US 395 to near Lee Vining; take Highway 120 west into Yosemite National Park (open late May/early June through October, depending on conditions).
From November through May take I-15 south to Barstow; Highway 58 west to Bakersfield; take Highway 99 north to Fresno. In Fresno, take Highway 41 north into Yosemite National Park
A number of Commercial Airports are available near Yosemite. Drive from Fresno-Yosemite International (FAT), north on Highway 41 to Yosemite. Allow about 1.5 hours to the park's South Entrance or 2.5 hours to Yosemite Valley. Drive from Merced Airport (MCE), east on Highway 140 to Yosemite. Allow about two hours to Yosemite Valley. Drive from Modesto City-County Airport (MOD) east on Highway 120 to Yosemite (or head south on Highway 99 to Merced, then take Highway 140 into Yosemite). Allow about 1.5 hours to the park's Big Oak Flat or Arch Rock Entrance or about two hours to Yosemite Valley. Commercial Airports from Bay Area include San Francisco International (SFO), Oakland International (OAK) and San José International (SJC). Drive from San Francisco International (SFO) on Highway 580 east to Highway 205 east to Highway 120 east to Yosemite (you can also take Highway 99 south to Merced, then Highway 140 into Yosemite). Allow about four hours to the park's Big Oak Flat or Arch Rock Entrance or five hours to Yosemite Valley. Drive from Oakland International (OAK)rive on Highway 580 east to Highway 205 east to Highway 120 east to Yosemite (you can also take Highway 99 south to Merced, then Highway 140 into Yosemite). Allow about four hours to the park's Big Oak Flat or Arch Rock Entrance or five hours to Yosemite Valley. Drive from San José International (SJC) on Highway 880 north to 580 east to Highway 205 east to Highway 120 east to Yosemite (you can also take Highway 99 south to Merced, then Highway 140 into Yosemite). Allow about four hours to the park's Big Oak Flat or Arch Rock Entrance or five hours to Yosemite Valley. Commercial Airports North or East of Yosemite include Sacramento International (SMF) and Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH). Drive from Sacramento International (SMF) on Highway 99 to either Highway 120 or Highway 140 east to Yosemite. Allow about four hours to Yosemite Valley. Drive from Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) during summer months north on US 395 to Highway 120 west into Yosemite. Allow about an hour to Tioga Pass Entrance or 2.5 hours to Yosemite Valley. (Check on the status of the Tioga Road.) All year you can drive north on US 395 to Highway 88, then take Highway 88 west to its junction with Highway 99. Once on Highway 99, drive south to either Highway 120 or Highway 140 east into Yosemite. Allow about seven hours to Yosemite Valley.
Bus service is available to Yosemite Valley from cities throughout California (and the rest of the United States). Amtrak provides a combination of train and bus service to Yosemite Valley. Greyhound provides bus service to Merced, where you can transfer to YARTS to continue to Yosemite Valley. Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) buses also provide service from communities along Highway 140 between Merced and Yosemite (including Mariposa, Midpines, and El Portal). During summer, service is also available from east of Yosemite, via Highway 120 (including Lee Vining, June Lake, and Mammoth Lakes). Free shuttle service is available within some (but not all) areas of the park.
If you arrive in Yosemite Valley by bus, access to other areas of the park is possible, include Yosemite Valley (free shuttle service around eastern Yosemite Valley), Glacier Point (late May/June through October via fee-based tour), Badger Pass (mid December through March via free shuttle), Wawona (summer only; very limited shuttle service available from Wawona to Yosemite Valley in the morning and from Yosemite Valley to Wawona in the afternoon), Tioga Road/Tuolumne Meadows (July and August, along with weekends in June and September, via fee-based tour and YARTS Highway 120 East bus), Tuolumne Meadows (summer only; free shuttle service in the Tuolumne Meadows area). Hetch Hetchy Valley and Hodgdon Meadow have no public transportation.