Yosemite’s U-shaped valley is home to massive granite cliffs, beautiful waterfalls, and rich wildlife, earning it the title of the most-visited California national park. There’s no shortage of adventure within its borders, with more than 1,200 square miles of protected wilderness. Hike up domes, walk amid Giant Sequoias, explore the high country, swim in alpine lakes, and keep an eye out for wild black bears, mule deer, and bobcats. Yosemite National Park’s magnificence will not disappoint you, whether you choose a full day of trekking followed by camping under the stars or a relaxing meadow stroll followed by a cozy bed at night.
Where is Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in central California. It’s around 180 miles from San Francisco or the California coast, surrounded by three national forests (Sierra, Stanislaus, and Inyo).
How to get there?
It takes around four hours to go from San Francisco to Yosemite. Take I-580 E to I-205 E after crossing the Bay Bridge. There are two possibilities from here: continue on Route 120 to the park’s northwestern entrance. Continue on I-99 and then Route 140 for an alternate route. Yosemite is about a two-hour trip from Fresno. From Fresno, take Highway 41 all the way to the park.
Are you planning a road trip through California’s national parks? Death Valley, which looks like a lunar landscape, is approximately 3 hours south, and Lassen Volcanic National Park, which is about 5 hours north, are both worth seeing.
Best time to visit
There is no right or wrong time to visit Yosemite, but there are certain things to think about when deciding when to go. The Valley is open all year and changes greatly as the seasons pass.
To enjoy lush meadows, rushing waterfalls, and (usually) snow-free hiking trails, visit between May and July. These months are normally pretty crowded, but I think it’s worth it for the stunning scenery and easy access to hiking trails.
Yosemite National Park offers excellent, yet distinct, experiences in each of the four seasons. The greatest time to witness the roaring waterfalls is in the spring, however the high country may be closed owing to snow. Summer temperatures open up the park to the public and provide plenty of pleasant days for swimming in the Merced River and mountain lakes. The shifting colours of the leaves in the fall illuminate the valley. Hiking is more pleasurable at this time of year due to the cooler temperatures, and all park roads are open until the first snowfall. Waterfalls are rare to non-existent in the autumn. Yosemite National Park is least congested in the winter. Despite the fact that many roads close at higher elevations, the valley looks spectacular when blanketed in snow. Temperatures typically range from the mid-twenties to the low-forties.
Yosemite Valley is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day (weather permitting). For the winter, Glacier Point Road and Tioga Pass (Hwy 120 East) are closed. In the summer, the road to Hetch Hetchy is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with limited hours in the winter. Snow and other weather conditions can also have an impact on valley hours and road closures.
Due to COVID-19, the park’s operations are now restricted. Check out Yosemite National Park’s current conditions for the most up-to-date COVID status and frequent updates.
Park Entrance Fee
The entrance price to Yosemite is $35 for a car, $30 for a motorcycle, and $15 for a pedestrian. Upon arrival, the entrance charge is valid for 7 days. The cost of a Yosemite park pass is $70 per year. The America the Beautiful Pass costs $80 per year and allows you to visit all of the United States’ national parks.
Yosemite National Park Hiking Trails
Lower Yosemite Falls Trail
Cooks Meadow Trail
Mirror Lake Trail
Taft Point Trail
Clouds Rest via Tenaya Lake
Upper Yosemite Falls
Where to stay
The Curry Village cabins and motel are the most economical options in the Valley, followed by the Yosemite Valley Lodge (from $249). If you want to spend, book a room at the Ahwahnee (from $426), a stunning Craftsman-style refuge on the National Register of Historic Places. For those on a tighter budget, have a drink in the hotel bar, then curl up by the big fireplace in the magnificent Great Lounge with a nice book (or a laptop, if necessary).
The Wawona Hotel (from $153), a National Historic Landmark, was closed for a time to replace the wiring (which was understandable given that it was erected in 1856), but it is now available for business. The seasonal White Wolf Lodge (from $137) and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge (from $141) are more simply appointed but place you right in the midst of high country charm.