When to Go
All-year park. Avoid holiday weekends. Expect filled campgrounds from June through August and some crowding in late spring and early fall. Be sure you have reserved accommodations before attempting an overnight visit. You will find skiing and other winter activities in the Badger Pass Ski Area from about Thanksgiving to mid-April.
How to Get There
From Merced (about 70 miles away): Follow Calif. 140 to the Arch Rock Entrance. Merced is one of the gateway communities for the Yosemite regional bus service (www.yarts.com or 877 989 2787). Also from the west: Take Calif. 120 to the Big Oak Flat Entrance.
From the south, via Fresno: Calif. 41 takes you to the South Entrance. From the northeast, via Lee Vining: Follow Calif. 120 to the Tioga Pass Entrance (closed mid-November to late May, depending on weather).
Trains stop at Merced; check with Amtrak about buses to Yosemite. Airports: Fresno and Merced.
How to Visit
When a visitor asked a Yosemite ranger what he would do if he had only a day to visit the park, the ranger answered, "I'd weep." If you must zip through this huge park in a day, begin with Yosemite Valley.
But even a dawn-to-dusk, one-day visit hardly allows enough time for more than a tour of the valley plus a look at one or two of the park's other major areas, such as the vistas from Glacier Point (road closed in winter beyond the ski area) and the sequoias of the Mariposa Grove.
As an alternative take the High Sierra Tioga Road (closed in winter) to explore the park's alpine country. Better still, stay long enough to get beyond the crowds and discover the sense of seclusion this great park can give you along one of its trails.
Where to Stay
From luxury hotels to backcountry camps, Yosemite has lodging to fit everyone’s needs.
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel is Yosemite’s landmark four-diamond hotel. Built in the 1920s near Royal Arches and Half Dome, the Majestic Yosemite's unique architecture features touches of art deco, Native American, Middle Eastern, and arts-and-crafts styles. It offers world-class cuisine, a variety of guest services, and a range of guest-room options.
The Victorian-style Big Trees Lodge is a historic landmark that dates to the late 1800s. Set in a quiet part of the park near groves of giant sequoias, it is popular with families. Its 104 guest rooms are furnished with period pieces, and some share baths in the old-fashioned way. Big Trees Lodge has its own golf course, stables, and "swimming tank," and is near skiing and hiking trails, and other activities.
Half Dome Village is Yosemite’s largest lodging property, consisting of nearly 500 cabin and tent dwellings in the heart of Yosemite Valley beneath Glacier Point. The prices are moderate, and the complex dishes up a variety of dining options, including a taqueria, a pizza deck and bar, and an ice cream stand.
The High Sierra Camps, five groups of camps reachable only by hiking, offer a unique perspective on Yosemite. Visitors stay in canvas tent-cabins and must bring their own linens. Food and hot showers are offered.
For details and more information on these lodgings, visit www.yosemitepark.com/Accommodations.aspx.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Book your accommodations well in advance of your trip. Yosemite is one of the world's most-visited parks, and space for lodging and activities fills up fast.
Yosemite has a trailhead quota system that requires visitors to have wilderness permits before venturing on overnight backpacking trips into the backcountry. No permit is needed for day hikers. It is recommended that visitors purchase their permits in advance. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm.
Be prepared. Bring water bottles or camelbacks, insect repellent, a first aid kit, sunscreen, and a camera. Dressing in layers and wearing rugged outdoor shoes is always a good idea.
Remember that wildlife is wild. Do not try to touch the animals. Be cautious when eating and disposing of food. To avoid surprising larger mammals like bears, make plenty of noise on the trail; Yosemite has a very active black bear population. Please be aware of all food-storage policies and store food and toiletries properly. Any hiker planning to stay in the backcountry on an overnight trip is required to carry a bear canister, which can be rented at any wilderness office in Yosemite for a small deposit. Yosemite now offers wireless Internet access in most of its lodges and has numerous Internet kiosks.