Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful and most visited national parks in the United States. In this article, I’ll share my best tips for visiting Yosemite.
How to get there?
Yosemite National Park is located in California, a 4-hour drive from San Francisco. There are three entrances: on the west side (direction to San Francisco), on the south side (Fresno) and on the east side (Lee Vining). The entrance on the east side is only open a couple of months a year (usually between June and November) because you’ll have to drive over the Tioga Road, which is covered by snow during the other months of the year.
At the entrance, you’ll have to pay $35 (per car), this ticket is valid for seven days. When you’re visiting more national parks in a year, it might be cheaper to get the America The Beautiful Pass. This pass will cost you $80, but it’s valid for a year in all of the national parks. Check out this website for the most up to date entrances fees.
Like I mentioned earlier, the Tioga Road is at the east side of the park and this is one of the most scenic roads in all of the United States. It’s the highest road in the United States, at some points, it reaches an altitude of 3000 meters (almost 10.000 feet). It’s not a surprise to encounter some snow when you’re driving on this road. During the months December to May the road is closed because of the high snow levels. The opening date of the road is different every year, you can check out this page for the most up to date information.
When you visit Yosemite National Park in the months June to November, driving the Tioga Road is absolutely a must. There are many beautiful places to see and the landscape seems different at every turn. An impression:
Where to stay
When you search on Booking.com for a place to stay in Yosemite National Park, it’ll probably show you all kinds of accommodations in places like Mammoth Lakes, Mariposa or Oakhurst. Easy to book, but none of the places are actually located in the park. It will take you about 1,5 to 2 hours (one way!) to get to the park if you stay in one of these places.
That’s why I highly recommend a stay in Yosemite Valley. This a small village with lots of accommodations, a shop and a couple of restaurants. Yosemite Valley is also the place where you’ll find all of the trailheads if you’d like to go on a hike. You can make reservations through the official website. Accommodations in Yosemite National Park sell out very quickly (especially on holidays and on weekends), so try to book as soon as you can.
If all the (cheap) accommodations in the valley are sold out, I would recommend staying as close as possible to Yosemite Valley.
Camping is the cheapest option for a night in Yosemite National Park. In Yosemite Valley, you’ll find three large campgrounds where you can reserve a campsite in advance: Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines. Getting a reservation for a campsite in one of these campgrounds is like Russian roulette because it’s a very popular place to stay.
Every month on the 15th, reservations open up for the next five months. So if you’d like a spot in the last week of July, you’ll have to be ready at March 15. Make sure to make a reservation the moment it opens up because all of the campsites will be gone in less than 5 minutes. Check out this webpage for the dates you have to reserve a campsite.
A campsite costs $26 a night, and you’ll have enough space for multiple tents, a place to park your car, a fire ring, a barbecue, a picnic table, and a bear box. This will be the place for you to store everything that has a scent (not only your food but also toiletries). You really don’t want a bear to look for food at your campsite in the middle of the night.
How to get around
To get into Yosemite National Park, you’ll need a car. But once you’re inside the park, you can better leave the car in the parking lot of your accommodation. There’s a lot of traffic and you don’t want to get stuck in your car. Luckily, there are multiple shuttle buses (free of charge), that can take you to most of the trailheads and other cool places in the park. Check out this webpage for all of the bus stops.
There are many beautiful waterfalls in Yosemite National Park, but at some points, during the year you won’t be able to see them. If you’d like to see the waterfalls at their best, make sure to visit Yosemite National Park in May or June. When I visited the park in July, I was only able to see two waterfalls. The first one was Yosemite falls, with 739 meters (2400 feet), this is the tallest waterfall in the United States. The second waterfall I was able to see, was Bridalveil falls, a beautiful waterfall where you can see a rainbow if you’re lucky.
If you like hiking, Yosemite National Park is perfect for you. There are many trails, from short and easy to long and strenuous. You can see beautiful lakes, amazing views of Yosemite Valley and waterfalls. Ask a ranger in the Visitor Center which hike is perfect for you. Once you start, the trails are well maintained and you’ll see clearly where you have to go. Make sure to bring enough water, because it will be hot (especially in the summer months), and you won’t be able to find a water source everywhere. If you’d like to read some more about the hikes, check out this webpage.
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