Yosemite National Park, California

As early as 1864, the first parts of the national park founded in 1890 were placed under protection. The park is characterized by characteristic landscape forms: the Yosemite valley, the sequoia groves and the alpine high mountains. The various parts of the park can be reached by car via a 315 km long road network, and in some areas also by free shuttle buses. If you want to get to know Yosemite in its original beauty, however, you should hike on one of the many off-road trails. After a short time, a landscape of sublime size opens up here. Millions of people have found rest and relaxation here and perhaps got a little closer to themselves in the process.

Location and Size
According to TOPSCHOOLSINTHEUSA, Yosemite National Park is nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountain range along the east side of California. The more than 3,000 km² large Yosemite National Park runs over altitudes of 600 to 4,000 meters above sea level.

Getting There
Yosemite National Park can be visited all year round. Some areas of the park are inaccessible by car from November to May due to snow.

Tioga Road is closed in winter due to snow conditions. The ban usually lasts from November to the end of May/beginning of June. The road runs from the end of Tuolumne Grove, east of Crane Flat, to the entrance of Tioga Pass. Highway 120 — the continuation of Tioga Road outside of the park — is frequently closed in winter from Tioga Pass to five miles east of Lee Vining.

When Tioga Road is closed, it is not possible to access Tuolumne Meadows or access Yosemite National Park from the east. All other park entrances, including those along Highway 120 from the west, as well as Highway 140 and Highway 41, are open year-round.

Driving from San Francisco / Bay Area
Distance: 314 km; Driving Time: 4-5 hours
Accessible via I-580 East, I-205 East to Hwy 120 East (Manteca) or Hwy 140 East (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.

Driving from Los Angeles
Distance: 504 km; Driving time: 6 hours
Accessible via I-5 North (or I-405 North to I-5) on Highway 99 north to Highway 41 north (Fresno) into Yosemite National Park.

Arrival from Las Vegas
from June to October; depending on weather conditions
Distance: 560 km, driving time: 6-7 hours
Accessible via I-15 south towards Barstow, Hwy 58 west to the intersection with US 395; continue north on US-395 near Lee Vining, take Highway 120 west into Yosemite National Park (open late May/early June through October, weather permitting).

November to May
Distance: 797 km; Driving Time: 8-10 hours
Accessible via I-15 South to Barstow, Hwy 58 West to Bakersfield, Hwy 99 North to Fresno. In Fresno, take Highway 41 north into Yosemite National Park.

Opening Times and Seasons
Yosemite National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and reservations are not required to visit. However, the Hetch Hetchy driveway is only open during daylight hours.

prices Park admission applies to all visitors. Admission is USD 35 per car for those arriving by private vehicle, SUV or RV. Admission is valid for any number of trips to Yosemite Park within seven days. Up to 15 car occupants do not have to pay any extra fees. USD 30 per motorbike, USD 20 per person on foot, horse or bicycle.

America the Beautiful Annual Pass
The annual pass costs $80 and entitles you to visit over 2,000 US federal recreation areas and national parks for one year from the date of purchase. The entrance fee applies to the driver and all passengers of a private, non-commercial vehicle (or up to a maximum of 4 adults in total if per-person entrance fees are charged). Children under 16 are free. If you visit more than 4 national parks, it is usually worth buying the America the Beautiful Annual Pass.
The pass can be purchased at many stores across the US and is also available in advance from various tour operators.

Park Shuttle / Transportation Service
A free shuttle service is available in parts of the park:

  • Yosemite Valley (free shuttle service around east Yosemite Valley)
  • Glacier Point (end of May / June to October – chargeable!)
  • Badger Pass (mid-December to March with free shuttle)
  • Wawona (summer only, very limited shuttle service 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 June and September weekends, via paid tour on YARTS Highway 120 East bus)
  • Tuolumne Meadows (summer only, free shuttle service in Tuolumne Meadows area)
  • Hetch Hetchy Valley (no public transport)
  • Hodgdon Meadow (no public transport)

Mariposa County’s Yosemite Tips

The local tourist office advises visitors to plan their visit as follows:

  • Arrive early to avoid queues at Yosemite’s front gates.
  • Use public transportation or commercial tours such as Yarts and the Yosemite Valley Shuttle System.
  • Spending several days in the region, both inside and outside the national park, rather than trying to explore the 3000 km² park in a single day.
  • On bank holiday weekends, avoid rush hours between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. at the park entrances.
  • Visit the national park outside the summer high season.

Spring: (April & May)
The perfect season for waterfalls!
Weather: Very variable, with sunny and relatively warm days, but still the occasional winter storm.

Summer: (June to September)
See much of the park and many visitors
Weather: Warm to hot with occasional rain (usually with afternoon thunderstorms, especially at higher elevations).

Fall: (October & November)
Few visitors enhance the park experience!
Weather: Very variable, with temperatures ranging from warm to cold, dry to rain or snow

Winter: (December through March)
The season for snow and loneliness
Weather: Winter in Yosemite is snowy and cold, but sunny and cool days are not uncommon.

Average temperatures in Yosemite Valley (1,220 m) in °C
Month Jan Feb March Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max 9 11 14 18 22 27 32 32 28 22 13 8
Min -2 -1 1 3 7 11 14 13 11 6 1 -2

One of the best ways to experience Yosemite Park is on a hike.

Good gear, warm clothing and sound planning are essential to making a hike through the Sierra Nevada safe and enjoyable.

Park Regions
Yosemite Valley: Often referred to as “the valley beyond compare,” Yosemite Valley is arguably one of the best-known examples of a glacial valley. With its roaring waterfalls, steep granite walls, rounded rock peaks and mighty boulders, it is a real natural wonder.

Wawona: Wawona was once an Indian camp. In 1856 Galen Clark built a hotel on this site that was named after him (Clark Station). Visitors could stay here en route from Yosemite Valley to Mariposa. After Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias were placed under protection by the “Yosemite Grant” in 1864, Clark was appointed the first park warden (“Guardian of Yosemite”).

Sequoias: There are three groves of sequoias in Yosemite National Park. Mariposa Grove, located 56 kilometers from Yosemite Valley on Highway 41, is the largest. Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove are just off Crane Flat along Highway 120. Despite human intervention, these giant trees, unrivaled in size in wildlife, have maintained their place for thousands of years.

Glacier Point: The view from Glacier Point over the almost immeasurably wide Sierra Nevada is overwhelming. This is especially true at sunset or when the moon is full, when the light makes the granite rocks look like a fairy tale. From here, atop a 3,000-foot sheer cliff, you get a bird’s-eye view of the entire Yosemite Valley. On the opposite side, Yosemite Falls plunge 739 meters into the valley. Behind, the peaks of the High Sierra form an impressive backdrop. The individual mountains are marked on display boards.

Tuolumne Meadows and the High Country : In summer, when the meadows, lakes and exposed granite slopes are teeming with life, the surrounding rugged Sierra Nevada peaks are at their best. The plants and animals use the few warm days intensively for growth, reproduction and the search for supplies for the coming winter. The Tioga Road (Highway 120) meanders through the high mountains of Yosemite.

Wilderness areas: Over 94% of Yosemite’s total area is wilderness area. Away from the roads, the varied landscape offers both experienced hikers and newcomers the opportunity for multi-day hikes or day trips. The more than 1,200 km long network of hiking trails at different altitudes and climatic conditions always offers new views of the picturesque landscape. Longer hikes are also possible near the ridge of the Sierra Nevada, at altitudes of over 2,700 meters. It is naturally cooler there, while warmer and drier air prevails at lower altitudes. To protect nature, a special permit (“wilderness permit”) is required for overnight hikes, which can be obtained free of charge from the ranger stations, the Wilderness Center or the Visitor Center. Hiking maps and travel guides for planning are also available there.

Yosemite National Park, California