Yosemite National Park USA Tourist Guide

Yosemite National Park USA Tourist Guide - Destination Overview
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About Yosemite National Park & Tourist Guide

Yosemite National Park (yoh-sem-it-ee) is world's most beautiful destination and National park situated at altitude of 2127 to 13114 feet in United States National Park spanning eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in the central eastern portion of the U.S. state of California.

Winter Activities in Yoshemite

Many of the roads in the park close because of heavy snow in winter; however, Yosemite Valley is open all year long.

Badger Pass Skiing

Downhill skiing is available at the Badger Pass Ski Area—the oldest downhill skiing area in California, offering downhill skiing from mid-December through early April.

Much of the park is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with several backcountry ski huts open for use.Wilderness permits are required for backcountry overnight ski trips.

The Bracebridge dinner is an annual holiday event, held since 1927 at the Ahwahnee Hotel, inspired by Washington Irving's descriptions of Squire Bracebridge and English Christmas traditions of the 18th century in his Sketch Book.

Activities to do in Yoshemite

Walks & Trails in Yoshemite

Open-air tours are available around Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias are available. Many people enjoy short walks and longer hikes to waterfalls in Yosemite Valley, or walks amongst Giant Sequoias in the Mariposa, Tuolumne, or Merced Groves.

Glacier point Visit

Others like to drive or take a tour bus to Glacier Point (summer-fall) to see a spectacular view of Yosemite Valley and the high country, or drive along the scenic Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows (summer-fall) and go for a walk or hike.

Yosemite Museum

In addition to exploring the natural features of the park, visitors can also learn about the natural and cultural history of Yosemite Valley at a number of facilities in the valley: the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, the adjoining Yosemite Museum, and the Nature Center at Happy Isles.

LeConte Memorial Lodge

There are also two National Historic Landmarks: the LeConte Memorial Lodge (Yosemite's first public visitor center), and the

Ahwahnee Hotel

World-famous Ahwahnee Hotel. Camp 4 was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.


Hiking in Yoshemite

Over 800 miles (1,300 km) of trails are available to hikers,—anything from the easy stroll, to the grueling hikes up several park mountains, to multiple-day backpack trips.

The park can be divided into 5 sections for the day-user—

  •     Yosemite Valley,
  •     Wawona/Mariposa Grove/ Glacier Point,
  •     Tuolumne Meadows,
  •     Hetch Hetchy,
  •     Crane Flat/White Wolf.

Between late spring and early fall, much of the park is open to multiple-day backpack trips. All overnight trips into the back country require a wilderness permit and most require approved bear-resistant food storage.

About Yosemite Hiking & Camping

It goes without saying that Yosemite National Park provides one of the world's most phenomenal backdrops for hiking and exploration. You can journey with our guides on a variety of day hikes ranging from a few hours in length to full day trips to the top of Half Dome.  Interested in overnight backpacking?  Sign up for our group backpacking trips, or have our Yosemite hiking and camping experts design a custom backpacking trip just for your group.  High Sierra Camps provide tremendous access to the Yosemite backcountry without the need to carry a big pack, just carry your essentials and then enjoy a hot meal prepared by our staff and take advantage of our tent cabins.

  •     Group Hikes – A wide variety of Yosemite hiking trips to accommodate everyone.  Includes a Bike-to-Hike excursion.
  •     Custom Day Hikes – Allows us more freedom to plan a trip just for you or your group.  We guide Half Dome.
  •     Half Dome Hike - Permits available for a limited number of dates.
  •     Overnight Backpacking Trips – A range of group and custom Yosemite camping trips available
  •     Learn to Backpack Trips – An overnight trip focusing on learning the skills you will need to backpack on your own.
  •     Camping – General information about camping opportunities in the Park

Guided Half Dome Hike

The National Park Service created a permit system for getting up the subdome and cables on Half Dome. This year, permits are required 7 days/week while the cables are up. For more information on obtaining a Half Dome permit, please visit www.recreation.gov.  

On your way to Half Dome, the guide will share his or her knowledge of the flora, fauna and natural history of Yosemite. Not only will you get a guide who is trained to deal with emergencies, but also a local who is educated and able to teach you about Yosemite National Park during your day hike.

We practice and teach Leave No Trace Principles when out on the trail so that our clients can learn ways to minimize their impact here in Yosemite National Park as well as in their everyday lives. What better place to provide this education than on one of the most sought-after summits in California-Half Dome!

Yosemite Accommodations

Experience the beauty of Yosemite on your own terms with the Park's wide range of lodging options. You can enjoy upscale accommodations with spectacular views at The Ahwahnee®, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and Wawona ® Hotel. Enjoy camping? Yosemite accommodations range from unheated canvas tents to heated cabins. There's a unique option for every style of vacation.


The Ahwahnee - Yosemite

Offering Four-Diamond hotel accommodations and fine dining, The Ahwahnee provides a touch of elegance right in the heart of the Park, combining world-class amenities with outstanding views of Yosemite’s iconic features.

Yosemite Lodge at the Falls

Ideally located at the base of Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is a great place to both relax and explore. The Lodge's Yosemite Park accommodations feature well-appointed rooms with access to the Tour & Activity Desk, bicycle rentals, The Mountain Room Restaurant & Lounge and more.

Wawona Hotel

Step back to a bygone era at Wawona Hotel, located four miles from the Park’s south entrance. Wawona Hotel’s whitewashed buildings feature rooms without telephones and televisions, so nothing will distract you from the natural surroundings.

Curry Village

Curry Village offers several types of Yosemite accommodations, including standard motel rooms, cabins and canvas tent cabins for a unique lodging experience right in the middle of the great outdoors. A grocery store and outdoor shop are conveniently located onsite.

Housekeeping Camp

For guests who want a simpler way to camp outdoors, Yosemite offers six-person units in Housekeeping Camp, nestled along the Merced River. This is the only Yosemite National Park accommodation other than the campgrounds that includes a campfire ring, perfect for outdoor cooking.

Tuolumne Meadows Lodge

Start your Yosemite explorations from the comfort of the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. Our canvas tent cabins make an excellent base camp for almost any High Sierra excursion.

White Wolf Lodge

The White Wolf Lodge offers canvas tent cabins and hard-sided cabins about 30 miles from Yosemite Valley. Nestled in a beautiful meadow, this unique Yosemite Park accommodation is just a short hike from Lukens and Harden Lakes.

High Sierra Camps

Yosemite’s five High Sierra camps are spaced along a loop trail offering a nice day's journey from camp to camp.  With hearty meals and comfy tent cabins awaiting your arrival, you can pack light and enjoy your hike in.  Stay awhile and explore at one camp or hike on to the next one, design your perfect back-country experience.

Yosemite Tuolumne Meadows Tours and Hikers Bus

  • An all-day adventure to the best kept secret in Yosemite: Tuolumne Meadows! Wild flowers, breathtaking vistas, granite domes and peaks, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails await you. Use the Tuolumne Meadows Tour as a round trip tour or plan your hiking experience to bring you back to the Valley.
  • The round-trip excursion includes photo stops at Olmsted Point and Tenaya Lake, and allows a few hours to explore the stunning landscapes of Tuolumne Meadows, where you can enjoy a short hike or a relaxing picnic.
  • The Tuolumne Meadows Hikers Bus is also a popular option for backpackers and day-hikers who want to hike from Tuolumne Meadows back down into the Valley, as well as for guests who want to see this remarkable area without having to drive themselves.
  • Duration: All day.
  • Yosemite Valley Departure Times & Places:
  • Curry Village - at 8am (Shuttle Stop #13b)
  • Next to the Fire House in Yosemite Village at 8:05am (Shuttle Stop #2)
  • Yosemite Lodge at 8:20am (Shuttle Stop #8)

You Will See: El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows and numerous panoramic views.

  • Available: mid-June to mid-September, conditions permitting.
  • Additional Information:For Pick-up at The Ahwahnee Hotel.


   Yosemite Grand Tour

The full-day Yosemite Grand Tour combines the Valley Floor Tour, Big Trees Tram and Glacier Point Tours into one. Bring your camera for some breathtaking views as you explore the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and Glacier Point.

  • Duration: All day.
  • Departure Time & Place:  This exciting Yosemite day trip departs at 8:45 am.  Meet in front of the lobby of Yosemite Lodge at the Falls.
  • You Will See: Yosemite Valley sights, plus Tunnel View, Glacier Point, Wawona, Big Trees and more.
  • Available: Late May to early November, conditions permitting.
  • Lunch: Tour includes select lunch entrees served at the Wawona Hotel dining room.


               Tour Only     Tour + Lunch

 Adult             $82     $94.50

 Seniors         $69     $81.50

 Child             $46     $58.50

 Under 5     FREE     --


Yosemite Valley Floor Tour

On this two-hour tour, Rangers introduce some of Yosemite’s most famous sightseeing points in Yosemite Valley and describe the history, geology, plant and animal life of the region. This year-round Yosemite Valley Floor tour provides a fuller knowledge and enjoyment of the park.

Open-air trams operate from late spring through early fall. From late October through April, you can ride in an enclosed and heated motor coach with large windows allowing unimpeded views of Yosemite’s famous sights. Bring your camera along for postcard-perfect pictures.

The Valley Floor Tour has a new supplemental audio tour available for no additional charge to guests who would prefer to listen to the tour in Spanish. The supplement consists of 18 separate audio files, developed in collaboration with the National Park

Duration: Two hours

  • Departure Time: The Yosemite Valley Floor tour leaves several times daily from Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Shuttle Stop #8.
  • You Will See: Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan, Tunnel View, Bridalveil Falls and more.
  • Available: Year-round, conditions permitting
  • Cost

 Standard Pricing

 Adult     $25

 Senior     $23

 Child     $13

 Child under 5     FREE

 Family Pricing

 2 adults + 1 child     $54 ($18 ea)

 2 adults + 2 children     $66 ($16.50 ea)

 2 adults + 3 children     $77 ($15.40 ea)

Tour to Glacier Point Yosemite - Drive or Hike

  • Glacier Point Drive or Hike
  • Glacier Point Tours: Glacier Point Hike Transportation

The Glacier Point Tour is a spectacular four-hour round-trip journey that takes you from the valley to Glacier Point, which towers 3,200 feet above the valley floor.  Offering panoramic views of Yosemite Falls, Nevada and Vernal Falls, as well as the magnificent High Sierra in the distance, Glacier Point tours provide a breathtaking look at some of the Park's most beloved sites.

Glacier Point tours depart daily from Yosemite Lodge, and also offers a one-way ticket for adventurers wishing to hike down on their own. This tour operates from late spring to early fall, conditions permitting.

  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Departure Time: Departs at 8:30am, 10am and 1:30pm
  • You Will See:  Valley sights, Tunnel View, Glacier Point.
  • Where To Meet the Tour: Glacier Point tours meet in front of Yosemite Lodge at the Falls under the porte cochere. If you are taking the park shuttle, get off at stop #8.  If driving, please allow extra time for parking.
  • Additional Information: You can purchase a one-way ticket and hike back into Yosemite Valley via your choice of trails, including the Four Mile Trail, or the Panorama Trail. The views from these trails are breathtaking! Trail maps are sold at the Curry Village Mountain Shop, the Village Sport Shop and the Glacier Point store.


                Round-trip     One-way

 Adults                $41     $25

 Seniors               $35     $23

 Child                   $23     $15

 Child under 5     FREE     FREE

Waterfalls in Yoshemite

Yosemite is famous for its high concentration of stunning waterfalls. Numerous sheer drops, glacial steps and hanging valleys in the park provide many places for waterfalls to exist, especially during April, May, and June (the snowmelt season).

The Yosemite Falls

Located in Yosemite Valley, the Yosemite Falls is the highest in North America at 2,425-foot (739 m).

The Ribbon Falls

Also in Yosemite Valley is the much lower volume Ribbon Falls, which has the highest single vertical drop, 1,612 feet (491 m).

Bridalveil Fall

Perhaps the most prominent of the Yosemite Valley waterfalls is Bridalveil Fall, which is the waterfall seen from the Tunnel View viewpoint at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel.

Wapma Falls

Wapama Falls in Hetch Hetchy Valley is another notable waterfall.


Attractions in Yoshemite

Yosemite Valley is the Major attraction in the Yoshemite park, however it represents only one percent of the park area, but most visitors arrive and stay in the valley area only.

Tunnel View :-

The Tunnel View is the first view of the Valley for many visitors and is extensively photographed.

El Capitan :-

A prominent granite cliff that looms over Yosemite Valley, is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world because of its diverse range of climbing routes in addition to its year-round accessibility.

Sentinel Dome & Half Dome

Granite domes such as Sentinel Dome and Half Dome rise 3,000 and 4,800 feet (910 and 1,500 m), respectively, above the valley floor.

Tuolumne Meadoes, Dana Meadows, The Clark Range

The high country of Yosemite contains beautiful areas such as Tuolumne Meadows, Dana Meadows, the Clark Range, the Cathedral Range, and the Kuna Crest. The Sierra crest and the Pacific Crest Trail run through Yosemite, with peaks of red metamorphic rock, such as Mount Dana and Mount Gibbs, and granite peaks, such as Mount Conness.

Highest Point in Yoshemite

Mount Lyell is the highest point in the park, standing at 13,120 ft.

Largst Glacier in Yosemite

The Lyell Glacier is the largest glacier in Yosemite National Park and is one of the few remaining in the Sierra Nevada today.

Largest Trees in Yoshemite

The park has three groves of ancient Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees;

  •     the Mariposa Grove (200 trees).
  •     the Tuolumne Grove (25 trees).
  •     Merced Grove (20 trees).

Diversity of the Yoshemite National park

Yoshemite was Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity.Almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness.

The park has five major vegetation zones: chaparral/oak woodland, lower montane forest, upper montane forest, subalpine zone, and alpine. Of California's 7,000 plant species, more than 20% are based within Yosemite.

Visitors to Yoshemite National Park


Over 4 million people visit Yosemite each year, ironically most of the tourists spend their time in the 1% of the total area seven square miles (18 km2) of Yosemite Valley.

Area of the Yoshemite National Park

Yoshemite National Park covers an area of 761,268 acres (3,080.74 km2) and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain.

Opening Duration of Yoshemite Valley

Yosemite Valley is open year-round, but much of the remaining park is closed in late autumn because of snow and re-opens in mid to late spring.

Transportation Options within Yosemite


Driving Within Yosemite by private vehicle

You can use a private vehicle to drive within Yosemite National Park. Roads and parking areas are marked on maps in the Yosemite Guide. Speed limits do not exceed 45mph (about 72kph) anywhere in the park, and are lower in many places.

To reduce traffic in Yosemite Valley, you will find it convenient and pleasant to park your car and walk or bicycle to the places you want to see, or ride the free shuttle buses that serve the Valley's east end. If visiting for the day, park in the day-use parking lot near Yosemite Village.

The Tioga Road (CA-120) and Glacier Point Road beyond Badger Pass Ski Area are closed each year due to snow from late fall until late spring. See "Tioga Road" in this Web site's introduction to Yosemite for more information on the Tioga Road seasonal closure. The road to Mariposa Grove is open year round but is subject to closures of extended periods during and after snowstorms.


Tour and shuttle bus services within Yosemite

Many shuttle bus and tour services are provided within Yosemite National Park by the park's concessioner. Some tour services offer one-way options, allowing them to serve as hikers' buses also.

•Valley Shuttle: throughout the eastern portion of Yosemite Valley (all year; no charge)

•Tuolumne Shuttle: between Olmsted Point and Tuolumne Meadows on the Tioga Road, with intermediate stops, and limited additional service to Tioga Pass (summer only; no charge)

•Wawona Shuttle: between the Wawona area and Mariposa Grove (spring to late fall; no charge)

•Badger Pass Shuttle: between Yosemite Valley and Badger Pass Ski Area (ski season only; no charge)

•Tuolumne Tour and Hikers Bus: between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows (summer only; a fee is charged)

•Glacier Point Tour and Hikers Bus: between Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point (summer only; a fee is charged)

•Other tours (fees are charged) include the Valley Floor Tour, the Big Trees Tram Tour, the Moonlight Tour, and the Grand Tour

How to Reach Yosemite

Yosemite by Automobile

Yosemite is a three to four hour drive from San Francisco and about six hours from Los Angeles.


Nearest Gas Pumps to Yosemite :- The nearest gas pumps to Yosemite Valley are open year-round inside the park at Wawona (45 minutes south on Wawona Road) and Crane Flat (30 minutes northwest on Big Oak Flat Road/CA Hwy 120) - and in summer at ">Tuolumne Meadows on Tioga Road. At those locations, you can pay at the pump 24 hours a day with a credit or debit card.

There's also a gas station at El Portal just outside the park entrance on CA Hwy 140. At any of those locations, you'll pay 20 to 30% more than if you fueled up in Mariposa, Oakhurst or Groveland where prices are comparable to what you find in the bigger California cities.

Entry to Yosemite National Park by several routes:

From the West and Most Scenic: CA Hwy 140

This route is by far the most scenic drive into Yosemite National Park and the best way to go if you’re visiting for the first time. It’s open most of the time and passes through the towns of Mariposa and Fish Camp. It’s also a popular route for people driving to Yosemite from the San Jose area.

From US Hwy 99 at Merced, Hwy 140 passes through open ranch land, into the wooded foothills. The old mining camp town of Mariposa has an old-fashioned main street and some cute shops and places to eat, making it a good spot to stop and stretch your legs before continuing to the park.

Continuing uphill through Midpines, the road parallels the Merced River for about 30 miles. In spring, redbud trees along its banks sprout magenta-colored flowers and the river rises high enough to accommodate white water rafters, but it’s a pretty drive in any season. The road goes straight into the park, entering through the Arch Rock entrance.


Reaching Yosemite From the West: CA Hwy 120

Open most any time, this route goes through Oakdale and Groveland and is often used by visitors from the San Francisco Bay area and northern California. It passes through fruit and almond orchards, small agricultural towns, fruit stands and ranches in the rolling foothills before ascending sharply up the Priest Grade to Big Oak Flat and the old gold mining town of Groveland.

The road is generally straight or gently curving, except for the 8-mile Priest Grade ascent, which gains over 1,000 feet of elevation in 8.5 miles.

Oakdale is the largest town on this route east of US Hwy 99 and a good place to stop to eat or buy groceries. It’s also a good place to top off the gas tank, the last opportunity to gasoline at lower prices. If you’d rather picnic than eat indoors, the vista point above Lake Don Pedro (east of Oakdale) is a good place to do it.

Although it’s smaller than Oakdale, Groveland has a nice hotel, the state’s oldest saloon and a few other places to stop for a bite to eat or to browse in while you stretch your legs.


Reaching Yosemite From the South: CA Hwy 41

From US Hwy 99 at Fresno, Hwy 41 runs north and west toward Yosemite’s South Entrance, which takes you through the towns of Oakhurst and Fish Camp and into the park near the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias and Wawona.

CA Hwy 41 is also your best option if you’re staying at Tenaya Lodge, which is just outside the park boundaries. If you’re thinking of staying there, get more information about Tenaya Lodge.

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is also on Hwy 41. If you love old steam trains and want to take a ride, check the guide to the fun Yosemite train.


Reaching Yosemite From the East: CA Hwy 120 and Tioga Pass

To find out more about traveling over this route, average opening and closing dates, check the guide to the Tioga Pass. If you just want to find out if the pass is open enter 120 at the CalTrans website.


Reaching Yosemite From the East: Other Mountain Passes

Other mountain passes that can get you across the Sierras near Yosemite include the Sonora Pass (CA Hwy 108), Monitor Pass (CA Hwy 89) and Ebbetts Pass (CA Hwy 4). Snow may also close these routes in winter, but they are sometimes open when Tioga Pass is still snow-clogged. To get the current conditions of any of these routes, enter the highway number at the CalTrans website.


Reaching Yosemite by Bus

If you're staying outside the park, Yosemite Area Transportation System (YARTS) offers bus service along CA Hwy 140 between Merced and Yosemite Valley. During the summer when Tioga Pass is open, YARTS also offers one round trip a day between Mammoth Lake and Yosemite Valley. Get more information and check their schedule and prices.


Reaching Yosemite by Amtrak Train

Amtrak's San Joaquin train route stops in Merced, where you can catch a bus to Yosemite. Get the schedule at their website.


Getting to Yosemite from San Francisco: Tours

A few bus tour companies offer trips to Yosemite from San Francisco, but the drive is so long that you won't be left with much time to see the place. If you're determined to do it anyway, you can reserve a one-day trip through Kijubi.com. For a more leisurely visit, try a 3-day camping adventure or a 2-day hotel tour. For a custom tour in a comfortable mini-van, try A Friend in Town tours or Blue Heron Tours.


Closest Airport to Yosemite

The nearest commercial airports are in Fresno and Merced, but both are small. For more frequent flight schedules served from more locations, try Sacramento, Oakland or San Francisco. In summer when Tioga Pass is open, Reno, Nevada may also be an option. Closest airports for private pilots include Mariposa (KMPI) or Pine Mountain Lake (E45), but you'll need transportation from either of them to get to Yosemite.

Where Is Yosemite National Park Located

Where Is Yosemite National Park Located?

Yosemite is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, about 200 miles east of San Francisco, 300 miles northwest of Los Angeles and a little over 400 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Your best bet is to engage your common sense before you engage your vehicle’s gears. Think about whatever route your electronic device suggests and see if it makes sense. If you’re trying to get to a popular spot and the roads are getting smaller and less maintained, you’re probably on the wrong route. This is one place where a good, old-fashioned map may be best - and study your route in advance.


Caution in using GPS for Yosemite

Trying to answer the question "where is Yosemite?" using a website or GPS system can be a frustrating and potentially risky thing to do. Some GPS systems may try to put you on roads that are closed or impassable. This is particularly a problem at Yosemite, where the mountain passes are closed all winter long.

The official Yosemite website says they don't recommend using GPS units for directions in and around the park - and neither do we.


Correct way of using GPS for Yosemite Travel

Yosemite is a big place that covers 1,200 square miles and doesn't have a single address, but people often ask what the Yosemite address is so they can use it in mapping software or a GPS system. When we tried entering "Yosemite" at popular map websites in early 2013, results varied. One site showed the Yosemite Valley outside of the park boundaries in El Portal (where the park’s administrative offices are located). Another showed it on the top of a mountain with no highway access (also wrong). If you need an address to input into your GPS or other mapping aid, try 9031 Village Drive, Yosemite National Park, CA or 1 Ahwahnee Drive (which is the address of the hotel). Once you get close to the park, you’ll find road signs pointing toward it, making the navigation easier.

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