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1. Introduction (The Yosemite FAQ)

Part 1: Introduction


Copyright © 1996-2000 Jeffrey Trust.
Copyright © 2002-2007 Dan Anderson.
This document may be freely distributed for non-commercial purposes only, provided that it is distributed unmodified and in its entirety.


While I have attempted to keep all information correct, up-to-date, and complete, neither I, nor any other contributors to this FAQ, assume any responsibility for its correctness. In other words: use this information at your own risk. Additionally, while Yosemite, like many rural areas, has a relatively low crime rate, do not let your guard down: even though serious crimes may be relatively uncommon, keep your personal safety in mind.

This this document is kept at http://www.yosemite.ca.us/faq/

See also the Official NPS FAQ and another NPS FAQ.


Yosemite National Park is located in the central Sierra Nevada, roughly east of San Francisco. Elevations within the park range from 2,000 feet (610 m) to over 13,000 feet (3,950 m).

The most visited portion of Yosemite is Yosemite Valley, the elevation of which is about 4,000 feet (1,200 m). Other popular destinations in Yosemite are Glacier Point (7,200 feet/2,200 m), Tuolumne Meadows (8,500 feet/2,600 m), and Wawona (4,000 feet/1,200 m).


Climate Data for Yosemite Valley

MonthTemp high Temp lowPrecipitation
(water equivalent)
Jan49°F/9°C 26°F/-3°C6.2 in/15.8 cm
Feb55°F/13°C 28°F/-2°C6.1 in/15.5 cm
Mar59°F/15°C 31°F/-1°C5.2 in/13.2 cm
Apr65°F/18°C 35°F/2°C3.0 in/7.6 cm
May73°F/23°C 42°F/5°C1.3 in/3.3 cm
Jun82°F/28°C 48°F/9°C0.7 in/1.8 cm
Jul90°F/32°C 54°F/12°C0.4 in/1.0 cm
Aug90°F/32°C 53°F/11°C0.3 in/0.7 cm
Sep87°F/31°C 47°F/8°C0.9 in/2.3 cm
Oct74°F/23°C 39°F/4°C2.1 in/5.3 cm
Nov58°F/14°C 31°F/0°C5.5 in/14.0 cm
Dec48°F/9°C 26°F/-3°C5.6 in/14.2 cm
Annual87°F/31°C26°F/-3°C37.2 in/94.5 cm

Yosemite High Country Climate, Including Tuolumne Meadows

Temperatures in the High Country, such as Tuolumne Meadows, are typically 10°F to 20°F (5-10°C) degrees cooler than in Yosemite Valley. The High Country receives several feet of snow per year, though summertime thunderstorms also occur, usually in the afternoon.


Visitation to Yosemite is controlled mostly by the climate (see the climate section above for climate information). Peak visitation occurs during the summer months (late May to early September). During winter, the amount of hiking one can do is substantially limited by snow. However, snow provides many other recreational activities. Snowmobiling is prohibited.

Hiking and backpacking in Yosemite can be done year-round, though those hiking in mid-fall through early-spring may encounter winter storms and abundant snow on the trails.

Please note that park roads may be temporarily closed or chains may be required following winter storms. YOU MUST CARRY CHAINS IN YOUR CAR between November 1st and March 31st-- NO EXCEPTIONS! Please also note that during periods of heavy visitation during summer weekends (holiday weekends, in particular) the park entrance stations may occasionally refuse entrance to visitors who do not have overnight reservations in the park.


Yosemite road and weather conditions: 209-372-0200 California road conditions from CalTrans: 800-GAS-ROAD or 800-427-7623 http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/ Note that CalTrans may not have complete information for roads within Yosemite National Park.


Yosemite National Park closes many roads by October or November and normally reopens them by late May or June. Yosemite Valley and Wawona normally remain open all year; Badger Pass Ski Area is open only in the winter (typically, December through March). Tire chains may be required on park road AT ANY TIME. For more information about winter conditions, see the winter section of this FAQ.

Fee schedule

Car: $20.00
(on bus, motorcycle, bicycle,
foot, or horse)
Yosemite Pass $40 (Good for one year in Yosemite National Park)
Golden Access Pass free (For permanently disabled US citizens and residents)
America the Beautiful National Parks Pass $80 (Good for one year in all US National Parks)
Golden Age Pass $10 (For US residents and citizens over 62 years old)

Car and Individual fees are valid for 7 days, all other passes are valid for one year.

The Trans-Sierra Pass (which was valid for one-way passage over Tioga Pass) has been discontinued; nearby residents can drive through for free.

Upon entrance to the park, visitors receive a park map and the Yosemite Guide, which provides much information about facilities and current activities in the Park. The map is not a suitable replacement for a topographic map. READ THE YOSEMITE GUIDE! It has answers to most of your questions!!!

Please note that none of the entrance passes pays for other park fees, including campground fees (though a 50% discount is available with valid Golden Age and Golden Access passports). Entrance stations may be closed during the evening and night. In this case, fees may be collected upon leaving the park. Fees are not collected from hikers entering on remote trails. Day-use reservations are not required.


The best way to keep from getting lost is to spend a few bucks and get a map of California.

Between November 1st and March 31st, you are REQUIRED to carry tire chains even if you are driving a four-wheel drive vehicle and all roads are open with no restrictions. If you do not have chains you may be cited. In addition, you might be stranded in the park or have to buy chains for $80+. Learn from others' expensive and inconvenient lessons: always carry tire chains.

For fairly current road conditions, see http://www.nps.gov/yose/now/conditions.htm For current road conditions, call 209-372-0200.

Highway 41 (Wawona Road)
Connects with Hwy 99 at Fresno and ends in Yosemite Valley. Provides access to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Wawona, Badger Pass, and Glacier Point. Normally open all year, except during major snowstorms.

Highway 140 (El Portal Road)
Connects with Hwy 99 in Merced and ends in Yosemite Valley. Open all year except during major snowstorms, floods, or rockslides. This is the least likely road into Yosemite to require tire chains. Update (9/2006): due to a rockslide, a detour with two bridges has been installed. The detour is one way at a time and controlled by traffic signals. A temporary 28' vehicle limit is in effect, due to limited turning radius on the bridges. Bike access is allowed.

Highway 120 (Big Oak Flat and Tioga Roads)
Connects with Hwy 99 in Manteca and with Hwy 395 in Lee Vining. Provides access to Big Oak Flat, Crane Flat, White Wolf, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows, and Tioga Pass. The portion of the road from Big Oak Flat Entrance Station to Crane Flat is normally open all year. From Crane Flat, the Big Oak Flat Road (open all year) continues to Yosemite Valley. CLOSED during winter (Oct/Nov-May/Jun) from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass.

Glacier Point Road
Runs from from Chinquapin (junction of Glacier Point Road and Wawona Road) to Glacier Point. Provides access to Badger Pass and Glacier Point. CLOSED to Glacier Point during winter (Oct/Nov-May/Jun); open to Badger Pass December through March.

Hetch Hetchy Road
Runs from Big Oak Flat to Hetch Hetchy Valley. Provides access to Mather Ranger Station, O'Shaughnessy Dam, and Hetch Hetchy Valley. May be CLOSED during winter.

Mass transit to Yosemite

There are no airports in Yosemite National Park. The nearest large airport is Fresno-Yosemite International (Fresno Air Terminal). The nearest municipal airports are in Mariposa and Lee Vining. There are flights to and from Fresno-Yosemite International (Fresno Air Terminal) and the Merced Airport. Air travel to Yosemite is beyond the scope of this FAQ.

Trains and Buses

Amtrak and Greyhound provide service to Yosemite. Amtrak runs train service through the Central Valley of California (the train is called "the San Joaquin"). Buses connect major cities in California (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento) to the San Joaquin. (It is possible to connect to the San Joaquin by buses or trains from other cities as well.) To get to Yosemite, passengers should exit the train at Merced or Fresno, where Via Bus connects to Yosemite Valley. Greyhound also runs buses from major California cities (and many smaller ones along the way) to Merced, where you can connect to Via Bus.

Yosemite Area Regional Transit System offers transportation along hwy 140 into the park and limited transportation along hwy 120 east and west and within the park between Wawona and Yosemite Valley.

For more information:
Amtrak: 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245)
Greyhound: 800-231-2222
VIA Bus: 800-369-PARK (800-369-7275) or 209-384-1315
YARTS: http://www.yarts.com/ I have frequently used Amtrak, Greyhound, and VIA bus, and I can attest that traveling to Yosemite by any of these means (particularly via Amtrak + Via) is nice.

REGULARLY SCHEDULED BUS SERVICE INTO YOSEMITE -- visit http://www.yosemite.com/yarts/ for details!

Transportation withIN Yosemite National Park

Bus service information: 209-372-1240 or at Yosemite Lodge Tour Desk.

FREE shuttle buses!

I strongly encourage you to use shuttle buses, within the areas they serve, in lieu of driving your car. Use of the shuttle buses decreases traffic congestion and pollution, and allow you to enjoy the scenery without concentrating on driving and being concerned about finding a parking space. Please note that during summer days, the Mariposa Grove road CLOSES frequently to ALL traffic except shuttle buses and vehicles displaying disabled-person placards. The road closes when the parking lot at the Grove fills up, so park at Wawona and take the shuttle bus.

FREE shuttle buses run:

  1. around eastern Yosemite Valley (including stops near all major trailheads, concessions, and most campgrounds),
  2. between Wawona and the Mariposa Grove (summer), and
  3. Between Tioga Pass and May Lake, including several stops in Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake, and Olmsted Point (summer).

For-fee shuttle buses

A hikers' bus runs daily (during summer) between Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point. A fee is charged for this service. This is a good way to visit the Glacier Point area without having to hike up to Glacier Point and back.

A hikers' bus runs from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows daily during the summer. A fee is charged for this service. The bus driver will stop at trailheads along the Tioga Road between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows if you inform the driver in advance.

Bus Length Restrictions

Here are the current restrictions on maximum bus length on park roads (as of June 2006):

Hitch hiking

Hitch hiking is discouraged in Yosemite, and for good reason. In 1995, a National Park Ranger picked up a seemingly-nice hitch hiker and was subsequently kidnapped. Don't do it. There are plenty of buses to take you where you want to go. Hitch hiking in Yosemite is not as reliable as in other parts of the country because of the relative rarity of vehicles with room to take on an additional passenger and his/her gear.


If you love Yosemite and you believe others should have a chance to see it as you have, please abide by these rules. If that's not enough of a reason, if you violate these regulations you are in a violation of FEDERAL LAW, and you may be fined, arrested, and/or evicted from the park and possibly barred from reentry for a period. If that is not enough of a reason, keep in mind that many people have found out the hard way that if you violate the safety-related rules you may be seriously injured or killed.

IF YOU HAVE A LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCY IN YOSEMITE, DIAL 911. Report crimes, and property damage caused by wildlife, to park rangers.

This list of rules is by no means a complete list, but some of the more important and commonly violated rules.

Have a correction or addition for this FAQ? Then please fill out this Comment Form.


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[Blue Ribbon]   Copyright © 1996 - 2000 Jeffrey Trust. Copyright © 2002 - 2010 Dan Anderson. All rights reserved. If you have questions or comments, please send a message to Dan Anderson.