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Photo of the day: Yosemite National Park

May 19, 2009
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a United States National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Sierra Nevada mountains in east-central California. Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, and biological diversity. The 750,000-acre, 1,200 square-mile park contains thousands of lakes and ponds, 1600 miles of streams, 800 miles of hiking trails, and 350 miles of roads.

The park is extremely large with more than can be seen in just a one or two day visit. The peak seasons for Yosemite are generally Spring, when the waterfalls in the Valley are strongest, and Summer, when the Tioga Pass and Glacier Point roads are open, giving visitors access to the higher meadows and to views of the Valley from above.

Some of the things to see
Yosemite Valley
Wawona
Glacier Point and Badger Pass
Tuolumne Meadows
Crane Flat
Hetch Hetchy Valley

Entrance Fees
Park entrance fees are $20 for private vehicles and $10 for individuals on foot, bike and motorcycle. All entrance fees are valid for seven days. The Yosemite Annual Pass is available for $40, allowing park entry for one year. Alternatively, the National Park pass can be purchased for $80, allowing free entry to all national park areas for one year.

Getting There

By train
Amtrak offers service to Yosemite by means of a motorcoach bus that meets its San Joaquins trains in Merced. The San Joaquins provide several departures each day along its route from Bakersfield in the south, Sacramento in the north, and the San Francisco Bay Area in the west. With ample motorcoach connections to and from the trains, this train service serves most of the state, allowing quick and easy access to Merced from most places within the state. However, by driving from San Francisco to Yosemite, it will take 4 1/2 to 5 hours. By train, it will take closer to six hours.

By car
Warning: There are no gas/petrol stations in the Yosemite Valley!

There are four major entrances into the park. All of these routes are relatively windy mountain roads and appropriate time should be budgeted for them. Be advised that the above can pose a safety risk, so when driving, stay alert and focused throughout the ride. Also, don’t confuse the town of Oakdale to the west, with Oakhurst to the south.

  • State Route 120 from the west from Oakdale. This is the fastest route from locations west (Bay Area) and northwest (Sacramento). Route 120 is a bit steep, so RVs and trailers should consider Route 140 instead. In winter, snow makes the lower elevations of Route 140 more attractive.
  • State Route 140 west from Mariposa and Merced. This route mostly travels up the Merced River Canyon into Yosemite Valley and is the most scenic western entrance. RV and tour bus traffic used to congest this road a bit too much in summer. However, two new bridges to bypass a recent rock slide in the Merced River Canyon now limit vehicles to 45 feet. Many visitors are still unaware of the new bridges over the Merced River and assume State Route 140 is still closed. Highway 140 is now pleasantly less congested and the bridges afford an excellent view of the massive rock slide.
  • State Route 41 north from Fresno and Los Angeles/Southern California. Be sure to fill your gas tank in Oakhurst (several stations along highway), or pay dearly as you get closer to the park.
  • State Route 120 from the east (Tioga Pass Road) from Lee Vining and points east. This road is only open from June through October, although heavy snow may force closure in late September and push opening back to late July.

A secondary entrance exists to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir exclusively (no Yosemite Valley access) off of State Route 120 from the west. It requires taking a side road near the main Route 120 west entrance of Yosemite. Please note that Hetch Hetchy has restricted hours for access due to security for the Reservoir. Please check with Yosemite National Park information before heading out to Hetch Hetchy.

During the snow season, usually November through March, snow chains may be required. Chain requirements are strictly enforced in Yosemite with potential fines being as much as $5,000, so chains should be carried during those months.

Note: During summer months traffic becomes heavily congested in Yosemite Valley, and parking can be nearly impossible to find. Summer visitors to Yosemite Valley are therefore highly encouraged to use the YARTS shuttle system (see below) to get into the park.

Source: Wikitravel



  • cece

    Amtrak has a bus that leaves from Merced and stops at several (5?) stations. Amtrak warns passengers there are no amenities available. Are these stations within walking distance of their name sake, ie: Visitor Center. Is it possible to get on a park shuttle to see more of the park?

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