Whether you live around the world, across the country, or within a day’s drive of Yosemite National Park, you need to make some basic plans and reservations well in advance. Keep in mind, Yosemite sees around 4 million visitors each year, with most of those visiting in the summer– just like you!
These are the first questions you should address when considering traveling to Yosemite:
Do you live close enough to drive? If you live close enough to drive, you are lucky! You will save tons of money on plane tickets and a rental car. But you will need to consider how much time you will spend driving, and how much time that will leave to actually spend in the park. And see the next question below for important information about arriving before dark.
Will you be flying and renting a car (or taking a bus?) This is how I have to do it. It takes a good deal of planning and it can be expensive. I book our flights so that we arrive in San Francisco before 1PM as this allows time to get the rental car, fight the city traffic, and still arrive in Yosemite before dark. If you won’t have time to make it to the park before dark, I strongly suggest spending the night in San Francisco and getting an early start the next morning. Most people plan on staying in Yosemite Valley and it is basically mandatory that you stop at Tunnel View for your first glimpse of the Valley before continuing into the Valley itself. You’ll understand.
What dates will you be visiting? & Will you be camping or lodging? You HAVE to know the exact dates you will be visiting in order to make camping or lodging reservations and to purchase plane tickets and reserve a rental car. In the summer, if you get to Yosemite (especially on a weekend, but also during the week) without a reservation, odds are there will not be any campsites or rooms available. (Believe me, I know!) You can reserve lodging 366 days in advance and camping reservations can be made up to 5 months in advance. There are a few first-come-first-served campgrounds, but do not rely on those– they usually fill early on any given day.
So, start planning your trip to Yosemite National Park by asking yourself these questions, then explore the rest of this website to read and learn about all the other good stuff!