Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited parks in the U.S.A. It is here where Ansel Adams shot his most famous photographs after he fell in love with the awe inspiring landscape, the steep cliffs and the magnificent waterfalls.
Yosemite is like no other place I have ever visited. I have been to the Park many times and it is still my favorite destination. Every time I come to visit it looks different and something new waits to be discovered. It is not surprising considering the size of the Park (750000-acre, 1200 square miles). While most of the over 4 million visitors only see Yosemite Valley, the park has much more to offer. Mountain Climbers try their skills on the 3593 foot (about 1100m) vertical granite wall of El Capitan and Rafters ride the wild waters of the Merced River. The park draws a large crowd of professional and hobby nature and wildlife photographers.
The park is located about 200miles (3 hours) east of San Francisco (Airport Code: SFO) in the heart of the High Sierras. From San Francisco take I-580 east, I-205 East, I-5 North (2.2mi), CA-120 east. Follow CA-120 into the park.
Shortly before getting to the part where CA-120 winds up the mountain, there is an older road that goes right. If you don’t miss this road, you can cut off maybe 10minutes going up a steeper, straighter road. If you have a camper in front of you, you will appreciate this shortcut (Craig Hadfield emailed me and let me know that its called “Old Priest Grade”) Don’t try this in summer with an older car though.
If you are coming from L.A. you will most likely enter the Park on CA-140. CA-140 meets CA-120 in Yosemite Valley.
From the east, you can enter on CA-120. You have to cross Tioga Pass, which is not always open (see below).
The park entrance fee is $20/car. If you plan to visit at least 2 other parks within a year, you should consider buying a National Park Pass for $50. It does not include State Parks.
Prices have changed since this article was written. Now the Pass costs $80 the entrance fee is unchanged.
Yosemite Valley is unquestionably the most visited part of the park. During the summer month of June, July, August and maybe September the valley is full of visitors. Traffic jams are a common occurrence. Don’t let this discourage you from visiting the Valley. If you take a short hike along the many trails you can avoid the crowds easily. If you have only one day to visit Yosemite, this is definitely the place to go. It is also the only place in Yosemite where you can buy food. Free shuttle busses are available to get around. The bus stations are marked in the Newspaper that you will get at the entrance station.
The best time to visit the Valley is February through late May. In February the roads may not always be open due to snow. Call 209-372-0200 for current conditions (209-372-4726 for recorded information). Most likely you will not be allowed access without carrying snow chains.