OverviewOfficially, Yosemite Village serves as headquarters for Yosemite National Park, one of America's most popular. Emotionally, Yosemite Valley is Yosemite. Few of us will ever forget that first entrance into Yosemite Valley...the unmistakeable Half Dome from Panorama Point, the 3000-foot wall of El Capitan from below.
Culturally, one could attach similar significance to the Valley. John Muir, whom we can thank for the shape of modern environmentalism, spent some "formative" years here. One could argue that Yosemite Valley was the birthplace of the modern climber. From the first "siege" ascents of big walls like El Cap, to envelope-pushing free climbs, Yosemite has been the nerve center of climbing's evolution over the past fifty years.
To top it all off, Yosemite Valley is a darn nice place. While few large peaks are visible from the Valley floor, many fantastic backcountry trips begin and end here.
|Driving information from Major Airports|
|City||Distance||Yahoo Driving Directions|
|Reno||227 miles||RNO to Yosemite Valley|
|RNO Extra Info:||Route over Tioga Pass on Highway 120 only passable in summer.|
|San Francisco||193 miles||SFO to Yosemite Valley|
|SFO Extra Info:||There is more lodging outside the park if you enter on highway 140, south of highway 120.|
|Fresno||95 miles||FAT to Yosemite Village|
|FAT Extra Info:||Highpoint: Chinqapin Summit, elevation 6000 feet. Chain control often in effect during the winter.|
Road Closures/Restrictions: Highway 120 is closed between Tioga Pass and Crane Flat (on a normal snow year) from mid-November to late-May. This only affects access to Yosemite Valley from the east. All western accesses do surmount 6000'+ passes, so winter closures and imposed chain control are common occurances.
Public Transportation: Unlike many other national parks in the Western US, Yosemite has a decent public bus service, YARTS, designed primarily to cut down on private car traffic. On the western side of the park, the YARTS line starts in Merced, California, which has frequent Amtrak train and Greyhound bus service. On the eastern side, the YARTS line terminates at Mammoth Lakes, which has a Greyhound stop.
Red TapeEntrance fee: $20 per vehicle, good for seven days.
Black bear restrictions: If you drive a private car into the park, you must adhere to strict regulations on the storage of food, because black bears in the park have grown accustomed to "liberating" stored food from vehicles, at any time of the day or night. If a bear breaks into your car to steal food (even candy-bar wrappers constitute "food"), you are liable for $500 or more in fines.
Official NPS Camping page has all the details. In summary, the Valley has three RV-permitted campgrounds (Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines), and one tent-only campground (Camp 4, formerly Sunnyside walk-in). For reservations, go here.
|Campground||Open (approx.)||Reservations||Tents or RVs||Cost||Spaces||Rules|
|Upper Pines||All year||Required||Both||$20||238||Rules|
|North Pines||April - Sept.||Required||Both||$20||81||Rules|
|Camp 4||All year||No||Tents only||$20||35||?|
NPS Yosemite Wilderness page
Generally, backcountry camping is permitted anywhere in the wilderness, i.e., more than a mile from the nearest paved road. Wilderness permits, required for any overnight stay in the backcountry are issued on a quota basis, however, so you may not be able to camp in the most popular areas once the quota for those areas fills. Click here for permit station locations. You may reserve wilderness permits for a small fee.
Unlike Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP, bear-proof food canisters are not (yet) required, though they are strongly recommended. Canisters can be rented at wilderness permit stations. NPS food storage page.
Yosemite Concessions operates four non-camping accomodations in Yosemite Valley. In descending order of price (and luxury), we have The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Lodge, Curry Village, Housekeeping Camp. The Wawona Lodge is south of the Valley, along highway 41.
Nearby Points of Interest
|Peaks easily accessible from Yosemite Valley|
|Mountain||Usual Trailhead||Mountain||Usual Trailhead|
|Sentinel Dome||Four Mile, Panorama||North Dome||Yosemite Falls or Snow Creek|
|Half Dome||Mist/JMT + Half Dome Trail||El Capitan|
|Common Trailheads near Yosemite Valley|
|Trailhead||Directions from Yosemite Valley|
|Four Mile||On Southside Road, ~1 mile southwest of Sentinel Bridge. TH on right (south) side of road. Map here.|
|Mist Trail/John Muir Trail||Both trailheads are at Happy Isles, near Upper Pines Campground (see map). Mist Trail has great views of Vernal Falls. It joins the JMT above Nevada Falls.|
|Yosemite Falls||Begins at Camp 4 (formerly Sunnyside walk-in campground). Signs near parking lot. On Northside Drive, very close to Yosemite Lodge (see map).|
|Snow Creek (via Mirror Lake Trail)||Mirror Lake Trail: TH in northeast corner of Yosemite Valley (see map). Flat for ~2 miles; Snow Creek TH on left (north).|
|Panorama||Two points of access: 1) via Four Mile Trail @ Glacier Point, 2) via Mist Trail/JMT near Nevada Falls.|
Glacier Point is simply a viewpoint...albeit a very nice one. In the summer, you can drive there: south on 41, up the Glacier Point Road at Chinqapin summit, go to the end. In the winter, you find the same incredible views, without the crowds. The shortest route is up the Four Mile Trail. A great, probable 2-day loop goes as follows: Valley-Mist Trail-Panorama Trail-Glacier Point-Four Mile Trail-Valley. Sentinel Dome is a short walk from Glacier Point. You can ski the Glacier Point Road from its closure point at Badger Pass Ski Resort to Glacier Point.
GrubOne upshot to all the civilization in the Valley...you can get some pretty good eats if you so desire. Whether you like it or not, your money goes again to Yosemite Concessions Service. In descending order of quality and price:
- The Ahwahnee Dining Room: Fantastic, but predictably expensive, just like everything in the Ahwahnee Hotel. Great service, great food, but $30/plate.
- Mountain Room Restaurant: In Yosemite Lodge. Not bad, but pricy for the quality (~$20/plate). I felt a bit rushed and the service wasn't great. But it beats eating instant dinners in the dark and cold.
- Cafeterias at Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village. ~$10/head.
- Assorted doo-dads around Yosemite Village/Curry Village/Yosemite Lodge
Weather ConditionsReal-time Web Cam of Yosemite Valley
Real-time weather conditions 25 miles from Yosemite Valley, at Mariposa.
National Weather Service forecast for Central Sierra.
California Department of Water Resources, Yosemite Valley Station. For additional information regarding Yosemite weather or travelling conditions (ie chain requirements and entrance closures), contact the Yosemite Services switchboard @ (209) 372-0200.
- The Ahwahnee Ledges - Mar 7, 2003
- The Illilouette Gorge - Oct 20, 2002
- Tenaya Canyon - Oct 19, 2002
- Cathedral Spires - Mar 7, 2003
- Sierra Point - Mar 9, 2003
- Yosemite Falls - Feb 7, 2003
- Tenaya Canyon - Sept 20, 2003
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