Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular destinations in the United States, attracting millions of visitors every year. With its stunning landscapes, towering granite cliffs, and cascading waterfalls, it’s easy to see why the park is so beloved. However, this popularity also presents challenges for the park management and the environment. To address these challenges, Yosemite National Park implemented a ticketed entry and access system, which was aimed at reducing crowding and protecting the park’s natural resources.
Do I need an entry ticket to visit Yosemite?
While Yosemite had a ticketed entry system in place during the past three years, the good news is you won’t need a reservation to visit Yosemite in 2023.
The ticketed entry system was first introduced in May 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made social distancing and limiting the number of visitors more critical than ever. Under the system, visitors were required to make a reservation in advance to enter the park between May 21 and September 30. Visitors without a reservation were not allowed to enter.
However, that system has been retired in 2023 meaning you no longer need a reservation or ticketed entry for day use at Yosemite National Park. You’ll only need to pay the daily entry fee at the door or have a National Parks Pass for entry.
Without ticketed entry, navigating crowds and access is more complex
Now that Yosemite has done away with ticketed entry, chances are you’ll have to navigate more crowds than in the past three years. One of the ways to beat the crowds at Yosemite is to stay at a spot like Outdoorsy Yosemite which offers camping, RVing, and glamping options for you to stay near Yosemite without having to fight the crowds every day.
Outdoorsy Yosemite sits right on Bass Lake so you can enjoy your own natural oasis along with easy access to the national park.
Accessing Yosemite National Park without a car
Yosemite National Park has also implemented a shuttle system that operates during the peak season. The shuttle system offers visitors an alternative way to explore the park, reducing the number of cars on the road and minimizing the impact on the environment. The shuttle system is accessible to anyone who has properly entered the park with a park pass or by paying the entry fee.
The shuttle service is part of a broader effort by Yosemite National Park to promote sustainable tourism and protect the park’s natural resources. The park has been working to reduce its carbon footprint, conserve water, and minimize waste, while also educating visitors about the importance of responsible tourism.
While the shuttle system may require some planning and preparation on the part of visitors, it ultimately benefits everyone by reducing crowded parking lots, protecting the environment, and improving the overall visitor experience.
Getting to and into Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is located in central California, about 200 miles east of San Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles. The nearest airports are in Fresno (FAT) and Merced (MCE), but most visitors fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or Oakland International Airport (OAK) and drive the rest of the way.
If you’re driving from San Francisco, take the I-580 East towards Livermore, then take the I-205 East towards Tracy. Merge onto the I-5 North and continue for about 60 miles until you reach the CA-120 East exit towards Manteca/Sonora. Follow the signs to Yosemite National Park.
If you’re driving from Los Angeles, take the I-5 North towards Bakersfield. Merge onto CA-99 North and continue for about 60 miles until you reach the CA-140 East exit towards Merced. Follow the signs to Yosemite National Park.
When to Visit
Yosemite National Park is open year-round, but the best time to visit depends on what you want to see and do. Spring and early summer are the best times to see the waterfalls at their fullest, but the park can be crowded during peak season. Fall is a quieter time to visit, with fewer crowds and cooler temperatures, but some facilities may be closed. Winter is a magical time to visit, with snow-capped mountains and peaceful solitude, but some roads and trails may be closed due to snow.
What to Do
Once you arrive in Yosemite National Park, there are countless things to see and do. Here are some must-see attractions:
Yosemite Valley – This is the heart of the park, with iconic views of Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. Take a hike or bike ride along the valley floor, or drive to Tunnel View for an unforgettable panorama.
Glacier Point – This viewpoint offers stunning views of the valley and surrounding mountains. You can hike or drive to the top, but be prepared for a steep climb.
Mariposa Grove – This is the largest grove of giant sequoias in the park, with trees that are over 3,000 years old. Take a guided tour or explore on your own.
Tuolumne Meadows – This high-elevation meadow offers a different perspective on the park, with wildflowers, granite domes, and crystal-clear streams. Take a hike or go fishing in the nearby lakes.
Yosemite Falls – This is the highest waterfall in North America, with a total drop of 2,425 feet. Hike to the base or take a shuttle to the top for incredible views.
Where to Stay
We’re understandably partial to Outdoorsy Yosemite – a swell camping and glamping spot on the shores of Bass Lake. In addition to spacious full-hookup RV sites, this campground offers glamping tents and stocked cabins for luxury outdoor stays.
You can also enjoy secluded Bass Lake by paddleboard, kayak, or other watercraft for a more serene experience away from Yosemite’s relative hustle and bustle.
And when you’re ready for Yosemite, it’s just a stone’s throw away from the park, allowing you to enjoy the park by day and privacy by night.
You could even have an RV delivered, set up, and ready for you when you arrive at Outdoorsy Yosemite!
Many folks are still asking if entry tickets are still needed to visit Yosemite. The good news is, reservations are not required to visit Yosemite in 2023. The park has returned to its pre-pandemic norm of allowing visitors in for day-use with either a national parks pass or daily entrance ticket (which can be purchased right at the front gate). Follow the tips above for reservation-free fun at Yosemite National Park.