Even in a park system filled with 63 stunningly beautiful sites, Yosemite National Park still stands out as one of the most desirable destinations for travelers from all over the world. The sprawling sanctuary of natural wonder covers 1,169 square miles of California wilderness in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, attracting 3.3 million visitors in 2021, according to the National Park Service. But if you’re looking to get a leg up on your visit to see Bridalveil Falls, Tunnel View, or El Capitan, it can help to get some insider knowledge before you pack your hiking boots and head out onto the trail. Read on to see some of the best expert hacks for planning the perfect trip to Yosemite National Park.
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Spontaneity may make some types of travel more exciting, but when it comes to getting into California’s most desirable national parks, a bit of advance planning is highly recommended. “This may not sound less well known, but we’re amazed at how often people don’t realize you need to book a trip to Yosemite far in advance of your visit. Campsites within the park are available to book four to five months in advance. And they sell out in seconds,” he warns. Ashley Rudolphfounder and owner of Pine Road Travel Co.
“It is also very difficult to get a camping site within the park, and there are tricks to help you – for example, knowing how to use the reservation system in advance to book, tapping into several people to try to book just one camping site, knowing when to click ‘Book Now’ to try pressure on others, as well as how to monitor cancellations in case you are unable to get a site the first time,” she explains.
Fortunately, all it takes is an alarm to help you secure a spot. After 70 percent of all reservation slots are booked on March 23, the remaining 30 percent are available on a seven-day rolling basis. Brock Bergentravel blogger and founder of Brooke In Boots, says best life. Log in to www.recreation.gov and ready to buy at exactly 8 a.m. PST, Yosemite reservations sell out in a matter of seconds.”
However, Rudolph says there may still be an accommodation backup option if all else fails. “It’s also a good idea to have your lodgings booked outside the park before this time in case you don’t have a camping site inside the park!”
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Yosemite can take a little longer to truly appreciate it as a vast, sprawling wilderness with specific locations that are equivalent to exiting off the main roads. Experts suggest planning a few days in the park and relaxing with your surroundings instead of rushing into nature.
“I recommend booking a private or group tour on the first day and going solo on the second day to explore more of the places that have captured your heart or piqued your interest,” Keri Jo MilesSays the concierge at the Chateau de Sorro best life. “Another option is to plan your ‘big’ trip on the first day and then play the ‘tourist’ on the second day to visit the top ‘must see’ attractions.”
Some flights allow you to relax in bed and hit the snooze button to your heart’s content. But if you’re planning on making the most of Yosemite, it can really help you get up early — especially if you’re worried about getting to the entrance quickly.
“Go into the park as soon as possible! The gate is open even when no park staff are present,” Adam Marlanda travel photographer and writer at We Dream of Travel, tells best life. “There are days during peak season and special occasions where the park stops allowing entry after a certain point. Even when they don’t close the gates, you will be looking at the hours waiting in line during peak hours. Plus an enchanting sunrise in the park and the best time to see wildlife!”
As an outdoor experience, it can be easy to assume that all you need to enjoy Yosemite is a good pair of hiking boots, a sturdy backpack, and a foolproof canteen. But many visitors may be very disappointed when they arrive and realize that they won’t be able to get to some of the park’s most sought-after wonders because they haven’t made the proper arrangements ahead of time.
“Be sure to obtain permits for certain activities,” Tim WhiteCEO and Founder of the online travel resource MilePro best life. “While the majority of activities and hiking in Yosemite do not require a permit, there are a few exceptions,” he said, adding that the list includes some popular treks such as trekking to Half Dome, camping or backpacking in Yosemite Wilderness, and the John Muir Trail zip From Yosemite via Donohue Pass.
“Be sure to get it well in advance of your flight, especially if you’re traveling during the busy season,” he adds.
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Your car can be an absolute must to enjoy the beauty of Yosemite in any reasonable amount of time. However, it can also seriously slow down your experience if you arrive with crowds of other visitors during the busy season. That’s why experts say it’s best to abandon your car for a quick and easy option to get around.
“The easiest and least known way to avoid day booking is to book through YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System),” Kassi Yoshikawaa travel blogger in Fresno, California, says best life. “Riding this bus is cheaper than the park entrance fee and allows you to skip the day booking.”
On top of saving the parking hassles, experts say the bus provides a great way to get to some of the park’s most popular spots without spending a dime. “The bus runs every 12 to 22 minutes, with direct service to Yosemite Village, Yosemite Valley Lodge, El Capitan Meadow, Curry Village, Mirror Lake, and more,” Brian ColbertWanderu, Communications Coordinator, says best life.
Despite its sprawling size, many visitors tend to be drawn to the Garden Valley when they visit, thanks in part to the ease of access and popularity of certain sites. But according to experts, heading to High Country in Yosemite can offer stunning mountain scenery, secluded lakes, vast meadows, and cascading waterfalls.
“These include areas such as Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, Pothol Dome and Tuolumn Meadows,” says Miles. best life. “They have less traffic than the ‘heart of the park’ in Yosemite Valley, and they offer stunning views.”
Any visitor to Yosemite knows that even when there’s more than 1,100 square miles to see, certain times of the year can make the park very crowded. According to the National Park Service, about 75 percent of visitors arrive annually during the “busiest season” from May through October. For this reason, some experts say it may be beneficial to deviate from the direction and visit during the slow months.
“There are fewer crowds, local hotels are more affordable, and you can take your time to really explore the park at a slower pace. Summer often has long queues, and hikes are very crowded,” travel blogger Erin Moreland Tells best life.
“Keep in mind that if you’re traveling to Yosemite during the winter months, some roads and hiking trails are closed,” she warns. “But seeing the park in the off-season with the snow-capped mountains is absolutely amazing!”
While budgeting for a trip to Yosemite may not require the same planning as a trip to a cosmopolitan area, travelers looking to avoid spending a lot of money can still save more if they choose to visit on certain days of the year.
“One of the easiest ways to save money on your Yosemite trip is to avoid entrance fees by taking advantage of their ‘freebie days’,” Larry Snydersays Vice President of Rentals Operations at Casago best life. “Every year the National Park Service offers several days where you can visit the national parks without entry fees.”
According to the National Park Service, there are three days left in 2022 when all 63 national parks will be given free admission. They include the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act on August 4, National Public Land Day on September 24, and Veterans Day on November 11.
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