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Yosemite National Park encompasses 748,000 square acres of beautiful extremes in California. You’ll find ancient giant sequoias estimated to be over 3,000 years old, Yosemite Falls, the largest waterfall in North America, and El Capitan, 3,200 feet of sheer granite that’s particularly popular in the rock-climbing sphere. The park sees almost 4 million visitors each year, and most stay within the 7 square miles of Yosemite Valley.
Although Yosemite was the third, not the first, national park established in the United States, its national park status set a precedent for how the federal government would protect wilderness areas within the nation. That’s good news for you – there are currently 63 national parks within the U.S. to enjoy.
A visit to Yosemite National Park is probably high on your bucket list, so we put together this guide to help you find the best way to get there:
Yosemite National Park by Bus
A bus ride to Yosemite will involve YARTS, the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System. YARTS offers four routes with various pick-up points, so you can enjoy a complete tour of the park that doesn’t require a car.
You can hop on a YARTS bus in any one of these towns:
Merced, CA: This is where you can catch the only YARTS bus that runs year-round. Merced is located about two hours from Yosemite Valley. Highlights on the route include Cathey’s Valley, Mariposa, El Portal, and Yosemite Valley Visitors Center.
Fresno, CA: Service from Fresno is only seasonal and is generally available between May and September. This route includes stops at the Wawona Store, Mariposa Grove, and Coarsegold Historic Village.
Mammoth Lakes, CA: Service from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite National Park is only seasonal and generally runs from June to October. Stops on this route include Crane Flat, Tuolumne Meadows, Lee Vining, June Lake, and Mammoth Lakes.
Sonora, CA: Service from Sonora is only seasonal and generally runs from May to September. This route picks up from quite a few hotels and campgrounds to take riders to the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center.
YARTS offers walk-on tickets, but booking in advance is the best way to ensure you have a seat on the bus! You can book tickets directly through their website, and each ticket includes your entrance fee to the park. YARTS uses a zone-based fee, so your ticket price will depend on where you plan to start and stop your trip, but it ranges from $14 up to $111. You can find a price chart here. There are also reduced/free fares for veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and children.
If you have a car, you can leave it for free at several of the garages or park and ride facilities. Paid parking is required at some stations. Baggage is welcome, pets (excluding service animals) are not. Every bus is wheelchair accessible, but you do need to reserve accessible seating when you book your ticket or contact YARTS at least 48 hours in advance to make sure there will be enough seating on your bus.
YARTS offers the only direct bus trips to Yosemite National Park. However, Wanderu can help you find various train options to Merced from where you can hop on the YARTS bus.
Yosemite National Park by Train and YARTS Bus
If you live within a couple of hours of Yosemite National Park, YARTS has you covered. But what about those of us who live further away within the state or the country? Thankfully, Wanderu can help with that.
One of the four YARTS routes starts in Merced, CA, and it’s the only service that runs year-round. It just so happens that several Amtrak train routes also arrive in Merced. So it’s a piece of cake to take an Amtrak into the city and then hop on a YARTS bus and head to Yosemite. The best part is that both the train and the bus arrive and depart from the same station in Merced.
Here’s what you need to do to get to Yosemite National Park by train:
- Take an Amtrak train from your city to Merced, CA.
- Take a YARTS bus from Merced to Yosemite Valley.
- Take approximately 12,000 photos of the views in Yosemite National Park.
Now, down to the business of actually booking your ticket:
Book your entire journey to Yosemite Valley at once
Wanderu can help you book this two-part journey in one purchase by buying a ticket on our website from your origin city to Yosemite Valley. We’ll take care of getting both your train and bus tickets. This is the only way to book a YARTS ticket via Wanderu.
Here are just a few cities with bus and train trips to Yosemite National Park that require one only transfer (from train to YARTS bus):
|Emeryville to Yosemite Valley
|Fresno to Yosemite Valley
|Sacramento to Yosemite Valley
|Modesto to Yosemite Valley
|Bakersfield to Yosemite Valley
|Richmond to Yosemite Valley
|Martinez to Yosemite Valley
|Antioch to Yosemite Valley
|Stockton to Yosemite Valley
Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.
Book your Amtrak train and YARTS bus tickets separately
If you want to book your YARTS ticket separately, book your train ticket to Merced, CA, on Wanderu. Then purchase your bus ticket through YARTS, either on their website or at the station once you arrive.
- Search and book train tickets to Merced, CA
- Search and book YARTS tickets from Merced to Yosemite Valley
These are just some of the many cities which have Amtrak train service to Merced:
Train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.
There are several YARTS bus stations in Yosemite National Park, and you can choose where to disembark based on your preferred final destination:
9006 Village Dr
Yosemite Valley, CA 95389
Curbside stop near Yosemite Falls trailhead and Yosemite Valley Lodge
Camp 4 YARTS Station
9035 Village Drive
Yosemite Valley, CA 95389
Curbside stop behind Yosemite Valley Visitors Center
Yosemite Valley Visitors Center YARTS Station
9010 Curry Village Drive
Yosemite Valley, CA 95389
Curbside stop near Curry Village Ice Rink
Curry Village YARTS Station
Yosemite National Park by Plane
If air travel is more your speed, you can fly into one of several nearby airports:
- Merced Regional Airport: 2 hours to Yosemite Valley on your new favorite bus line, YARTS, available year-round.
- Fresno Yosemite International Airport: 1.5 hours to Wawona and 2.5 hours to Yosemite Valley. YARTS runs from this airport to Wawona and Yosemite Valley between May 15 and September 15.
- Mammoth Yosemite Airport: 1 hour to Tuolumne Meadows and 2.5 hours to Yosemite Valley when Tioga Road is open, typically from late May or June until November. When Tioga Road is closed, it takes about seven hours to get to Yosemite Valley. YARTS can bring you to Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley from June through September, conditions permitting.
- Reno/Tahoe International: 3 hours to Tuolumne Meadows and 4.5 hours to Yosemite Valley when Tioga Road is open (typically late May or June until November). When Tioga Road is closed, it takes about 5.5 hours to get to Yosemite Valley.
If you plan to fly and then rent a car, Wanderu can help you book your rental car as well. We know that plans change and weather is finicky, which is why most rental car bookings include free cancellations.
Getting around within Yosemite National Park
You can choose between private and public transportation to get around Yosemite National Park.
Driving your own (or rental) car in the park gives you a great deal of freedom in planning your Yosemite itinerary. However, you do need to consider several safety aspects. With over 4 million visitors a year, traffic can be heavy, with 1-3 hours waiting at some entrance stations. A large number of cars means limited parking. Keep in mind that roads are often covered in snow and ice, and snow chain requirements are likely between November and March.
If you drive yourself, a 7-day park pass runs $35 per vehicle. You can pay in advance or at the park entrance; only credit and debit cards are accepted.
Several shuttle systems operate within the park. You can find a complete list here, although many of the free shuttles aren’t currently running. YARTS has quite a few paid shuttle options to take you throughout the park, and remember that the cost includes your park entrance fee.
Things to do in and around Yosemite National Park
Once you’ve made it to Yosemite, it’s time to check out the sights!
- Glacier Point: Here, you check out one of the best viewpoints in the park, where you can see Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. It’s accessible via roadway, so no climbing is required.
- Mist Trail: This popular hike showcases Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls and includes a granite staircase of 600 steps.
- Mariposa Grove: This is the largest grove in the park, with close to 500 giant sequoias that are thousands of years old. It’s an hour’s drive from Yosemite Valley but well worth the trip.
- El Capitan: This cliff was featured in the 2018 documentary Free Solo, following the journey of Alex Honnold as he free-climbed the 3,200 wall. Yosemite is our #1 destination for a mountain getaway, and as soon as you encounter El Capitan, you’ll see why.
- Yosemite Falls: Enjoy a 2,425 waterfall, ten times higher than Niagara Falls. Peak flow is during spring and early summer.
- Tunnel View: You can’t miss the world’s most photographed view. From this point, you can capture El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall in one single shot. It’s no wonder Yosemite is the most instagrammed National Park.
- Grab a bite to eat at Ahwahnee Dining Room, Mountain Room Restaurant, Degnan’s Kitchen, 1850 Brewing Company, or Sugar Pine Cafe.