Park Conditions, Reservations and Fees
Yosemite National Park is open all year, but seasonal conditions affect the status of campgrounds, roads and trails. Generally, there tend to be restrictions from late autumn through spring months due to snowfall, and naturally occurring and controlled-burn fires often affect regions of the park during summer. Be sure to check conditions before visiting the park.
Entry fees are $20 per car or $10 per person if arriving on foot, horseback, bicycle, motorcycle or non-commercial bus. Reservations are not required to enter the park, but special permits are required for visitors who want to stay overnight. No permits are required for any day hikes from Yosemite Valley, with the exception of the Half Dome day hike. Check the park’s website for additional information on fees, permits and special passes.
Camping is a very popular activity at Yosemite, and the park has made ample accommodation for those travelers looking to enjoy an overnight stay in the great outdoors. There are 13 campgrounds plus recreational vehicle camping at Yosemite National Park, and seven of those sites operate on a reservation system. Campers should be aware that bears are active within the park during all seasons, and take precaution by utilizing bear-proof food lockers at campsites or appropriate food canisters while backpacking.
One look at Yosemite’s imposing panorama should make it clear that the park is a haven for rock climbers. While lots of people prefer to hike up Half Dome’s back side, it’s also possible to climb up the formation’s 5,000-foot vertical face. Just bear in mind that the ascent is super steep — with a 93% grade, it’s the sheerest cliff in North America. A favorite among experienced rock climbers, El Capitan’s 3,600-foot vertical rise might be less than its neighbor to the east, but the going is pretty tough. While the best speed climbers can scale the giant granite formation in about 24 hours, a typical ascent of El Cap can take as long as seven to ten days. Middle Cathedral of the Cathedral Rocks is another popular climbing formation, but there are many faces to explore in the park — if it’s there, chances are someone’s climbed it. Climbers should note that while it’s prohibited to camp at the base of any wall, it’s okay to camp while in ascent.
Giant Sequoias at Mariposa Grove
These ancient trees — some of which are estimated to be more than 3,000 years old — are some of the world’s largest living things. About 500 of them live in Mariposa Grove, near the southern entrance to Yosemite. Some the of the grove’s notable trees are its Grizzly Giant, the world’s fifth-largest tree, and the peculiar Wawona Tree, which fell after a snowstorm in 1969.
Early promoters of the area cut a tunnel into the tree large enough to fit a horse-drawn carriage through it. Later in its history, people were even allowed to drive cars through the hole in the tree. Although fallen, the tree’s remains were left, and serve as a prescient reminder of the hazards of exploiting nature. The grove is open from May until late October.
Graceful and powerful, Yosemite’s waterfalls reach their peak flow in late spring and early summer, when thaws in the High Sierra flood the park’s aquifers. By late summer, most of them run at little more than a trickle, although autumn storms might breathe a little extra life into them. At 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is the park’s largest.