Yosemite Travel Guide

USA  #2 in Best Family Spring Break Destinations
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Getting Around Yosemite

The best way to get around Yosemite is by car. Unless you're taking a private car or public transportation from one of the park's nearby airports, there's no point in ditching your (albeit expensive) rental car and taking Yosemite's shuttles around the park, especially after a long hike. However, during the park's peak travel season, these shuttles will be your friend. Road traffic during the summer is known to cause major delays and trailhead parking lots can fill up fast. If you aren't interested in getting up early to hit popular spots or the trails (which is highly recommended by park officials to avoid crowds), the park's shuttles can save you some serious time. 

There are a variety of airport options around Yosemite, making the park one of the most convenient to visit in the USA. The closest airport is the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT), which is about 65 miles south of the park (about a 1½-hour drive). San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK) and San Jose International Airport (SJC) are also within driving distance of park. However, know that the drive will be considerably longer, clocking in at more than three hours on the road. 

Car

Having a car is essential to getting around Yosemite, especially if you're visiting outside of the summer months, when park shuttles and some of the YARTS routes aren't running. If you're visiting during summer, having a car can be a pain thanks to crowded parking lots. To avoid road congestion, park officials urge visitors to hit the park's popular attractions early.

There aren't rental car facilities at or near the park. Your best bet is to rent a car at the airport or city you arrive in. Keep in mind that international airport car rentals will be more expensive than at the park's nearby regional airports. If you don't want to drive from the airport to the park, you can take alternative transportation, but it could be a lot more time-consuming. You can take the Amtrak to the Merced train station and from there take the YARTS blue line bus to Yosemite Valley, which costs $25 round trip. The seasonal yellow line, operational from mid-May to mid-September, also takes visitors to Yosemite Valley from Fresno, costing about $30 round trip. 

Shuttles

Run by the National Park Service, the Yosemite Valley Shuttle provides free service to and from all the major vista points, shops and accommodations within the valley, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round. There's also the free, seasonal El Capitan shuttle, which stops at the Four Mile trailhead and the Valley Visitor Center from mid-June through early October. Other seasonal shuttles include the Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle (available from mid-June to early September) and the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area shuttle (in service from mid-Decembery through March).

In addition to NPS shuttles, the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) also offers routes to and around the park. You can take YARTS buses from Sonora, Merced, Fresno and Mammoth Lakes directly to the park. Once inside, you can reach points of interest such as the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center or Half Dome Village. Fares are dependent on destination. Keep in mind: The blue line (from Merced to Yosemite Valley) is the only YARTS bus that operates year-round.

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