1. Go during the off-season. Ok, it is quite obvious that visiting a location during the off-season will be less busy. For Yosemite, this is late fall through early spring. And while some activities will be unavailable, you will get to experience the park without traffic, crowded hotels and all the people. Additionally, you will be able to witness events that occur in the off-season few people do like the Horsetail Falls, Frazzle Ice, and the Sierras blanketed in snow. Plus, there are winter sports in Yosemite like skiing and snowshoeing. But you will not have access to Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows in the higher elevations of the park.
2. When you go, rent a car. It is unfortunate that with a park with so many visitors and thus traffic congestion, there is not an easy way to get to the park via shuttle services. The only way into the park is via YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation Service) and this service only runs from Fresno and Merced. Fresno does have an international airport and YARTS has a direct route so is the best option. If you go from Merced, you have to get there by bus first. This alone adds a full day to your travels if you are coming from Oakland or San Francisco. Then you have to find lodging inside the park once YARTS drops you off – another challenge. There is an area shuttle system but this system does not access all areas of the park so if you want to get to some more out of the way trailheads, there will not be access unless you bum a ride. Going into the backcountry for more than a day? Finding a place to store luggage is impossible. As of now, there are no offerings for luggage storage if you are not staying at a local area lodge. This means if you are traveling to Yosemite to go on a backpacking trip with additional luggage in tow, there is no place to keep it. At least with a vehicle, you can keep your luggage locked up. But, please consult how to bear-proof your car.
3. Plan early. Whether you are looking to camp in the backcountry or stay in the park lodging, you need to book early. Most available lodging can book up a year in advance during the peak season and backcountry camping permits come available and can sell out 168 days in advance. If you do get a backcountry permit, you are allowed to camp the night before your permit starts at the backpacker’s campground which is first come, first served or camp 4 at the base of El Capitan. This is also the case if you are on a guided trip with Just Roughin’ It (a gratuitous plug for our trips). We include a night of camping the backpacker’s camp with camping gear so lodging is not an issue before you start your trip.
4. Consult the National Park Service website for lots of great information and tips.- https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/traffic.htm
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