Which Entrance To Take Into Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is downright magical. Every traveler should make it a goal to visit the park for at least a few days, if not more.
There are five ways to enter, but the best path is going to depend on where you’re coming from, which type of vehicle you’re driving, and what time of year it is.
Winter in Yosemite leads to seasonal closures, and not every vehicle is capable of navigating the tight turns and low tunnels inside the park.
In this article, we’ll cover the pros and cons of each entrance, as well as some tips to aid you in your decision.
5 Yosemite National Park Entrances
- Hetch Hetchy Entrance (open year-round, limited hours in winter)
- Big Oak Flat Entrance (open year-round)
- Arch Rock Entrance (open year-round)
- South Entrance (open year-round)
- Tioga Pass Entrance (closed ~November-May)
There is an entrance fee to get into Yosemite. For a car, pickup, RV or van the cost is $35 per vehicle for a 7 day pass. An annual pass to Yosemite costs $70 and there are further discounts for seniors, military, and residents with disabilities.
That said, we HIGHLY recommend purchasing an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. The cost is $80 and gives you one year of entry to every National Park in the US!
This is a fantastic deal and will pay off in just 2-3 visits depending on the park.
1. Hetch Hetchy Entrance (West Side – Northernmost Entrance)
Hetch Hetchy is the most remote and least-popular way to visit Yosemite National Park. Most tourists use Hetch Hetchy as a starting point for secluded hikes, fishing or backpacking.
While the entrance is open year round, the hours are limited during the winter to daylight only. There are no visitor centers or campgrounds with full services located here.
It’s trails have the longest hiking season in the park and are filled with wildflowers and waterfalls.
You can get to the Hetch Hetchy Entrance, via highway 120 and Evergreen Road.
(Open in maps)
RV and Trailer Restrictions on Hetch Hetchy Road
- 25 foot max length
- 8 foot maximum width (mirror to mirror)
- 14 foot max height
If you have an RV or trailer use the Big Flat Oak or the Arch Rock Entrance instead!
What are the most popular destinations from the Hetch Hetchy Entrance?
Wampa Falls (5.5 miles, △200 feet, moderate)
2. Big Oak Flat Entrance (West Side)
Big Oak Flat and Arch Rock are the most popular entrances from the west side. You can get here directly from San Francisco which is only about 4 hours away.
Drive highway 120 east (Manteca) to get into Yosemite through the Big Oak Flat Entrance
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The entrance is open year-round but chains might be required in winter. From Big Oak Flat you’re looking at roughly a 45 minute drive into Yosemite Valley. There is a gas station located outside of the park in Groveland, about 25 miles from the entrance.
RV and Trailer Height Restrictions on Big Oak Flat Road
Big Oak Flat road has a tunnel with a height restriction of 13 feet 8 inches to get into the valley and 10 feet 3 inches to get out.
That means if you bring a vehicle 12 feet tall on the way in, you’ll have to exit the valley through either Arch Rock or the South Entrance. There is also a max vehicle length of 45 feet in the tunnel.
Popular Trails To Hike From Big Oak Flat in the White Wolf Area:
- Luken’s Lake (1.6 miles, △200 feet, easy)
- Harden Lake (5.8 miles, △300 feet, moderate)
- May Lake & Mt. Hoffmann (2.5 miles, △500 feet, strenuous)
- North Dome (9.1 miles, △1,742 feet, strenuous)
3. Arch Rock Entrance (West Side)
The Arch Rock Entrance is easily accessible if you’re coming from the west. San Francisco is about 4 hours away from here.
Entering through Arch Rock is the fastest way to get to Yosemite Valley from outside the park. It is about a 25 minute drive from point to point.
Take highway 140 east (Merced) to get to the Arch Rock Entrance
(Open in maps)
This entrance is open year-round but chains may be required in winter. The closest gas station is right outside the park in the small town of El Portal.
Arch Rock Entrance RV and Trailer Height Restrictions
El Portal road from the arch rock entrance has a tunnel with a height restriction of 12 feet 10 inches and a max vehicle length of 45 feet (single vehicle), 60 feet (combination vehicle), 35 feet (towed vehicle – hitch to bumper).
Most Popular Views Close to the Arch Rock Entrance:
- Inspiration Point
- Half Dome
- Yosemite Valley
- Views of El Capitan
- Glacier Point (1 miles, △50 feet, easy)
4. South Entrance
The South Entrance to Yosemite National Park is open year-round and will be the closest way in if you’re coming from San Diego (8 hours) or Los Angeles (6 hours).
Enter the South Entrance from highway 41 north (Fresno) into Yosemite.
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From the South Entrance it is approximately a 1 hour drive to Yosemite Valley. You can stop to purchase gas at Fish Camp, right before entering the park.
The main visitor center from this end is Wawona. However, it is only open during the summer months.
Throughout the winter, you can take the south entrance right into Yosemite valley and enjoy sights like Inspiration point along the way.
Chains may be required during the winter months depending on weather.
Yosemite South Entrance RV and Trailer Height Restrictions
The tunnel into Yosemite Valley from Wawona road has a max height of 10 feet 2 inches to get into the valley and 13 feet 6 inches to get out. There is a max vehicle length of 45 feet.
Most Popular Trails on the South End of Yosemite
Some of the most popular hikes and attractions on the south side of the park are:
- Wawona Swinging Bridge (0.75 miles, △50 feet, easy)
- Wawona Meadow Loop (3.5 miles, △50 feet, easy)
- Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (2.2 miles, △1,200 feet, easy)
- Chilnualna Falls (8.4 miles, △2,300 feet, strenuous)
5. Tioga Pass Entrance (East Side)
Tioga Pass is the only entrance located on the east side of Yosemite. You’ll have easy access to the park from this direction if you’re traveling from Reno (5 hours), Las Vegas (6 hours), or Death Valley (4 hours).
To get to the Tioga entrance take US 395 to Lee Vinning (gas station), then take Highway 120 west into Yosemite National Park.
(Open in maps)
The Tioga pass entrance is closed throughout the winter depending on snow conditions (often November-May) and most facilities on the Tioga road are closed in the winter as well.
The sheer size of Yosemite is hard to comprehend until you get there. If you’re coming from the east side, it’s important to know that the drive from Tioga Pass to Yosemite Valley is about 1hr 45min.
Make sure you leave yourself plenty of gas. The scenery offers breathtaking views, but facilities are far and few between. Cell phone service is spotty or non-existent during the drive.
Driving an RV or Trailer Into Yosemite
Tioga pass is a steep and winding mountain road. While there are no height restrictions, if you have a large vehicle or you are towing a trailer this is not an entrance to be taken lightly. Especially in bad weather.
Main tunnels within the park are restricted to vehicles under 45 feet and some roads such as Mariposa Grove and Glacier point further restrict these limits to under 25 and 30 feet respectively.
Be sure to use pull outs frequently to avoid overheating the vehicle. Know your towing capacity before you go. This pass ascends as much as 8% in some areas. There is no overnight parking on Tioga road after mid-October until the road re-opens in the spring.
Most Popular Trails on the East Side of Yosemite
There is one visitor center on this side of the park, Tuolumne Meadows. The most popular hikes and sights in this area are:
- Mono Pass (8 miles, △1,300 feet, moderate)
- Cathedral Lakes (8 miles, △1,300 feet, moderate)
- Glen Aulin (8 miles, △800 feet, strenuous)
- North Dome (9.1 miles, △1,742 feet, strenuous)
- Clouds Rest (14.5 miles, △3,113 feet, strenuous)
Which is the best entrance for an RV in Yosemite?
The Big Flat Oak Entrance and Arch Rock Entrance are best for visiting Yosemite in an RV.
What size RV is allowed in Yosemite?
The maximum RV length in Yosemite National Park is 40 feet.
Can you drive an RV through Yosemite?
Yes, the maximum RV length in Yosemite National Park is 40 feet. You should enter through the Big Oak Flat or Arch Rock entrance.
Bus Services Into Yosemite
Included in your Yosemite entrance fee is access to the YARTS hikers buses. These buses run from outside the park to the visitor centers and trailheads inside; then back again.
If you don’t already have a parks pass, bus tickets range from ~$15-$30 round trip.
You can catch a bus at the main station on Highway 140 year-round. In the summer, buses also run from Highway 120 East, Highway 120 North, and Highway 41 (Fresno). You can reserve and pre-purchase bus tickets here.
There are four bus tours you can take beginning in Yosemite Valley. All of these are fee-based and run seasonally. If you’re visiting Yosemite for just a few days, this is a great way to take in many parts of the park without excessive planning.
- Valley Floor Tour (2 hours, year-round)
- Glacier Point Tour (4 hours to Glacier Point and back)
- Grand Tour (8 hours, Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove)
- Tuolumne Meadows (8 hours, Tuolumne Meadows and back)
These tours make stops at the most picturesque locations and give you cool facts along the way. They are great for people with limited mobility or those who want to drive through all the sights without the hassle of a car.
Auto Touring Yosemite
If you do choose to bring your own vehicle, one really fun and easy experience to have is listening to an auto tour during the drive.
That’s especially true if you’re coming in through Tioga Pass which is a long route to the valley.
You can purchase an audio tour at the Yosemite bookstores and visitor centers. There are a few different tracks you can listen to depending on the routes you take.
The tapes describe the geography and scenery you’re looking at while you travel along.
This Post Has One Comment
The park shuttle service [aramark]
is inept. We waited for over an hour to catch the shuttle back to the visitors center in the valley and it never came, we needed to be back by 5p.m to catch the Yarts bus back to our camp site in Lee Vinning. By the time we made it to the visitors center the Yarts bus had left stranding us. We were helped by a manager at Degnan’s Deli that got an employee to agree to drive us back to Lee Vinning costing me $150.00 plus the $50 we paid for the Yarts that left us stranded.