Published on September 27, 2018

Where to Stay Last Minute

Hiking, Yosemite Falls Trail, Upper Yosemite Fall
Yosemite Falls Trail

No matter where you’re coming from, you can plan a last minute road trip to Yosemite if you know where to look and what to bring. While there are many people that plan far in advance for their trip to the Yosemite, there are last minute trips that can happen when you’re visiting Yosemite National Park, especially when basing yourself in Mariposa County. Gateway communities inside and outside of Yosemite National Park like Mariposa, Coulterville, Wawona, Fish Camp, El Portal, Bear Valley and more, all have exciting recreation, lodging and exploration opportunities to offer last minute visitors.

Staying in Yosemite Mariposa County

Yosemite’s peak season is during the summer months””June, July and August. If you’re planning a last-minute trip to Yosemite Valley, it is likely difficult during this time as available lodging and campsites fill up pretty fast, but that’s not to say they don’t exist! There are more than 600 vacation rentals equipped with great amenities settled in prime locations throughout the park and Mariposa County with affordable Yosemite lodging options.

The Bug Hostel, Spa, Hot Tub
Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort

Yosemite Valley has two lodges and a canvas tent village. For budget-friendly options and the best lodging rates in Yosemite Valley, October through April are ideal. There are also some great places to check out just outside the park, like Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort. A lodge known for it’s great atmospheres, Yosemite Bug offers a fresh and funky view to camping, serving up local fare, live music and great events all year long. You can even grab a $12 day pass for the spa or hit up one of their yoga classes.

For a more luxurious stay, check out the southern Yosemite region’s AAA four-diamond resort, Tenaya Lodge. Located two miles from Yosemite’s southern entrance and lovingly surrounded by the Sierra National Forest, Tenaya Lodge provides elegant comfort in a rustic setting. Tenaya Lodge is regarded as one of the best places to experience culinary treats with five restaurants to choose from. You can also enjoy fine, cozy accommodations at the Yosemite Cedar Lodge and Yosemite View Lodge. If you want to take in the majesty of the mountains and the power of the Merced River, these lodges are your ticket to incredible views, right from the comfort of your room.

If you’re wondering where to stay in Yosemite last minute Yosemite Hotel and Motels, Yosemite Cabin Rentals, Yosemite Bed and Breakfast and Yosemite Camping and Campgrounds can help you explore your options when you’re in the area.

Getting to Yosemite

Yosemite Valley, Fall in Yosemite, Fall, Half Dome
Yosemite Valley in the fall

First and foremost, how many days are you going to stay? The more the better! While you can explore some of Yosemite in two days, it’s really worth giving yourself more time as the park has so much to offer, not just the valley floor. Yosemite National Park is 1,169 square miles with 800 miles of trails!

From San Francisco, it’s just about a four-hour drive to Yosemite National Park.  You can access the park year-round and late fall through to the spring are some of the best times to visit. If driving isn’t your thing, you can always take advantage of the guided tours in Yosemite; just remember to check the road conditions. Tour buses operate year-round and bring guests from San Francisco and the greater Yosemite Mariposa County area into the region. You can also look into Amtrak, Greyhound or Boutique Air for your last minute trip to Yosemite.

Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the public transportation while you’re here. Parking can be limited during the busiest hours of the day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), but by hopping on a YARTS bus, it can be easily avoided and allow you more time to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. No matter if you decide to stay in Mariposa, Midpines, Fish Camp, El Portal or one of the other beautiful Mariposa County communities surrounding Yosemite, you can utilize this public transportation. That way, you can spend time doing the important activities like taking in the views when you get inside the park instead of worrying about driving around and looking for a parking spot. That’s what the YARTS is for!

Check the YARTS Trip Planning page & the Bus Schedules page for more information about making all of these connections.

What You’ll Need for a Last-Minute Trip

Taking a last-minute trip to Yosemite still requires a bit of planning when it comes to what you should bring. To truly experience the area and take in the valley in its entirety, coming prepared will make your time here that much more enjoyable. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive guide to what to pack for Yosemite, we made one for you. You can probably already guess the essentials, though.

Water, calorie-dense snacks, paper maps and a sturdy pair of broken-in hiking boots are a must. Depending on the season, you may need to pack a rain shell, but of course, it’s always best to dress in layers. You never know what kind of weather Yosemite will bring! While cellphone service can be a little spotty, bring your phone to take pictures of your adventure if you don’t want to pack a heavy camera.

Forgot something? Don’t worry. The Fish Camp General Store is a great spot to pick up last-minute groceries on your way into Yosemite via Highway 41. In the Coulterville & Buck Meadows region, Coulter Cafe & General Store provides the ultimate spot to pick up last-minute items. If you’re in the valley, the Village Store, Half Dome Grocery & Gifts and Pine Tree Market are also excellent stores to grab groceries, firewood, clothing, camping supplies and even books.

Last-Minute Things to Do

Yosemite, Skydive
Photo Credit: Skydive Yosemite

If you’re only visiting Yosemite National Park for a brief period, hit Tunnel View“”made famous by Ansel Adams and a bucket list stop for first-time visitors to Yosemite. Located outside the Wawona Tunnel on Highway 41, this vista doesn’t require hiking. Just find an open space and park. From Tunnel View, you can see El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall.

Skydive Yosemite is another great option to take in Yosemite National Park from a different perspective. This is the only skydiving center in the area and the views of Yosemite National Park are truly indescribable.

There are many, many more attractions to enjoy in Yosemite National Park like Yosemite Falls, Vernal Fall, Ribbon Falls and the famous Horsetail Fall, or the Northern Mariposa County History Center, Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, and more.

Categories: General Travel Tips, Lodging, Travel and Transportation, Winter