Planning a drive to Yosemite? Settle into the driver’s seat and get ready for a double dose of delight as you wind your way through Yosemite Mariposa County’s scenic highways. Read on to learn about Yosemite road conditions before your visit.
Traffic this summer in Yosemite Valley is causing congestion and long queues at the gates to Yosemite National Park. Visitors are encouraged to arrive before 8 am to avoid waits at the gate and find parking in Yosemite Valley.
The Yosemite National Park Service has launched a text alert system to make visitors aware of when parking is full or even when portions of Yosemite Valley are closed to vehicle traffic due to congestion. To sign-up for alerts, text YNPTRAFFIC to 333111.
Visitors are also encouraged to follow these tips to have the best experience this summer:
- Arrive early and stay late, and try to plan your trip during the week instead of on weekends.
- To enter the park hassle-free, why not hop on a YARTS bus? It’s a great way to get in without any parking headaches.
- If you decide to drive, here’s a pro tip: park your car once you arrive and keep it there for your stay. Driving from spot to spot can really add to the traffic jams and make everyone in the car a bit cranky.
- Yosemite Valley has free shuttles that can help you get around, but be warned, they fill up fast on busy days. Be patient, as you might have to wait for a few buses before you can hop on. If you’re up for it, consider walking or biking to your destinations.
- It’s always a good idea to bring plenty of food and water with you, just in case of any unexpected delays. And whenever you come across a restroom, make use of it – you never know when the next one will be available!
- For a smoother experience, aim to visit during the fall or on midweek dates to avoid traffic troubles.
Seasonal Yosemite Road Closures
In general, Yosemite’s roads remain clear and passable year-round, with a few exceptions; Tioga Road, Glacier Point Road, and the Mariposa Grove Road (sort of).
Higher-elevation roads like Highway 41 and Highway 120 are more likely to have snow (and chain controls) during the winter. Highway 140, also known as the All-Weather Highway, is at a lower elevation and remains snow-free more often.
The road to Hetch Hetchy is also open year-round during the day.
Tioga Road, the portion of Highway 120 that goes east through the park and over Tioga Pass to the east side of the Sierra, is only open during the summer months. During the winter, deep snow and avalanche hazards make this route impassable. It’s hard to guess exactly when this road will be open each year because it depends on conditions, but very roughly speaking, Tioga Road closes sometime around November and reopens most years in May or June.
You can get a better idea based on the historical opening and closing dates (tracked since 1980), and in the spring, the National Park Service posts occasional plowing updates starting in roughly mid-April if you want to follow the progress in the final stretch.
ANNUAL GLACIER POINT ROAD CLOSURE
The Glacier Point Road is a spur road off of Highway 41 that leads to scenic overlooks like Glacier Point. During the winter months, this road is only open as far as Badger Pass Ski Area. Beyond the ski area, the road is groomed for cross-country skiing. Snowshoers are also permitted along the outside edges of the groomed track.
Note: The Glacier Point Road was under reconstruction in 2022, and the first part of 2023. Be prepared for short traffic delays as workers finish their work.
mariposa grove road
Providing access to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the Mariposa Grove Road and shuttle system are typically open from as early as March 15 and will close for the season around November 30.
Most people normally aren’t allowed to drive on Mariposa Grove Road. The main parking is at the Welcome Center close to the South Entrance Gate, and you can hike the two-mile (3.2 km) Washburn Trail to the Arrival Area or take a shuttle bus when those are running. People in a vehicle with a disability placard or license plate also have the option to drive up to the Arrival Area during the summer.
The Mariposa Grove Road is not plowed in the winter and becomes inaccessible by car, though cross country skiers, snowshoers and hikers often enjoy traveling along the winter road when it is covered in snow.
NPS has been tracking the opening and closing dates of the Mariposa Grove Road since 2010.
winter Yosemite driving conditions
With mild low-elevation winters, getting around Yosemite Mariposa County is usually very straightforward. However, when a winter storm moves in, there is the possibility of snow on the roads and chain control restrictions both in Yosemite as well as outside the park.
Be sure to check the weather forecast before your visit so you are aware of any approaching storm systems.
Current Yosemite National Park Road Conditions
If you’re wondering “Is it safe to drive to Yosemite right now?” you can call the road conditions hotline at 209-372-0200 (press 1 and 1 again to listen to the recording) to get the best and most up-to-date road conditions in Yosemite National Park.
The park also updates current road conditions on its current conditions page. However, this requires an extra step, so when the weather is changing quickly, or there is a storm in the forecast, the road condition hotline is the more reliable source of information.
Finally, for a general idea of what the weather is like and what kind of conditions you can expect on the roadways, it’s always nice to check the Yosemite webcams for a visual on the current driving conditions in Yosemite.
Highway 140 is also known as the All-Season Highway because it tends to remain snow-free more often than other routes into the park. Call CalTrans for information on highways outside Yosemite National Park.
Current Road Conditions Outside Yosemite
While low elevation roads like The All-Weather Highway, Highway 140, tend to be easy to navigate in winter, sometimes a particularly cold snowstorm will create chain control conditions outside the park boundary as well. Along higher-elevation routes like Highway 120 or Highway 41, encountering winter road conditions before entering the park is more common.
Check with CalTrans for the current conditions of roads outside Yosemite National Park or call 1-800-427-7623.
Plan For Relaxing Summer Travels
With iconic views that draw visitors from around the world, Yosemite wins all the popularity contests. During the summer months, finding parking and navigating transportation is easiest if you start the day early, and plan ahead to avoid climbing back into your vehicle during the middle of the day. We recommend timing your visit so that you reach an entrance to Yosemite before 9:00 am, though the earlier the better.
Check out public transportation options like YARTS or the free shuttles in Yosemite Valley. Bicycles are also a great way to explore Yosemite Valley. Not only is biking a fun activity, you can also stop whenever you want to take in the view. If you can’t bring your own, you can rent bikes at the Curry Village Bike Stand or and at the Yosemite Valley Lodge Bike Stand, or take advantage of the Yosemite Conservancy Bike Share program for short trips around Yosemite Valley.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the easiest route to drive to Yosemite?
The easiest route to drive into Yosemite during the winter is Highway 140. Depending on where you are coming from, it may be slightly longer than Highway 120 or Highway 41. However, when winter snow slows traffic on the higher-elevation routes into Yosemite, it can be both faster and less stressful. (It’s also a beautiful drive up the Merced River canyon.)
Do you have to have chains to drive in Yosemite during winter?
You must have chains in your vehicle to enter a chain-controlled area in winter, even if you are not required to have them on the tires. That is true within Yosemite, and on roads outside of the park as well. Learn more about chain controls in Yosemite.
Is it OK to drive any car into Yosemite?
The roads in and around Yosemite tend to be winding and steep, but you don’t need to have a 4WD Hummer to navigate them safely. Any road-worthy car can make the trip.
What kinds of conditions should I be aware of when planning a drive to Yosemite?
Each season in Yosemite Mariposa County carries its own character and set of conditions. You can get some ideas of what to plan for in each of our spectacular seasons in Yosemite Mariposa County.