(Please note: Yosemite National Park is open during the National Forest closure in California. Yosemite is a National Park and is not impacted by that order. Recreation areas outside of Yosemite in the Sierra National Forest and Stanislaus National Forest are closed. State highways and county roads through the National Forests in Mariposa County remain open and lodging on National Forest land is open as well.)
The National Park Service recently announced that a temporary day-use reservation system will be put in place for this summer due to COVID-19 and the resulting staffing and operational hurdles that creates. If you’re planning a visit to the park this summer, you’ll need to get up to speed quickly on how to get the vehicle reservation day-use pass you need. Keep reading and check out our article on planning a trip to Yosemite in just 7 days.
Here are the essentials of what you need to know to secure your vehicle reservations for Yosemite.
Day-use vehicle reservations are temporarily going to be required this summer, between May 21, 2021 and September 30, 2021.
Before you go to the trouble of getting a day-use vehicle reservation, make sure you actually need one. Many Yosemite day-use visitors will find that they already have permission to enter the park through some other reservation or permit system.
If you have a lodging or camping reservation inside the park, you will NOT need an additional day-use reservation. This includes hotels like The Ahwahnee (pictured), Curry Village, or Wawona Hotel, vacation rentals in Yosemite West, Wawona or Foresta, or campgrounds inside the park.
Even if you are visiting while the vehicle reservation system is being enforced, you don’t need a separate day-use vehicle reservation if:
Note to Annual Passholders: Day-use vehicle reservations ARE REQUIRED, but your annual National Parks pass covers the entrance fee, so make sure you look for a check box on the recreation.gov site so you only pay the $2 reservation fee and not the $35 entrance fee.
You’ll need a day-use reservation for your vehicle to enter Yosemite between May 21 and Sep. 30, 2021. Make sure you get one online ahead of time at recreation.gov.
The reservation is good for three consecutive vehicle access days. Unlike 2020, you don’t have to arrive on the first day of your reservation to validate it. As an example, a reservation for May 22 allows unlimited park entries on May 22, 23, and 24.
The day-use reservation allows one vehicle to enter the park regardless of how many people are in that vehicle. The person who made the reservation must be in the vehicle and be prepared to show photo ID. This helps prevent reselling reservations.
If you have a reservation, but can’t make the trip, please cancel. Those reservations will immediately become available through the booking system.
The vehicle reservation is for day-use only. That means you can come and go freely between 5 am and 11 pm but are not allowed in the park outside those times.
Make the vehicle reservation online through recreation.gov – Yosemite National Park Ticketed Entry – as soon as vehicle reservations become available for your dates.
Vehicle reservations are likely to go quickly due to high demand. For the best chance to get a reservation prepare ahead of time. Create an account in advance if you don’t already have one, and be logged in and ready to make a vehicle reservation at exactly 8 am Pacific time.
If your schedule is flexible, consider that traditionally the busiest times in the park have been on the weekends. More passes are being issued for Sunday through Wednesday’s than for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If you can arrive/visit mid-week, you’ll have less competition for those precious reservation slots and more chances to win one.
PRO TIP: Temporary day-use permits for mid-week stays are much more available than for weekends. Plan your trip for Sunday – Wednesday for your best chance at getting a pass.
Most reservations are available in spring, but if you don’t plan that far in advance or miss the first round, you can still get vehicle reservations seven days before you arrive, or when someone cancels their vehicle reservation.
For example, if you want to visit Yosemite on July 8, the first reservations will go on sale at 8 am Pacific time on April 28. If you miss that date, an additional batch of reservations becomes available on July 1 at 8 am.
Each person can make one vehicle reservation per day. If your group must arrive in multiple vehicles, you will need multiple day-use vehicle reservations.
If someone cancels, their vehicle reservation immediately becomes available again on recreation.gov.
No problem. Yosemite Mariposa County is filled with exciting options. (Pro tip: you will want to check some of these out even if you do get a vehicle reservation to enter Yosemite.)
Explore Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite Valley’s quieter twin without a day-use vehicle reservation.
Hetch Hetchy is a water-filled twin of the majestic Yosemite Valley with soaring granite cliffs, waterfalls, and some spectacular hiking above the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The road to this area is separate from the entrance to the other regions of the park and doesn’t require a reservation.
The outdoor recreation opportunities and beautiful natural scenery of the High Sierra don’t magically end at the park boundary. In fact, the area’s most spectacular spring wildflower display is west of the park on the Hite Cove Trail.
Nearby Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests boast miles and miles of pine-scented hiking trails through meadows and forests in the rolling Sierra foothills. You can even pick up a trail along the famed Merced River as it leaves Yosemite and courses down the canyon. That same river canyon is home to some of the area’s most popular whitewater rafting trips and excellent fly fishing. There’s so much to do along the Merced River, that there’s even a whole itinerary based around it.
From the region around Fish Camp and Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, you’ll want to explore the sequoias by horseback with Yosemite Trails Horseback Adventures. There is even a backdoor trail from this area into the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias that makes for a great ride on horses or mountain bikes. Ride the steam train at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.
Speaking of historic towns, Mariposa County is full of hidden gems like Mariposa, Coulterville and Hornitos where retail, dining and recreation are all in reach. The town of Mariposa is home to museums, wine tasting, locally-brewed beer and even a great and easily accessible nature preserve, the Stockton Creek Preserve, where the hiking is great and comes with options. Hornitos is a gold nugget of a town where the past is still very much alive – and it’s just a stone’s throw from Lake McClure. In historic Coulterville, the town feels as if you’re walking through the set of a wild west film, just as long as the wild west has modern cars on its roads.
It can be done. If, despite the many alternatives available, your heart is set on Yosemite National Park, you can still get in without a day-use vehicle reservation.
We have even more information about park operations and logistics on our FAQ page. Also, feel free to connect with us on social media or send us an email at info@Yosemite.com. We are here to help you plan the best trip to Yosemite Mariposa County that you can.
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