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Yosemite West Overlook. Photo: Tom Lambert

Yosemite West: Centrally Located & Away From It All

It can be easy to miss Yosemite West. Make sure you don’t.

This tiny treasure of a neighborhood is located inside the gates of Yosemite National Park. Yet it’s hidden from view – mostly obscured by magnificent 150-foot tall pines, firs, and cedars. Their unmistakable scent will greet you the moment you arrive, a breath of sweet mountain air that instantly calms and refreshes. There can be no doubt that you’re in the mountains here.

Plus, from Yosemite West, you’re just 20-40 minutes from three of Yosemite National Park’s most iconic destinations – Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

That’s close enough to enjoy a short hike in Yosemite Valley in the morning, then return to your home away from home for lunch and a leisurely siesta before exploring Glacier Point with plenty of time to catch the glowing face of Half Dome as it catches the light from the setting sun.

Whether your goal is to climb El Capitan or find a quiet spot to enjoy a sunset. To hike from dawn to dusk or just stand and marvel at the largest trees in the world, Yosemite West is a great base camp for all that Yosemite National Park has to offer.

Where is Yosemite West?

Sunset from Fire Tower in Yosemite West

There are many beautiful places to catch a sunset sky in Yosemite West. This photo was taken from the Fire Tower at the top of the neighborhood. Photo: Tom Lambert

Think of Yosemite West as being located at a four-way crossroads where each branch leads to a different adventure.

A left turn on Highway 41 upon leaving the community leads to Yosemite Valley with its famous cliffs and waterfalls. A right turn leads to Wawona and the massive trees of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. The entrance to Yosemite West is also within spitting distance of the start of the Glacier Point Road (closed for 2022 and reopening in 2023 with additional construction delays), offering the closest available accommodations to skiing at Badger Pass in the winter as well as the breathtaking views from Glacier Point.

And the fourth branch of the crossroads? The road into Yosemite West follows a historic railroad grade into the neighborhood itself, a quiet community of almost 200 homes and well over 100 vacation rental properties, including nearly 100 cabins and homes managed by Scenic Wonders vacation rentals.

Yosemite West Lodging

Yosemite West vacation rental interior with fireplace and view from windows

Relax in comfort with a unique vacation rental home ideally suited for your group. Photo: Glacier Peak Lodge (managed by Scenic Wonders)

If you’re starting to think that this sounds like an ideal location for exploring Yosemite, we have to say we agree.

Fortunately, Yosemite West boasts lodging for a wide variety of groups — from studio apartments ideal for a solo retreat or romantic couple’s getaway to large luxury homes perfect for hosting extended family reunions. With so many homes to choose from, your group can even divide into multiple houses close to each other, creating a temporary neighborhood gathering in the mountains with just the right amount of privacy and togetherness.

Yosemite West’s location inside the park gates also means that if you choose a vacation rental cabin within this neighborhood, you will not be affected by the 2022 temporary peak-hours reservations requirements. People with overnight lodging in Yosemite West are exempt. You’ll be able to present your ID at the gate and pay the entrance fee without needing a separate reservation.

While there is no single source for all lodging in Yosemite West, Scenic Wonders manages the largest number of homes in the neighborhood, including the full range of options from small to expansive and budget-minded to luxury. Scenic Wonders is also headquartered in Yosemite West, so you can rest assured that helpful staff will be on hand if you happen to need anything, from winter snow removal to extra supplies.

Many additional homes are managed by independent hosts or smaller vacation rental companies. For a truly unique experience, keep an eye open for accommodations where your host lives in an adjoining apartment and can provide a warm personal welcome as well as handy insider tips and detailed local information.

For the most comprehensive listings of Yosemite West vacation rentals, consult our listings on Yosemite.com.

A Winter Sports Hub

woman looking at winter landscape from Dewey Point

Winter activities bring a whole new light to Yosemite’s magnificent landscape. From Yosemite West, you’re just minutes to the many trails and activities at Badger Pass Ski Area, including the trail to Dewey Point with this inspiring view.

If you love winter sports like skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing, or even sledding and snowball fights, Yosemite West is the place to stay. It’s roughly a 15-20 minute drive to Badger Pass Ski Area (depending on where you start within the neighborhood). That makes it easy to catch the first chair, relax at home for lunch, and then head back out to explore the cross-country ski trails in the afternoon. Kids enjoy sledding and snow play right in the backyard. (Just be sure to sled safely and check for obstacles and other hazards, and to respect the privacy of residents and other visitors.) Alternatively, you can check out the snow tubing option at Badger Pass.

Pro tip: If your vacation rental cabin includes access to a washer & dryer, that makes it easy to make sure winter clothing is warm and dry for your next adventure.

What You Won’t Find

Yosemite West rental cabin deck with views of surrounding trees.

Enjoy Yosemite West’s beautifully forested landscapes from the deck of your own vacation rental cabin. Pictured: Muir House (managed by Scenic Wonders)

What you won’t find in Yosemite West is a lot of hustle and bustle. There are no souvenir shops, no restaurants or bars, nothing but residential homes in a peaceful forest setting, a rich history, and easy access to the most famous parts of the park. If you’re searching for a rejuvenating and relaxing retreat surrounded by nature, you won’t go wrong with a stay in Yosemite West.

Nearby Hiking and History

Visitors often wonder how people can own private land in a national park. In fact, the road into Yosemite West crosses the park border and brings you onto the lands that once belonged to the Yosemite Lumber Company.

Of course, the history of the region goes back well beyond the logging days. Residents have found grinding holes used by Native Americans to make food from oak acorns in the area and obsidian spear tips have washed to the surface after an intense thunderstorm. It is unlikely people lived here permanently, but it is clear that long before there was a national park, people hunted and foraged on these lands and perhaps lived here seasonally.

Hike to the Fire Lookout

Historic Fire Tower above Yosemite West

Yosemite West’s historic fire tower looks much the same now as it did in this picture from 1940. Not only does it provide a great view of the surrounding landscape, but the open space nearby is also a great spot for night sky viewing. Photo: Ralph H Anderson

At the top of the neighborhood, a short hike of less than a mile leads to a historic fire lookout. According to the Crane Flat Fire Lookout registration, the Henness Ridge Fire Lookout was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is one of only four “rustic style” fire lookouts ever built in California. From the lookout, hikers can peer down 4,000 feet to the South Fork of the Merced River and gaze up 4,000 feet to the Buena Vista Crest.

Begin the hike from the end of Azalea Lane and wind up behind the water towers. (Please do not short-cut through the private property between houses.)

Pro tip: The helicopter landing pad by the lookout is also an excellent place for stargazing with very little light pollution. Don’t forget flashlights!

Walk Eleven Mile Road

Eleven Mile Meadow near Yosemite West

The quiet trail to Eleven Mile Meadow leaves from the top of Yosemite West. Photo: Tom Lambert

Although this fire road is unsigned and can be hard to find, the road to Eleven-Mile Meadow is one of the few places inside Yosemite where leashed pets are allowed off-pavement, and which is open to mountain biking.

Park at the Deer Camp trailhead, across the highway from Yosemite West, and start this hike by skirting around the back of the National Environmental Science Center on the left. (Please stay out of the campus itself.)

The first part of the road to Eleven Mile Meadow follows the roadbed of an old section of the Wawona Road that was abandoned when the main road was straightened in the 1930s. Today, sections of the old road are a wildflower extravaganza in the spring, especially when the little-leaved ceanothus (ceanothus parvifolius) is in bloom.

After going about 1.5 miles, look for a right turn to Eleven Mile Meadow. (If you miss this turn, you’ll end up joining back up to the main Wawona Road/Highway 41 in another 1.5 miles). From the turn, it’s about 1.2 miles to Eleven Mile Meadow.

Once a short side trip on the road to Yosemite Valley, it is now a quiet hike to a rarely visited meadow.

Fun Fact: Eleven-Mile Meadow is not eleven miles long. It is named after Eleven-Mile Station which was located roughly eleven miles from Wawona. This was one of the points where stagecoaches changed horses on the ride to and from Yosemite Valley.

Hike a Historic Railroad Bed

Although you’d never be able to tell from the tall stands of trees in the neighborhood now, in the 1920s logging railroads formed the foundations for several modern trails and roads. This photo, taken in the early 1920s shows a Shay locomotive plowing snow near Chinquapin / Yosemite West.
Photo: W.E. Wayhall

In the late 1800s, the land surrounding Yosemite West was owned by the Yosemite Lumber Company. After Yosemite National Park was created in 1890, park boundaries shifted, and Yosemite West was briefly incorporated into the park before finally ending up just outside the park boundary. Other lands nearby ended up being inside the park, but Yosemite Lumber Company retained the rights for a single harvest.

With the number of tall trees in the neighborhood now, you’d hardly know it but in the 1920s and 1930s, the lumber company exercised those timber rights. Railroads crossed the land allowing them to transport cut trees from the entire region including Yosemite West.

Today the road into Yosemite West is built along one of these old logging railroad beds. The railroad continues deep into the park, all the way to Alder Creek Falls and beyond. In the other direction, it runs out Henness Ridge Road to the famous incline rail to El Portal. This engineering marvel transported trainloads of logs down steep 45-degree slopes to El Portal below for many years.

Although the remains of the incline railroad are now on private property, and not open to the public, you can follow the old railroad into the park from the top of the neighborhood along the Deer Camp Trail to Alder Creek Fall, about 10 miles. This quiet trail winds through the forest and because it follows the railroad grade is ideal for runners and walkers looking for a relatively flat excursion.

Railroad buffs can also hike to Alder Creek Fall from the Mosquito Creek trailhead and arrive at one terminus of the railroad in only about three miles. Railroad ties and even pieces of rail can still be found along the trail.

Yosemite West Insider Tips

  • Yosemite West vacation rentals are popular so book early!
  • Plan ahead: bring supplies from home or buy them along the way in one of our friendly local towns. There are no restaurants or grocery stores in Yosemite West.
  • Please respect the residents of Yosemite West by not blocking driveways and maintaining a quiet presence. Some of them need to get to work early in the morning!
  • For more on the logging history of Yosemite West and Yosemite National Park, see Hank Johnston, Yosemite’s Yesterdays, Volume I.

Travel Times to Major Destinations in Yosemite

View of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View

Yosemite’s iconic Tunnel View is only 20-25 minutes from your cabin in Yosemite West. Photo: Kenny Karst

Rough travel times are based on traveling at the speed limit from various points within Yosemite West. Note that some roads close seasonally or may not be open for other reasons. Double-check the NPS Current Conditions page or call the road conditions line at 209-372-0200 (press 1, 1) when making plans.

  • Tunnel View: about 20-25 minutes
  • Yosemite Village: 35-40 minutes
  • Badger Pass: 15-20 minutes
  • Glacier Point: 35-40 minutes
  • Wawona: 25-30 minutes
  • Mariposa Grove: 35-40 minutes
  • Tuolumne Meadows: about an hour and 45 minutes
  • Tioga Pass: about 2 hours
  • Hetch Hetchy: about an hour and 45 minutes

To explore lodging options, things to do and places to eat, visit Yosemite.com, the #1 trip planning site for vacations to Yosemite National Park and historic Mariposa County. To stay up to date, follow @YosemiteNation on social media and subscribe to our newsletter, “The Wanderer”. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for great videos on the people and places of Yosemite Mariposa County.

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