Yosemite National Park enthusiasts can look forward to a slight relief from the weekend rush as the reopening of Tioga Road brings a new major entry into the park. With the renewed access, visitors can explore additional park highlights like Tuolumne Meadows and the breathtaking vista at Olmsted Point.
That being said, Yosemite can still get crowded during the summer, and it’s essential to be aware that long lines at park entrances may persist. For a smoother and more enjoyable experience, here are some tips to navigate the park while avoiding traffic:
• Opt for a mid- to late-afternoon entry: Yosemite recommends arriving after 3 p.m. to reduce the risk of getting caught in heavy traffic. A recent visit by a Chronicle reporter around 3 p.m. on Big Oak Flat Road revealed virtually no lines.
• Embrace an early morning start: Arriving extremely early, probably before 7 a.m. on weekends, ensures better chances of finding parking in Yosemite Valley, as lots fill up quickly around 8 or 8:15 a.m. By 8:30 a.m. on a Monday, the line to enter the park via El Portal Road (Highway 140) can already stretch 30-40 cars deep.
• Stay overnight in gateway communities: Consider lodging in Oakhurst or Groveland or opt for campsites in national forests near the park, which are closer and more affordable. Staying nearby allows for easy access to the park in the early hours.
• Plan a midweek visit: Avoid weekends and holiday weekends, which are particularly busy, as indicated by Yosemite’s website. Weekdays, especially during the middle of the week, offer a quieter and more serene park experience.
• Walk or bike inside the park: Once you’re in the park, ditch the car and explore on foot or bike. Shuttle buses can be helpful, although they tend to be packed on weekends. Yosemite National Park’s superintendent, Cicely Muldoon, suggested seeking parking either early in the morning or in the mid- to late-afternoon during a forum hosted by the park.
• Sign up for travel alerts: Stay informed about parking lot availability with travel alerts that notify visitors when lots are full or starting to empty out. Text “ynptraffic” to 333111 to receive these updates.
• Explore less crowded areas: Venture to lesser-known spots in and around the park, such as Hetch Hetchy, which offers a chance to avoid lines and crowds. Keep in mind, however, that some areas may be affected by extreme heat during certain times.
• Plan for next summer with a reservation system: If you prefer a more controlled and organized visit, consider planning your trip for next summer when a reservation system is likely to be in place. Reservations have not been required this summer, making it the first time in four years for peak-time park visits. Alternatively, visit during the spring or fall to enjoy fewer crowds.
By following these tips and embracing a mindful approach, visitors can make the most of their Yosemite National Park adventure without being overwhelmed by traffic and congestion. Discover the park’s natural wonders and enjoy the beauty of NorCal to the fullest!