Heading to Yosemite National Park by car? Planning out your route on how to get there? We’re here to help.
Did you know that there are not one, not two, but five entrances to this iconic national park?
In this blog post, we’ll be your trusty guide as we explore the five different entrances that lead you into the heart of Yosemite. From the park’s east side to its western and southern flanks, each entrance offers a unique gateway to Yosemite’s unparalleled beauty.
Choosing the right entrance can make all the difference in your Yosemite experience.
Are you arriving from the east, the west, or perhaps the south? We’ll help you pick the entrance that not only brings you closest to the attractions you want to see but also ensures a smooth and scenic journey based on your starting point.
This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!
LOOKING FOR MORE YOSEMITE TRAVEL TIPS? READ MORE:
- 15 Unmissable Things To See at Yosemite National Park: 1-Day Itinerary
- 15+ Best Things To Do In Places Near Yosemite (Tuolumne County)
- 7 Lively California Gold Rush Towns You Must Visit
- 13 Best Things To Do Between San Francisco And Yosemite NP
Table of Contents
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK ENTRANCES: OVERVIEW
1. BIG OAK FLAT ENTRANCE
Highway 120 | Best for you if: you’re driving from the Bay Area
Visiting from the Bay Area? One of the two direct routes into the park is through the Big Oak Flat Entrance.
Located on the park’s western edge, this entrance is accessed via Highway 120 and is the closest entrance to Groveland and Sonora. This one is less visited and less crowded, and is about an hour from Yosemite Valley. If you want to avoid the lines to get into the park, this is a great choice!
Pit Stop: Groveland, a cute little town with shops, hotels, and restaurants about 24 miles from the park. It’s the largest town between the entrance, and Sonora, CA. For an interesting spot to grab a drink, stop by Iron Door Saloon, the state’s oldest and continuously operating saloon, which opened its doors in 1852!
Where To Stay: Rush Creek Lodge is the best hotel option for people coming from west of the national park. It is located just outside the western entrance (closest to the Big Oak Flat Entrance) of Yosemite National Park, near the town of Groveland.
2. HETCH-HETCHY ENTRANCE
Highway 120 | Best for you if: you want to hike at Hetch-Hetchy Valley and a select few trailheads
Located on the northern edge of the park, this entrance is accessed via Evergreen Road and is closest to San Francisco and the Bay Area. HOWEVER, this entrance is isolated from the rest of the park — you can only get to Hetch-Hetchy Valley and a select few trailheads.
Lower and elevation than other park areas, Hetch Hetchy has a long hiking season from early spring through fall. Two of North America’s largest waterfalls are here, flowing 1000 feet down over granite.
You’ll also find Hetch Hetchy Reservoir here. This reservoir is a drinking water source, so it’s off-limits to swimming and boating. But it sure is a beautiful sight to see!
To give you a sense of the crowd factor at this Yosemite National Park entrance, less than 1% of the parks’ 4 million annual visitors ventured to the Hetch Hetchy entrance. It only makes sense to use this entrance if you are planning for a hike in this area.
This entrance is open year-round, but only during daylight hours, unless you have a backcountry permit.
Pit Stop: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown is worth a stop if you like train history! It’s home to the legendary engine No. 3 which has appeared in more than 100 movies and TV shows, including Back to the Future III.
3. ARCH ROCK ENTRANCE
Highway 140 | Best for you if: you’re driving from the Bay Area and are arriving at the park early
Located on the western edge of the park, this is the closest entrance to Yosemite Valley — where most visitors start their visit! This entrance is accessed via Highway 140 and tends to be the most popular one, which means the most traffic at certain times.
This is the other direct route from the San Francisco Bay Area via I-580 E to I-205 E to Highway 140 E into the park. Highway 140 becomes El Portal Rd., which leads you directly to Yosemite Valley.
The closest “town” to this entrance is El Portal, which features a gas station, El Portal Market, a picnic area, and some campgrounds. Midpines and Mariposa are to the west of here.
Need a place to stay near Arch Rock Entrance? The town of Mariposa offers the most services, featuring a historic downtown lined with restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels catering to Yosemite visitors.
Where To Stay: AutoCamp Yosemite is by far the most unique accommodation option on this list! This super unique ‘hotel’ offers a modern and luxurious glamping experience. Another affordable option is Best Western Plus Yosemite Way Station in Mariposa, CA.
4. SOUTH ENTRANCE
Highway 41 | Best for you if: you’re traveling from San Diego or the Los Angeles areas
If you’re traveling from San Diego or the Los Angeles area, your nearest entrance will be the south entrance.
Located on the southern edge of the park, this entrance is accessed via Highway 41 and is the closest entrance to Fresno and Oakhurst. From LA, it will take you about 5 hours to get here.
Fish Camp is the last town before the park, offering some lodging and a general store for all your last-minute camping/picnicking needs.
About 13 miles from Fish Camp is the bustling town of Oakhurst featuring some national chain hotels along with art galleries, locally owned restaurants, bookstores shops, and gold panning activities.
Pit Stop: On the route from Oakhurst to the park, stop at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, which offers rides onto operating steam, engine train locomotives! On the way into the park, you must stop at Tunnel View Overlook — this tunnel leads park visitors from the South Entrance to an unforgettable view of Yosemite Valley.
Where To Stay: Sierra Sky Ranch in Oakhurst is an amazing hotel option for people coming from the south or southwest of California. This is one of my favorite lodges in Oakhurst! Tenaya Lodge is another very wonderful lodging option just outside of Yosemite by the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park in Fish Camp.
5. TIOGA PASS ENTRANCE
Highway 120 | Best for you if: you’re coming from Lake Tahoe, Reno, Las Vegas, or Death Valley areas in the late spring, summer, and fall seasons
Headed to Yosemite NP from Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, or Death Valley areas in the summer season? Take the Tioga Pass Entrance.
Located on the eastern edge of the park, this entrance is accessed via Highway 120 and is the closest entrance to Lee Vining and Mono Lake. This is the entrance to take if you want to visit Tuolumne Meadows or other high-elevation areas.
This park entrance is open from late spring to late fall, depending on the weather. When snow is present, Tioga Pass is not open.
From Los Angeles, it will take you about 6 hours to get to this entrance. BUT, there’s a lot more to see along this route! You’ll pass Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and the Eastern Sierras (where you can visit Mammoth Lakes, hike Big Pine Lakes, or jump in a natural hot spring)!
From Vegas, it’s a little less than a 6-hour drive.
Where To Stay: Near the beautiful June Lake area, Double Eagle Resort & Spa is a luxurious day spa and resort with a fitness center and indoor swimming pool. What better way to combat those tired legs from hiking than with a well-deserved massage here? Don’t forget to enjoy all the outdoor fun at June Lake while you’re here!
If you need more help planning your Yosemite trip, check out these other posts: