Are you planning a trip to one of the most famous national parks in the country? Lucky you — there are a lot of epic viewpoints, massive redwoods, and gushing waterfalls in store for you!
A major part of the Yosemite trip planning process is deciding where to stay near Yosemite National Park! Given that this park is SO massive — and the fact that there are five separate entrances you could be entering from — deciding where to stay also depends on which way you’ll be entering the park from.
If you were hoping to snag lodging within the park, well then I hope you’re reading this post about 6-12 months before you intend to go to Yosemite because figuring out lodging within the park can be such a challenge! Rooms and campsites go like hotcakes!
But have no fear, because even if you’re late, there are still options outside of the park. Yep, you can still take your dream trip to Yosemite!
In this post, I’m here to help you understand your best options on where to stay for Yosemite National Park. Let’s dive into it!
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Table of Contents
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: IN A NUTSHELL
Here’s a quick overview of all the useful info you need to plan an awesome trip!
- When To Go: Summer is the most popular, but also the most crowded. Visit during fall and spring to see a quieter and more dramatic side of Yosemite (spring for the gushing waterfalls and fall for the colorful foliage)!
- Where To Stay: Outside the park, one of my favorite lodges is Sierra Sky Ranch in Oakhurst. Rush Creek Lodge at Yosemite is another top choice of ours, just minutes from the Big Oak Flat entrance.
- Nearest Airport: The nearest international airport is San Francisco International Airport (SFO), ~190 miles from the park’s western entrance. This is likely the airport you’ll fly into. The nearest regional airport is the Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT), ~65 miles from the park’s southern entrance. But chances are, flights in/out of FAT will be expensive.
- How to Get Around: You can get around Yosemite on public transit, but we recommend having your own car (in the winter, don’t forget to bring chains). We recommend using Rentalcars.com to find the best deal!
- Must-Do’s: Walk a portion of the Mist Trail to see Vernal Falls, hike around the perimeter of Yosemite Valley, snap pics of Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls, and catch the sunset at Glacier Point.
- Before You Go: Grab your America The Beautiful National Parks Pass and pack that baby away into your suitcase or car — don’t forget it! If you decide you don’t want to bother driving yourself around the park, this full-day small-group tour is a great option for seeing Yosemite’s top highlights! IT conveniently departs from the towns of Fresno or Oakhurst.
Looking for more Yosemite area travel tips and guides? Save or bookmark these other posts for later:
- 13 Unmissable Things To See at Yosemite National Park: 1-Day Itinerary
- 15+ Fun Things To Do In Gold Country, CA Near Yosemite
- 13 Best Things To Do Between San Francisco And Yosemite NP
- 58 Free Things To Do In The San Francisco Bay Area, California
- 7 Lively California Gold Rush Towns You Must Visit
National Park Pro Tip! Yosemite National Park costs $35 for a 7-day pass. Instead of paying the $35 for just 7 days, we highly recommend the America The Beautiful National Parks Pass. If you plan on visiting a few other national parks within a year’s time, get this $80 pass. As long as you visit 2 additional national parks or monuments within 365 days, the pass will more than pay for itself and save you so much money on park admission fees.
WHAT ARE THE YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK ENTRANCES?
There are five entrances to Yosemite National Park. The one you’ll use depends on where you’re coming from. We’ll break this down based on a couple of major cities and their directions from Yosemite NP.
Heading to Yosemite from San Francisco Bay Area:
- Arch Rock Entrance: 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.
- Big Oak Flat Entrance: Located on the western edge of the park, 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!
- Hetch Hetchy Entrance: 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. It only makes sense to use this entrance if you are planning for a hike in this area.
Heading to Yosemite from Los Angeles Area:
- 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.
- 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. From LA, 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 here on out, make a note of which entrance you’ll probably be taking to get to Yosemite NP. When we get into the accommodation options below, we’re going to note which entrance they’re closest to!
CAMPING OPTIONS AT YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Camping and tent cabin rentals are affordable and ultra-convenient lodging options. However, campsites within Yosemite National Park are extremely popular and almost always sell out as soon as they’re available for booking.
This is understandable, you’re paying under $50 a night to be smack dab in the middle of the park’s breathtaking beauty!
There are 13 campgrounds inside the park with varying availability. Some campsites require reservations year-round, while others are first-come-first-served.
If you’re looking to make camping reservations, make sure you’re looking at least 6 months in advance! I recommend the following Yosemite Valley campgrounds:
- Upper Pines Campground: Upper Pines Campground is a larger campground, boasting 240 campsites. It may very well be the most popular campground in Yosemite Valley due to where it’s situated, surrounded by iconic landmarks like El Capitan and Half Dome. If you’re looking for something lively, this is the campground for you. (Might not be the best for visitors looking for peace and quiet.) Requires a reservation ahead of time.
- Lower Pines Campground: Lower Pines is equally as popular as Upper Pines Campground. This campground is smaller with 60 spots and has a more relaxed vibe. Showers are available here. Requires a reservation ahead of time.
- North Pines Campground: This campground is situated perfectly with the Merced River on one side and Tenaya Creek on the other. There are 80 sites and showers are available. Requires a reservation ahead of time.
- Camp 4: Super popular campsite among the rock climbing crowd. The campground is open year-round, with 35 sites. The sites are in the perfect location to walk/bike anywhere in the valley, and fantastic climbing is within a stone’s throw from this campground. There are usually people in line even before 4am. The ranger usually shows up early to check people in.
If you’re interested in trying for a first-come-first-serve site, be sure to get there as early as possible– they can fill up by 8:30am. Since Yosemite is extra popular on the weekends, your best bet would be to get there Thursday for the best chances at snagging a spot.
LODGING INSIDE YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Most Affordable Option – Closest to Arch Rock Entrance
Curry Village is the largest affordable lodging facility in Yosemite Valley, offering many lodging options including motel rooms, wood-sided cabins, and canvas tent cabins.
This lodge is one of the most popular options inside Yosemite due to its convenient location. Curry Village is located in Yosemite Valley, near the base of Glacier Point and Half Dome. It is situated on the south side of the Merced River, just east of the Yosemite Village area. It’s also the most convenient area to stay if you’re looking to hike Half Dome in the early morning!
Within the village, they also have a cafeteria and snack bar with surprisingly good pizza. Due to its popularity, Curry Village sells out quickly so be sure to make your reservations about 1 year in advance to ensure you snag a spot.
Other lodging options inside the park can be quite expensive. They also get booked up quickly.
Most Luxurious Option – Closest to Arch Rock Entrance
The Ahwahnee is also located in Yosemite Valley, near the base of Half Dome and Glacier Point. It is situated on the north side of the Merced River, just west of Yosemite Village.
Known for its stunning interior design and architecture, The Ahwahnee was designed to reflect its natural surroundings, featuring Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point. One reason why it’s super cool to stay at? The hotel is a National Historic Landmark!
Inside The Ahwahnee sits The Ahwahnee Dining Room, which is a culinary delight. It is open year-round, serving very well-made breakfast and dinner. With ceilings over 30 feet high and massive windows that take in the surrounding views, the dining room evokes a feeling of grandness and opulence.
If you can get reservations at this hotel, then enjoy the splurge and the luxury of waking up inside the park. I do wish you luck though, because rooms here book up a year in advance!
LODGING OUTSIDE OF YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Affordable lodging outside the park can be few and far between. Many of the hotels within minutes from the park entrances can cost an arm and a leg.
Venture a bit further and you’ll open up a world of affordable lodging! It really depends on when you’re booking— if you’re looking at lodging options last minute, you might have more limited options.
That’s why booking as early as possible is the rule of thumb when it comes to visiting Yosemite!
Here are some of the best options on where to stay near Yosemite National Park depending on which direction you’re visiting from.
Rush Creek Lodge
Closest to Yosemite’s Big Oak Flat entrance
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.
This entrance is the most convenient for visitors coming from San Francisco, the Bay Area, or other points west or even south of the park.
Rush Creek Lodge is a modern and luxurious hotel that offers a variety of accommodations, including rooms, suites, and villas. The hotel features a range of amenities, including a restaurant, a pool, a spa, a hot tub, unlimited s’mores (!!!), and even tours in and out of the park!
The hotel’s location just outside the park offers easy access to a variety of popular attractions, including Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
Closest to the Arch Rock Entrance of the park
AutoCamp Yosemite is by far the most unique accommodation option on this list! This super unique ‘hotel’ offers a modern and luxurious glamping experience.
The lodging options include a variety of Airstream trailers and safari-style canvas tents that are all designed with a modern, hipster, and stylish aesthetic. The trailers and tents are equipped with comfortable beds, high-end linens, and private bathrooms, as well as amenities such as heating and air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and outdoor fire pits.
If you like elevated camping experiences, you are going to LOVE IT here.
The lodging option is located just outside the western entrance of the park, near the town of Mariposa. It is closest to the Arch Rock Entrance of the park, which is accessed via Highway 140. This entrance is the most convenient for visitors coming from Merced, Fresno, or even the SF Bay Area.
Sierra Sky Ranch
Closest to the South Entrance of the park
Outside the park, one of my favorite lodges is Sierra Sky Ranch in Oakhurst.
Sierra Sky Ranch in Oakhurst is a good hotel for people coming from the south or southwest of California. The hotel is closest to the South Entrance of the park, which is accessed via Highway 41.
This entrance is the most convenient for visitors coming from Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, or other points south or west of the park. From the South Entrance, it is approximately a 45-minute drive to reach Sierra Sky Ranch in Oakhurst.
Though it is further away from the park entrance, I find that this historic ranch is one of the nicer hotels in the area! The rooms are impeccably decorated with ranch-inspired decor and the hardwood used throughout the property really warms up the lodge’s atmosphere.
There are such cozy common areas here and the rooms are offered at super-affordable prices. Check them out here!
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite
Closest to the South Entrance of the park
Tenaya Lodge is another very wonderful lodging option just outside of Yosemite by the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park in Fish Camp.
This is a good hotel for people coming from the west or south of California. This entrance is the most convenient for visitors coming from Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, or other points south or west of the park. From the South Entrance, it is approximately a 35-minute drive to reach Tenaya Lodge.
You’re going to get cozy cabin feels despite being in a modern and comfortable lodge. Fun amenities like s’mores kits are included with your stay!
After a long day of exploring, guests at Tenaya can relax with a massage from the spa, enjoy a gourmet dinner at the on-site restaurant or arrange the next day’s activities with help from the hotel’s concierge staff.
Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite
Closest to Hetch Hetchy and Big Oak Flat entrances
Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite is a unique lodging option for visitors to Yosemite National Park looking for the best of both worlds — here, you’ll get a rustic and authentic camping experience with modern amenities. It’s essentially a collection of cabins nestled into the woods just outside the park.
All the cabins and tents here are designed with a rustic and cozy aesthetic. The cabins and tents are equipped with comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and amenities such as heating, Wi-Fi, and outdoor fire pits.
This one’s just outside the western entrance of the park, near the town of Groveland — just 5 minutes away from the Hetch Hetchy park entrance and 18 minutes from the Big Oak Flat Entrance of the park.
Both these entrances are the most convenient for visitors coming from San Francisco, the Bay Area, or other points west or south of the park.
June Lake area
Closest to the Tioga Pass Entrance
In terms of the Tioga Pass Entrance, there aren’t many nice hotel options in the town closest to the entrance (Lee Vining). Instead, I’d recommend making the June Lake area your home base! June Lake is located approximately 15 miles south of Lee Vining.
The drive from the Tioga Pass Entrance to June Lake takes approximately 25 minutes, which is not a bad drive at all! I love June Lake and think it’s California’s most slept-on area (and best-kept secret)!
For the budget-friendly traveler who doesn’t mind roughing it, I’d recommend trying to snag a campsite at June Lake or Silver Lake.
If camping is not your thing, 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?
Mammoth Lakes area
Closest to the Tioga Pass Entrance
Another option for the folks entering from the Tioga Pass Entrance is to find a place to stay in Mammoth Lakes, CA! Mammoth Lakes is just 33 miles (or about a 38-minute drive) from the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite NP.
If you’re into camping, there are so many campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra to choose from. If you can snag a campsite, anything in Reds Meadow is an easy recommendation. Not into camping? Below are two of our favorite lodges located in Mammoth Lakes:
The Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth – this is where we stayed on our most recent trip. The rooms are spacious and come with a living space, fireplace, and fully equipped kitchen. Of course in true Westin style, there are wonderfully soft bedsheets and bathrobes provided. There is a heated swimming pool and a very spacious hot tub pool.
The Village Lodge – this is our second favorite choice in the Mammoth Lakes area. Featuring direct access to a gondola and ski elevator at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, the Village Lodge condos are surrounded by mountain views. The property features a heated outdoor pool, 5 hot tubs, and 3 gyms, as well as free WiFi. Rooms include a dining area and a fireplace, and a balcony with a view of mountains or the courtyard. Some come with a kitchenette as well!
ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR YOUR YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK VISIT
- Yosemite National Park is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Always check the NPS website to determine if there are any extreme weather conditions, road closures, reservation requirements, etc.
- Cellular service is spotty, and you will probably not have service at some point during your trip. With that said, there are a few ways you can prepare so that you’re still able to find your way around the park: (1) Grab a map at the entrance of the park or from the visitor’s center. It’s moderately easy to navigate around the valley by just identifying landmarks you drive by on your physical map. (2) Download Google Maps offline so you can use your phone to navigate even without a connection.
- If you’re looking to stay in a hotel or lodge in the park, make reservations one year in advance. Yes, you read that right— one year! Yosemite is a super popular park and hotel rooms sell out quickly. If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, there are lots of options nearby the park entrances as well.
- There are 13 different campgrounds at Yosemite. If you’re looking to camp, you’ll also need to plan far in advance. Competition for campground reservations are high too. If you’re looking at campgrounds for a weekend trip in 2-3 months, chances are you are already too late.
- Because Yosemite is located in the mountains, there are frequent road closures during the winter that may not open back up until May. Make sure you check the official NPS website for the latest on road closures, current conditions, and opening dates.
- Special Natural Phenomenon Events: The Moonbow (a rainbow that appears at night – April through June). The Firefall (the waning light of winter days hits at just the right angle to create a streak of orange on the fall, resembling a lava flow – late February).