Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the top questions and answers we receive daily from visitors to the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Oakhurst.

Several waterfalls can be seen in Yosemite Valley, depending on the season. Generally, the best time of year to view Yosemite's waterfalls is spring to early summer, when snow-melt and run-off are at their peak. The two most visited are Bridalveil Fall, which is located at the entrance to Yosemite Valley on Highway 41 (which becomes Wawona Road in the park) and Yosemite Falls which is located in the valley near Yosemite Lodge. Vernal and Nevada Falls can be seen from Glacier Point or by hiking the Mist Trail from Stop 16 of the valley shuttle bus system.
Main points of interest include waterfalls, Half Dome, Mirror Lake, El Capitan, Glacier Point, Tuolomne Meadow, Wawona, Tunnel View, Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake, Hetch Hetchy and three groves of Giant Sequoias. Some attractions are seasonal.
Mariposa Grove near the park's south entrance on Highway 41 is closed for approximately two years for a renovation to preserve the life of the trees. While Mariposa Grove is closed, the very best place to see Giant Sequoias, including the largest tree in the world, is in Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park about 2.5 hours south of Oakhurst. In Yosemite, two other groves are Tuolumne Grove, near Crane Flat off Highway 120, and the Merced Grove, west of Crane Flat and also off Highway 120. These groves are smaller and require some hiking ability, as the first Giant Sequoias are a mile downhill from the trailhead - meaning there is a climb back up.
The most famous tunnel (drive-through) tree is located in the Mariposa Grove (currently closed), just up from the southern entrance to Yosemite. This tree fell during the heavy snow winter of 1968-1969. It is shown at right.
No, GPS is not the most effective method, especially in the mountain areas. Consult maps or come to the Visitor Center to get the best directions. You can actually get lost using GPS.
Yes, but we recommend you use the FREE Yosemite Valley shuttle system while you are in Yosemite Valley.
You are required to carry chains when entering the Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains from November 1st through April 1st. Dates can change depending on weather conditions. This is a California State Law and you could be fined and charged for any damage done should you have an accident. You must carry chains when entering an active chain control area. That means that when chain restrictions are in effect, visitors must be carrying chains in their vehicles to enter the park. Chains may be made mandatory on any mounttain road at any time when weather conditions dictate.
In general, fishing is poor in Yosemite Valley and much better in the high country, in Bass Lake and other surrounding lakes and streams in the Sierra National Forest. Many lakes in the forest are regularly stocked. Those 16 and older must have a valid fishing license, including in Yosemite National Park.
No. All natural objects found in the national park or national forest should remain where they are found as integral parts of the ecosystem. Please leave them for others to enjoy.
Mid-March into April in the foothills outside the park and mid-June into August in Yosemite's higher elevations. This can alternate, however, depending on the weather.
"Yosemite" is derived from a Southern Miwok word "Yehemite", which translates to "Some among them are killers," which is believed to be how Mariposa-area native peoples referred to the people who lived in Yosemite Valley. Many southern Miwok people in Yosemite intermarried with the Paiute people from the eastern Sierra. Traditionally, Paiute and Miwok were enemies. Thus, when Mariposa Indians referred to people in the Valley, they commented that some among them (the Paiute) were killers.
In Yosemite Valley during the winter, average daytime temperatures are 30-55 degrees and 20-35 degrees at night. In mountain areas, layering is the best approach to adapt to temperatures that can vary greatly from morning to evening.
The park is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Entrance stations, however, are not staffed 24 hours a day. If your entry fee is not collected when you enter, you will pay as you exit.
We sincerely hope not. As thrilling as it is to see a bear, the ones that gravitate to populated areas of the park are endangered. The National Park Service works hard to keep our wild bears wild. However, there's an excellent chance of seeing lots of other wildlife: mule deer, coyotes, marmots, several species of squirrel and numerous birds such as Stellar's Blue Jay, Black Headed Grosbeaks and possibly various birds of prey.
If you choose to bring your pet to Yosemite, please abide by these regulations: 

Pets are only allowed in:
  • developed areas

  • on fully-paved trails and roads except trails signed as not allowing pets. (Pets are not allowed off the Valley Floor, including the trail to Vernal Fall)
  • in campgrounds (except Tamarack Flat, Porcupine Flat and walk-in campgrounds, such as Camp 4.)
  • The only trail where pets are allowed to hike with their human companions is the Wawona Meadow Loop Trail.

Pets are not allowed:

  • on unpaved or poorly paved trails, or trails marked as not allowing pets 

  • on unplowed roads covered in snow

  • in Wilderness areas

  • on shuttle busses

  • in concessioner lodging areas

  • in any group or horse camps

Human Companions must restrain their pets at all times on a leash not more than six feet long or be otherwise physically restrained.
  • Leashed pets may not be left unattended in a vehicle or otherwise.     

  • For the courtesy of other visitors, human companions are responsible for cleaning up and depositing animal waste in trash receptacles.

More information on pet policies inside Yosemite National available here.

There is  so much to see and do throughout Madera County: California's Gateway to Yosemite. Bass Lake, the museums in Oakhurst, Coarsegold and Raymond, the Fossil Discovery Center in Chowchilla, the wineries of the Madera Wine Trail are all popular attractions. For more, visit our Attractions page.
There are several locations you can pick up free WiFi Internet access, and many of our lodging properties offer high speed Internet.

Other locations include:
  • The Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Oakhurst
  • The Queens Inn by the River, Oakhurst
  • The Pines Resort lobby, Bass Lake
  • Mono Museum, North Fork
  • The Redwoods in Yosemite lobby, Wawona
  • The Vineyard Restaurant, Madera 

There are three local tour companies that offer day tours of Yosemite:
Once inside the Valley, there is a FREE hop-on/hop-off shuttle, which is the easiest way to navigate the many sights available there.

For Yosemite National Park Road Conditions: call (209) 372-0200

For California Highways: call (800) 427-7623
FROM Mileage Drive Time
Bakersfield 155 miles 2.5 hours
Chowchilla 58 miles 1.25 hours
Fresno 48 miles 50 minutes
Las Vegas 438 miles 7 hours
Los Angeles 275 miles 4.5 hours
Madera 46 miles 45 minutes
Merced 67 miles 1.25 hours
Monterey 195 miles 3 hours
Sacramento 170 miles 3 hours
San Diego 380 miles 6 hours
San Francisco 213 miles 4 hours
San Jose 180 miles 3 hours
San Luis Obispo 155 miles 3 hours
Santa Barbara 282 miles 5 hours