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FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Based upon visitors we talk to at the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Center in Oakhurst, here are the top questions and answers discussed most frequently:

Where are the waterfalls and how can I see them?
There are several waterfalls that can be seen in Yosemite Valley. Generally, the best time of year to view Yosemite's falls is late spring and early summer, when snow-melt and run-off are at their height. The two most visited waterfalls are Bridalveil Fall which is located in Yosemite Valley on Highway 41 and Yosemite Falls which is located in Yosemite Valley near Yosemite Lodge. Vernal and Nevada Falls can be seen from Glacier Point or by hiking the Mist Trail.

What are the main points of interest in Yosemite Park?
Some of the main points of interest include the waterfalls, Half Dome, Mirror Lake, El Capitan, Glacier Point, Tuolomne Meadow, Wawona, Tunnel View, Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake, Hetch Hetchy and the three groves of Giant Sequoias. Some attractions are seasonal.

Where are the Giant Sequoias?
The Mariposa Grove is near the south entrance on Highway 41. The Tuolomne Grove is near Crane Flat off Highway 120 and the Merced Grove is west of Crane Flat also off Highway 120. 

Wawona_Tunnel_tree_2.pngWhere is the famous Wawona Tunnel Tree?
The most famous tunnel (drive-through) tree is located in the Mariposa Grove, just up from the southern entrance to Yosemite off of Highway 41. This tree fell during the heavy snow winter of 1968-1969. It is shown at right. 

Is GPS a good way to get directions in the area?
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.

Can I drive my car in to the Valley?

When do I need tire chains?
You are required to carry chains when entering the Sierra from November 1 through April 1 (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 park road at any time.

Where can I find a good place to fish?California Fishing Bass Lake Trout
In general, fishing is poor in Yosemite Valley. Fishing is 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.

Can I take this rock (pinecone, leaf, flower, etc.)home as a souvenir?
No. All natural objects found in the national park or national forest should remain where they are found as integral parts of the ecosystem.

When are the wildflowers best?
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.

What does the word Yosemite mean? 
"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.

How cold does it get in Yosemite?
In Yosemite Valley during the winter, average daytime temperatures are 30-55 degrees and 20-35 degrees at night.

How long does the park stay open?
The park is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Entrance stations, however, are not staffed 24 hours a day.

Will I see a bear or other wild animal?
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.

Is there a pet policy? 
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.)

  • 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

  • Pets must be restrained on a leash not more than six feet long or otherwise physically restrained.

  • Leashed pets may not be left unattended

  • 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.

What is there to do outside of Yosemite?
There is much to see and do throughout Madera County: California's Gateway to Yosemite. Bass Lake, the museums in Oakhurst, the Fossil Discovery Center in Chowchilla, the wineries of the Madera Wine Trail are all popular attractions. For more, visit our What to Do page.

Where can I get WiFi?
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 Visitor Center in Oakhurst,
The Queens Inn, Oakhurst
The Pines Resort Lobby, Bass Lake
Mono Museum, North Fork
The Redwoods in Yosemite Lobby, Wawona
The Vineyard Restaurant, Madera
Appellation California, Madera

Several other locations offer paid WiFi access
Coarsegold Cafe/Roberts Frosty Freeze, Coarsegold
Zanders Coffee, Coarsegold
yosemite Lake Owner's Association, Coarsegold
Round Table Pizza, Oakhurst
Cool Bean Cafe, Oakhurst
The Grind, Oakhurst

Transportation Info:
There are three local tour companies that offer day tours of Yosemite:

              Discover Yosemite
              Yosemite and Beyond
              Yosemite Private Tours
Once inside the Valley, there is a FREE shuttle.

Road Conditions:
For Yosemite National Park Road Conditions: (209) 372-0200
For California Highways: (800) 427-7623

   Drive time and mileage to the Visitors Center in Oakhurst.

FROMMileageDrive Time
Bakersfield155 miles2.5 hours
Chowchilla58 miles1.25 hours
Fresno48 miles50 minutes
Las Vegas438 miles7 hours
Los Angeles275 miles4.5 hours
Madera46 miles45 minutes
Merced67 miles1.25 hours
Monterey195 miles3 hours
Sacramento170 miles3 hours
San Diego380 miles6 hours
San Francisco213 miles4 hours
San Jose180 miles3 hours
San Luis Obispo155 miles3 hours
Santa Barbara282 miles5 hours

Find great Southern Yosemite Area travel advice on TripAdvisor.