Yosemite's Wide Open Spaces - as viewed from Valley View
Itineraries Yosemite's Wide Open Spaces - Natural Social Distancing Series
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Yosemite is OPEN – in more ways than one! Open and welcoming visitors, with over 800 miles of open trails, wide-open vistas and skies that open into the heavens. Yosemite is a milestone. A marker for the love of travel and exploration ingrained in our spirits. 

When traveling to Yosemite, you will encounter some changes in the daily operations of the many resorts, restaurants, and stores that support your visit (make sure to scroll all the way for more details). Yosemite National Park and gateway businesses pledge to adhere to a policy of social distancing and healthy sanitation standards. In return, we ask that all visitors also pledge to adhere to the public health guidelines set forth by officials. 

The National Park Service has made adjustments to the access of Yosemite for the summer of 2021. Day-use park reservations, in-park overnight accommodations, or tour reservations are required to access the park from May 21 - September 30, 2021. 

Day-Use Reservations

Reservations are available on, with most reservations available in spring, and limited reservations available seven days before the arrival date (e.g., make a reservation for an arrival date of September 30 on September 23):

First day to reserve

Arrival date

April 21

May 21–June 30

April 28

July 1–31

May 5

August 1–31

May 12

September 1–30

May 14–September 23

seven days in advance

Reservations are available each day at 8 am Pacific time. Reservations are taken almost immediately. Be sure to have an account and be logged in and ready to get a reservation promptly at 8 am Pacific time.

The non-refundable reservation fee is $2 and is included in the $35/car park entrance fee. If you have an annual or lifetime pass, be sure to specify you're a current pass holder to pay the discounted rate ($2).

Canceled reservations become available immediately on

While the situation is not ideal when passes sell out, thankfully when you book a tour, it includes your park entry pass for the day. Now, taking an expertly guided tour into Yosemite is a better option than ever! Nine local tour companies, plus the public transit option YARTS, can help you gain access to Yosemite, learn more about them, and the safety and sanitation precautions businesses are taking to protect the health of visitors and drivers. 

The silver lining of social distancing precautions is that 94% of Yosemite National Park is a designated wilderness area (over 677,000 acres!). That's more open space than you can shake a stick at (believe it). The trick is knowing how to access that space, and that's where we come in. The Oakhurst Visitor Center at Visit Yosemite | Madera County has a beautiful visitors guide to guarantee good safe fun. Yosemite wants you back, so let's all be responsible as we adventure onward.

Remember to tread lightly, pack it all out, and leave it cleaner than you found it. Give fellow hikers your attention and courtesy. Find a way to waste less. Be considerate of wildlife. Get back to the wild!

Step One: Be a Bird 

Whether you are a night owl or an early bird, the best advice in Yosemite is to arrive early and stay late. To find true happiness in and around Yosemite Valley during the summer season, arrive at the park gate before 8 am. Park your car and rent a bike for the day. Quiet moments in the park are ample when you find a perfect picnic spot with your family. Take in the world's most magnificent view on a sandy beach of the Merced River. Yosemite will soothe your soul and fill your heart with sunshine if you let it.

If you are day hiking, hit the trail seriously early. Hiking in the cool morning air of summer is a helpful reprieve from the heat. Popular trails like the Mist Trail or Lower Yosemite Falls Trail are busiest by mid-morning, but there are other alternatives nearby, like the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail. This 12-mile, mostly flat, loop around the grassy Yosemite valley will take you to all the iconic sights you've dreamed of,  Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, Half dome. What's the best part? You'll spend the day away from your car on a perfectly-easy ramble through the park.

The wise owl plans and packs for dinner too. Put a blanket down and bundle up for a sunset picnic with a view of El Capitan.  Visitors who stay outside until the "big wall" climbers switch on their headlamps are rewarded with a magical view of this moonlit monolith. Stay out until the stars start to twinkle, and you'll have found a universe full of open space. Yes, it's true, life really is for the birds.

Solsitce Moonrise about Mount Starr King

View from Glacier Point of the Summer Solstice moon rise over Mount Starr King.

Photo by Steve Montalto/HighMountain Images

Step Two: Speaking of Picnics

Yosemite's southern gateway towns of Oakhurst, Coarsegold, Bass Lake, North Fork & Fish Camp have the provisions for every level of adventure. From backpacking the high country to packed lunches for the crew, fresh-pressed juices, and snacks for you're little monsters. Stock-up for your full day in the Sierra Nevada or as John Muir called it, "The Range of Light." Grab a sandwich in Oakhurst from Deli Delicious or Smokehouse 41, or for a farm-fresh option go to Glow Juicery. There are many delicious options for take-out dining whether for a picnic or after you've worked up a Half Dome sized appetite from a day of adventuring. See the full restaurant list HERE.

We also have a great variety of adult to-go and enjoy-in beverage options. Try handcrafted beverages from South Gate Brewing Company, distilled beverages from Oakhurst Spirits, and the family-owned wineries along the Madera Wine Trail. Plus for after-hour delights, we have a pet-friendly Wine Bar - Yosemite Wine Tails and the Queens Inn Wine Bar and Beer Garden - both offer live entertainment during the summer season.

Smokehouse 41

Takeout from Smokehouse 41 - a great and delicious way to satisfy your barbecue cravings!

Step Three: Don't miss the High Sierra

Yosemite is not just open; it is BIG, too! 

Big walls, big trees, big open spaces. Get off the beaten path and see more of the park. Tioga Road or Highway 120 East connects to what's known as, Yosemite's High Country. Only accessible in the warmer months of the year, winter snow blocks this region of the park to travelers. 

Yosemite fans know, spending the day at Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake, or Clouds Rest is a peaceful alternative to the hustle and bustle of Yosemite Valley. At an elevation of 9943', Tioga Pass is one of the highest roads in the state of California. The drive is a visual experience and will wow your fellow travelers with glacial cliffs and Big Horn Sheep. 

Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park

Walking along the shore of Tenaya Lake...can't get more peaceful than that!

Step Four: Go Gate to Gate 

Yosemite is surrounded by four unique gateways with their own history and wide opens spaces to explore.

Go into Yosemite through the Highway 41's south gate entrance and come out at any of the other gateways for more adventures.  

North Gate:  From Yosemite Valley take Highway 120 West and explore Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.   Hetch Hetchy is the name of a valley, a reservoir and a water system in California in the United States. The glacial Hetch Hetchy Valley lies in the northwestern part of Yosemite National Park and is drained by the Tuolumne River.   Continue on and visit the historic towns of Tuolumne County - Click HERE for visitor information.

West Gate:  Go out Highway 49, and travel along the Merced River Canyon and into the historic town of Mariposa.  Visit the California State Mining & Mineral Museum for a fascinating glimpse of California's mineral wealth, colorful mining history and geologic diversity.  For Mariposa County visitor information click HERE.

East Gate:  Head out through Highway 120 East for a visual experience that will wow your fellow travelers with glacial cliffs, Big Horn Sheep, and even the back side of Yosemite's iconic Half Dome.  You can explore Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya Lake which are perfect picnic stops along the way.  The east gate summits at Tioga Pass (an elevation of 9,943') where you start your downhill decent to the bottom of the pass, where you can stop at the famous Mobile Gas Station and the Whoa Nellie Deli, enjoy a slice of pizza or world-famous sandwich with out-of-this-world views of Mono Lake. (Trust us on this one).  For Mono County visitor information click HERE.

Insider Tip for 2020:  Highway 49 or The Golden Chain Highway is celebrating a milestone this year; its centennial anniversary, 100 years! Although the history of this scenic byway goes back much further, it dates back to the 49'ers and the California gold rush history. It originates in the southern Yosemite gateway town of Oakhurst and travels north through historic towns, recreational lakes and some of California's incredible wine country.  For California's Gold Country visitor information, click HERE.

Yosemite Gateways Map

Yosemite has four gateways with lots to see and do outside of Yosemite National Park.

Current Updated Operations Yosemite National Park Mau 21 - September 30, 2021:

  • A limited number of  Day Use Entry (three-day) vehicle passes will be available each day. Day Use Entry passes cost $35 (per vehicle) and can only be purchased online at  Passes will not be available at the entrance stations or visitor centers.  If you have an Annual or Senior Pass you still need to make a Day Use reservation but there is only a processing fee of $2.00.  Same day, day before, and longer lead time passes are not available at this time.
  • Some visitors will NOT need Day Use Entry passes:
    • Anyone with reservations for overnight lodging INSIDE Yosemite, including campsites and vacation rentals, will not need a Day Use Entry pass.  
    • Visitors using public transportation (YARTS) to get to the park or taking a tour with an approved tour operator will also not need a Day Use Entry pass.
    • Visitors with Wilderness Permits or Half Dome permits will not need a Day Use Entry pass
  • Yosemite Valley Shuttles will not be operating this year.
  • Mariposa Grove Shuttle will not be operating.  The Mariposa Grove will be open to walk-in (or bicycle, or e-bike) traffic only (It is a two-mile walk from the parking area at the Welcome Center adjacent to the park's South Gate to the Arrival Area in the Lower Grove).  Those with ADA placards will be allowed to drive up to the Lower Grove parking areas.
  • Wilderness Permits will only be available via online reservations for 2021.  
  • Tioga Pass opening date will be announced in May or June, 2021.  
  • Yosemite Camping is Open for reservations. 
  • Other popular iconic sites like Tunnel View may have car and people limitations.
  • Other precautions such as one-way hiking trails and limited food service operations will be continually evaluated and monitored.


Trusted guides will ensure you see the park! Plus, you will not need a Park entry reservation if you book a guided day or specialty tour.


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Oakhurst Visitor Center
40343 Highway 41,
Oakhurst, CA 93644
(559) 683-4636
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Monday thru Saturday – 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Sunday – 9 am to 1 pm


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