Can I Drive through Yosemite without a Reservation?

Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks, and it is common to see long lines of cars waiting for their turn at the park. But, you may have asked: Can I Drive through Yosemite without a Reservation?

While you can get into some parts of Yosemite without a reservation, there are certain spots that require permits or reservations before you arrive. If you don’t have a permit , then this means your only other option is to wait in line until someone leaves their spot.

The good news: If you’re willing to plan far enough ahead, then getting into these areas doesn’t need to be difficult at all!

How does Yosemite Day Pass Work?

The year before, only certain residents could drive through Yosemite without having a daytime reservation. These residents are the people who pass through Yosemite to another place. 

Now, residents are not going to need reservations to drive through Yosemite this year. Though, regular entrance fees for park admission will still be applicable. 

Fill out a self-certification card before going to Yosemite. It would help if you did this when you are driving through Yosemite late at night. So, place the self-certification card on your vehicle’s windshield.

Likewise, before going through Yosemite late at night, you need to have a reservation in the park. There is no entrance employee available late at night at the park’s entrance. 

Take note: Masks are mandated as you drive through Yosemite. This requirement applies to federally governed sites in the country. The mandate of wearing masks is more so used in indoor settings. But, such a requirement also applies to outdoor environments when physical distancing can’t happen.

It’s quite understandable that you won’t want any hassle visiting Yosemite for leisure. Having to make reservations to visit a place for fun is not something some people are fond of. Besides, some people do not like not to waste their precious time making reservations before leaving for their outings and you may be one of them. 

Land that Yosemite Park Covers 

Yosemite National Park is in California and covers nearly 1,200 square miles of rugged wilderness for those who don’t know. It’s one of the most visited parks globally, with over 3 million visitors each year. Some people want to experience Yosemite without making reservations months ahead of time and driving through it for three days at a time (which can be disruptive). But how do you make this work?

The Bustling Activities in Yosemite 

Want to see Yosemite and have no reservations? You’re in luck! There are a few options when visiting the national park without booking ahead of time.

  • Arrive super early: If you want to see the sunrise over Half Dome, then this is your best chance. Arriving at 5 am guarantees that you’ll be able to make it into Yosemite Valley before traffic picks up and parking becomes scarce. This situation also gives you plenty of time for hiking or exploring before it gets too hot out! 
  • Get lucky with the weather: Is there snow on the ground? Do clouds block your view of El Capitan from outside your window? Then conditions are perfect for visiting one of America’s most famous parks!

How Do I Make Reservations at Yosemite?

Like other people, you may take pleasure in only driving through Yosemite to see serene scenery. At least, doing this is not going to cost you any money. Driving through Yosemite is similar to taking a road trip that has no definite destination. Now, making a reservation is a good thing to do as well to take your mind off your worries and problems. 

Make an Online Reservation 

Will making an online reservation help? If you can’t risk getting turned away at the gate or camping in a parking lot, the short answer is yes. Yosemite National Park has strict requirements for driving through Yosemite without reservations. It can be difficult to navigate the rules before your trip. Now, you can drive through Yosemite with a reservation. 

No shuttle buses are traveling to and from Yosemite this year. Because of this, there are likely going to be more people driving through the park. 

How Early Can You Enter Yosemite?

Ever wanted to see Yosemite National Park in all its glory without the hassle of making reservations? Well, you can!

Type of Permit 

There is a way to drive through the park without reservations, and it’s not hard at all. All you need is an RV or camper, and you’re good to go. I’ve compiled some helpful tips for driving through Yosemite below that will give you everything you need to know about this challenging but rewarding experience.

Limitation of Vehicle Entry to the Park 

Either for a family vacation or need to get to the airport quickly, there’s no better way to beat rush hour traffic than through Yosemite National Park. It may seem obvious that you can’t drive through Yosemite without a reservation, but it isn’t always so clear. This blog post will review whether or not you need reservations for driving in the park and how much they cost.

Parking Limitation in Yosemite Park 

Yosemite National Park has a quota for the number of cars allowed in the park at one time, and it sells out quickly.

Driving through Yosemite can be an incredible experience. Still, it is important to know that you need a reservation if you plan on staying for more than 2 hours. If you would like just to drive through and not stay overnight, then we recommend getting there early (by 8 am) or late in the day, around 4 pm.

Certain times have more demand, so that some areas may require reservations. 

Day Reservations in 2021 vs. 2020 in Yosemite Park 

You may have seen a video of people driving through Yosemite without stopping to make a reservation. Although you can indeed go through Yosemite without making reservations, it’s not recommended. Besides, you could be stuck in traffic for hours and miss out on some of the most beautiful views of the park. Aside from getting frustrated if you don’t plan, your car will be at risk of being damaged.

What Sites Should I See while Driving through Yosemite?

Check these sites as you drive through Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls

The magnificent Yosemite Falls is the first you must see when driving through this natural wonder. There are three sections of the falls: Upper (the tallest), Middle Cascades, and Lower Cascades. Water comes from snowmelt off Mount Lyell which towers above at 13114 ft in height! Now, spend some time here for a break from your busy life to enjoy nature’s beauty.

Yosemite Tunnel View

It is worth the drive into Yosemite Valley to see its grandeur from Tunnel View. The winding road leading up may give you a few moments of motion sickness, but it won’t be such an issue if you take medicine beforehand! Just don’t forget that there are only parking spots at the end of this scenic tunnel, and they fill fast—you can also park on Highway 41 for free.

Mariposa Grove at Yosemite Park

Mariposa Grove is one of the best parts of Yosemite National Park. It’s a quick stop on your way into or out of Yosemite Valley, and you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t get skipped over if time is limited. Besides, you can enter from either end (one entrance on each side) for an easier drive and hike in that direction. 

Still, busses are stationed at both entrances, which will take visitors straight to Mariposa Grove without needing them to double back. The 2-mile trail weaves through some gentle hills along the edge of the forest before arriving at its destination. Remember, be prepared for more inclines as you go deeper inside, so climbing up rocky slopes won’t prove too difficult!

Vernal and Nevada Falls in Yosemite

Park your car on the side for your drive break and begin hiking up. The trail is steep at times, but you will be rewarded with breathtaking views as well as good exercise! Vernal Falls awaits near the top: swim in its icy waters or climb to get even higher for great photo opportunities. Then, you can take an easier walk back along John Muir Trail before returning home by winding downhill stairs; no need to go right past that mountain again!

If you’re still feeling good at this point, continue on The Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls. It will take another 2-3 hours, but the views are well worth it! Relax by the river and take tons of pics. When you are ready, come back down through Vernal Falls basin or switch around your way out through Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite Half Dome

Nothing will rejuvenate your soul more than driving to Yosemite’s Half Dome when you are stuck in traffic or need a break from the day. Besides, this is one of the best ways for adventure-seeking people like yourself. As you know, climbing this mountain will be sure to take some effort and give you a rewarding sense when completed!

You may also see these sites on your drive through Yosemite:

  • The Cook’s Meadow Loop
  • Yosemite Loop Trail
  • Hetch Hetchy Drive
  • Bridalveil Falls
  • Mirror Lake
  • Tenaya Lake
  • Bass Lake (at Yosemite Gates)

Can You Drive through Yosemite at Night?

Preference for a Reservation-Less Camping

Can you drive through Yosemite at night? Many people ask this themselves when deciding what to do with their vacation. If the answer is “yes,” you should focus on reservation-less camping in Yosemite Valley. Many visitors spend time trying to find a campsite and fail to enjoy the beauty of this natural park once they get there. Doing this is a huge mistake. 

The Yes and No Answer

The answer is yes and no. There are certain sections of the national park where you can drive your car, but there are also some restrictions. For example, suppose you want to go from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows in the summertime.

In that case, you’ll need a reservation for parking at either end of this section of the road. If not, it’s off-limits to cars without a permit or only open when snow levels allow travel (typically November-April).

Limited Parking Spaces 

In the past, you could drive through Yosemite National Park at night without a reservation. Nowadays, this is not possible because of the popularity of Yosemite and limited parking spaces. The park closes to all visitors between 10 pm and 6 am every day. But, if you have a permit for camping in the backcountry area, you can enter at any time for up to 14 days (but must depart by 2 am).


Yosemite is a very popular drive through destination for travelers. If you’re looking to visit the park, be sure that your plans include reserving campsites and lodging ahead of time. Otherwise, you may find yourself disappointed when all accommodations are booked at full capacity! You won’t even want to miss out on an opportunity to visit Yosemite in the future. Plus, you’ll be motivated to make time to visit next time.

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