How Long Does It Take To Drive Through Yosemite National Park?

How Long Does It Take To Drive Through Yosemite National Park?

Enjoy one of the most amazing scenic drives and enjoy the stunning views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains along the Yosemite roadways. This trip is plentiful, and you can drive around the national park and appreciate its majesty. But how long does the drive across Yosemite take?

It will take 5 to 6 hours to drive across Yosemite at a moderate pace after arriving at the gates and an hour longer if you travel to Glacier Point. Add an hour to each trip if you prefer a sit-down supper rather than a short picnic.

There are several ways to go to Yosemite, each with its adventure. They all have their charms, from wine country and gold rush history to gorgeous high mountain scenery and pleasant communities. Let’s look at your driving possibilities so you can plan your Yosemite road trip.

Can you drive around Yosemite?

Well, of course! You can drive around Yosemite. Just take note that some routes are closed from November to May or June, and tire chains may be required on open highways from October to April, depending on conditions. 

Starting May 20 to September 30, you must make a reservation to drive into Yosemite Park. Driving through the park between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. requires a reservation. During critical infrastructure maintenance, the temporary reservation system will aid in traffic management and provide a positive visitor experience.

The three-day car admission fee is unchanged. In the event that the reservation is longer than three days, this cost is valid. Credit cards are the sole acceptable method of payment for entry fees.

You do not require a reservation if you enter the park by bus, bicycle, foot, horseback, or visit Hetch Hetchy. Entrance fees remain.

Can you drive through Yosemite in a day?

Yes, you can drive through Yosemite in a day. This lets you explore the park’s most popular sites like Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point Road. Your day trip to Yosemite National Park will be spectacular no matter what you do. But it’s recommended to visit these stunning sites in Yosemite:

  • Glacier Point
  • Sunset around Taft Point
  • Walking tour of Yosemite Valley
  • El Capitan Meadow
  • Tunnel View

Is Yosemite a challenging drive?

Traveling steep hills on small mountain roads can be tough for people and their cars. With little practice, you’ll be able to drive safely through mountain ranges. There are several ways to go to Yosemite, each with its adventure.

Let’s look at your driving possibilities so you can plan your Yosemite road trip. They all have their charms, from wine country and gold rush history to gorgeous high mountain scenery and quaint communities.

Highway 120

If you’re coming from San Francisco or Sacramento and their main airports, Highway 120 is the best route to get to Yosemite. This picturesque highway borders Mariposa County’s northern border, passing through the charming villages of Buck Meadows and Groveland.

Except for the 8-mile Priest Grade rise, which gains nearly 1,000 feet of elevation in 8.5 miles, Highway 120 is largely straight or gently curved. Oakdale, the route’s main town, is a wonderful spot to stop, stock up on food, and fill up on petrol. Groveland is also a great place to take a break from traveling and visit California’s oldest saloon.

Highway 140

The ancient railway tracks are followed on this historic Yosemite route. It has the lowest altitude approach, making it the finest roadway to travel on all year. This is a beautiful way to go to Yosemite, and it’s certainly the most impressive approach to entering the park.

Catheys Valley is the first town you’ll come upon. Because of the butterflies and wildflower meadows, this small town began as a ranching hamlet in the 1850s and is a great area for bike rides and hiking.

The historical town of Mariposa also offers a glimpse of the Old West. Several ancient buildings have been converted into restaurants, stores, and pubs. There are a lot of restaurants here, so it’s a wonderful place to stop and stretch your legs before driving into the park.

Visit the 1854 courthouse, which is still in use, or visit The Alley to enjoy local wines and artisan breweries. Midpines Summit and the mining communities of Sherlock, Whitlock, and Colorado are all accessible through Highway 140.

Highway 41

This road is the park’s southern entrance. If you have already visited the gigantic sequoias in Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon, this is the way to go. The adventure begins in Fresno and continues via the Madera Wine Trail’s magnificent vineyards and tasting rooms.

You’ll have the opportunity to stop in Fish Camp, a tranquil town with various inviting inns, beds, breakfasts, and rustic cottages.

If you like trains, the Sugar Pine Railroad, a historic steam engine that will take you on a spectacular excursion through the hard pine forests, might be of interest.

You’ll drive along Wawona Road to the center of the Park at Yosemite Valley after entering from the south entrance. As you descend to Tunnel View, the road provides a spectacular view of Yosemite Valley, with the most iconic sites such as El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls visible.

Tioga Pass

Another access to the park can be found at Tioga Pass, on the eastern end of Highway 120. Highway 395 is the best route to get there. This path will provide you with a beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, making it a genuine feast for the senses.

Stop in Lee Vining to see Mono Lake, a salty remnant of an old sea. The Tufa Towers are bizarre natural rock structures within the lake that resemble weird enormous chess pieces carved by the wind. This region attracts millions of birds, making it a popular stop for birdwatchers.

Also, this route is the best to take if you travel from Las Vegas, Reno, or Death Valley. This path, however, is only open during the summer because it is closed during the winter.

Do I need AWD in Yosemite?

No, you don’t. Any type of car will be capable of driving across Yosemite. However, even if you only want to visit Yosemite Valley and ride the free shuttle, you should expect chain restrictions if you visit any place in Yosemite from November to March. When chain regulations are in effect, all vehicles, including four-wheel drive and leased cars, must have chains.

Please remember that these chain requirements do not apply only to Yosemite but all of California’s mountainous areas. Even before you get to Yosemite, you might run into chain controls.

How long is a 120 drive through Yosemite?

California State Route 120 is the road’s name, which you may not find particularly noteworthy, but it is useful for orienting oneself (or, more simply, Highway 120). It takes roughly 1.5 hours to drive from Crane Flat Campground to Lee Vining without stopping, although it’s quite unlikely that you won’t make at least one stop!

Suggestions for a Fantastic Day Trip

Turn onto CA Hwy 41 and follow the signs to Bridalveil Falls on your way into the park. Stop in the parking area just before the tunnel for traditional picture-taking and a panoramic perspective of the Yosemite Valley, where you can see all of the park’s landmarks in one vista. This is also a nice site to visit at sunset if you have time towards the end of the day.

Leave your car at a day-use parking spot once you’ve arrived in the Valley’s heart. The community has an information center and a museum, but you’d be better off spending your time outside enjoying Yosemite than inside reading about it.

Before leaving, stop at Yosemite Falls if you haven’t already. Look for rock climbers high up on the rock wall at El Capitan Meadow and a magnificent afternoon photo of El Capitan’s reflection in the river at Valley View.


There you have it! Visiting Yosemite National Park is a must. It is stunningly beautiful and has something for everyone. Whatever you want to do in Yosemite, your experience will be fantastic, and the neighboring areas will provide everything you will ever need. Planning for your driving might help you make the most of your time and make your trip memorable.

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