Is Yosemite National Park Hiking Free?

Is Yosemite National Park Hiking Free?

For many people, hiking in Yosemite National Park is a personal adventure that they want to share with their friends and family. For the most part, this dream hike isn’t too expensive. There are plenty of trails to hike at any entrance parts of Yosemite National Park.

Since travelers sought national parks to stretch their legs and get fresh air during the pandemic, heavily trafficked parks turned to new reservations systems. To reduce car traffic congestion, we focused on making trails more social distance friendly.

Several parks, including Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Parks, are reintroducing timed reservations, which began in May 2021. You can visit Yosemite Valley all year for hiking and trailing adventures. However, if you’re wondering if hiking in Yosemite is free, this article will undoubtedly assist you in answering your questions. Let’s get started!

Some Yosemite Hiking Trails to Experience

You’ll feel the adrenaline rush of hiking through the forest, over rocks, and through streams. Go on this adventure, set off on the trail, and see the magic of Yosemite in all its glory! Here are some most hiked trails you’ll find here:

Vernal Fall

This falls is only 317 feet (96 meters) tall, but it is one of Yosemite’s most powerful waterfalls. Vernal, unlike Yosemite or Bridalveil Falls, cannot be seen from the valley floor by car. To see its beauty, you must first set out on the trail. Fortunately, you have a lot of options. The most direct route is along a well-marked path beginning near the Happy Isles Nature Center. 

You can easily get from the Curry Village to Happy Isles Nature Center from the Nation’s Business Shuttle daily. Follow the trailhead to the Vernal Fall footbridge (about 1 mile) or continue to the waterfall’s top. If you want to walk through the mist of this very powerful waterfall, this is a great option.

Half Dome

On a 17-mile-long strenuous hike in the Yosemite Valley, you’ll race to the summit of Half Dome. Those who visit Half Dome will get a chance to pass by Vernal Fall to experience the beauty of this gorgeous waterfall and be part of this spectacular trek.

During the summer, steel cables and wooden planks are installed along the dome to help hikers reach the summit. Every October, the cables are removed and replaced in late May.

El Capitan

El Capitan stands proudly on the other side of Yosemite Valley from Half Dome. This massive rock serves as a climbing playground. Alex Honnold made headlines in 2017 when he became the first person to free climb El Capitan without the use of a rope.

What are the expenses in hiking Yosemite?

Hiking in Yosemite National Park includes an entrance fee, and it has been charged an admission fee since 1913. Since 2015, the current rate of $30 per vehicle or $25 per motorcycle has been in effect. Moreover, Yosemite National Park is one of 117 in the National Park System that charges admission. The remaining 300 sites are open to the public. 

Although hiking costs in Yosemite aren’t limited to entrance fees, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this critical question, you can do some research to get a better idea of the types of costs you’ll face to trek the entire length of Yosemite Valley.

Are there any permits needed to hike Half Dome?

If you’re a backpacker and you’re looking forward to hiking up Half Dome, then you need to get permits. Backpacker permits for Half Dome are limited to 75 per day (50 available by reservation and 25 available two weeks in advance). Permits for Half Dome are $10 per person and must be purchased at a wilderness center on the day of or the day before your trip; they are non-refundable.

Maybe you’re planning to hike the top of Half Dome as part of an overnight wilderness trip? In that case, you can get a Half Dome to permit through reservation or walk-in. 

Here are some of the trailheads you might want to experience:

  • Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley
  • Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley
  • Happy Isles past LYV (Donohue pass eligible)
  • Sunrise Lakes
  • Cathedral Lakes
  • Rafferty Creek to Vogelsang
  • Mono Meadow

Never worry about making a reservation for this; request it when picking up your wilderness permit for one of these entry trailheads. The cost is $10 per person (paid when you pick up your permits). These permits are only valid for overnight backpackers, not day hikers.

Half Dome permits obtained in this manner will be valid for the duration of the validity period of your wilderness permit.

Does Yosemite have an entrance fee?

As mentioned, Yosemite has an entrance fee that was implemented in 1913. Here’s a list of entrance fees to be observed when you’re planning to visit Yosemite Valley.

Entrance Fees/Passes

At the Yosemite National Park entrance stations, a parking pass costs $35 per vehicle and is valid for seven days. In addition, you can buy a Yosemite Pass for $70, which entitles you to unlimited visits to the park for a year.

Entrance fees help fund park-specific projects like road repairs, resource monitoring and mitigation, campground upgrades, and park structure rehabilitation.

Seven-day Pass

You can choose to pay in advance (preferred) or upon arrival (credit card only).


For a motorcycle, the fee was $30. However, for those who will walk, use a bicycle, horse, or non-commercial bus or van with more than 15 passenger seats, a $20 per person fee was implemented.

Yosemite Pass

Yosemite requires a $70 fee pass to enter. It is an annual pass that allows free access to Yosemite for a year. There is a $35 per vehicle (persons not included) fee for a non-commercial car, pickup truck, RV, or van with 15 or fewer passenger seats from the date of purchase.

America the Beautiful—National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass

If you love the parks but don’t want to pay for them every day, there’s now an affordable way to get in! The annual pass costs $80 and allows you into all national parks and other federal fee areas. This is valid for a 12-month subscription. This pass takes the place of the National Parks Pass and the Golden Eagle Pass.

Senior Pass

A senior pass costs $80, valid for life, or $20, which has a 12-months validity upon purchase. Additionally, there’s a lifetime or annual admission and discount pass for US citizens or permanent residents aged 62 or older.

Free Entrances for Specific Category

Although there’s a massive list of fees in Yosemite, the good thing is they also have a free pass for some specific category. Here are some:

Every Kid Outdoors Annual Pass

This is a free annual pass that covers entrance fees for 4th-grade students for the entire school year.

Access Pass

A free lifetime admission and discount pass are available for US citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. (This pass is available by mail for $10.)

Military Pass

Current US military members and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Space Force are eligible for a free pass. It also applies to Reserve and National Guard members and US military veterans, and Gold Star Families.

Before arriving, please double-check the requirements, such as presenting a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID (Form 1173) or exchanging a Gold Star Voucher.

Free Entrance Days

Here are some dates to save if you would like to experience a free entrance to Yosemite.

  • January 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
  • April 17 (First day of National Park Week)
  • August 25 (National Park Service Birthday)
  • August 4 (the first anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act)
  • September 25 (National Public Lands Day)
  • November 11 (Veterans Day)

However, if your visit during a free day exceeds the free day(s) and you re-enter the park after the free day(s), you will be required to pay the regular entrance fee.

How much money should I bring to Yosemite?

You should budget around $104 per day for your vacation in Yosemite National Park, which is the average daily price based on other visitors’ expenses. Previous visitors spent an average of $32 on meals for one day and $33 on local transportation. In addition, the average hotel price for a couple in Yosemite National Park is $104.

So, a one-week trip to Yosemite National Park for two people costs an average of $1,453. Average travel prices have been compiled from feedback from other travelers to assist you in planning your trip budget.

While a one-week vacation to Yosemite National Park typically costs around $726 for one person. So, a one-week trip to Yosemite National Park for two people costs around $1,453. In Yosemite National Park, a two-week trip for two people costs $2,906.

The price often drops when traveling as a family of three or four people because children’s tickets are less expensive, and you can share hotel rooms. You can use our travel insurance to get the best deals on the road, saving you time and money on your next journey. When traveling with someone, you can spend less on your food and have a better time enjoying the wonderful wilderness.

Let’s Go on a Hike!

Yosemite National Park is unquestionably worth seeing for its natural beauty and one-of-a-kind features. It is one of the best trips you can take if you are an adventurer or enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors.

To maintain an excellent experience, it is advisable to have more time and better planning. Despite all the fees you might encounter in visiting Yosemite, undeniably, you would compensate for all your expenses with all great memories!

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