One of the most-visited parks in the country is Yosemite National Park in California. The unique landscapes and wilderness draw people from around the world. There’s a reason the famous environmentalist John Muir fell in love with this landscape. But if you plan to camp here, you must keep a few things in mind. Most importantly, can you drive an RV in Yosemite? Let’s find out.
Where Is Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite National Park stretches over 750,000 acres just outside Modesto, Calif., and just southeast of Sacramento. The Sierra National Forest lies to the south, and the Stanislaus National Forest to the north.
Highway 395 runs along the east side of the park, with Highway 120 running to the north. Highways 140 and 41 also lead into Yosemite. Just to get to this park nestled in the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains may take you down some jaw-clenching roads. When we visited in our 32-ft fifth wheel, we were very tense on some of the windy mountain roads.
About Yosemite National Park
Yosemite, first protected in 1864, didn’t become a national park until 1890, 18 years after Yellowstone became the world’s first national park. Over 3.3 million people visited Yosemite National Park in 2021.
Located in east-central California, Yosemite National Park encompasses almost 1,200 square miles, including mountains, high cliffs, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, ancient giant sequoias, and an expansive wilderness. In fact, almost 95% of the park is considered wilderness.
Although it remains open year-round, not all roads stay open during the winter. The Tioga Pass Entrance closes from November to May or June. Hetch Hetchy may close intermittently due to snow.
There are four main entrances to Yosemite National Park: Tioga Entrance from the east, South Entrance, Big Oak Flat Entrance from the west on CA 120, and Arch Rock Entrance from the west on CA 140.
Can You Camp in Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite National Park has 10 campgrounds that can accommodate RVs. However, note the maximum lengths, as Yosemite makes two distinctions between RV length and trailer length due to the tight turning radius of some locations.
Additionally, you can’t park on the side of the road. Make reservations in advance, as these campgrounds quickly fill up between April and September.
Furthermore, they have no hookups, but you can access dump stations and potable water in a few locations. And you can use generators within the allotted hours.
Can You Drive an RV in Yosemite National Park?
Because you can camp in Yosemite National Park, you can also drive your RV. However, if you won’t camp inside the park, it’s highly recommended that you leave your camper parked outside its boundaries. Then use public transportation to get to and from Yosemite.
The park has limited parking for RVs and other large vehicles. Additionally, you must consider the steep mountain roads. Travel conditions can cause a problem with congestion and heavy traffic.
Furthermore, RVs over 25 feet can’t travel along Hetch Hetchy Road. This road also doesn’t stay open 24/7 like other ones within the park. You also can’t have trailers on Mariposa Grove Road or Glacier Point Road.
Pro Tip: Make your trip to Yosemite perfect with these 5 Tips for Visiting National Parks in Your RV.
Can You Drive an RV Through Yosemite’s Wawona Tunnel?
The maximum vehicle length for Wawona Road is 45 feet. However, Wawona Tunnel that leads into Yosemite Valley only has a clearance of 10 feet 2 inches at the curb. This rules out all big rigs and many medium-sized RVs as well. Be sure to know your RV height before attempting to drive in.
When leading away from Yosemite Valley, the tunnel only has a clearance of 13 feet 6 inches. If you drive a fifth-wheel or motorhome, you’ll want to measure twice to ensure you can safely pass through.
Can You Drive an RV on Yosemite’s Tioga Road?
Tioga Road is the continuation of Highway 120 through Yosemite National Park. It closes from November to May. This steep, winding pass has an 8-mile section that ascends about 2,500 feet.
The National Park Service warns RV owners that they can tow a trailer at a slow and steady pace. But you can’t travel at the same speed as other drivers without running the risk of overheating. And if you do break down, it could take hours before help can arrive.
In our experience of driving through Yosemite in our truck, we wouldn’t want to have been towing a trailer through these roads. The only vehicle we may be comfortable with is a small Class C or Class B motorhome that we knew could fit in tight traffic and was easily maneuverable. Most importantly, it would need to be short enough to fit in the tunnels.
What Are Popular Things to Do in Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite National Park is one of the best locations for experienced rock climbers. The thrill of climbing Half Dome or El Capitan enraptures many avid climbers. Yosemite has also inspired photographers and artists worldwide since its inception.
The park has over 750 miles of hiking trails and 12 miles of paved bike trails where you can immerse yourself in the wilderness. If you’d rather take a guided tour and learn more about the history, park rangers offer programs throughout the year. In addition, you can take bus tours through Yosemite Hospitality.
However, camping might top the list of popular things in the national park. After learning about the best places to see in Yosemite, we’ll find out if you can drive an RV through the park.
Pro Tip: Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to enjoy the 7 Easy Hikes in Yosemite That Anyone Can Enjoy.
Popular Places to See in Yosemite National Park
You have many ways to experience Yosemite and plenty of places to visit. From budding valleys to rocky cliffs, the scenic views and awe-inspiring nature stories may take your breath away.
When the snow melts in spring, the hundreds of waterfalls throughout Yosemite National Park become even more majestic. The three tiers of Yosemite Falls measure 2,425 feet, and it’s one of the world’s tallest waterfalls.
Hikers can take a strenuous all-day hike to the top. Other popular falls include Sentinel Falls (about 2,000 feet), Ribbon Falls (1,612 feet), and Horsetail Falls (1,000 feet). However, the first waterfall most people see at Yosemite National Park is Bridalveil Falls.
Rivers and glaciers carved 3,000 feet of solid granite to create Yosemite Valley millions of years ago. Half Dome, probably the most recognized symbol of Yosemite, rises nearly 5,000 feet above the valley.
Hikers and rock climbers love the thrill of tackling Half Dome. El Capitan, opposite Bridalveil Falls, rises over 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and is another favorite for experienced rock climbers.
Cathedral Rocks, Sentinel Rock, and Three Brothers are other well-known rock formations in Yosemite National Park.
In the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park is a peaceful wilderness with gushing waterfalls and beautiful wildflowers.
Many people enjoy backpacking, hiking, birdwatching, and fishing here. The weather is pleasant most of the year, and Hetch Hetchy has the longest hiking season in the park. However, you can’t drive RVs over 25 feet in this part of Yosemite.
In the southern part of the park, visitors can experience over 500 giant sequoias in the Mariposa Grove.
This part of Yosemite National Park is also historically significant. In 1864 during the Civil War, President Lincoln signed legislation protecting the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley for “public use, resort, and recreation.”
For the first time in American history — even before Yellowstone — the federal government protected natural areas for the benefit of future generations.
One of the most popular overlooks in Yosemite National Park is Glacier Point. The view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite’s high country is breathtaking.
Typically, visitors can only access Glacier Point by car from late May or June through October or November. However, cross-country skiers can experience this view in the winter.
Yosemite Valley captures the essence of Yosemite National Park with its giant cliffs and towering waterfalls. This part of the park is also very crowded during peak season.
Visitors can see El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, Cathedral Rocks, and Half Dome from the valley. The Ahwahnee Hotel and the Yosemite Valley Lodge are both in Yosemite Valley. However, you can also camp.
It’s Best to Leave Your RV to Enjoy All That Yosemite National Park Offers
So can you drive an RV in Yosemite National Park? The black-and-white answer is yes. However, it’s best if you don’t. No one wants to ruin a vacation or road trip by breaking down on the side of the road or getting into a position where you can’t turn around.
Find a campground inside or outside the park to leave your RV. Take public transportation or a tow vehicle to enjoy the wonders of Yosemite.
Have you ever visited America’s third national park? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
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