If you're planning a visit to Yosemite National Park, you can get general information on accommodations, weather, and permits from the park's touch-tone phone menu at tel. 209/372-0200 or online at www.nps.gov/yose. You can buy books and maps from the nonprofit Yosemite Conservancy, P.O. Box 230, El Portal, CA 95318 (tel. 209/379-2317; www.yosemiteconservancy.org). For information on much of the lodging within Yosemite National Park, contact concessionaire DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, P.O. Box 578, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389 (tel. 801/559-5000; www.yosemitepark.com). Information on lodging and activities outside the park is available from the visitor centers and chambers of commerce in the park's surrounding cities. If you're coming from the west on CA 120, contact the Tuolumne County Visitor Center in Sonora (tel. 800/446-1333 or 209/533-4420; www.tcvb.com) or the Yosemite Chamber of Commerce in Groveland (tel. 800/449-9120 or 209/962-0429; www.groveland.org). On CA 140, contact the Mariposa County Visitors Bureau (tel. 866/425-3366 or 209/966-7081; www.homeofyosemite.com). On CA 41, south of the park, call the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Oakhurst (tel. 559/683-4636; www.yosemitethisyear.com). From Lee Vining on the park's eastern boundary, contact the Lee Vining Chamber of Commerce (tel. 760/647-6629; www.leevining.com). There's a California Welcome Center at 710 W. 16th St. in Merced (tel. 800/446-5353 or 209/724-8104; www.yosemite-gateway.org).
There are four entrances to Yosemite: the Big Oak Flat Entrance and the Arch Rock Entrance from the west, the South Entrance, and the Tioga Pass Entrance from the east. Upon arrival, make sure to get a copy of the biweekly Yosemite Guide for up-to-date information on ranger programs and other park events and activities.
Visitor Centers & Information
In the park, the biggest visitor center is the Valley Visitor Center and Bookstore, in Yosemite Village (tel. 209/372-0200), which provides all sorts of information, offers daily ranger programs, and is conveniently located near restaurants and shopping. You can talk with park rangers about your plans for exploring the park; check out bulletin boards that display information on current road conditions and campsite availability (they also serve as message boards for visitors); and view several exhibits on the park, its geologic history, and the history of the valley. This center provides information on bears and also explores the impact that humans have on the park. A shop sells maps, books, videos, postcards, posters, and the like.
Nearby is the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center, with high-country maps; information on necessary hiking and camping equipment; trail information; and a ranger on hand to answer questions, issue permits, and offer advice about the high country.
Information is also available at the Wawona Visitor Center and the Big Oak Flat Information Station. In the high country, stop in at the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center (tel. 209/372-0263, although it's always best to call 209/372-0200 in summer). For questions about visitor-related services, including tours and accommodations, call tel. 209/372-1000 or 801/559-5000.
It costs $20 per car per week to enter the valley, or $10 per person per week if arriving on bicycle, on motorcycle, or on foot. The Yosemite Pass, for $40, covers entry into the park for a year.
Camping at a Yosemite campground costs $5 to $20 a night (tel. 877/444-6777; www.recreation.gov). It's best to book as far in advance as possible if you are planning to camp during the summer, especially in Yosemite Valley. If you're unable to get your desired dates, it's worth checking back -- cancellations do occur. Reservations are accepted up to 5 months in advance, beginning on the 15th of each month. For example, a camper wanting a reservation for August 1 can apply no earlier than February 15. Additional campground information is available by phone or online (tel. 209/372-0200; www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/camping.htm).
The regulations here are similar to those at most other national parks -- don't damage the resources, keep pets and bikes off the trails, observe campground quiet hours, and so on -- but this is also bear country, so the storage of food, or anything that bears might think of as food, is also strictly regulated. In many cases, you'll need to place food and items that smell like they might be food (perfume and even toothpaste) in bear-proof canisters or lockers. Regulations are posted throughout the park, and you'll also receive information when you enter the park, but we strongly suggest that you carry as little food, cosmetics, and toiletries as possible.
Special Permits & Passes
American parks and monuments are some of the biggest travel bargains in the world. If you plan to visit a number of national parks and monuments within a year, buy an America the Beautiful -- National Parks and Federal Interagency Annual Pass for $80 (good for 365 days from the date of purchase at nearly all federal preserves). Anyone age 62 or older can get an Interagency Senior Pass for a one-time fee of $10, and people who are blind or who have permanent disabilities can obtain an Interagency Access Pass, which costs nothing. All passes are available at any park entrance point or visitor center. While the Interagency Senior and Interagency Access passes must be purchased in person (to verify age or disability), Interagency Annual Passes are also available online at http://store.usgs.gov/pass.
You'll need a backcountry permit to camp overnight in the wilderness sections of these parks. Reserving a permit costs $5, plus $5 per person in Yosemite and $15 per group in Sequoia & Kings Canyon; it's a good idea to reserve one in advance during the high season. For permits in Yosemite, call tel. 209/372-0740 or stop by any Wilderness Permit Station. In Sequoia & Kings Canyon, call tel. 559/565-3766. Information is also available online at www.nps.gov/yose for Yosemite or www.nps.gov/seki for Sequoia & Kings Canyon.
Elsewhere in the parks, the usual permits and regulations apply. All anglers 16 and over must have valid California fishing licenses.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.