Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the top questions and answers we receive daily from visitors to the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Oakhurst.

Several waterfalls can be seen in Yosemite Valley, depending on the season. Generally, the best time of year to view Yosemite's waterfalls is spring to early summer, when snow-melt and run-off are at their peak. The two most visited are Bridalveil Fall, which is located at the entrance to Yosemite Valley on Highway 41 (which becomes Wawona Road in the park) and Yosemite Falls which is located in the valley near Yosemite Lodge. Vernal and Nevada Falls can be seen from Glacier Point or by hiking the Mist Trail from Stop 16 of the valley shuttle bus system.
Main points of interest include waterfalls, Half Dome, Mirror Lake, El Capitan, Glacier Point, Tuolomne Meadow, Wawona, Tunnel View, Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake, Hetch Hetchy and three groves of Giant Sequoias. Some attractions are seasonal.
Mariposa Grove near the park's south entrance on Highway 41 is closed for renovation and will reopen June 15, 2018.  In Yosemite, two other groves are Tuolumne Grove, near Crane Flat off Highway 120, and the Merced Grove, west of Crane Flat and also off Highway 120. These groves require some hiking ability, as the first Giant Sequoias are a mile from the parking area.  For more Giant Sequoia information in Yosemite - follow this link:

Nelder Grove, off Highway 41 just south of Oakhurst, is another area to see Giant Sequoias.  This grove is located 7 miles up Road 632/Sky Ranch Road.  For more informaiton on Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoia, follow this link:

Another place to see Giant Sequoias, including the largest tree in the world, is in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks about 2.5 hours south of Oakhurst.  For more information on Sequoia & Kings Canyon follow this link:

The most famous tunnel (drive-through) tree is located in the Mariposa Grove (re-opening June 15, 2018), just up from the southern entrance to Yosemite. This tree fell during the heavy snow winter of 1968-1969.
No, GPS is not the most effective method, especially in the mountain areas. Consult maps or come to the Visitor Center to get the best directions. You can actually get lost using GPS.
Yes, but we recommend you use the FREE Yosemite Valley shuttle system while you are in Yosemite Valley.

You can also take a private or public guided tour around Yosemite - see Tour information here.

YARTS - Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System is also available seasonally along Highway 41 and Highway 120.  The route runs year-round on Highway 140.  Visit the YARTS website here.
There are 3 levels of chain restrictions in California: R1, R2, and R3.

R1: Chains, traction devices, or snow tires required on the drive axle of all vehicles, except 4WD or AWD
R2: Chains, traction devices required for all vehicles except 4WD/AWD with snow tires.
R3: Chains or traction devices required for all vehicles.

“Snow Tires” includes all season radial tires (most autos come with them). That means that most autos need only put chains on in R2 conditions, and most AWD/4WD autos need only put chains on in R3 conditions. However, this is the legal minimum. It is a good idea to put them on anyway. Remember that 4WD/AWD does little or nothing to help you stop.

R3 conditions are rare. The CHP typically closes the road when conditions reach that point.

The speed limit under R1, R2, or R3 conditions is never more than 35 MPH. Even if you are on dry pavement, if you are going 35+ MPH under chain restrictions, you are risking a ticket.

You are advised to carry chains in your vehicle when entering the Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains from November 1st through May 1st.
In general, fishing is poor in Yosemite Valley and much better in the high country, in Bass Lake and other surrounding lakes and streams in the Sierra National Forest. Many lakes in the forest are regularly stocked. Those 16 and older must have a valid fishing license, including in Yosemite National Park.
No. All natural objects found in the national park or national forest should remain where they are found as integral parts of the ecosystem. Please leave them for others to enjoy.
Mid-March into April in the foothills outside the park and mid-June into August in Yosemite's higher elevations. This can alternate, however, depending on the weather.
"Yosemite" is derived from a Southern Miwok word "Yehemite", which translates to "Some among them are killers," which is believed to be how Mariposa-area native peoples referred to the people who lived in Yosemite Valley. Many southern Miwok people in Yosemite intermarried with the Paiute people from the eastern Sierra. Traditionally, Paiute and Miwok were enemies. Thus, when Mariposa Indians referred to people in the Valley, they commented that some among them (the Paiute) were killers.
In Yosemite Valley during the winter, average daytime temperatures are 30-55 degrees and 20-35 degrees at night. In mountain areas, layering is the best approach to adapt to temperatures that can vary greatly from morning to evening.
The park is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Entrance stations, however, are not staffed 24 hours a day. If your entry fee is not collected when you enter, you will pay as you exit.
We sincerely hope not. As thrilling as it is to see a bear, the ones that gravitate to populated areas of the park are endangered. The National Park Service works hard to keep our wild bears wild. However, there's an excellent chance of seeing lots of other wildlife: mule deer, coyotes, marmots, several species of squirrel and numerous birds such as Stellar's Blue Jay, Black Headed Grosbeaks and possibly various birds of prey.
If you choose to bring your pet to Yosemite, please abide by these regulations: 

Pets are only allowed in:
  • developed areas
  • on fully-paved trails and roads except trails signed as not allowing pets. (Pets are not allowed off the Valley Floor, including the trail to Vernal Fall)
  • in campgrounds (except Tamarack Flat, Porcupine Flat and walk-in campgrounds, such as Camp 4.)
  • The only trail where pets are allowed to hike with their human companions is the Wawona Meadow Loop Trail.
Pets are not allowed:
  • on unpaved or poorly paved trails, or trails marked as not allowing pets
  • on unplowed roads covered in snow 
  • in Wilderness areas
  • on shuttle busses
  • in concessioner lodging areas
  • in any group or horse camps
Human Companions must restrain their pets at all times on a leash not more than six feet long or be otherwise physically restrained.
  • Leashed pets may not be left unattended in a vehicle or otherwise.     
  • For the courtesy of other visitors, human companions are responsible for cleaning up and depositing animal waste in trash receptacles.
More information on pet policies inside Yosemite National available here.

There is  so much to see and do throughout Madera County: California's Gateway to Yosemite. Bass Lake, many museums, the Fossil Discovery Center in Chowchilla, the wineries of the Madera Wine Trail, Golden Chain Theatre, and Art Galleries are all popular attractions. For more, visit our Attractions page.
There are several locations you can pick up free WiFi Internet access, and many of our lodging properties offer high speed Internet.

Other locations include:
  • Visit Yosemite | Madera County's Visitor Center in Oakhurst
  • The Queens Inn by the River, Oakhurst
  • The Pines Resort lobby, Bass Lake
  • Mono Museum, North Fork
  • The Redwoods in Yosemite lobby, Wawona
  • The Vineyard Restaurant, Madera 

There are three local tour companies that offer day tours of Yosemite:
Once inside the Valley, there is a FREE hop-on/hop-off shuttle, which is the easiest way to navigate the many sights available there.

For Yosemite National Park Road Conditions: call (209) 372-0200

For California Highways: call (800) 427-7623
FROM Mileage Drive Time
Bakersfield 155 miles 2.5 hours
Chowchilla 58 miles 1.25 hours
Fresno 48 miles 50 minutes
Las Vegas 438 miles 7 hours
Los Angeles 275 miles 4.5 hours
Madera 46 miles 45 minutes
Merced 67 miles 1.25 hours
Monterey 195 miles 3 hours
Sacramento 170 miles 3 hours
San Diego 380 miles 6 hours
San Francisco 213 miles 4 hours
San Jose 180 miles 3 hours
San Luis Obispo 155 miles 3 hours
Santa Barbara 282 miles 5 hours