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Yosemite National Park - Money Saving Tips

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David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

Admission Fees

The cost per vehicle entering the park is $20 USD. This purchases a pass that is good for seven days of admission. Non-commercial groups visiting in vehicles holding up to 14 passengers get the same rate.

Nearest Major Airports

Oakland, 174 miles; Sacramento, 176 miles; San Francisco 192 miles; Reno, 217 miles

Budget Airlines to Shop

AirTran, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit (San Francisco); Southwest (Oakland) Southwest, Frontier (Reno, Sacramento)

Nearby Cities with Budget Rooms

You'll drive a long way from the park before you find a significant selection of hotels. Oakhurst is about 50 miles out, and offers a few lodgings that are fairly high priced. Further away is Merced (80 miles) and Modesto (110 miles) where the selection is better.

Camping and Lodge Facilities

Yosemite offers eight in-park accommodation options, but they are quite expensive. Ahwahnee Hotel is the cushiest, but comes at a price most budget travelers won't find appealing--often in excess of $400/night. Even tent cabins here come in at about $120/night. There are not a lot of budget hotel options convenient to the park. If you plan to book any of the park sites, do so as early as possible. Even at these relatively high prices, they fill up fast.

The same advice applies to the 13 campgrounds at Yosemite. Most times of the year, a minimum four-month advance reservation is necessary. Nightly rates range from $10-$20/night, with the difference coming in the amenities offered. The park website offers a handy chart showing when you should reserve space at each and what services are available.

Backcountry campgrounds are provided at Little Yosemite Valley and near the High Sierra Camps (Glen Aulin, May Lake, Sunrise, Merced Lake, and Vogelsang), but they are not served through the campground reservation system. You'll need to secure a wilderness permit for $5 plus pay $5/night per person.

Top Free Attractions in the Park

Multiple Yosemite tours are offered through a vendor, and although they can cost $20/person or more they're worth a look, even for a budget traveler. But there are self-guided tours you can take for no cost. Click on these links and print the brochures for Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and The Pioneer Yosemite History Center.

Free art workshops are available through the non-profit Yosemite Conservancy. If you partake, please consider making a small donation to sustain the work here.

Parking and Ground Transportation

Due to its world-renowned beauty and proximity to major cities, this is among the most crowded U.S. national parks during the peak summer months. To avoid bumper-to-bumper madness, try to use the free Yosemite shuttle buses whenever possible. One route (Yosemite Valley shuttle) serves the eastern Yosemite Valley, including stops at or near all overnight accommodations, stores, and major vistas and operates all year (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.). Another route (El Capitan shuttle) stops at El Capitan, Four Mile trail-head, and the Valley Visitor Center. This shuttle operates from mid June through early September from 9 am to 6 pm.

Driving Distance (in miles) from Major Cities

San Francisco, 190; Los Angeles 312; Las Vegas 416.

Other Attractions with which to Combine a Visit

Redwood National Park, Death Valley N.P.

Need more information? Check out the Official Park Web site.

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