Eight Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Yosemite National Park
A visit to Yosemite National Park is something everyone should do at least once. But visiting the park is not like a regular camping trip. There are rules, safety concerns, and other things you need to know first.
If you picked Yosemite as your next vacation destination, you’ve chosen a good one. It’s not a very expensive place to spend a few days in and it’s simply gorgeous. There are many unique locations you can see in the park after all.
Yet, additional research is highly recommended before you even step foot inside Yosemite. There are some things of concern that you won’t find in other places.
Here are the top eight things to keep in mind before booking your stay.
1. Planning Your Trip
One of the things to know about Yosemite is that it’s a very busy destination. Most campgrounds take reservations as much as four months in advance. So you can’t always hop in your car, drive to the park, and expect to find accommodations when you arrive.
If you travel with an RV, things can get even trickier. Planning a trip a few months in advance is usually a good idea. It can save you some money and ensure that you get a nice spot to spend a few days at one of the oldest national parks in the United States.
The busiest time of the year is from May to September, so keep that in mind before booking a trip.
2. Mind the Bears
It’s no secret that bears are a huge deal in Yosemite. You can encounter bears on many Yosemite hikes, and they may even venture into parking areas.
Know that bears often go after some cosmetic products, too, as they can mistake them for food. So it’s essential to store everything scented that could attract the animals to your stuff.
Campsites offer bear-proof boxes. Take advantage of those as opposed to storing everything in your car – there have been quite a few instances of bears breaking into cars.
Another thing that will help you prepare for any bear encounter is the bear walk. This is a ranger-led tour/guide into what makes bears tick. You can learn how to avoid them and how to protect your possessions, as well as how to react if you run into one.
3. Expect Crowds
Up to four million people visit Yosemite every year, so you can expect big crowds at all the famous hotspots. You can also expect crowds even in the off-season and plenty of families with kids.
Between tour groups and families, Yosemite isn’t always a quiet place. The popular hikes, parking spaces, and restaurants can be noisy. But there are ways to avoid those crowds. Most people flock to the Valley for the local attractions. And if you go off the beaten path, you can escape and enjoy some quiet time.
The more challenging hikes also see fewer people. For example, taking the Jon Muir Trail can be a good idea if you want to reach Nevada Falls. You’ll be free from the crowds of the always popular Mist Trail hike.
4. Avoid Wandering Off Alone
Taking alternate routes is one thing. But going off on your own isn’t recommended or allowed in some areas of the park. It’s easy to get lost in Yosemite or hurt yourself because some of the paths are simply tough to tackle.
You should also keep in mind that bears and other animals roam freely in most of the park. To avoid them, it’s best to stick to the known trails.
Not all of the roads are easy to follow, either. It’s easy to get lost even when driving, especially once you leave the valley.
5. Get Permits as Required
Besides hunting and fishing, hiking in some areas of the park also requires permits. For example, park management doesn’t allow more than 300 hikers per day on the Half Dome trail. They do this to preserve the wilderness and reduce crowding.
To hike the trail, you need a permit and you can get them in two ways.
You can enter the March permit lottery or the daily lottery during the season. Both the lottery ticket and pass, if you win one, will cost you.
Applying for a weekday permit may increase your chances in the lottery. So will applying for a permit when visiting outside the busiest months of June and August.
6. Parking Is Frustrating
Yosemite National Park doesn’t really have plenty of parking available. It’s because of the masses of visitors that come with their cars.
Going with a rental or personal car is usually a good idea as it allows you to see more of the park. But the parking is sometimes horrible because of this.
There is an alternative to using your car if you want to travel to Yosemite. The park provides a free shuttle bus service that can take you to some of the most popular attractions.
This would let you save on gas, parking fees, and avoid the frustration of finding a parking spot.
7. Be Careful When Traveling with Pets
If you take your pets with you on vacations, note that Yosemite National Park has strict regulations. You can’t leave the pets without you on the trails or in the lodging areas. Most walk-in campsites are also pet-free zones, as are the shuttle busses.
You have to keep your dogs and other pets on a leash at all times and restrict walks to developed areas. Sidewalks, paved roads, and most bicycle paths accept pets. As do campgrounds that aren’t walk-in ones, such as Camp 4.
8. Brush Up on Park Protection Regulations
Before you visit, there are things to know about Yosemite and its wildlife protection regulations. On popular trails, you may see certain signs that indicate the do’s and don’ts in the area. But there are more rules that you won’t be able to read on signs.
Every year tourists unwillingly do things that go against the rules. So it’s a good idea to read up on what to do and what not to do, aside from the obvious. The obvious being hunting, driving into meadows, camping randomly in the wilderness, and so on.
Keep in Mind the Park’s Safety and Yours
There are many activities you can do inside Yosemite National Park. But there’s also a rule about keeping the wildlife wild and not negatively impacting the area with your presence.
Learning about the place and figuring out how to get around is easy enough. Just make sure you understand all the written and unwritten rules before you visit to avoid any trouble.
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