Yosemite is a magnificent national park located in the craggy Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. In this article, we’ll discuss how to get to Yosemite National Park, including the best airports to fly into and the best roads to drive!
If you are flying to Yosemite National Park, I recommend flying into the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. This airport is close to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks and gets you out of the big city traffic quickly!
Driving to Yosemite National Park? Highway 120 is the most scenic way to enter the national park! You love the dramatic views as you travel up and over the Tioga Pass.
My name is Ash, and I’m a former park ranger. I’ve been to Yosemite many times, and I can’t wait to help you plan your upcoming trip to this spectacular national park.
Let’s talk more about how to get to Yosemite National Park, including my advice for the best airports and roads in the area!
Where is Yosemite National Park Located?
Yosemite National Park is located on the east side of California, about halfway up the state. It is approximately 1.5 hours from Fresno, 3 hours from Sacramento, and 3.5 hours from San Francisco.
The nearest national parks to Yosemite are Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks — it’s about 2.5 hours from Yosemite to Sequoia-Kings.
The towns with a decent number of amenities near Yosemite are Groveland, Mariposa, Oakhurst, and Lee Vining.
What is the Closest Airport to Yosemite National Park?
Merced Regional Airport
The Merced Regional Airport is located in the town of Merced, which is about 2 hours from Yosemite Valley via the Arch Rock Entrance. This small airport is the closest airport to the popular Yosemite Valley area of the park, and if you fly in here, you won’t have to deal with all of the crazy traffic in the state’s bigger cities.
This airport is only serviced by Boutique Air, a small private company that focuses on luxury and comfort. If you fly into Merced, you’ll likely have a layover or two until you get to a hub that Boutique flies from (such as Phoenix, Denver, or Sacramento).
If you don’t want to rent a car, you can get from the Merced Airport to Yosemite Valley year-round via the YARTS bus.
Other Regional Airports Near Yosemite
Mammoth Yosemite Airport
The Mammoth Yosemite Airport is located in Mammoth Lakes, California, which is about a 1-hour drive to the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite via the Tioga Pass Entrance. Tuolumne Meadows is only open when the Tioga Road is open (usually June-October).
From the Mammoth Yosemite Airport, it’s about 2.5 hours to Yosemite Valley. If you fly into this airport when the Tioga Road isn’t open, it takes closer to 7 hours to get to Yosemite Valley.
The Mammoth Yosemite Airport is very small and will likely require a layover or two until you reach a hub that Advanced Airlines flies from (Burbank, Hawthorne, or Carlsbad, CA). If you don’t want to rent a car, you can get from this airport to Yosemite via the YARTS bus (summer months only).
Stockton Metropolitan Airport
The Stockton Metropolitan Airport is about 3 hours from Yosemite Valley via the Big Oak Flat Entrance to the park. This airport is a hub for Allegiant Airlines and provides connections to the Yosemite area from Las Vegas and Phoenix.
What Are the Largest Airports Near Yosemite National Park?
If you don’t want to pay a premium price to fly into one of the smaller regional airports listed above, it will make the most sense to fly into a larger, international airport near Yosemite, such as the airports in Fresno or Sacramento. Ticket prices to these airports can be hundreds of dollars cheaper without adding too much extra drive time.
Fresno Yosemite International Airport
The Fresno Yosemite International Airport is the best airport to use for visiting Yosemite National Park.
Flying into Fresno has a lot of advantages, especially if you plan on visiting Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon on the same trip. This airport has more flight options and cheaper prices than a lot of the smaller airports in the area.
From Fresno, you’ll need to drive about 1.5 hours to reach Yosemite’s South Entrance and 2.5 hours to get to Yosemite Valley. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can take the YARTS bus from Fresno to Yosemite Valley during the summer months.
A route I recommend for visiting three national parks in one trip is Fresno to Yosemite Valley (2.5 hrs), explore Yosemite with this itinerary, Yosemite Valley to Kings Canyon (3.5 hrs), explore Grant Grove and Kings Canyon with this can’t-miss list, Kings Canyon to Sequoia (1 hr), explore the Giant Forest area with this can’t-miss list, and then Sequoia back to Fresno (2.5 hrs).
Now that’s an amazing trip!
Sacramento International Airport
Consider flying into the Sacramento International Airport if you’re looking for another large airport that services the Yosemite area. From this airport, it’s about 3 hours to the Big Oak Flat Entrance of Yosemite and 3.75 hours to Yosemite Valley.
The drive to Yosemite from Sacramento gets you out of the city and into some of California’s rural wine country. You’ll drive through Lodi, which is a popular destination for wine lovers. As you get closer to the park, you’ll pass through Groveland, a quaint town with charming hotels and restaurants (including the oldest saloon in California)!
Other Large Airports Near Yosemite
Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco Airports — all three of these airports are a straight shot across California from Yosemite, and it’s anywhere from 3.5-4 hours to drive to the park if the traffic is normal. If you plan on sightseeing in the San Francisco area, it might make sense to fly into any of these airports. Otherwise, I recommend flying into Fresno or Sacramento — you’ll save a lot of drive time if you don’t have to fight the traffic in and near San Francisco.
Reno-Tahoe International Airport — this airport is only about 3 hours from Tuolumne Meadows via the Tioga Pass Entrance, but I would only fly into Reno if you’re visiting during the summer when the Tioga Road is open. If the road is open, it takes about 4.5 hours to get to Yosemite Valley. If you’re wanting to visit Lake Tahoe (which is spectacular!) during your Yosemite vacation, this airport is a great option for seeing both.
Traffic and crowding in Yosemite can be terrible.
Did you know that it’s common to wait an hour or more to enter the park or catch the shuttle?
Are you hoping to see the best sights without getting stuck in traffic, circling parking lots, or being surrounded by people?
Stay ahead of the crowds with this Yosemite Itinerary. You will see all of the can’t-miss spots, plus get lodging and dining guides, driving directions, and insider tips!
The Best Roads to Yosemite National Park
If you’re driving to Yosemite, you’ll encounter some diverse landscapes and cities along the way. Here are some things you can expect on the roads that lead to Yosemite National Park.
Highway 120 (Groveland to the Big Oak Flat Entrance)
Highway 120 East leads to Groveland, CA, and the Big Oak Flat Entrance of Yosemite.
If you are approaching Yosemite from the west (Sacramento or San Francisco), you’ll drive along Highway 120 through Groveland to enter the park. Before reaching Groveland, you’ll encounter the New Priest Grade section of Highway 120. This part of the road gains a lot of elevation via many switchbacks, but it’s a good road for all types of vehicles. If you’re using Google Maps, don’t let it direct you to the Old Priest Grade Rd, especially if you’re towing.
After you complete the New Priest Grade, you’ll reach Groveland. This town has a small grocery store, gas stations, restaurants, and hotels. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the Big Oak Flat Entrance from here along Highway 120. The drive from Groveland to Big Oak Flat is a pretty straightforward route into the park, and it’s a good, RV-friendly road.
After you enter the park via Highway 120, you can continue down into Yosemite Valley via the Big Oak Flat Road. This road loses a lot of elevation as you make your way toward the valley. You’ll also go through several tunnels (height at center is 13’8″ and ok for most RVs) and vehicles longer than 45 feet are not permitted. Take it slow and be sure your brakes are working well.
Highway 120 (Lee Vining to the Tioga Pass Entrance)
On the east side of Yosemite, Highway 120 travels from the town of Lee Vining up to the Tioga Pass Entrance. Lee Vining has a grocery store, restaurants, hotels, and gas stations.
As you leave Lee Vining and drive west on Highway 120 toward the park, the road gets extremely steep and scenic! This stretch of road is known to be the most dramatic and spectacular way to enter Yosemite National Park, but it does require special care driving along the steep stretch of road, especially if you are in an RV. The road gains about 2,500 feet of elevation in between Lee Vining and Tioga Pass!
Highway 120 becomes the Tioga Road when you enter Yosemite National Park, and it travels through a beautiful high alpine area of the park. This road closes seasonally due to snow, usually from November-May.
Highway 140 (Mariposa to the Arch Rock Entrance)
Taking Highway 140 into the park is the most straightforward route into Yosemite Valley. The town of Mariposa has groceries, gas stations, restaurants, and hotels, but you’ll hit a few smaller towns as you drive toward the park. El Portal and Foresta (just outside of the Arch Rock Entrance) have some lodging options that are extremely convenient for exploring the park’s main sights.
If you’re visiting Yosemite during the winter, this is my favorite route to take because the road doesn’t gain or lose much elevation (which is nice when the roads are icy)!
Highway 140 is RV-friendly, but there is a 60-foot length limit if you’re towing (can’t exceed 35 feet for just the trailer, bumper to hitch) and a height limit of 12’10”.
Highway 41 (Oakhurst to the South Entrance)
Highway 41 takes you to the Wawona area — this is where you’ll find the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias — via the park’s South Entrance. This is the route you’ll take to get to Yosemite if you’re coming from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks or Fresno.
The city of Oakhurst is the main place to find groceries, lodging, restaurants, and gas stations in this area. As you leave Oakhurst and drive toward the park, you’ll enter a scenic canyon with curvy roads as you approach Yosemite.
This road is RV-friendly, but there is a 45-foot length limit. If you plan on driving into Yosemite Valley from this direction, be advised that there is a tunnel along the way with a 13’6″ height limit.
Evergreen Road (Big Oak Flat Entrance to Hetch Hetchy)
Hetch Hetchy is a small but scenic area located in the northwestern section of Yosemite. If you plan on driving to Hetch Hetchy from other areas of the park, you’ll likely find yourself taking the Evergreen Road to get there. This road is a good paved road, but it feels remote and is narrow with blind curves.
While there aren’t vehicle length restrictions along the Evergreen Road, be aware that vehicles longer than 25 feet are not permitted when you reach the Hetch Hetchy Road. Hetch Hetchy is open for limited hours only (usually during the daylight hours) and the road closes at the end of each day.
This information should help you get to Yosemite quickly and easily — there are so many fun adventures waiting for you in this majestic national park. Happy trails!
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