Yosemite National Park is a phenomenal landscape full of majestic mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and massive waterfalls — it’s the perfect place to take a vacation!
Where should you stay while visiting Yosemite? If you want to be close to the best hikes and viewpoints in the park, try to stay in Yosemite Valley. If you’re looking for something outside of the park, the El Portal area is a fantastic option.
My name is Ash, and I’m a former park ranger — I’ve spent a lot of time in this park! I’m excited to help you decide where to stay while visiting Yosemite, so let’s talk about your options.
Yosemite Map, Entrances, and Nearby Towns
First, let’s get the lay of the land around Yosemite. This park has five official entrances, so you’ve got plenty of options for places to stay while visiting Yosemite.
Arch Rock Entrance of Yosemite (El Portal)
The Arch Rock Entrance is the closest entrance to the popular Yosemite Valley section of the park. After passing through this entrance, you’ll be close to popular sights like Tunnel View, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome.
This entrance has a height limit of 12’10” and a length limit of 60 feet if you’re towing. The Arch Rock Entrance is the easiest way to enter Yosemite during the winter — Highway 140 doesn’t gain or lose as much elevation as the other routes into the park (which is nice if the roads are icy).
The location of this entrance is perfect for exploring Yosemite, but the town of El Portal is very small and doesn’t have much by way of lodging, restaurants, or amenities. You’ll find a couple of small hotels in/near El Portal and a gas station with a market, but you’ll need to drive toward Mariposa for more options.
Big Oak Flat Entrance of Yosemite (Groveland)
The Big Oak Flat Entrance is the entrance you’ll use if you’re coming into Yosemite via Highway 120 from Groveland. Entering the park through here gets you close to the Tioga Road. Or, if you’re hoping to get into Yosemite Valley, you can follow the Big Oak Flat Road down the mountain and into the valley.
This entrance is next to the Hodgdon Meadow and the Big Oak Flat Information Station. You’ll find a gas station and small general store at Crane Flat, but otherwise, there aren’t many amenities right near this entrance.
The town of Groveland is about 30 minutes west of the Big Oak Flat Entrance. Groveland is charming and provides some great lodging, dining, and activity options. You’ll also find a small but sufficient grocery store here.
South Entrance of Yosemite (Fish Camp)
Yosemite’s South Entrance brings you into the park near the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. You’ll likely pass through this entrance if you’re coming to the park from Fresno or Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Fish Camp has some nice places to stay, but there isn’t a whole lot to do in this area of the park. Aside from the Mariposa Grove, you’ll need to drive about an hour north before you get to the park’s best hiking trails and views.
You’ll find a gas station and small convenience store in the Wawona/Fish Camp area, as well as a few hotels and cabin rentals. The town of Oakhurst to the south of Yosemite’s South Entrance has more lodging and dining options.
Tioga Pass Entrance of Yosemite (Lee Vining)
Entering Yosemite via the Tioga Pass Entrance is the most dramatic way to come into the park! Highway 120 from Lee Vining is steep and narrow as it climbs into the mountains to nearly 10,000 feet.
This entrance is only open seasonally because Highway 120 (also known as the Tioga Road when you enter the park) is closed during the winter. You’ll only want to stay near this entrance when the Tioga Road is fully open, which is typically from June-October.
The town of Lee Vining is ideally located next to the beautiful Mono Lake and offers several lodging, dining, and activity options as well as a grocery store and gas stations.
Hetch Hetchy Entrance of Yosemite (Mather)
The Hetch Hetchy Entrance leads to a small off-the-beaten-path area of Yosemite not usually seen by the first-time visitor. The Hetch Hetchy Road is a small side road that doesn’t connect with the main part of Yosemite.
This entrance is only open during daylight hours and has a vehicle length limit of 25 feet. You’ll find a few small Forest Service campgrounds and a lodge along the Evergreen Road on your way to Hetch Hetchy from the main part of the park. It’s about a 45-minute drive to Yosemite Valley from here, so it’s a decent option for exploring the valley or the Tioga Road.
Mather isn’t a town, but rather a small getaway area that includes Camp Mather and the Evergreen Lodge. You’ll need to drive into Groveland or Crane Flat for any sort of amenities aside from what’s available at those lodging options.
If you’d like more information on the best airports and roads around Yosemite, including details about getting to each of these entrances, check out How to Get to Yosemite National Park.
Staying Inside of Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a large national park and it can take several hours to drive between the sights. I recommend staying inside of the park if you want to have more opportunities for sightseeing without the crowds. You’ll find some incredibly scenic lodges and campgrounds here that will enhance your experience while you’re here.
Hotels and Lodges in Yosemite
There are seven lodges in the park, so you’ve got a lot of options of places to stay while visiting Yosemite! Experiencing the park before everyone gets there or after everyone has left is the very best thing about staying in one of these lodges.
You’ll find a range of amenities and comforts between these lodging options — from basic cabins with shared bunks to luxury rooms with a delicious dinner buffet. Many of these lodges have fantastic mountain views directly from the rooms or from just a short walk away.
The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Valley Lodge, Curry Village, and Housekeeping Camp are all located within Yosemite Valley. You’ll find most of the park’s can’t-miss spots here, and the valley is a great base camp for exploring the more outlying areas of the park.
If you don’t want to stay in Yosemite Valley, the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and the White Wolf Lodge are located along the Tioga Road. Staying in either of these options is great for exploring the Tioga Road area of the park, but you’ll be further away from some of the most popular sights in the park. The Wawona Hotel is located at the southern end of the park near the Mariposa Grove but there’s not much else to do in the area. Staying in any of these options will add on a decent amount of driving to your trip unless you split your lodging choices to a few nights in the north and a few nights in the south.
Reservations for the lodges in Yosemite can typically be made up to 366 days in advance of your travel dates.
Tip — if you aren’t able to book an in-park lodge listed above but still want to cut down on your drive time, check out the lodging options in Yosemite West or Foresta. These are private communities that are accessed from within the national park boundaries — the location is perfect! Check here for cabin options.
Yosemite has thirteen in-park campgrounds to choose from — some are located in the popular areas, and some are more off-the-beaten-path.
I recommend trying to stay in the middle of the park if you’d like to be in the same campground for your entire trip — Upper Pines, Lower Pines, North Pines, Camp 4, Crane Flat, or Bridalveil Creek.
If you don’t mind moving around a little, you could pair a campground in Yosemite Valley with a campground along the Tioga Road. For example, spend a few nights camping in Yosemite Valley and then move to Tamarack Flat, White Wolf, Yosemite Creek, Porcupine Creek, or Tuolumne Meadows to spend a few nights along the Tioga Road.
All campsites in Yosemite, whether reservable or first-come, first-served, are extremely competitive. If a reservable site is available, I suggest snagging it immediately! If you plan on trying for a non-reservable site, be aware that most campgrounds fill during the morning hours.
To learn more about your Yosemite camping options and how to snag a site, read all about camping in Yosemite.
Tip — if you aren’t able to reserve a campsite in the park, you’ll find more options in the nearby Forest Service land between Groveland and the Big Oak Flat Entrance.
Planning a trip to Yosemite can be overwhelming.
How do you make a solid plan if you’ve never been to the park before? How do you keep everyone in your group excited and engaged?
You can spend hours on the internet searching for things to do, but you still won’t find the insider tips and first-hand knowledge that I’ve gained from working as a park ranger.
If you’re hoping to see the best sights without getting stuck in traffic, circling parking lots, or being surrounded by people, check out this Yosemite Itinerary.
You will see all of the can’t-miss spots, plus get lodging and dining guides, driving directions, and insider tips!
Staying Outside of Yosemite National Park
Because Yosemite has five different entrances into the park, it’s easy to stay close to the park without actually being in the park. I recommend staying outside of Yosemite if you want nicer amenities, more variety in pricing, or more dining and activity options.
But here’s the disclaimer — not all entrances to the park are created equal! If you stay outside of the park, be sure to pick a town that won’t add a ton of driving to your day. You’ll already be driving a lot to see the sights in Yosemite, so it’s best not to add more driving just to get to the park entrance.
Staying in El Portal, Foresta, or Yosemite West
So that being said, the El Portal area is the most convenient place to stay outside of Yosemite. You’ll be hitting the trails in no time due to its location just a few minutes away from the park. This area is also popular for whitewater rafting and wildflowers.
El Portal doesn’t have much by way of lodging, but you will find a few small hotels in/near town. If nothing right in El Portal will fit your needs, take a look at the beautiful rental cabins in Yosemite West or Foresta. These private communities are an amazing option for staying near the park!
The town of El Portal is located along Highway 140 near the Arch Rock Entrance of Yosemite, just outside of Yosemite Valley. Click here to see lodging options in El Portal.
Staying in Groveland
Groveland is a charming town located along Highway 120 west of the Big Oak Flat Entrance of Yosemite. This gold rush town boasts the oldest saloon in California and has a good selection of hotels, activities, and restaurants.
It takes a little over an hour to get to Yosemite Valley from Groveland, so it’s a little further out than I typically like to be. But if you’re also hoping to have fun playing at Pine Mountain Lake, golfing, horseback riding, or whitewater rafting, this might be a good basecamp for your Yosemite area adventures.
If you want to stay in the Groveland area but want to be closer to Yosemite, check out the Rush Creek Lodge located just seconds away from the Big Oak Flat Entrance. Otherwise, click here to see lodging options in Groveland.
Staying in Lee Vining
Lee Vining is a small town located along the shores of Mono Lake on the east side of Yosemite. You’ll find a couple of hotels, restaurants, and a grocery store here. It’s about 2 hours to Yosemite Valley from here, so I don’t recommend staying here as a basecamp if it’s your first time visiting the park.
Staying in Lee Vining does make sense if you plan on spending most of your time exploring the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite. If you plan on concentrating your time along the Tioga Road, be sure to plan your trip for the months of June-October when the road is open.
Lee Vining is conveniently located about 30 minutes from Mammoth Lakes, a gorgeous mountain town popular for outdoor recreation.
Staying in Fish Camp
Fish Camp is located just outside of Yosemite’s South Entrance near the Wawona area of the park. This small town is picturesquely tucked into the forest and boasts of lovely hiking trails, a historical railroad, and Giant Sequoias.
Fish Camp is about an hour’s drive to the park’s most popular sights like Glacier Point or Yosemite Valley. If you want to stay in this area on your first visit to the park, I recommend splitting your time between Fish Camp and somewhere else closer to the Tioga Road (like the Rush Creek Lodge or the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge) to cut down on driving.
I hope you find a fabulous place to stay while visiting Yosemite National Park — happy trails!
More Yosemite Trip Planning Information
Yosemite Itinerary — a detailed hour-by-hour sightseeing schedule.
How to Get to Yosemite — the best airports and roads in the area.
How Many Days Should I Spend in Yosemite? — itinerary ideas.
The Best Time to Visit — what to expect during each month of the year.
Weather, Hours, and Closures — important weather info and common closures.
The Best Things to Do — activities for your whole group.
All About Camping — learn about the park’s campgrounds and how to get a site.
12 Things You Can’t Miss on Your First Visit to Yosemite — the top 12 spots.
The Best Easy Hikes — the perfect trails for kids, wheelchairs, and beginners.
The Ultimate Yosemite Trip Planning Guide — everything you need to know.
This post may contain affiliate links. Dirt In My Shoes gets paid a small commission (at no extra cost to you) when you purchase from these links. Thanks for your support!