For seven days, the entry fee to Yosemite costs $35. This pass is worth $80 if you intend to visit four National Parks within a year. It can be purchased in person at any National Park, online at Federal Recreation Site or by calling 1-888-8-USGS, Ext. 3. Or online. For $80, I also bought my mom a lifetime senior card.
There are approximately ten free entry days in the National Parks each year. It's best to choose a different day if you want to avoid crowds. We have visited Muir Woods National Park nearer home, with other options in San Francisco in case it gets too busy.
Yosemite adventure summer months are the best, and also when it is most visited. The main concern for the rest of year is snow. The valley is accessible all year, but Tioga Road (and Glacier Point Road) are closed between mid-November and May or early June. To find out which roads are currently open and when they will be open, visit Road Conditions. We went in March, April and May. Although it's still quite cold, the crowds are much smaller. It is most likely that you will visit in the summer. It is best to plan as soon as possible. You must book your summer stay in the valley well in advance.
The National Park Service offers many options for you in the valley. Within the park, there are 13 campgrounds. Half Dome Village offers canvas tent cabins for mid-range accommodations. You have easy access and shuttle service to all areas of the valley. From there you can take YARTS directly to any Yosemite National Park stop.
Yosemite's drive is just as breathtaking as any national park. Summer months are however the most popular. Parking and traffic can be a problem. The National Park Service has excellent transportation options, not only within the park, but also to Yosemite. The free shuttle service allows you to easily navigate the valley by taking a for-fee bus called YARTS.
Yosemite is a great place to hike. There are hikes for everyone. You can use the free shuttle service to get from one point to another. The three-mile round trip hike along The Mist Trail to Vernal falls is a favorite of ours. This moderately strenuous hike takes between two and three hours depending on your pace. You will be wet hiking up to the falls so bring rain gear. You can take the free shuttle to Happy Isles. You can go further to Nevada Falls if you want more than Vernal Falls. The hike is seven miles each way. Half Dome, a 14-mile, full-day hike on The Mist Trail, is for the brave.
There are many options for camping and lodges. If campers want to take a break, they can drive ten minutes to eat in a restaurant. You can also find a grocery store where you can stock up on food. On Easter Sunday, our family ate twice at The Ahwahnee Dinner Room. This restaurant offers contemporary cuisine in an open and spacious space. This restaurant is great for special occasions and has a fantastic children's menu. Half Dome Village offers a more affordable option. The Pizza Deck, Meadow Grill and the Half Dome Village Pavilion have something for everyone.