May 5, 2015

Yes, You Can Always Get Here (Yosemite) From There

You are heading to Yosemite for a great getaway, far away from office buildings, fast food restaurants and daily errands. It’s your vacation! Encounters with nature and the majesty of soaring granite cliffs await.

But, wait! Does mountainous terrain and narrow roads, not to mention limited cell phone service, raise concern about successfully entering the gates of Yosemite by car? You start to wonder – are the roads even open year-round? Do the entrances close?

Lucky for you, barring the terrible weapon of today’s politicians—the government shutdown, you will always find Yosemite open for business. Four different state highways lead to individual entrances to the park. If one or more entrances closes, access remains open. Only one entrance, Tuolumne’s Tioga Pass, closes routinely. At 9,945 feet, this is the highest elevation road maintained by California’s highway system Caltrans, and closes annually for the winter. Tioga Pass Historical Open/Close Dates.

Otherwise, it’s rare for other entrances to close. Even heavy snow means the park’s plows move into high gear, keeping roads passable, perhaps with chains or snow tires required. Events may close one route temporarily, including downed trees or wildfire. When this happens, the NPS and Caltrans muster resources to reopen quickly, as gateway towns and local residents suffer during closures, on top of trouble for visitors.

Before heading to Yosemite, call the Roads Information Number at (209) 372-0200. Updated regularly throughout the day, this line (option 1, 1) tells you the current road status including chain restrictions.

Coming from the Bay Area and the North Highways 120 and 140 provide nearly identical drive times into the park. A closure of one route generally has no serious impact on your visit unless you booked lodging outside the park, on the wrong (unlucky) side of the closure.

Coming from the South should your main route, Highway 41, be closed, take a short detour to Highway 140, via Highway 49 in Oakhurst, which adds travel time but in no means jeopardizes your plans.

So, go ahead and plan ahead to visit any time that your heart desires. Road closures will not prevent you from discovering and enjoying Yosemite.

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