Yosemite Valley

Soaring granite cliffs with waterfalls cascading down into a green, pine covered valley
Yosemite Valley seen from Tunnel View.

[T]he far-famed valley came suddenly into view throughout almost its whole extent: the noble walls, sculptured into endless variety of domes and gables, spires and battlements and plain mural precipices, all a-tremble with the thunder tones of the falling water. The level bottom seemed to be dressed like a garden, sunny meadows here and there and groves of pine and oak, the river of Mercy sweeping in majesty through the midst of them and flashing back the sunbeams. --John Muir

Yosemite Valley, home to many of the famous cliffs and waterfalls that make Yosemite National Park famous is accessible by car and bus all year.

To Get There

  • Car: You can drive into and around Yosemite Valley all year. Highways 41, 140, and 120 (from the west) provide access all year, although tire chains may be required from October or November through March or April.

  • Bus: Amtrak and YARTS provide public transportation to Yosemite Valley.

Traffic in Yosemite Valley

While we welcome you to Yosemite, you should expect traffic congestion, especially in Yosemite Valley and at park entrances. If you are planning to visit Yosemite Valley by car for the day, arrive before 9 am, after which parking is usually full.

Parking is available at Yosemite Village, Curry Village, and near Yosemite Falls. If you find a parking space, plan to leave your car there; you will not be able to find another parking spot.

Once all parking in Yosemite Valley is full, you may be redirected to other areas (which will also have limited parking).

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Each year, Yosemite National Park welcomes over four million visitors. If you are planning to visit Yosemite, plan ahead and arrive early. In summer, expect extended traffic delays and extremely limited parking. Expect delays of an hour or more at entrance stations and two to three hours in Yosemite Valley.


Visitor Centers & Museums

  • Yosemite Valley Welcome Center (located next to Village Store, open all year): Ranger-staffed information desk and bookstore, informational and directional exhibits.

  • Yosemite Exploration Center, formerly Valley Visitor Center (opening Fall 2023): Spirit of Yosemite film, and exhibit areas detailing the park's geology, plant and animal life, history, rock climbing, and more.

  • Yosemite Museum (open all year): The Indian Cultural Exhibit and Village interprets the cultural history of Yosemite's traditionally associated tribes from 1850 to the present. Demonstrations of traditional skills are presented. The Gallery offers art exhibits periodically throught the year.

  • Valley Wilderness Center (May to October): Offers wilderness permits, bear canisters, maps, and guidebooks. Information on pre-trip planning, minimum-impact camping, and the Yosemite Wilderness.

  • Happy Isles Art and Nature Center (May to September): Designed for nature-exploring families, this center offers natural history exhibits, interactive displays, and art workshops. Nearby are short trails through the area’s forest, river, and fen environments. Evidence of the huge 1996 rockfall from the Glacier Point cliff is visible above.

  • Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center, formerly LeConte Memorial Lodge (late May to early September): Yosemite's first public visitor center, operated by the Sierra Club, features a children's corner, library, and a variety of environmental education and evening programs.



Points of Interest

Venal Fall during spring runoff

Waterfalls: Yosemite Valley is home to most of the park's famous waterfalls. The best time to see them is during spring runoff; they have little or no water in late summer and fall.

El Capitan to the left, Bridaveil Fall to the right, and the rest of Yosemite Valley behind
Tunnel View provides one of the most famous views of Yosemite Valley. From here you can see El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall rising from Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in the background. This viewpoint is at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel along the Wawona Road (Highway 41).
El Capitan rises over 3,000 feet above El Capitan Meadow
In Yosemite Valley, El Capitan Meadow provides a view straight up El Capitan and a great view of Cathedral Rocks, as well. Located along one-way Northside Drive, it is best to stop here on your way out of Yosemite Valley.
Beyond the Merced River are El Capitan (left) and Bridalveil Fall (right)
You can look up Yosemite Valley from alongside the Merced River at Valley View. Located along one-way Northside Drive, it is best to stop here on your way out of Yosemite Valley. This popular vista is located just after a view of Bridalveil Fall but immediately before Pohono Bridge, about the time you begin to see directional signs for highways leaving the park.
Waterfall seen from a meadow boardwalk.

In Yosemite Valley, the area around Sentinel Meadow, the Yosemite Chapel, and Yosemite Valley Lodge are favorite places to stop to look at Yosemite Falls.

Half Dome reflected in Merced River
In Yosemite Valley, Sentinel Bridge is famous for its views of both Half Dome reflected in the Merced River. You can also see Yosemite Falls nearby.
Accessibility: Details about accessible facilities and trails is available in the park's accessibility guide [100 kb PDF].
Map showing two shuttle routes, as described above.
Yosemite Valley Shuttle System

Last updated: January 17, 2024

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