Parking and traffic jams in Yosemite valley tips and tricks

A reservation is required to drive into or through Yosemite on some dates and times 2024
A reservation will be required to drive into or through Yosemite National Park on some days from April 13 through October 27, 2024.
Details about how to get a Yosemite entrance reservation are at:

stones in a row on a wall

The National Park Service warns:

“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 . . . If you are planning to visit Yosemite valley by car for the day, arrive before 9 am, after which parking is usually full.”

(9 a.m. can sometimes not be early enough. On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, 2019, all parking in Yosemite valley was full by 9:30 a.m. and the backup / wait at the Arch Rock entrance station was a half hour.)

Parking is available at each overnight accommodation and in parking lots at Yosemite Village, Curry Village (briefly named Half Dome Village) and near Yosemite Falls / next to Yosemite Lodge. Maps, descriptions are below.

“If you find a parking space, plan to leave your car there; you will not be able to find another parking spot. Use the free shuttle to get around Yosemite Valley.”

What is the best place to park in Yosemite? If you have lodging or campground reservations, park your car at your lodge or campsite and use the shuttles or ride bikes to get around, or take a tour

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

The Yosemite Conservancy sent an email to donors:
“If you do choose to brave the crowds,
be sure to sign up for the park’s new traffic alerts by texting YNPTraffic to 333111.
The system provides real-time updates on parking and traffic diversions in Yosemite Valley.”

Examples of updates:

On the Friday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend:
“YOSEMITE: Help us maintain emergency access by parking in designated spots. Vehicles in the roadway will be towed and/or cited”

Regularly during the summer and holiday weekends:

“YOSEMITE: Curry parking full. Parking may be available at Yosemite Falls parking area. Park only in designated spaces.”

“YOSEMITE: East Yosemite Valley is closed. Vehicles are being turned around near El Capitan. Watch for pedestrians.”

When Yosemite valley parking lots fill, here is a park service map of how incoming traffic was redirected:


Below are more tips to help you

NOT get a Yosemite National Park traffic or parking ticket,

not contribute to preventable traffic backups

and help make your visit more fun.

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Details about 24 hour towing within the park for some vehicles, propane service, emergency repairs, how to use your Auto Association card to get their help, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and more are at Yosemite garage, car repairs and towing.

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It is against the law to sleep overnight in your vehicle in a Yosemite parking lot, by the side of the road, etc.

“Driving or parking on vegetation is prohibited.”


Sometimes one or more lanes of roads are closed suddenly due to a rock fall / mud slide / hazard tree that needs to be cleared.
There are always on-going road improvement projects in Yosemite Valley and “visitors may encounter delays, congestion, and detours.” A contractor working on a road, bridge or culvert will intermittently close one lane of traffic to complete safety repairs. Roads that were two lanes in the same one-way direction can need to be designated as two-way and vice versa.
“Printed and online maps may not reflect current road conditions.” Watch for signage.

Or there could be training planned that can slow traffic and take up parking spaces:
“Helicopter-H-40 and Yosemite Helicopter Rescue Team Training at El Capitan Meadow
We will be training with California Highway Patrol doing high angle helicopter hoist rescue training out of El Cap Meadow 21st and 22nd. From approximately 0630-1300. Central Pillar of Frenzy on Middle Cathedral as well as Slab Happy Pinnacle on the far East side if El Capitan will be closed for the days we are conducting the training. Expect short traffic delays and more limited parking at El Cap Cross. El Cap Meadow around the landing zone will also be closed during operations for the safety of staff and visitors.”

Parking lots require maintenance and you might not find out before you get to the park, for example: “Tunnel View Parking lots will be closed on (date/time) to allow for maintenance and restriping. Crews will reopen the lots as soon as possible, likely midafternoon.”


You must take the time after you park to properly store your food

or risk a BIG fine (up to $5,000)

with a Yosemite food storage violation ticket, as seen here on window of pickup truck
after the cooler was confiscated from the open back of the pickup by a Law Enforcement Ranger:
truck with orange paper attached to window


we read:
“How to Store Your Food
Cars, Trucks, and RVs

You may store food inside your car or truck (out of sight, with windows completely closed) only during daylight hours. You may not leave food in a pickup truck bed or strapped to the outside of a vehicle at any time. Do not store food in your car or truck after dark: use a food locker. Remember to clear your car of food wrappers, crumbs in baby seats, and baby wipes–and even canned food and drinks. Think about packing all your food and related items together for easy removal from your car upon arriving in Yosemite.”


and see: Yosemite National Park regulations, policies and rules links here.


There are many more crosswalks, often not at intersections, than you might be used to at home.
We stood at the edge of this wide crosswalk, with the yellow sign pointing it out to drivers, while six vehicles drove through the crosswalk before one stopped to let us cross:

crosswalk painted on roadway


sign designating one lane for all traffic and one lane for bus only
Drivers should note that some times of some years there are sections of road in Yosemite Valley with two lanes (usually) in the same direction, with the right lane ONLY for the free shuttle buses, ambulances, ski bus, commercial vehicles with ten or more passengers. Do not use or block the “Bus and Authorized Vehicles” lane while driving in Yosemite Valley. “The bus lane ensures emergency vehicles can respond to incidents when traffic is backed up and provides preference for mass transit.”

road sign right lane bus only

If you get tired of waiting for traffic to move, and think you don’t see an officer vehicle, so you move into the bus only lane, you might find two law enforcement rangers on bikes stopping you and writing you up (in the process making the shuttle bus move over to the vehicles lane):

vehicle stopped by law enforcement in Yosemite


Rarely, (most often in storms with heavy snow or rain)

snow covered entrance station, road not plowed

all the roads out of the park can be closed for part of a day or even for multiple days, so you should not have a tight schedule to get home.

It would be wise to have a map of, and take a look in advance at, alternate routes that might be your new way home if only one of the roads out of the valley opens up.

sign travel safety advisory


line of bright yellow bubbles


Driving safety notes


Please be assured that some drivers will not notice road direction changes / closures, even with multiple signs. (There was a large sign with flashing lights at the beginning of this section of road designating this change and then four of these yellow double arrow signs alongside the road on both sides. We watched multiple vehicles drive in the wrong lane for part or all of this section of road.)

two way road sign with large arrows and car in wrong lane



Be prepared for people standing in the roadway to look at the view, get a picture,
often not looking out for oncoming traffic,
or even with their backs turned to oncoming traffic:

people in road


Be prepared for people standing alongside the roadway who

suddenly step out into the lane of traffic,

or don’t quite have the leg of a tripod for that huge camera off the roadway:

people with cameras in a line alongside a highway

or people standing along a roadway with their backs to the traffic who might be so absorbed by their photography that they suddenly step back into the roadway

row of people at edge of road


Be prepared for cars in front of you trying to move suddenly into your lane or stopping suddenly.

“Was that a coyote over there??”

Keeping an extra-long following distance can be wise to avoid rear-ending photographers
who stop their vehicle suddenly in the traffic lane
instead of carefully pulling over to the side of the road.

Be prepared for drivers who hold their cell phone out of the window while driving to get a photo

and swerve out of their lane, in front of you.


People decide to stop in the roadway, fully blocking one of only two lanes on the one-way loop road in Yosemite Valley, and put their emergency flashers on while the family gets out to take photos and admire the view and causing other drivers to need to change lanes to get through.
If you put your emergency flashers on, that makes it okay ??!?

Sometimes people who can’t find a space in a tiny parking lot, such as the one at Swinging Bridge, where the photo below was taken from, decide to park (it’s just for a few minutes, so it’s okay, right ?)
with two tires and half of their vehicle actually IN a traffic lane of the main road

Drivers who had to try to move to the adjacent lane (some of them suddenly swerving) were honking at these two, but to no avail, as they were not in the vehicles.

car with two tires in a roadway and two tires just off the side of the road

Invent a parking space outside of the official parking lot, and you can have a Law Enforcement Ranger visiting your vehicle:

parking lot with a car out of bounds

When people decide to park along the edge of a parking lot road, where there are no stripes for parking spaces and are big rocks to deter parking, they block the roadway use for vehicles trying to drive around the back of the parking lot, especially wide pickup trucks and motor-homes.

Once one person does it, others line up along the road edge or even park on a bike path.

Please have more courtesy than they did.

vehicles parked in bike path

car parked on hillside out of a parking space

This damages plants and wildflowers, as does parking on the medians within parking lots:
cars parked on medians


A driver going even a bit fast coming around this curve
might not see the cyclists until it is too late to stop in time or swerve to miss hitting them
(and drivers coming in the opposite direction
should anticipate an oncoming driver swerving into their lane):

three bicycles at edge of highway just beyond a blind curve


Remember that the
drivers of large RV campers, especially the rental camper vans,
are sometimes not used to driving them.

They are often not used to the large size of the vehicle, especially the width of those huge rear-view mirrors
AND they often are not used to how long it can take to stop a big, heavy vehicle, so watch out for them as well:

motorhome across highway center line


Please note that some people are not used to driving in round-abouts (rotary / traffic circle).
When they enter one, they may fail to yield to traffic already in the round-about.
Cyclists and pedestrians should be even more careful than usual as the drivers may be distracted.

round about from above


Sometimes roads are blocked by people who ignore large signs warning them to not go any further with their not-so-small-vehicle, see the TURN AROUND NOW below in the RV section below.

thin line of various colors of rocks


Southside Drive runs almost the length of Yosemite valley, in a one way direction west-to-east, as outlined in red in the map section below:
simple map

There is an intersection on Southside drive you need to be especially watchful and careful at.

Shortly past the Chapel on the right, you arrive at an intersection before Sentinel bridge to the left across the river.

The blue dot on the map below is this next intersection:

simple map

Plan to be in the correct lane for your destination.

And watch out for people who are not sure of which lane to be in who decide to suddenly change lanes in the middle of the intersection,
or even stop in the traffic lane to consult a map.
OR rarely, but it happens, who drive part way along the right hand lane, past the left hand turn they needed to get to the Lodge, and then try to back up in that lane, even for many car lengths.

simple map

People going to the Yosemite Lodge, Yosemite Falls free day-use parking lot, trailhead for the Yosemite Falls hike and Camp 4 should be in the left hand lane and turn left and go over the bridge. Yes, you will be driving on the left hand side of the bridge, but there is an inches tall, wide barrier to separate traffic.

Here is the view as a vehicle turns on to Sentinel bridge from Southside Drive in the proper lane:
car turning on to bridge

Here a view from the far side of Sentinel Bridge with a vehicle coming from Southside Drive across Sentinel bridge (right hand lane)
and a truck coming from Northside Drive on Sentinel Drive towards the bridge (left hand lane)
in what feels like the wrong lane to be in, even when you have done it quite a few times
(note the width and height of the barrier between the lanes):

truck and car in reverse traffic flow


If someone drives past and around the middle-of-the-road barrier (shown in the map below as the word barrier in the green almost-a-triangle)
simple map

and starts to drive the wrong way on Sentinel Bridge, they will find multiple signs saying wrong way:
signs that say wrong way


We watched one day as a driver turned left from Southside Drive onto the wrong lane on the bridge. Pedestrians on the bridge sidewalk chased after her, waving their arms and stopped her past the second Wrong Way sign.

She then backed up off the bridge

car backing up along road

and instead of turning and continuing on Southside Drive in the proper direction, turned around, went around the large barrier and seemed to be heading for the proper lane to cross the bridge.

vehicle turning on to road

But instead she put on her emergency flashers and drove back the way she originally came on Southside Drive, with traffic coming at her,
as she was driving the wrong way on the 2-lanes-in-one-direction road.

(After she drove down into Yosemite valley, from whichever entrance, she had driven 5 to 6 miles on Southside Drive with both lanes in the one-way direction, and now she put on her flashers and drove the wrong way . . .)

car with flashers on on driving in wrong direction on one way road

As she passed us, we were on a path near her side of the road, facing her and waving our arms widely and frantically (and we saw a cell phone up to her head).

Watch out when approaching this intersection.
and note that this is not the only section of the one way roads that circle Yosemite valley
that you can find wrong-way drivers on.


full moon in clouds


The park service notes that Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations
are located in Yosemite Valley at:

“The Ahwahnee (six level 2, 6 kW/h)
You do not need to be a guest at the hotel to charge your vehicle, however, you must move your vehicle from the space once it is finished charging

Village Store (Yosemite Village) (one level 2)

Yosemite Valley Lodge (eight level 2)
Located by Alder building and between Juniper and Laurel buildings.”

two signs that say electric vehicle parking only while charging

Sometimes the Yosemite valley electric vehicle charging stations need repairs
and will not be operable, perhaps even for days.


row of rocks carved into brick shapes

If you are driving an RV (Recreation Vehicle)
or towing a trailer

and do not have a campsite to park it at, please note Yosemite Village Day Use parking (see descriptions of day use parking lots below) does not allow trailers or RVS,
sign that says Visitor Center parking area, no trailers or RVs

RVs and trailers are not allowed to park at most of, sometimes all of, the main Village grocery parking lot.

and some of the hotels also have signage:

sign with arrows that says hotel and deliveries

despite this warning above and the “maximum clearance 11 foot 6 inches” sign at the Ahwahnee porte-cochere (roofed driveway entrance), more than one person got their large RV stuck under the roof. (Many rental RVs require a 12 foot clearance due to roof top air conditioners.)

tthree signs along a roof line, one saying maximum clearance 11 foot six inches

RVs and trailers should NOT pull across multiple regular parking spaces, but should look for parking lots where there are larger spaces for them, or even better, leave their rigs at their campsite.

motor home in two parking spaces

If you are driving an RV (Recreation Vehicle) or towing a trailer and do not have a campsite to park it at, you should head for the Yosemite Falls day-use lot or the small RV only parking area at Curry Village

OR, since parking (except at your assigned campsite) is severely limited for RVs, the park suggests that you consider parking outside the park and getting a bus ride in:
This advice notes that this can be much easier and less time consuming than searching for parking or trying to maneuver in tight traffic.

Large RVs and trailers are not allowed on some roads in many National Parks:

road with sign that says prohibited ahead vehicles pulling trailers, vehicles 30 ft or longer. TURN AROUND NOW


Some people who rent RVs do not have any idea how long it is.

The reason you should not ignore a sign saying you can’t turn your large RV in a specific direction on a given road, is that, (as per the sign below), you will pull out into oncoming traffic because the roadway is too narrow and has a curve right in front of you.

sign that says no right turn for vehicles over 28 feet in lenght

Class A motorhomes are generally 37 to 40 feet long.
The park notes that for camping “Maximum RV/trailer lengths: In Yosemite Valley, the maximum RV length is 40 feet and maximum trailer length is 35 feet, however, only a total of 12 campsites of this size are available (six sites each in Lower Pines and North Pines, which are open spring through fall). Many more sites exist in Yosemite Valley and elsewhere in Yosemite that can take RVs up to 35 feet or trailers up to 24 feet.” . . .
“RV length and trailer length are not the same! Please note that many campsites have different maximum lengths for RVs and trailers. This is because many of the campsites are back-in sites with limited turning radius. We do not enforce the length limits as long as the RV or trailer can fit on the parking pad in the site.

However, if you reserve a site for equipment other than what you bring,
and the site can’t accommodate your RV or trailer,

we will not be able to find a different campsite for you.”

Upper Pines, the winter Yosemite valley campground that has parking spaces at each campsite,
has a 35 ft / 24 ft length limit.

The most current restrictions that affect some RVs and all trailers and tips for towing a trailer over Tioga Pass are at:

that includes this:

“Know your driving skills and what you are capable of doing.”

row of rocks carved into brick shapes

One of the biggest regrettably preventable causes of warm months and holiday weekends traffic in the afternoon is because many people do not consult maps before they go to the park. A significant number take the wrong route to their overnight accommodations, or when trying to find parking or trying to leave the park.

Please note that there are travel driving directions apps that have not been updated to the newest one-way roads in Yosemite Valley. Some still say that parts of Northside drive that are currently one way are still two way, for example, that if you use Sentinel Drive to go from Southside Drive to Northside Drive that Northside Drive will be two way in both directions (it is now one-way in that section).

The park service page with very basic directions to Yosemite National Park from the west, north and south
(some routes only available June through October, conditions permitting), is at:

If you are sure of how to get to where you want to go in Yosemite valley, but have not been to the valley recently, OR If you have never been to Yosemite, I’d like to suggest that your drive could be less frustrating if you take a look at detailed driving directions in Yosemite Valley driving directions to the Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite National Park.
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If you want to drive from Yosemite Lodge to the Ahwahnee Hotel for some fine dining,
be forewarned
that CSAA maps says the drive (with the new one way roads set-up in the valley) is 8.4 miles
and takes at least 22 minutes (in times of the day with less traffic).
AND the Ahwahnee Hotel might not have any parking space for you.

This has been in part due to construction, but also to closure of part of the Ahwahnee hotel parking lot due to risk from rock fall. The maps below are from:

simple map

simple map

a strip of Yosemite granite



This next photo is courtesy of Tom Ingram Photography, all rights reserved Tom Ingram photography

waterfall lit by sunset light

During the February Horsetail Fall natural firefall, lanes of some roads are closed either to vehicles and/or pedestrians. Road-side parking (parts of both Northside and Southside Drives as well as El Cap crossover) and turnouts, many parking lots and picnic areas are closed to parking, and some years you need a permit to go to where you can see this natural light show.

(Horsetail Fall flows over the eastern edge of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.)

This Firefall comes and goes in roughly only ten minutes.

Watch for signage. Wear warm clothes, waterproof boots, possibly waterproof outerwear and carry a flashlight or head lamp, since your cell phone will not function as a flashlight long enough or brightly enough.

Permit (or no permit, depending on the year)
reservation to enter the park (or no reservation needed, depending on the year)
and parking restrictions/ road closures info for viewing Horsetail Fall, at sunset
(and returning to your overnight accommodation after dark)
are at:
including warnings about safety and a larger copy of a map such as this:

simple map

Watch a Yosemite Conservancy video of Horsetail Fall.

Yosemite Valley Lodge could be the best place to stay overnight in Yosemite valley for the February Horsetail Fall natural firefall. BUT be sure to find a parking space and keep your vehicle parked there, as many other people will want to be parking as close to the firefall as possible.



This warning from Canada can apply to parking almost everywhere: “Visitors to large cities and popular tourist destinations should be aware that parked cars are regularly targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, and they are cautioned to avoid leaving any unattended possessions in a vehicle, even in the trunk. Due to the high incidence of such crimes, motorists in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and some other jurisdictions can be fined for leaving their car doors unlocked or for leaving valuables in view. Visitors should exercise precaution to safeguard their property.”

Another source mentioned smashed windows when car thieves target property left in plain sight
such as luggage, purses, electronics, laptops, tablets, and even expensive sunglasses.

sign that says please do not leave valuables in your car

A National Park in a major city had this prevention advice:

Vehicle Burglaries

When visiting the park, be aware of your surroundings and the people around you just as you would anywhere else.

Protect your vehicle and belongings when visiting the park:
1. SECURE YOUR VEHICLE — Keep doors locked and windows rolled up all the way. Take ID’s, passports, backpacks, cameras, and purses with you. Always lock your vehicle, even if you only step away from it for a moment.
2. KEEP ITEMS OUT OF SIGHT — Make sure luggage, shopping bags, electronics, cell phones, cameras, and other items are hidden. Never leave anything on the seats, dashboard, or floor.
3. TAKE ELECTRONICS WITH YOU — Thieves can find phones, laptops, computers, or other devices by scanning for Bluetooth or wi-fi networks. Turn electronics completely off if you leave items hidden in your vehicle.
4. SECURE YOUR CAR KEYS — Never leave your keys in your vehicle, even if you’re just stepping away for a minute. Be careful of where you keep your spare key. Don’t store your spare key on the inside or outside of your car. It can make it easy for thieves to steal your car. A thief wouldn’t even have to find the key in the vehicle to drive away if it is the car has a push-start feature.



Parking at Yosemite valley campsites, lodges / hotels :

All campsites except in Camp Four and Backpackers walk-in have parking for two vehicles (and at some sites a long trailer / RV) at each campsite. The campsite reservations system lists the maximum length of vehicles for each campsite.

In the winter the Pines campgrounds are not snow-plowed as often as the main roads and even when the parking spaces are plowed, the snow is not always moved enough for two SUVs to park. Shoveling snow with a wide bladed snow shovel makes the job go faster: shoveling snow at campsite parking space: three people shoveling snow to clear a campsite parking space

In the winter, after a storm,
a flooded and iced over parking space at Upper Pines campground site #4
which we advise no one should get, even if weather looks like it will be good.
icy pond in a campsite

See also winter camping advice.

Overnight parking for people not staying at a hotel/cabin area is not allowed at all the hotels:
sign that says tow-away permitted parking only, 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.


Curry Village cabins with a bath has free UN-assigned parking spaces near or next to most buildings. At the Yosemite Lodge there are also some free UN-assigned parking spaces near or next to most buildings. All these UN-assigned parking spaces might be occupied by someone else when you arrive, so arriving early in the day to get a parking space, then walk, bike or use the free shuttle bus to sightsee, so you can keep your parking space.

Expect slippery ice around each parking space edge after snowfall, as those parts of the parking lots are not plowed, here a photo taken at Yosemite Lodge:

parking lot spaces with ice at their edges


A few of the Curry Village canvas tent-cabins and most of the cabins with a private bath are very near potential parking spaces, but again, parking spaces might be occupied by someone else when you arrive.


At the Ahwahnee hotel (briefly named the Majestic Yosemite Hotel) there were some free UN-assigned parking spaces in a small parking area (dirt or mud/snow). On March 31, 2023, guests at the Ahwahnee hotel were told that the dirt (or mud/snow) long road / lot is no longer free public or guest parking and all the large paved parking lots (for example, surrounding the free shuttle bus stop) had become paid valet parking only. As of early 2023 and still in early 2024, the fee for parking at the Ahwahnee Hotel is: Rates: overnight – hotel guests only $30, day-use $15, day-use with validation $10. The website noted: “Validation is given when there is a purchase of product and/or food and beverage from Sweet Shop, Ahwahnee Gift Shop, Bar or Dining Room.” This all might or might not change when the historic reconstruction is finished.

Ahwahnee Hotel Valet Parking fees were listed at a sign at the hotel entrance under the porte-cochere

sign says valet rates overnight hotel guests only $30, day-use $15, day-use with validation$10


Rates: overnight – hotel guests only $30,

day-use $15,

day-use with validation $10

During high use days such as over 4th of July weekend, people found a post-it below the words DAY-USE, over the “$15” that said “N/A
and post-its below the DAY-USE WITH VALIDATION, to the right and left of the “$10”
saying “3 hr max” and/or “full.”

sign with valet rates


The Ahwahnee Hotel has bellmen / valet parking at a drop off entrance (covered, out-of-the-weather) to the main building, but the cottages (also known as cabins or bungalows) are a short or long walk out in the weather. There is signage as you approach the hotel about No RV Parking:sign with arrows that says hotel and deliveries


Visitors with overnight accommodation in lodges or campgrounds may leave their vehicles unattended for the period of their stay “as long as permits are displayed.”
(You get the dated parking permit when you check in at the hotel.)

Yosemite valley overnight accommodations (cabins, tent cabins, hotel rooms, campgrounds) has details about each hotel / cabin complex and links to maps.




sign says vehicles parked here after 10 pm will be towed away at owners expense
The NPS has regulations about overnight parking, including

There is no overnight parking allowed in the Village Store, General Office, Church Bowl or other parking lots as signed.”

sign says no parking 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. width=

fog over colors blue and green in a narrow photo strip

There are three large free day-use parking lots in Yosemite valley for people who are staying at hotels/campgrounds outside of Yosemite valley or just driving up for the day.

I suggest that in the summer (or even spring – fall, especially on weekends and holidays) you get to the valley early in the morning to hopefully find a parking space and also to miss out on waiting in the long lines at the entrance stations and backups of vehicles stop and go along the Yosemite valley roadways. Rarely you may be turned away from entering Yosemite Valley if all parking lots are full and you have no reservations. A Yosemite regulation says: “Visitors may enter Yosemite Valley until westbound traffic is backed up from Lower Yosemite Falls to Curry Village four way intersections or all day use parking spaces have been filled, and/or the 18,710 person capacity has been reached.”

When you find parking, take a picture on your smart-enough phone of your parking space / vehicle from a few steps away, so you will be more likely to be able to find it. Note which bus stop you were closest to. People who are not careful about looking around when they park do occasionally “lose” their vehicles.

thin line of various colors of rocks

Here is a map of the three main Yosemite Valley day use parking lots,
each with a black box with the letter P in white in it.

simple map


from left to right on the map, details about the Day Use parking lots:


– – – on the left on the map above
Yosemite Falls Day Use parking lot

also known as the

Yosemite Lodge Day use parking lot

is across the road from Camp 4 (Camp Four) and at the edge of Yosemite Valley Lodge.

simple map

map with roads and parking spaces

The long, straight road section, separate from the rest of the parking, at the bottom of the tan map,
labeled Yosemite Lodge Service Road is reserved for big tour buses only.

sign with no parking symbolsrow of large tour buses

This free day use parking lot is served by stop #7 on the free shuttle bus system.

a few rows of cars in a parking lot

It has the same rules as all other parking about not parking off the pavement:

sign that says park in stalls only

You will find a few bear-proof food lockers and a warning about bear damage being common at the Yosemite Falls day use parking lot:

a sign that says: warning bear damage is common in this parking area

In 2017 the park started experimenting with reservable parking spaces at Yosemite Valley Lodge Day-Use parking (Yosemite Falls day use parking) . “Reservations must be made 1 Day(s) ahead of arrival and can be made up to 5 Month(s) in advance. New dates are released in blocks, 1 Month(s) at a time.” Reservation fee through was $1.50, “A $10.00 service fee will apply if you change or cancel your reservation. Late cancellations are subject to additional fees.” But I have not found recent info about it.



– – – in the center on the map above
The Yosemite Village Day Use parking
(also know as the Visitor Center parking area) is a short walk to the main Visitor Center, biggest grocery, museum, Post Office, restaurants).

(If you have not been to the park before, or it has been a few years, please also take a look at the map

(larger than the one below)
roadways and parking lot

This free day use parking lot is served by stop #1 on the free shuttle bus system.

Yosemite Village Day Use parking does not allow trailers or RVS.sign that says Visitor Center parking area, no trailers or RVs

And even limos can not park in the lane for the shuttle bus, even for just a minute:

Ranger vehicle with lights flashing, limo in front of it

and here, a parking violation ticket attached to the driver’s side window of an SUV parked in the shuttle bus zone at Yosemite Falls

SUV with ticket on window



– – – on the right on the map day use parking lot at Curry Village .

parking lot and forest surrounding it

There is a larger copy of the above photo at this map. You can use that page to help identity the few spaces for RV only, and the spaces set aside for guests staying at Curry Village.

Google maps street view (photo you can rotate) of part of the Curry Village parking lot.

The Curry Village free day use parking lot is served by stops #14 and #19 on the free shuttle bus system.

You will find a few bear-proof food lockers and this sign at the Curry Village day-use parking lot:

A sign that says: Proper food storage required. Bears frequent this area. Vehicles in violation may be impounded and the owner may be cited. All food must be stored properly including ice chests, containers, toiletries, and trash. DURING THE DAY. Store food in a food locker if possible. Close vehicle windows if food is in your vehicle. DO NOT leave food visible in your vehicle. DO NOT store food in open bed of a pickup truck. AFTER DARK. All food must be stored in a food locker. DO NOT store food in your vehicle. NO CAMPING OR SLEEPING IN VEHICLES

On some maps the Curry day-use parking lot is named Apple Tree Orchard Visitor Parking.
a narrow band of sunset reflected on the water



“Gridlock in Yosemite valley begins when inbound vehicle counts reach approximately 6,600 vehicles. Weekends throughout the summer season are now characterized by these conditions.”

The park service warns: “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.”

cars in both lanes in a row
Can traffic and parking really be that bad? Watch this video.

a narrow band of sunset clouds



On your way out of the park you often find backed up traffic along the entire stretch of road (Northside Drive) in the afternoon (especially in the summer), when many people are attempting to leave the park at the same time. Leaving bit later than the crowds could be more pleasant.

People cause even more traffic backups along the stretch of road past shuttle stop six, approaching the Lodge and the lower Yosemite Fall walk. . .

when they ignore the signs warning people to not stop their vehicle:

sign with warning

a strip of Yosemite granite

Besides bus-only sections of some lots,
there are some lots with NO DAY USE PARKING ALLOWED.

The officer will not accept many excuses you might make up for why you parked in handicapped only spaces, emergency vehicles only spaces, employee housing, or government vehicles business-use-only lots, as they are signed and their use is often quite obvious.

sign says parking for emergency vehicles only

two signs that say residential area do not enter and parking for Tecoya residents only

Parking at the Medical Clinic is only for customers, no day use parking is allowed.
sign that says patient parking only

People parking at Camp Four campground across the road from the Lodge MUST have a Camp Four camp space permit, 24 hours a day.
sign that says camp 4 parking permit required 24 hours

The valet parking only spaces in the parking lot at the Ahwahnee Hotel are, you guessed it, for valet parking only.

signs that say valet parking and do not enter

There are various roads among lodging buildings that are really only for custodians, etc. and their trucks can be parked there, but you can’t.

No RV or trailer parking allowed in the Village Day Use parking lot, the spaces are too small and the roadways too narrow.

Some roads have signs indicating they are for authorized vehicles only.

For example, some of the roadways the free shuttle buses use, especially in the Yosemite Village area, are only for the shuttle buses or occasional park service vehicles.

A road that leads uphill just past the main (village) grocery store has authorized only signage,
sign with an arrow that says employees and residents only as it does not lead to any public parking, but goes instead to employee housing, warehouses, maintenance / storage, barns, the jail, the courthouse, Search and Rescue, law enforcement offices, the fire station and the elementary school.
This map shows this area north of Yosemite village. The dot to the left of the word Courthouse shows its location.

simple map
None of these areas are intended as day-use or other public parking and people are towed. Yes, even though there are not “No Parking” signs at each residence driveway.


The parking lot for the main store in Yosemite Village has signs warning of time limits on parking and size of vehicles:

sign says Yosemite Village store 30 minute parking, no RVs or trailers

and a warning you could be towed if you try to park overnight:

sign says no parking 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. tow-away zone

and please respect the other places that limit the time to park, giving others their time as well:

sign that says 15 minute parking loading unloading only

sign that says registration parking 20 minutes only

carved wood ceiling beam

section of huge log with no parking anytime sign on it
If you arrive too late to easily find parking, will you be thinking about
Inventing a parking space?
sign that says do not drive or park off pavement

Almost all sides of all roads in Yosemite valley are closed to parking.

In December, when there were plenty of parking spaces in all the free day use parking lots, there were quite a few adults in this SUV that parked on a bike path, fully blocking the bike path:

SUV parked on Yosemite bike path

Does this driver park on sidewalks at home? Did the many adult passengers really not notice the height of the curb, to be able to tell the driver that they were perhaps not parked where they should be?

SUV moving off bike path, one tire down on roadway

And this driver parked on a bike path, behind traffic cones and A-frame signs with yellow caution tape that s/he must have needed to move to be able to park,

suv parked behind no parking barrier

and got a citation. Perhaps s/he did not know that
Park Rangers can give valid traffic and parking tickets
with fines you need to pay.

parking citation under windsheild wiper

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helicopter being loaded

When a medical helicopter needs to land in the Ahwahnee meadow across the road from Church Bowl, to pick up someone who needs to go to a bigger hospital, (or when a helicopter needs to land for Search and Rescue training) people are asked to stay on the restroom/picnic area side of the road, and traffic going through is briefly stopped. A National Geographic video of President Barack Obama’s 2016 visit includes a segment of the president’s helicopter landing in the Ahwahnee meadow.

Because you won’t know a helicopter is coming and won’t be able to move your vehicle fast enough, the entire meadow side of the road at Church Bowl is closed to any parking at all times,
(even to get out and quickly take a picture or use the restroom).

In this photo you can see a few parking spaces in a row alongside the restroom/picnic area side of the road and the commonly ignored stripes for no parking with big letters on the pavement that say NO PARKING, on the other side of the road:

When the stripes did not function to keep people from parking there, the park started setting out a row of red pylons and tall no parking signs, which people still ignore, as in the car at the top of this photo that drove between the pylons to park:

no parking sign and car parked just beyond it

This family did not park in the striped no parking zone, they parked just beyond it at the end of the bike path, blocking the bike path driving over just-a-few-plants-who-would-miss-them? and

setting an example for their kids:

And on the far end of the Church Bowl restroom/picnic area side of the road, a car parked off the side of the road, not in a parking space, (off road behind a large rock meant to deter anyone from parking there) with a parking ticket with a minimum $130 fine (ticket under the windshield wiper) in this photo:

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Putting on your emergency flashers when you pull into a free shuttle bus stop driveway does not turn it into a parking space for you, and when the shuttle bus arrives you will be honked at to move, as the red car below was:

red car driving away as shuttle bus pulls in behind it

Did they not see the two signs at the side of the shuttle stop driveway/shuttle parking space?

sign that says no parking this side of streetsign that says no parking loading zone

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A red painted curb is a no parking zone anywhere in the U.S.,,
(including Georgia, where this mini-van was from),
in part because some red curbs mark the space an ambulance or fire truck would need to get by.
Yes, no parking is allowed even if one family member stays in the vehicle while the other rushes in to shop:

long red painted curb and vehicle with open door

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Each space in a parking lot is usually paved, has painted stripes and has a concrete beam your tires would hit to keep you from going too far (see the car on the right). In this photo, the driver of the SUV on the left decided to move into the dirt/plants to the side of a parking space at the end of a row, with tires slightly into the legal space already occupied by someone else. Ooops, tires partially in that space does not make it legal.

car in a dirt space

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Did this driver from Arizona move the no parking a-frame sign over, or was it already moved over and he choose to ignore the sign, red cone, “No Parking” in large letters on the pavement and two giant trash dumpsters?

two trash bins, no parking sign, car and red cone

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And, yes the following signs are sometimes also ignored, “it’s just for a minute so it’s okay, right?”

sign that says emergency vehicle security parking

sign that says no parking, fire lane

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multiple Motorcycle Parking Only signs, and a narrow section for parking,

but it’s just for a few minutes while your friend goes into the store to shop, so it’s okay, correct?

car in parking lot next to motorcycles

fog over colors blue and green in a narrow photo strip

Some park visitors have found themselves
spending a lot of time tracking down where their vehicle was towed to,
or where their ice chest / cooler was taken
when a Ranger confiscated it from their open pickup truck bed.

row of rocks carved into brick shapes

There was a sign out front of the Yosemite Courthouse to tell people where
their improperly parked, then towed, vehicle could be reclaimed,
and someone made an addition to it

sign unauthorized vehicles


thin line of various colors of rocks

sign says speeding kills bears

See also an index to over a dozen park webpages with park laws, rules, regulations and policies.

It includes the answers to these questions:

How much will I have to pay for my driving / parking ticket in Yosemite?

Will I have to go to court?

park ranger talks to driver
Top reasons not to speed in a National Park has defensive driving advice.

OSHA offers this advice:
simple poster

cloudy sky

Where were they when they got that great picture in Yosemite?

Where can I take a photo that looks like the one on a Yosemite postcard I just bought?
Places to take photos of Half Dome, Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Staircase Falls.

And note that some sightseeing / photography destinations in Yosemite have small parking lots, for example:
Glacier Point
parking lot from above
Tunnel View
parking lots from above

To hike to Glacier Point via the Four Mile trail
There is very little parking at the trailhead,

parking lot from above

but you can use the Yosemite Falls day use parking lot at shuttle stop #7 and take a short walk across the river at Swinging Bridge and slightly south/west on the main road to the trailhead. (This could be faster than taking the free shuttle bus to stop 11.)

map showing part of east Yosemite Valley

carved wood ceiling beam

You have a number of lodging choices of where to stay overnight in Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, including campsites or

wood-walled cabin without a bath; heated or unheated wood floored, canvas sided and roofed tent cabin; wood walled cabin with a bath

luxury or generic hotel rooms, suites with a bath


You can find basic to extravagant, (a few with a dress code),
casual, fast (grab and go)
or with table-side service,
indoor and outdoor food service

at multiple locations in Yosemite Valley, as well as four grocery stores

all of which are served by the Yosemite valley free shuttle bus.


Pools open to the public for a fee, as well as suggestions for safe river swimming, including thunderstorms, bacteria in the water, safety issues, favorite beaches, are at Swimming in Yosemite National Park


You might also want to read

How to not collide with a deer,

Safe driving in rain and fog,

wildlife jams

Prepare for winter driving has a link to bad weather driving tips, tips for using tire chains, tricks for dealing with frozen car locks, how to prepare your vehicle for winter driving, how to de-fog the windows, a winter survival kit for your car and what to do if you get stranded

Road trip advice and etiquette has ideas for limiting boredom, getting along on a road trip and some packing and safety tips.

GPS is not infallible

cell phone shape says do not reply on your cell phoneYour cell phone will not function in a lot of Yosemite.
Cell phones in the wilderness has advice on how/when to use a cell phone to contact 911 in the wilderness and a warning about interference between cell phones, iPods and avalanche beacons.

Thunderstorm and lightning safety includes a warning about not using your cell phone or IPod during a storm.

The use of cell phones for photography (with or without a selfie stick) has made preventable injury or even death by selfie common They were just taking a selfie . . .


Rocky Mountain National Park asked this about damage from parking where people found it convenient when there were no legal parking places / road turnoffs near enough:

“Do your friends create parking spaces where there are none?

If their next door neighbor was having a garage sale would they accept customers partaking in this garage sale to park in their front yard?

On their prized rose bushes?

Encourage them to park in designated parking spaces in Rocky Mountain National Park. These include durable surfaces like asphalt and gravel, not on grass, meadows, bushes, or alpine tundra.”


Yosemite driving regulations from 1913 included:

“Time and speed restrictions: Automobiles are restricted to an approximate speed of 10 miles per hour on rolling mountain country . . .”

“Cars may leave Yosemite Station going out of the valley between the hours of 6 and 7.30 a. m. every morning, but at no other time during the day.”

“Every person presenting a car for admission to the park will be required to satisfy the guard issuing the ticket of passage that the brakes of his automobile are in first-class working order and for this purpose all automobilists will be required to effectually block and skid the rear wheels of their automobiles with either the foot or hand brakes or such other brakes as may be a part of the equipment of the machine.”

“All motor cycles are forbidden to enter the park.”