Yosemite National Park regulations, policies and rules links

As a part of preparation for a trip to Yosemite National Park people can consult park webpages for the current rules and regulations.

Can I take my dog on a hiking trail, into a hotel room?

Do wild animals really get into people’s food?

Can I ride my bike, fly a kite, park everywhere?

Why can’t I use a drone?

Why aren’t slacklines okay on Oak trees?

Why can’t climbers sleep at the base of El Capitan?

What is the season for stream and river fishing?

This webpage is an index to park websites on most subjects that have regulations affecting people’s use of the park.
Many of the park websites have the reasons behind the rules.

Most major Yosemite National Park rules, fines / citations, regulations and policies are listed in the Superintendent’s Compendium https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/management/upload/compendium.pdf (The 2018 version was put into place May 31, 2018, the 2019 version on June 16, 2019. I noticed only a few changes from 2018 to 2019.)

ANY of it can change as needed with little notice.

This list of samples from the compendium is here to tempt people to read the Superintendent’s Compendium in more detail but it is not all-inclusive, and may leave out items or parts of items that could be important to some park visitors.

And see below for links to other Yosemite National park webpages with more detailed rules than the Superintendent’s Compendium about pets, bikes, permits, campground regulations, fishing, food storage . . .

You will also see signs with rules and safety warnings, such as these at trailheads (the start of a trail):

sign with an image of a dog with a red diagonal stripe through it, and an image of a bike with a diagonal red stripe through it

rockfall warning sign Yose falls trail:

or these reminders to stay on a trail to protect plants:

sign that says give plants a chance, please stay off

sign that says area closed, restoration in progress

or this warning, often ignored, at Bridalveil Fall, (The picture below is from: A Common Yosemite Search and Rescue where it says: “Danger signs are not there to ruin our fun. They are often posted in places with a large accumulation of past accidents.”)

people beyond a rock with a warning sign

child climbing on rock with warning sign about not climbing on the rocks:

Some times of the year there are warning signs about activities you might have expected to be able to do:

sign that says danger river closed to all vessels

And some times of the year, on your drive into Yosemite valley, a sign repeatedly flashing messages:

roadside electronic message board that says no raftingroadside electronic message board that says rover closed!

You can also read and/or download a copy of the current Yosemite Guide newspaper, before you go on your Yosemite vacation, to make better plans for fun and understand the most crucial rules and safety issues the park service wants people to be aware of. (You can expect to be offered a copy of the Yosemite Guide when you enter the park.)

row of rocks carved into brick shapes

When moving into your campsite and or picking up your backpacking permit, you will be offered a short list of most important information worth going over with everyone on your trip.

When you check in to a Yosemite lodge / hotel / tent cabin you might see a sign

sign that says bears are very active! Make sure all food and food related items are removed from you vehicle

and you might sign a paper including initialing a few sentences saying that you understand, for example:

you can be fined and your car can be towed for improper food storage from NPS video

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From the Superintendent’s Compendium:

Prohibited: “Willfully approaching, remaining, viewing, or engaging in any activity within 50 yards of bears, or within any distance that disturbs, displaces, or otherwise interferes with the free unimpeded movement of wildlife, or creates or contributes to a potentially hazardous condition or situation.” The park notes that 50 yards is “about the distance four shuttle buses parked end to end would take up.” What to do if you see a bear is at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/scarebears.htm” Report bear sightings and incidents to the Save-A-Bear hotline (209)372-0322.” (And please note that other national parks you may visit can have different distances to stay away from bears and various other wild animals.)

sign keep wildlife wild: a sign that says keep wildlife wild, our food is not healthy for wildlife, never approach or feed them

One of the reasons feeding animals is not wise:

sign that says plague warning

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bearlogo: from the Keep Bears Wild programThe Yosemite rangers would like you to call them if you see a bear in Yosemite, no matter where it is or what it is doing, at (209) 372-0322.)

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“The climbing or attempting to climb any giant sequoia tree (Sequioadendron giganteum) is prohibited.”

Possession of a glass container within 50 feet of any riverbank, lakeshore, on the water, or in a vessel is prohibited. This restriction is necessary for the protection of visitors who frequent these areas in bare feet.”

poster that says unmanned aircraft systems prohibited in Yosemite National ParkModel airplanes, quadcopters, drones are prohibited: “Launching, landing,or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park service within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park is prohibited except as approved in writing by the superintendent.” Reasons why you can’t play with / photograph with your drone are at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/news/use-of-unmanned-aircraft-systems-drones-prohibited-in-yosemite-national-park.htm

“From May 1 through September 30, all wood fires are restricted in Yosemite Valley campgrounds, Housekeeping camp, and picnic areas, to between the hours of 5:00pm to 10:00pm.
From October 1 to April 30, wood fires are allowed anytime.”

“Kite flying is limited to kites measuring less than 1,300 square inches and which are tethered by string or similar material less than 150 feet in length. Ahwahnee Meadow, El Capitan Meadow, Big Meadow, and Tuolumne Meadows are closed to kite flying regardless of size. This restriction is necessary to ensure the safety of low flying aircraft being used in SAR, medical, fire, or other emergency situations.” And please do remember that you should try to do kite flying where you won’t damage wildflowers or where your kite will not get stuck in a tree.

Powerless flight requires a permit from the Superintendent.”

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

All food and food containers must be within 6 feet of an awake person” when food is out on a picnic table or otherwise not properly stored. Read more at campground regulations And there is much more on food storage in the compendium, as well as individual park webpages on food storage in general and food storage while backpacking and climbing. “If your food is stored improperly, you will be cited for improper food storage (fine of up to $5,000).”

sign sliding devices prohibited: a sign that says all sliding devices prohibited at Badger Pass

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Smoking of cigarettes, cigars, use of e-cigarettes and similar devices are prohibited:

•In all public buildings, including concession buildings

•Within 25 feet of any building, except those used as a single family residence.

(“Concession buildings” includes all hotel rooms, cabins, tent cabins, stores, restaurants, etc.)

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36 CFR §2.20 –

SKATING, SKATEBOARDS and SIMILAR DEVICES

•The use of roller skates, skateboards, roller skis, coasting vehicles, or similar devices are allowed only in the following areas:

•Yosemite Village Mall

•Bicycle paths in Yosemite Valley . . .

• Campgrounds

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At most trailheads there are nearby restrooms. On some hikes you will find backcountry outhouses (many composting with an upstairs entrance), but if you must dig a hole for your waste:

36 CFR §2.14 –

SANITATION and REFUSE

(b) Conditions for the disposal, containerization, or carryout of human body waste have been established as follows:
•In non-developed areas, solid human waste and service animal waste must be buried at least 6 inches deep in the soil and at least 100 feet from trails, campsites and bodies of water.

•During winter use, snow should be removed and waste buried at least 6 inches deep in soil or waste should be carried out and disposed of in a vault toilet.

Toilet paper and feminine hygiene products must be packed out.

•Solid waste excreted while on any climb in Yosemite National Park must be placed in a small container carried off the climb and disposed of in one of the vault toilets provided by the NPS

Some other National Parks have other depths / distances, so again, anything at this webpage could change with little notice, and readers of this website should follow through to the official park webpages and read materials they are given when they get a wilderness permit.

Read more wilderness regulations, including permits info and no-camping zones, at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildregs.htm

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PS. 36 CFR §2.15 –

PETS

1) The following structures and/or areas are closed to the possession of pets:

All trails.

•Non-developed and designated Wilderness areas.

•Specific areas as posted by signs.

•O’Shaughnessy Dam

•Camp 4 and backpackers’ campgrounds

•When snow depth is sufficient for skiing, pets are not permitted on unplowed roads

The following structures and/or areas are open to the possession of pets:
. . . When leashed, on fully paved roads, paved sidewalks, and bicycle pathways. . .

“Individuals leaving pets unattended or in violation of California Penal Code 597.7(a) are subject to immediate impoundment of their property/pet.”

Not every rule is in the compendium. Read more about pets at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/pets.htm, which includes ” pets must be restrained on a leash not more than six feet long or otherwise physically restrained”

You can find wild animals anywhere in the park and do not want your dog to personally meet one of them, such as this bobcat on a path at a Yosemite hotel:

bobcat walking on a pathway

or this coyote walking just outside the fence at a Yosemite swimming pool:

coyote behind fence railings

or even more fun, picture your off leash dog wanting to greet a skunk, such as this one on the grounds of a Yosemite hotel (photo courtesy of Harold (Harry) Bradbury):

skunk photo courtesy of Harold ( Harry) Bradbury

Take the leash off your dog for just a moment and your dog might need a technical rescue, in this case the rescue lasted until after sunset as sleet and rain fell:

lights and ropes

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36 CFR §4.21 –

SPEED LIMITS (which are all subject to temporary or permanent change, please watch for signage).

“The following speed limits are established for the routes/roads indicated:

•The maximum speed on park roads is 35 mph unless posted otherwise.

•When and where chain controls are in effect, the maximum speed is 25 miles per hour.

•The speed limit approaching and leaving all entrance station areas is 20 miles per hour.

•When the Yosemite Valley special use lane is in effect, the maximum speed is 25 miles per hour on Southside Drive from El Capitan Cross over to Sentinel Cross over when posted.”

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Top reasons not to speed in a National Park

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Other park webpages with more detailed rules than the Superintendent’s Compendium include:

sign with an image of a bike with a diagonal red slash though it and the words No Bicycles On Trails

Bicycles: “Each season, plants are crushed from bicycle travel in meadows, campgrounds, and picnic areas. Please respect park resources and keep bicycles on paved roads and paved trails. They are not allowed to travel off-trail, on unpaved trails, or in wilderness areas. Mountain biking opportunities are available in designated areas outside of Yosemite. Bicyclists under 18 years of age must wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet.” https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/safety.htm

sign no bikes on lower Yose fall trail: Please walk your bike on the lower Yosemite Falls path/trail, even though it is paved.

sign that says bicyclists stop, rented bikes not permitted on steep hill ahead, park here and walk to mirror lake

Campground regulations, including Food Storage, Seasonal limits on Campfires, Firewood collection, Camping Outside of Campgrounds and Sleeping in Vehicles, Maximum number of people per Campsite, Maximum number of vehicles per Campsite, Seasonal limits on number of nights camping, Campgrounds that pets are or are not allowed in, Quiet Hours and Generator Hours, Wastewater disposal, hooking (or not) to Utilities, campground Checkin/Checkout Time and Slacklines, Hammocks, Clotheslines, etc.: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/campregs.htm

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In the campgrounds you must pitch your tent IN your campsite, not down by the river at a nice small beach:

tent by the river in Yosemite

If you decide to pitch your tent “out of bounds” you might be lucky and find the violation notice on your tent (or in this case, on a portable charcoal grill)

<camping violation notice saying out of bounds camping

OR you might not be that lucky and could find yourself trying to track down your confiscated tent and gear.

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Read about climbing regulations, the reasons behind them and practical advice on how to follow the rules, including fixed ropes, permits and sleeping on big walls, food storage, trash and human waste while climbing, bouldering, slacklining, and bolting ethics at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/climbing_regulations.htm

and see also permits and logistics of sleeping on Big Walls at: http://www.climbingyosemite.com/services/regulations/

There is fascinating reading on how Yosemite climbers can avoid injuries / stay alive, by Search and Rescue (SAR) Ranger John Dill, (including sections on environmental dangers, descents, big wall bivouacs, unplanned bivouacs, loose rock, climbing unroped, leading, falling, learning to lead, the belay chain, helmets, states of mind, rescues, and risks, responsibility and the limits of climbing), at: https://www.friendsofyosar.org/climbing

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“80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park and are devoted to spending that supports the visitor.” The https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/fees.htm park entrance fee which addresses “many important maintenance and infrastructure needs,” covers your entrance into the park for your choice of payment for a length of time and size / type of vehicle, free parking at the various day use parking lots, use of trails / visitor centers, Ranger programs, walks, talks (but not fee based programs by park concessionaires, see lists of dates/times of each in the park newspaper).

Your park entrance fee does not cover the cost of your campsite or overnight accommodation.

See also information about annual passes to all National Parks (or just to Yosemite), passes for seniors, free passes for military, free access (permanent disabilities) passes, some of which “may provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services.”

Fishing regulations are at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/fishing.htm

Read all about Half Dome permits at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm

Rules for use of Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMDs)
including maximum speed, where they can and can’t be ridden, minimum age of users, and more

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/upload/access.pdf

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

The most current restrictions that affect some RVs and all trailers and tips for towing a trailer over Tioga Pass are at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/restrictions.htm

Weddings https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/weddings.htm
And no, you can’t photograph the wedding using a drone “the use of drones is prohibited while visiting the park and should not be utilized at any time. ”

Wilderness permits at: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm

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It is ILLEGAL TO JUMP OR DIVE OFF BRIDGES in Yosemite National Park.

diving or jumping from bridge prohibited:

Yes, there is an actual Yosemite regulation: “Jumping or diving from any bridge is prohibited… This activity has resulted in severe injuries to persons who have jumped from bridges into shallow water. Also, people jumping from bridges cause increased water turbidity and shock waves, both of which have a detrimental effect on fish and other components of aquatic ecosystems.”)

Another reason to discourage your group from jumping is that they are role models for others. They might be good enough at jumping to not slip or accidentally lean backwards and hit their tailbone or the back of their head on the bridge as they jump, but a child who sees them and tries it might not be. And if one of the group is not sure about it and is being pushed (literally or not) to jump, they might start to jump and their brain will re-consider/panic and they might hesitate in mid-jump, not jump out and away from the bridge, again causing them to impact part of their body on the bridge.

Parents have been cited and paid fines for encouraging their under-age children to illegally jump off bridges.

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Code of Federal Regulation Title 49, section 393.90 includes the rule enforced on Yosemite Valley free shuttle buses that passengers must the stand behind the yellow line (see photos below).

Also of interest could be these bus rules, logistics and courtesies

– – – Most drivers prefer you wait until everyone has finished getting off before you get on, the same as any transit system in the rest of the world.

Everyone should enter the bus at the front door.
No one should get on at the back EXIT ONLY doors unless the driver says it is okay.

two doors that say exit only

Because the lines can get a bit long, and some people try to crowd on before others who have been waiting longer, you might find ropes and stanchions as an organizer for the line, with signs for which end to enter the lines and which end will get on the bus first.

stanchions and ropes

– – – Most drivers prefer you exit from the back, but will sometimes tell passengers they can exit any door. OR, if you ask politely, the bus driver might let you and your huge backpack / stroller exit from the front where you got on instead of going all the way to the rear exit, but be sure to ask before the last moment.

– – – Please take the baby out of the stroller and fold up the stroller.

– – -You can wear your ginormous backpack or put it in your lap, but it shouldn’t have a seat for itself if the bus is crowded.

– – – No inflated rafts, tubes, etc. are allowed, but are okay DE-inflated if they fit on your lap. (An inflated raft is too big to fit down the aisle and it’s wet, sandy and or dirty and gets others on the bus dirty. Either sew a large drawstring bag or buy a duffle bag or large backpack big enough to fit each fully deflated raft/your lifejackets in. It won’t be much bigger than a big backpack that others might be carrying on the bus. See Yosemite Valley rafting advice.)

– – – You can’t stand next to the driver. Everyone standing in the aisle must be behind the yellow line near the front of the bus:

four pairs of legs/feet/shoes behind a yellow line on the floor of a bus

You can stand off-side of the main isle at the back step, but just not in the area where the back doors open/close, yellow in the picture below:

yellow painted section of bus floor

– – – Keep children under control. Running or horseplay on the bus, including standing on the seats, can be dangerous.

– – – All the free Yosemite shuttle buses are accessible with wheelchair lifts and tie‐downs. Maximum size for wheelchairs on shuttle buses and tour buses is 24 inches wide x 46 inches long with a weight limit on tour buses of 750 pounds. Bus drivers will help passengers on and off buses or notify them of stops. If you need assistance, ask the bus driver.

– – – Any time usage is high, especially on a summer afternoon, standees need to move to the back to let more people on. (No, not contorting your body to fit as crowded in as in parts of China where people are reportedly literally face to face.)

shuttle bus standees:

– – – As you know from other transit systems, conversations, both in person, over the phone (if you can get reception) and whatever it is you are listening to on headphones should be at a low volume for everyone’s sanity.

– – – If, for example, someone uses a seat for their day pack on a crowded afternoon, or is yelling into their cell phone, there is no good reason to confront them. You are in a tight space. Let the bus driver deal with rude or obnoxious passengers. Hey, you are on vacation, and the ride will be short.

– – – no dogs (or any pets) are allowed on the shuttle buses (or on trails).

Yosemite valley free shuttle bus describes the main year-round route of the free shuttle bus, and has maps of the areas at the bus stops, a list of stops and what you can find at each, hints to save time using the shuttle bus, best bus stops for and/or links to the following Yosemite Valley activities: art classes, bike rentals, bike paths, campsite availability, grocery store, hikes and their trailheads (start of the trail), horseback riding, ice skating, free and fee internet access, laundromat, lost and found, photo walk, rafting, Ranger talks/walks/evening programs, restaurants & cafeterias / pizzerias / grill / deli, rock climbing lessons, places to get a shower, ski / snowboard / snow shoe walk, picnic, stargazing, swimming, waterfalls. There are also links to local weather and air quality reports AND notes about the best bus stops for overnight accommodations, day use parking.

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sign designating one lane for all traffic and one lane for bus only

Drivers should note that 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. The NPS says: “The bus lane ensures emergency vehicles can respond to incidents when traffic is backed up and provides preference for mass transit.” Parking and traffic jams tips has the above advice, with maps of each of the three major day-use parking lots, with advice to help you NOT get a Yosemite National Park traffic or parking ticket, and not contribute to preventable traffic backups. And some details of where you can’t park in Yosemite, or can’t park without a permit:

sign that says camp 4 parking permit required 24 hourssign with no parking symbols

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The park service says:

“Visitors to Yosemite National Park are the park’s most important guardians. With Yosemite’s nearly four million people watching over its special plants, animals, historic, and archeological sites, imagine how well-protected these park resources could be!
During your visit to Yosemite, be aware that there are people who either intentionally or unknowingly harm park resources. Please contact a park official if you see any of the following illegal acts:

feeding or approaching wildlife

hunting animals

collecting reptiles and butterflies

collecting plants (including pine cones)

picking up archeological or historic items such as arrowheads

possession of metal detectors or using them to locate and collect historic objects

driving vehicles into sensitive meadows and off roadways

camping outside of designated campgrounds

using weapons

possessing or using marijuana, including medical marijuana

If you see activities that could harm people or park resources, jot down any descriptions or a vehicle license plate number and contact the park dispatch office at 209/379-1992; if someone’s life is in danger, call 911.”

row of rocks carved into brick shapes

Also perhaps of interest:

“Choosing to leave the trail and scramble in boulders below waterfalls can have a costly outcome. Is getting closer really worth the risk?”

https://www.facebook.com/YosemiteNPS/videos/462862757639618/

People climb over barriers meant to protect them and as a result slide over waterfalls in Yosemite. They ignore warning signs.warning above Vernal Fall: fatal, near fatal or close call incidents/accidents in camping, backpacking, climbing and mountaineering

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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 only taking a selfie

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NPS photo short haul rescue: National Park Service photo of a short haul rescue showing helicopter, litter and rescuer from belowYou can’t always expect a helicopter rescue

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Yosemite valley overnight accommodations (cabins, tent cabins, hotel rooms, campgrounds, with maps of most areas).

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Curry Village (briefly named Half Dome Village) tent cabins tips and tricks

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swimming in Yosemite including thunderstorms, bacteria in the water, safety issues, favorite beaches, swimming pools with lifeguards.

Why you should wear a lifejacket.

rafting in Yosemite Valley

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The Yosemite Guide newspaper, https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm which you will be offered a copy of as you pay at an entrance station to enter the park, (or you can read, download or print in advance) has hours of operation for visitor centers, museums, tours, stores, food service, post office, laundromat, showers, auto service, gas stations, and a calendar of park activities including Ranger walks.

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Cell phone service is not available all over Yosemite valley, but is usually okay in the vicinity of the main visitor center. In June, 2017 and February / June, 2018, April 2019 we got 4 bars for Verizon and 3 bars for AT&T near the main visitor center, versus 2 bars for each at the Ahwahnee and 2 bars Verizon, 1 bar AT&T in Upper Pines campground, at the Yosemite Valley Lodge and Curry Village (briefly named Half Dome Village). The park service said: “Cell phone coverage in Yosemite is spotty . . . Cell service is often impacted during daily peak visitation by the large number of people trying to access limited service; if you have four bars of service, but you can’t get a signal, this is why . . . cell coverage depends on your phone, the cloud cover and other seemingly mysterious factors and is not always reliable. ”

fog over colors blue and green in a narrow photo strip