If you are booking a hotel, car or flight, consider using Travelocity. They
are one of our favorite travel web sites and if you book through this
link a portion of the sale goes to support this web site.
Air Travel The closest major international airports are
and San Francisco International
which are a 3.5-hour and 4-hour drive to Yosemite, respectively.
Of the two, Oakland is preferred because it's less chaotic and 30
minutes closer to Yosemite. Sacramento
International and San Jose International
are also a 4-hour drive from Yosemite but connects to fewer airports.
International Airport is only a 3-hour drive but offers the
fewest flights. Since all of these airports are about the same distance
to Yosemite, shop around for the best fares. Some climbers also
fly into Los Angeles
International Airport, which is a 7-hour drive to Yosemite.
All these airports offer car rentals.
Train Travel The train is not the fastest way to Yosemite
but its kinda cool. From Emeryville (a 20-minute bus ride from San
Francisco) take Amtrak
to Merced and board the Via
Bus to Yosemite. There are three runs in the morning and one
at 5:25 p.m. The cost is $20 round trip. From Los Angeles, Amtrak
has a bus to Bakersfield that connects with a train to Merced. From
there take the Via Bus to Yosemite.
Bus Travel Short of having a car, the bus is the best way
to get from a major airport to Yosemite. From Oakland, San Francisco,
or Los Angeles take a Greyhound
Bus to Merced, CA and then take the Via
Bus to Yosemite. Plan a full day of travel if taking the bus.
From June to November only you can reach Yosemite from Mammoth by
the YARTS bus.
Car Travel There are four state highways that access Yosemite:
120 from the west, 120 from the east (AKA The Tioga Road), 140,
and 41. The fastest access from the San Francisco Bay Area is 120.
Highway 140 is the best option if coming from Los Angeles or Fresno.
Highway 140 is also the lowest elevation road and offers the best
winter access if 120 and 41 have chain controls (chains are rarely
required on 140). Highway 120 from the east (AKA The Tioga Road)
offers the best access from Bishop, Utah, Nevada, and eastern states.
However, this road closes after the first major winter storm (usually
in November) and doesn't open until the snow melts (usually late
May). View a list of opening and closing dates for the Tioga Road/120
since 1980. To access Yosemite from the east in winter, you must get
to the west side access roads by driving north through Tahoe or
south through Bakersfield.
Rent a car at any airport or major city. International climbers
who stay in the United States for more than a month often buy a
cheap used car in San Francisco or Los Angeles and sell it (or scrap
it) at the end of their trip. To get a cheap car, look in the local
papers or www.craigslist.org.
Many people stay in Yosemite without a car. Renting a car is expensive
and it's possible to reach most climbs by the free
shuttle bus. However, the shuttle does not serve areas west
of Camp 4, including: El Capitan, Leaning Tower, Cookie Cliff, and
Reeds Pinnacle. To reach these areas without a car you will need
to hitchhike or ride a bike.
Here is great Yosemite
Yosemite has some of the best weather of any climbing area in the
United States. Because the climbs start from elevations between
2800-7500 feet, there is usually some place with good climbing temperatures
throughout the year. Spring and fall have the best climbing weather.
Summer cragging is usually uncomfortably hot but the long routes
can be cool enough. Winter can have good climbing weather but can
also have months of uniquely wet and severe Sierra storms. A dry
November is our favorite time in Yosemite--perfect temps in the
sun and no crowds.
Before you plan your climb, make sure you check the NPS Raptor Closure Page. The climbing closures change yearly depending on where the peregrine falcons nest in the spring.
Nov.March The Valley empties of both climbers
and tourists, which brings a pristine feeling to both the climbs
and Yosemite in general. During this time there is usually an even
mixture of clear and stormy days. Most of the long routes at higher
elevations are too wet or cold, but there are many sunny and dry
cragging areas, mainly west of the Highways 140/120 junction in
Lower Merced Canyon. When bad weather rolls in, things get nasty
real quick. Pacific storms usually bring three days of heavy snow
or rain but can last up to a week or longer. Usually it only takes
a day for most sunny crags to dry out after a storm. If a two-week
storm system rolls in, it's time to ski or snowboard at Badger Pass
in Yosemite or head to Joshua Tree. If camping in the Valley during
the winter, prepare for long cold nights.
AprilMay 15 Walls and the Valley are still uncrowded.
It's warmer, but there is the same 50/50 chance of getting either
good or miserable weather. If you are traveling from far away this
is a risky time to visit, especially with a week or less of vacation.
Most of the long climbs are still too wet or cold, but the crags
May 15June Perfect weather and big crowds of both
tourists and climbers. Long days make this a great time to do a
lengthy multi-pitch route.
JulyAug. The Valley is still crowded with tourists,
but the climbs are uncrowded as most people head to Tuolumne
for cooler weather. While Valley floor temperatures are often in
the 90s and 100s, temperatures on the walls 500 feet above the Valley
are usually comfortable in the 70s and low 80s. Prepare for the
heat with plenty of extra water.
Sept.Oct. The Valley is crowded with tourists and
climbers. The weather is generally perfect except for the occasional
lingering heat wave. The first winter storm usually arrives in late
October or early November.
Weather and Road Conditions
Weather forecasts on the web often vary significantly. Our
favorite forecast is listed below but you may want to check all
of them. It's also a good idea to look at the live web cams.
Valley weather SuperTopo's favorite forecast.
Other Yosemite forecasts at Yahoo,
road conditions or call (209) 372-0200
El Cap Cam
- an awesome web cam... when it's not broken (make sure the image
Half Dome Cam - check
out the cool time-lapse movie
Conditions and news
in the Park
Contrary to image of the pristine nature park, Yosemite Valley is
a small tourist town filled with buildings, roads, cars, and people.
The bad news is that the many buildings, restaurants, stores and
motel-like rooms take away from the natural beauty of the park.
The good news is that these same things make the Valley damn accommodating.
You will find restaurants, groceries, climbing gear, a medical clinic,
motels, swimming pools, rafts, bike rentals and, if you find yourself
in an unfortunate situation, a jail.
Here are some great Yosemite maps along with lots of other links
on Geology, Rock Fall, etc
Lots of links to travel information can be found at the Yosemite
Area Traveler Information site and Yosemitefun.com
Here is a great informational site geared specifically towards Yosemite climbers. Also this link will take you directly to the park's website on climbing.
Camp 4 is the historic center of American climbing. It is also Yosemite's
only walk-in campground and the cheapest place to stay. No reservations
are required, but during peak season (May– October) expect
a long wait to secure a campsite. The cost is $6 per person per
night with a 14-day limit on your stay. Each site is a patch of
dirt 20'x20' with a fire pit and a picnic table. Each site holds
six people and if there are fewer than six people in your group
you will share the site with others. There is a bathroom and a sink
in the middle of the campground, but no warm water or showers. A bulletin board next to the Ranger Kiosk offers the chance to find climbing partners,
friends, and used climbing gear. Here are all the Yosemite campgrounds. Call (800) 436-PARK to make reservations for other
campsites or make reservations
There are a variety of places to camp outside the park boundary.
Check out the Forest
Service web site for more info.
In addition to campsites, there are more plush
accommodations available in Yosemite. If you are ready to
pay the big bucks, you can stay at the lovely Ahwahnee
Hotel, or for a more modest price you can crash in a motel-like
room at Yosemite
Lodge or a canvas topped cabin in Curry
Village. Also, a selection of vacation
homes are located just minutes out of the Valley in Foresta
(with views of the summit of El Capitan and Half Dome!). In the
summertime your best bet is to make reservations well in advance
of your visit. Hilltop cabins offers great winter
rates. Ask for Sue and mention SuperTopo for a special rate!
Groceries are available in the Valley at the Village Store, Curry
Village Store or Lodge Store. It is much cheaper to buy groceries
in Oakdale, Merced or Oakhurst on the drive to Yosemite.
There are a variety of restaurants in the Valley that serve everything
from pizza and deli sandwiches to the spendy stuff at the Ahwahnee
Hotel. Here is a quick listing of some of the Valley restaurants
"The Cafe" (cafeteria), The Mountain Room (moderate priced
American food), Mountain Room Bar and Grill.
Degnan's Deli, The Loft (pizza and pasta), burger stand
Pizza Deck (with bar), cafeteria, taco shop, all-you-can-eat
Showers cost $5 (towel included) and are available at Housekeeping
or Curry Village. Laundry is available at housekeeping.
Gear and Climbing Guides
The Yosemite Mountain
(209) 372-8396, located in Curry Village, offers a large selection
of climbing and camping gear at reasonable prices. They also have
a knowledgeable staff that may know the latest beta on some climbs.
You can get climbing instruction, arrange for a guide, and also
rent gear from the Yosemite
Mountaineering School and Guide Service. There are also a dozen climbing
shops in the San Francisco Bay Area where you can
purchase gear. If you need to purchase a bunch of gear, its hard
to beat Berkeley (10 miles east of San Francisco) where there are
four good retail locations within a 2-mile radius: Berkeley
Ironworks, and REI.
If you are coming from the east side of the Sierra, then visit
Wilson's Eastside Sports
in Bishop or Mammoth
Mountaineering Supply in Mammoth, both of which have an extensive
selection of rock climbing and mountaineering gear.
Bears have damaged cars for
as little as a stick of gum or an empty soda can. If you want whats
yours to remain yours, remember three things about bears: they are
hungry, smart, and strong.
When bears smell food, even if its locked in your trunk
or glove compartment, they shift into high gear. They get turned
on by odors of containers that used to contain food, but do no longer.
They even go for toothpaste and sunscreen. Bears dont even
need to smell food; they see something like a grocery bag or an
ice chest, and associate it with food. In fact, they dont
even need to see that much. If a bear notices clutter inside a car,
hell think, I wonder whats under all that stuff?
and go to work.
Breaking into a car is a trivial exercise for a bear. He inserts
his claws at the top of the door frame and pulls down. Then he climbs
in and trashes the car. You cant outsmart or out-muscle a
bear. The only safe place for your food is in one of the bear-proof
storage lockers provided by the Park Service at all campgrounds
and some parking lots.
For more information check out the Park
Service's bear page and weekly bear bulletin.
Poison Oak occurs sporadically throughout the Valley, especially
in the Lower Merced Canyon west of the 120/140 junction. Find someone
to show you what it looks like and be especially careful in the
winter when poison oak loses its leaves and is difficult to see.
Should you or your partner get hurt while climbing, cell phones shorten the rescue response time. However, cell phone in the outdoors
are annoying so keep them away except for emergencies. Cell phone
coverage in Yosemite in spotty. There is generally decent reception
between El Cap Meadow and Curry Village. As you gain elevation on
a climb, the reception often improves. West of El Capitan the coverage
deteriorates quickly and dies completely west of the Highway 120/140
junction. A good number to have programmed on your phone is the
road and weather report: (209) 372 0200.
What do you do when Valley temperatures hit the 90's? Head
for the water. Rent rafts from Curry Village and float down the
Merced River or just dip into the water next to El Capitan Meadow.
If you are willing to drive 40 minutes, there are two great swimming
holes outside of the Park boundaries. About ten miles west of the
Highway 120 entrance station, take a left immediately after a large
bridge. Here you will have your choice of jumping off 15-25' cliffs
or just kicking back next to the water. About 15 miles west of the
Highway 140 entrance station is the Octagon, which features a rope
swing, sketchy cliff and tree jumps and great spots to kick back
and have a BBQ. The directions to this place are more devious so
you will have to hunt down a local Yosemite climber for info. In
winter, when the Valley is too snowy, go ice skating at Curry Village
or head to Badger
Pass for some skiing or snowboarding. There are also a number
of neat exhibits in the Valley such as the Indian Museum, Visitor
Center, and the Ansel Adams Gallery.
Related Books and rock climbing guidebooks
4 - Steve Roper's definitive book on Yosemite climbing history
from the beginning to 1970. A must read.
Gravity - This book is less personal and authoritative than
Camp 4 but covers a broader period of time and has more photos.
Capitan - Dan Duane picks a handful of Yosemite personalities
and explores what made them tick. Well written.
American Classic Climbs - A celebration of the finest classic
climbs on the continent.
Big Wall Obscurities - This free download includes hand drawn
topos of obscure Yosemite big walls.
rock climbing guidebooks for Yosemite
Big Walls - The most detailed and informative guide
to Yosemite's most popular big walls.
Valley Free Climbs - The most detailed and informative
guide to Yosemite's most popular free climbs.
Sport Climbs and Top Ropes
Free Climbs - The most detailed and informative
guide to Tuolumne's most popular free climbs.
to The Nose - A step-by-step guide to help you
prepare for climbing a Yosemite big wall.