Yosemite National Park Vacation < Hotels: Where to stay in Yosemite



Falling for Yosemite: Transportation, Getting To Yosemite National Park


By: Barbara Steinberg




From the golden hills of Serrano, you have the benefit of missing all that pesky Central Valley traffic heading south. Your foothill perch provides easy access to one of California’s most scenic byways, Hwy. 49.  It’s always best to travel with a detailed map, but Mapquest also provides some simple directions: Take Latrobe Road to CA-16 and then hop, skip and a jump to Hwy. 49.  It’s mostly downhill (sort of) to Hwy. 120, and coast into the Park.  There's no better way to begin this Fall foliage sojourn.  As Fall flourishes, sightings of color along Hwy. 49 are clearly an added attraction to this multi-hued escape. 


Also known as the Golden Chain Heritage Corridor, Hwy. 49 passes through charming and historic towns.  Allow time to enjoy the sights and an occasional stop at towns along the way.  Amador City, Sutter Creek, Angels Camp, Sonora, and others offer outstanding opportunities for shopping, sightseeing, and maybe a fresh-baked loaf of bread or a glass of wine. California’s past lives on in these Gold Rush-era gems.  If you choose to bypass downtown Sonora's 2-lane traffic, a detour on Rawhide Road saves about 15-20 minutes of driving time.  


Hwy. 49 has more than it’s share of twists and turns and slow-moving vehicles.  Relax and enjoy the ride. Remember, getting there is half the fun.  If you’ve never driven to Yosemite via Hwy. 120 you may want to avoid Old Priest Grade, which is recommended by Mapquest.  This incredibly steep, 2-mile stretch of road is not for the week-of-heart.  We love it and wouldn’t think of going any other way, but never with a trailer or motorhome!  Think about staying on Hwy. 120 on the west side of the canyon. This will meet Old Priest Grade at the top. About a 6-mile trek, the New Priest Grade bypass is longer and somewhat winding, but the easy ascent can easily accommodate trailers and motorhomes as it's the preferred route for tour buses.

If heading down the “vertical” Old Priest Grade, make sure your brakes are in good working order. 


Hwy. 120 passes through the Gold Rush-era town of Groveland, an excellent pit-stop or place to stay outside the Park if that’s your choice.  Greeting guests since 1849, the 3-diamond Groveland Hotel is known for their extraordinary cuisine and wines; and the Iron Door Saloon (yes, real iron doors) claims to be the longest continuously operated drinking establishment in California.  About 23 miles away, is the Big Oak Flat entrance to the park. Here you’ll be required to purchase a $20 Vehicle Pass, valid for seven days.


Be sure to gas-up before heading into Yosemite Valley.  The “last chance” is at the intersection of Yosemite Lakes Road (Harden Flat), but it's typically 50 cents to a dollar per gallon more than the Valero station in the town of Big Oak Flat at the top of Priest Grade.  There's also another station in downtown Groveland. Gas and propane are also available at Crane Flat, Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows (summer only). Without any detours, it’s about 160 miles from Serrano to Yosemite National Park. Depending on your speed and traffic, expect to be on the road at least 3 ½ hours. 


If you’re staying in Yosemite Valley, park your car and ride the hybrid electric shuttle to nearby attractions. It's green and environmentally friendly in a big way. 



v      Yosemite National Park:  YosemitePark.com and www.NPS.gov/yose;   

v      Yosemite Association: www.Yosemite.org.

v      CalTRANS Road Information: 800/427-7623.