Memorial Day is an American holiday commemorating military veterans who have died serving their country. This holiday falls just between spring and summer and often signals the beginning of the summer season for travel destinations. The entire Memorial Day Weekend is one of the busiest travel periods in the United States. The warming weather makes people yearn to be outdoors, and often their favorite places to spend time outside are national parks. Yosemite National Park is no exception. Though all visitors are welcome no matter which dates they choose to visit the park, popular weekends can create traffic and congestion that contributes to a lesser enjoyment of Yosemite. With Memorial Day just around the corner on Monday May 26th, take a look at the following tips to increase your enjoyment in Yosemite over this busy holiday weekend.
1. Arrive Early! Arriving on Friday evening is better than arriving on Saturday morning, but if you must arrive on Saturday, do it before 10:00 am. This is not the weekend for a leisurely breakfast before driving into the mountains. Everyone else will arrive after 10:00 am. Find a parking spot at your lodging or campground and breathe a sigh of relief since you won’t drive again for the rest of the weekend (See #2). If you are a day use visitor, find that parking spot early and don’t plan to leave until after 7:00 pm. Make dinner plans in the park. Another tool to help navigate the holiday congestion is the Traffic Forecast for Yosemite National Park.
2. Park Your Car (and Leave It Parked) If you have easily scored a parking spot due to your early arrival – do not give it up for any reason! There are many ways to get around Yosemite Valley, including walking, biking, and riding the FREE Yosemite Valley Shuttle Bus (See #3). You can even catch tour and hikers buses for a fee from Yosemite Valley to the Glacier Point and Tioga Road. The Grand Tour will take you around Yosemite Valley, up to Glacier Point and to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Let someone else do the driving!
3. Use the Free Yosemite Valley Shuttle Bus Yes, that’s right, an absolutely free shuttle bus will ferry you around Yosemite Valley to all lodging, campgrounds, Yosemite Village, Happy Isles, Mirror Lake and an extended summer route will even take you out to El Capitan. The shuttle bus is granted a special use lane in Yosemite Valley that is off-limits to other vehicles, guaranteeing a smooth ride to your next destination. Make note of the shuttle route and stops on the Valley Shuttle Map. Not only do buses cut down on traffic congestion, the Yosemite shuttle buses are hybrids – saving energy consumption too!
4. Ride a Bike Yosemite Valley is paved with 12 miles of bike paths and one of them is certain to lead you to your destination. Yosemite Valley also has 2 rental bike stands located at the Curry Village Recreation Center and at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Wave to the cars as you whiz by on a cruiser bike with the wind in your hair.
5. Arrive Early! Didn’t we cover this already? Yes, but it bears repeating. Arrive early for all activities in the park. Renting a bike? Arrive at opening time. Going to lunch at Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village? Consider eating at 11:00 am instead of 12:00 noon. Visiting Glacier Point for a half day of sightseeing and hiking? Don’t drive 30 miles in the afternoon only to find no place to park – arrive at Glacier Point before 9:00 am. Alternately, consider sightseeing at off hours: Glacier Point is wonderful for stargazing and the Mariposa Grove is beautiful in the early morning.
Other things to consider include exploring some of Yosemite’s less famous but equally beautiful sights such as Chilnualna Falls Trail in Wawona, the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, and the Wapama Falls Trail in Hetch Hetchy. Rock climbers tend to avoid busy holiday weekends, so your favorite climbing route may be free and clear. Not a rock climber, but wanting to learn? Try the Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service in Curry Village for lessons.