In 1912, John Muir wrote, “No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its wall seems to glow with life.” A visit to Yosemite National Park is an intoxicating experience as you soak in the splendor of the rugged mountains, gushing rivers, and alpine meadows. Even after 50 years of leading tours, our guides are still passionate about Yosemite because of its outstanding whitewater and superb scenery. If you are planning a visit to Yosemite National Park, here are our 5 tips to help you get ready for the experience of a lifetime.
#1 Getting to Yosemite
The closest commercial airport to Yosemite National Park is the Fresno/Yosemite International Airport (FAT). You can take the Yosemite Area Regional Transit System from Fresno to Yosemite if you don’t want to rent a car. Other nearby airports include San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Sacramento Airport (SMF), and Oakland Airport (OAK). If you need parking at your departure airport, look online to reserve your parking spot in advance. For example, if you are visiting from Chicago, you can look online to reserve parking at O’Hare. ParkFellows offers many secure parking options so you can have peace of mind while you are on vacation.
Merced rafting trips meet in Midpines on Hwy 140. Main Tuolumne, Cherry Creek, and Combination rafting trips meet at Colfax Springs on Hwy 120. More detailed directions to each of our trip meeting spots can be found on our Maps and Directions page.
#2 When to Visit
Yosemite National Park is open year-round and is truly a delight at any time of the year. Each season is special for different reasons, so it’s totally up to you when you would like to visit. The rafting season is generally April – October, check out our Rates & Dates page to find the best rafting option for your visit. Summer is the most popular time to visit Yosemite because the weather is perfect for outdoor activities and tours. However, the summer season sees more visitors in Yosemite than any other season. Accommodations and tours are usually booked one year in advance. Check out or Tips for visiting Yosemite in Summer blog article. If you want to avoid the crowds, then we recommend visiting in the spring or autumn. In the spring, the waterfalls are at their peak, wildflowers are blooming, and wildlife is more active. Autumn is an excellent time to visit if you want to see the park covered in magnificent reds, yellows, and oranges. During the winter many roads are closed, but it is still a wonderful time to visit. The park is blanketed in snow and you can truly appreciate the graceful and splendid beauty of Yosemite. There are also fun winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and cross country skiing.
#3 Prepare for Bears
Yosemite is known for its incredible wildlife, including black bears. The black bears have a very keen sense of smell and incredible eyesight. They have been known to break into cars and cabins if they smell food wrappers, crumbs in baby seats, unopened bottled drinks, and anything else scented. Avoid tempting the bears by storing your food in a food locker and removing all scented items from your car. If you spot a bear, keep your distance and never approach it. Black bears are naturally shy, so they usually run away from people. Do not bring bear spray because it is prohibited in Yosemite.
#4 What to Pack
Bring a pair of sturdy, rubber-toed river shoes to protect your feet while on a rafting trip. Flip-flops are not allowed because they will get stuck in the mud or rocks. If you plan to wear sunglasses or a hat, make sure they can be secured with a tie-on so you don’t lose them down the river. We provide wetsuits at no charge, although you may bring your own if you would like. If you are visiting during April or May, you will want to bring warm layers (made with polypropylene or wool materials) and an unlined shell or parka. Don’t bring any clothing made of cotton, because it will take a while to dry. For overnight trips, pack lightly and compactly so that you can fit all your belongings in a 3.8 cubic foot dry bag that we provide. Don’t forget sunscreen and a reusable water bottle!
#5 Read the Yosemite Guide
For the most current park information, you should read the Yosemite Guide before you head out to the park. It contains information about scheduled events, activities, and helpful information for planning your trip. Also, it has important phone numbers and hours of operation for different facilities and services. Take a look at past editions to see what the conditions were like for the period of your planned visit. You can find all the editions of the Yosemite Guide here.