18 Jun #RecreateResponsibly: How To Visit Yosemite During Covid-19
Yosemite is officially reopened! But things are a little different. Here’s how to recreate responsibly when you visit.
Words and photos by LA guide & program manager, Kara Maceross
We at Lasting Adventures are so stoked that Yosemite National Park is officially open! We know how hard it has been for some people to shelter in place and not be able to enjoy those natural places that we all cherish and treasure for so long. Getting outside, and especially traveling to Yosemite, is something people have been looking forward as much as anything. As we recognize how important it is for people to get out and recreate, we also recognize that we are dealing with different times, and with that, a new set of responsibilities to abide by when we go visit these amazing places.
Yosemite has been without the massive amounts of humans that it is used to seeing at this time of year, and the park itself is cautious about its reopening, doing so in phases so that hopefully, it doesn’t have to shut down again. What can we do to make sure that doesn’t happen? We can recreate responsibly!
Use these tips to minimize risk and impact when visiting Yosemite.
Know Before You Go
Yes, Yosemite is open, but with limited access. The park had a ‘soft’ opening on June 5th, and for the following week only those with permits for Half Dome or backpacking permits into the park were allowed to enter. With the official opening on June 11th, entrance into the park is now granted with:
- Proof of appointment with a Yosemite tour guide like Lasting Adventures!
- Proof a camping or concession-operated lodging reservation
- Proof of a vacation rental inside the park
- A wilderness permit
- A Half Dome permit
- Entering the park on a YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System) bus
With all of the above you are still responsible for going online and paying the entrance fee for Yosemite, as you will not be able to pay at the gate like usual, though not with YARTS since the entrance fee is included.
If you don’t have any of the above and want to visit the park just for the day, it’s still possible!
Yosemite will be granting visitors access via a day-use reservations system. On June 9th, they opened up the day-use reservation system for the entire months of June and July. This will allot for 80% of the day-use permits they are allowing inside the park. The other 20% will be released two days before the date at 7 a.m. PST. You will still need a reservation even if you are an existing pass holder (Yosemite Annual Pass, America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass, Every Kid Outdoors Annual Pass, Annual Pass for US Military, Access Pass, or Senior Pass), and a $2 processing fee per reservation still applies. If you need to buy your pass to enter the park (a separate fee from the processing fee) you can do that at the time of reservation (all by credit card) and your total will be $35. The $2 fee is non-refundable.
Day-use reservations grant you access to the park between the hours of 5 am and 11 pm for a 7-day period starting on the first day of your reservation. If you have overnight reservations (front or backcountry) or a Half Dome permit you can enter the park at any hour of the day but will be required to complete a self-certification card at the entrance station and display it in your windshield.
If you want to check out a less-visited part of the park, Hetch Hetchy will be open for day-use visitors from the hours of 8 am to 5 pm without requiring a day-use reservation. However, you will still need to purchase entrance to the park and access will be limited when parking is full.
If you didn’t get a day-use permit in the first round, keep looking!
Any cancellations will show up immediately online and the reservations for August will go live on July 1st at 7 a.m. PST.
Filling up on water at Fern Spring is one way to minimize contact, and we’re pretty sure it’s the most delicious water on earth. Ask your guide to take you there!
Anticipate that businesses will be closed on your journey to the park. Plan by packing the food that you might need while you’re there. Curry Village is currently under construction, so the only open food there will be the grill and some assorted food trucks. In Yosemite Village, Degnan’s Kitchen and the Village Grill are still open. At the Ahwahnee, dining is only available to guests of the hotel. At Yosemite Valley Lodge, the Base Camp Cafe and the Mountain Room Bar will both be open. Groceries will be available at the Village Store in the Village and the Mountain Shop in Curry Village. The small markets in Wawona, El Portal, and at Glacier Point will still be open. All stores will have a limit on how many people will be allowed entry at all times and patrons must wear a face mask while inside.
Beyond food, plan to fill up on gas before you enter the park and come prepared with a face mask and hand sanitizer. The employees are doing their part to ensure the safety of the visitors, so as visitors we should respect that. Wear masks when going inside buildings and when walking in areas where you might pass people in close proximity. If you’re looking to head to Tuolumne Meadows, know that Tioga Road opened on June 15th with no services being open on the road except for the ability to get gas at Crane Flat (the store at the gas station will not be open, nor will the grill, post office or market).
Practice Physical Distancing
When out on a trail, step to the side to let others pass and give them their space, do the same for parking lots and any other area where you might pass people. A few areas that are known to be highly congested in Yosemite will now have new regulations. The Mist Trail from the John Muir Junction to the top of Vernal Fall will be uphill traffic only from the hours of 9 am to 4 pm. Options to return will be a combination of the John Muir Trail and the Clark Point cut-off. Bridalveil Fall area will be closed due to scheduled maintenance work until further notice.
Play it Safe
Choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury.
Been stuck in the house for the past two months only occasionally doing a yoga video amidst many more trips to the fridge? Maybe it’s not the best time to pick Half Dome in a day as a goal.
Search and Rescue and health care resources are strained. Let’s not make their already stressful jobs even harder. Do what you know you are capable of. Pack the essentials (plus maybe a few handy non-essentials) and let someone know what your plan is for the day.
Stay Close to Home
With so many regulations across the country and the world, now is not the time to be making extensive travel plans thousands of miles away. It’s time to discover things that are close-by and don’t require a ton of travel. If you do live in California or the surrounding states, you can easily explore Yosemite by booking a trip with Lasting Adventures, and Fall is looking like the best time with even fewer people and mosquitoes.
Leave No Trace
At Lasting Adventures we are passionate about protecting the environment, and so we practice and teach Leave No Trace on all of our trips. While you are out recreating please respect the principles of Leave No Trace:
- Plan ahead & prepare
- Travel & camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize fire impact
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
Respect Your Surroundings
Yosemite this year has fewer employees and fewer resources, including garbage pickup so whatever you pack in, please pack it out. And if you feel sick at all, please stay home. We can all do our part to make sure that these beautiful places not only remain beautiful but are safe for ourselves and others. We are all in this together so let’s work together to recreate responsibly!