Where to stay in Yosemite without a car: 7 Best areas

In this article, we will look at Where to stay in Yosemite without a car?, best areas to stay in Yosemite without a car along with a helpul map, where I stayed in Yosemite, and the best hotels in Yosemite for all budget visitors.

It is possible to get around Yosemite National Park without a car. Yosemite offers a range of transportation options for visitors who prefer not to drive including Yosemite Valley Shuttle, YARTS, biking, hiking, and tour.

Fresno Yosemite International Airport is the gateway to Yosemite National Park, located around 1.5 hours to Yosemite’s South Entrance via Highway 41 and 2.5 hours to Yosemite Valley. You can take the YARTS bus from the airport to the park. 

Many travelers fly into SFO, San Jose, Sacramento from where they Take train from any BART station to Richmond station, then take Amtrak to Merced, and change to YARTS to Yosemite.

YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System) is a regional bus service that provides transportation to and from Yosemite National Park. YARTS can be a convenient option for getting to Yosemite if you’re staying outside the park.

YARTS operates from various gateway communities outside the park, such as Fresno, Merced, and Mammoth Lakes. It has four routes connecting to/from the park, including: 

  • Sonora Hwy 120 Route: Yosemite –  Buck Meadows – Groveland – Jamestown – Sonora  
  • Mammoth Lakes Hwy 120e/395 Route: Yosemite – Crane Flat – Tuolumne Meadows – June Lake – Mammoth Lake
  • Highway 140 Route: Yosemite – El Portal – Midpines – Mariposa – Catheys Valley – Merced 
  • Highway 41 Route: Fresno – Oakhurst – Fish Camp – Wawona – Yosemite 

You can take Amtrak or Greyhound to certain nearby cities, such as Merced or Fresno, and then transfer to YARTS or other local transportation options to reach Yosemite.

The Yosemite Valley Shuttle is a free bus service that operates year-round in Yosemite Valley. It stops at various points of interest, campgrounds, and facilities, making it easy to explore the valley without a car. This service is particularly useful for accessing popular trailheads and attractions.  

Biking is a popular way to get around Yosemite Valley. You can bring your bike or rent one at Yosemite Valley Lodge or Curry Village. There are also bike paths and designated bike lanes in some areas.

For those who enjoy hiking, many of Yosemite’s most iconic destinations are accessible by foot. There are numerous trails within Yosemite Valley and throughout the park, ranging from easy walks to challenging backcountry routes.

Yosemite offers a variety of guided tours, including bus tours and ranger-led programs, which can be an excellent way to explore the park without a car. These tours provide transportation and information about the park’s natural and cultural history.

Some gateway communities offer shuttle services that transport visitors to Yosemite from nearby cities. For example, you can take a shuttle from the town of Mariposa to Yosemite Valley.

Where to stay in Yosemite without a car?

The best areas to stay in Yosemite without a car are Yosemite Valley & inside Yosemite Park, El Portal, Midpines, Mariposa, Wawona, Oakhurst, Fishcamp, and Groveland.

All of these areas are conveniently located on the YARTS bus route, making them great locations for car-free holiday to Yosemite.

It’s important to plan your visit in advance, check the availability and schedules of transportation options, and consider the time of year you plan to visit, as some services may be seasonal. 

Additionally, accommodations within Yosemite Valley can fill up quickly, so make reservations well in advance if you plan to stay overnight in the park.

During my trip to Yosemite National Park, I stayed in Tenaya at Yosemite at Fish Camp, only 3.2 km away from Yosemite National Park. I was able to use the YARTS bus to explore the main Yosemite village, and enjoy its surrounding activities such as skiing, hiking, and rock climbing.

Map of the best areas and neighborhoods in Yosemite without a car:

Map of the best areas to stay in Yosemite without a car
Map of the best areas to stay in Yosemite without a car

Let’s get into the details of the best areas to stay in Yosemite, especially for travelers without a car. I’ll explain to you how to reach each area, how to get around, as well as the best things to do and some suggestions of the best places to stay in each area for every budget.

7 Best areas to stay in Yosemite without a car:

1. Yosemite Valley & inside Yosemite Park

Yosemite Valley is the heart of Yosemite National Park and offers iconic views of attractions like El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall. It’s the most accessible part of the park, even without a car.

You can reach Yosemite Valley by taking the YARTS bus service that connects Yosemite with nearby cities like Merced and Fresno. Once in the park you can use The Yosemite Valley Shuttle to explore the park.

The Valleywide shuttle route takes you to all places in the parks, but the East Valley shuttle route only stops at Yosemite Village, Curry Village, Pines campgrounds on the eastern side.  

Yosemite Valley has very limited lodging options, including the Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Valley Lodge, and various campgrounds. They are all very basic facilities, you can choose to stay outside the park in nearby towns, then take YARTS to the valley.


2. El Portal

El Portal is one of the best areas to stay in Yosemite without a car because it is a small town located  along Highway 140, just outside the western boundary of Yosemite National Park at the Arch Rock entrance. You can find lodging in El Portal and use the YARTS bus to reach Yosemite Valley.  

El Portal serves as a gateway to the park, providing accommodations, services, and access to Yosemite’s natural wonders. When visiting Yosemite National Park, many travelers stop in El Portal for supplies, dining, or lodging, making it an essential stop for those exploring the park’s wonders.  

El Portal is situated along the Merced River and offers stunning views of the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains. Visitors to Yosemite often pass through El Portal on their way to popular park destinations such as Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. 

The town provides a range of lodging options, including hotels, motels, vacation rentals, and campgrounds, making it a convenient base for exploring the park.

El Portal is also known for its proximity to natural attractions such as the El Portal Beach along the Merced River, which offers a relaxing spot for swimming and picnicking during the summer months.


3. Midpines

Midpines is well-connected to Yarts Highway 140 Route, making it a great base for car-free travelers approaching the park from the west side. It is located along California State Route 140, which is one of the primary routes to access Yosemite National Park from the western entrance. 

Midpines offers a few accommodations, including lodges, bed-and-breakfast inns, and vacation rentals. It provides a convenient place to stay for visitors who want to explore Yosemite National Park without staying inside the park.

Yosemite National Park is known for its stunning natural beauty, including iconic features like Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Fall. Visitors staying in Midpines can easily drive into the park and explore its many attractions.

Visitors to Midpines and Yosemite can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, rock climbing, camping, birdwatching, and photography. Yosemite is also famous for its waterfalls, and the park’s waterfalls are particularly impressive in the spring when the snow melts.

Midpines is not far from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, which is home to over 500 mature giant sequoia trees, including the famous Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Tree.

The accessibility of Midpines to Yosemite can be influenced by seasonal factors. In the winter, some roads within Yosemite National Park may close due to snow, so it’s important to check road conditions and plan accordingly.


4. Mariposa

Mariposa is one of the best places to stay in Yosemite without a car because it is located right on Yarts Highway 140 Route, just outside the park’s western entrance and is well-connected by public transportation. You can stay in Mariposa and take the YARTS bus into Yosemite Valley.

Mariposa serves as a gateway to Yosemite, offering lodging, restaurants, and other services for visitors to the park. Mariposa is not only a convenient base for exploring Yosemite but also a charming town with a rich history. 

It has a historic downtown area with shops, galleries, and museums that provide insight into the area’s Gold Rush heritage. If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite National Park, Mariposa can be a great place to stay and explore before or after your park adventures.


5. Wawona

Wawona is a charming and quieter area located on the YARTS Highway 41 route about 45 minutes south of Yosemite Valley. You can take YARTS to Wawona, making it accessible without a car.

Wawona is home to The Wawona Hotel, now known as the Big Trees Lodge, is a historic hotel that dates back to the late 19th century. It offers lodging and dining options and is a popular place for visitors to stay while exploring Yosemite.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, located near Wawona, is home to over 500 mature giant sequoias, including some of the largest and oldest trees in the world. The famous Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree are among the notable trees in this grove.

Wawona has one of the few golf courses located within a national park. It’s a scenic 9-hole course surrounded by the natural beauty of Yosemite.

A hike to Chilnualna Falls is a popular activity in the area. The falls consist of a series of cascades and pools and can be reached via a moderately strenuous trail.

Wawona Visitor Center provides information about the park, its natural features, and recreational opportunities. It’s a great place to start your exploration of Yosemite.

Wawona is rich in history, and you can find several historic buildings and sites in the area, including the Wawona Covered Bridge and the Pioneer Yosemite History Center.

Wawona offers opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and exploring the natural beauty of Yosemite. There are also opportunities for horseback riding and camping in the nearby campgrounds.


6. Oakhurst

Yosemite  is conveniently located on highway 41, near the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park, making it a great base to explore Yosemite without a car as the YARTS bus will take you to the park.

Oakhurst serves as a gateway to the park and is a popular starting point for visitors exploring Yosemite’s wonders. It’s about a 20 to 30-minute drive from Oakhurst to the park’s southern entrance gate.

Many tourists choose to stay in Oakhurst or nearby areas as they explore the park’s attractions, including Yosemite Valley, Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Glacier Point, and more.

Oakhurst offers various amenities and services to visitors, including lodging options like hotels, motels, cabins, and campgrounds. There are also restaurants, shops, and other businesses catering to tourists’ needs, making it a practical and comfortable place to stay while visiting the park.

While Oakhurst itself is not part of Yosemite National Park, the town and its surroundings have their own attractions. Nearby, you can find places like Bass Lake, which is popular for boating, fishing, and swimming, as well as hiking and outdoor recreational opportunities in the Sierra National Forest.

Like many towns in the Sierra Nevada region, Oakhurst has a history tied to gold mining and the development of the area during the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s.

If you plan to visit Yosemite National Park and are looking for accommodation and services outside the park itself, Oakhurst is one of the options worth considering due to its proximity and convenience.  


7. Groveland

Groveland is a great place for travelers without a car because it is located on Yarts Sonora Hwy 120 Route, just outside the western entrance of Yosemite Park. It serves as a gateway for visitors entering the park and provides various accommodations, restaurants, and services for travelers exploring Yosemite.

Groveland itself is a charming community with a historic downtown area featuring shops, restaurants, and accommodations for visitors. It’s a convenient basecamp for those looking to explore Yosemite and its surrounding areas. Additionally, the town has a rich history, with several historical sites and buildings dating back to the Gold Rush era.

If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite National Park, Groveland can be a great place to stay, providing easy access to the park’s attractions while offering a peaceful and welcoming atmosphere.


In conclusion, Yosemite Valley, El Portal, Midpines, Mariposa, Wawona, Oakhurst, Fishcamp, and Groveland are the best places to stay in Yosemite without a car. Keep in mind that bus schedules in Yosemite can vary by season, so it’s essential to check the YARTS schedule and plan your trip accordingly. 

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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