valley with pine trees below and water

valley with pine trees below and water

Know Before You Go: Yosemite National Park


download shaka guide yosemite audio tour guide

Yosemite National Park is an absolute treasure, so get ready to experience this American icon the Shaka Guide way!

On our tour, which covers the entire park, you’ll get the chance to discover stunning Sequoia groves, spectacular scenic viewpoints, and hiking trails for every skill level into the park’s wilderness.

And of course, no matter where you go, you’re treated to amazing views of California’s Sierra Nevada.

With over 30 stops and more than 160 audio tracks, we point you in the right direction and share colorful stories that will enhance your Yosemite visit.

Because of the park’s popularity, not to mention its vast size, there are a few things you need to know before you go.

Keep reading to make the most out of your visit. 

Start Planning

  • There are four entries, and tour starting points, in the park:
    • - CA-41 from Oakhurst
    • - CA-140 from Mariposa
    • - CA-120 from Groveland
    • - Tioga Pass from Lee Vining
  • Park entry is $35 per vehicle, which is good for 7 days.
  • The park is open 24/7, so you can start or end your tour at any time. The only exception is the Hetch Hetchy Entrance. Check the website or with a ranger for updated or seasonal hours at Hetch Hetchy.
  • It’s virtually impossible to complete the entire tour in one day, so your tour length is as long or as short as you’d like. Do plan on spending most of or the entire day doing one or two segments of the tour.
  • Cell service is spotty and Wi-Fi is almost non-existent in the park, so download the tour before you go!
  • There are two gas stations in the park: one at Wawona and the other at Crane Flat north of Yosemite Valley. Gas is cheaper outside the park.
  • Yosemite National Park requires advance reservations on weekends in February and again from April through October. Learn more here.

What to Expect

hiker watching the fallsShutterstock Image

To Get An Early Start

What’s the best way to get the most out of your day? Get an early start!

Try to reach an entrance gate no later than 9 a.m. (or even 8 a.m.) to beat some of the crowds.

The line to get into the park can get long quickly, and parking can become a problem the later it gets.

To Do A Lot Of Driving

Yosemite is a massive park. It’s bigger than the state of Rhode Island!

Outside of Yosemite Valley, the park’s biggest hits are somewhat isolated from one another, requiring lengthy drives along winding, mountain roads.

Not to worry: we’ve got plenty of stories and music to keep you company along the way.

To (Probably) Ride A Shuttle

When you’re one of America’s most iconic national parks, you tend to attract crowds.

Unless you’re visiting outside the peak season, expect to park your car somewhere in Yosemite Valley and use the free shuttle service to get around.

You’ll also need to ride a free shuttle at Mariposa Grove to visit its sequoias.

Lastly, a shuttle in the Tuolumne Meadows area which does have a fare structure may or may not be useful.

download shaka guide's yosemite audio tour guide

To Do Some Walking And Hiking

There’s plenty to see from scenic overlooks and even the comfort of your car, but you’ll miss out on some really terrific views and waterfalls if you don’t take a trail or two.

Also, you should expect to do some walking in Yosemite Valley, especially around the Yosemite Village and Yosemite Fall areas where you’ve likely parked your car.

An alternative to walking in these areas? Renting a bike!

To Enjoy That ‘Wow’ Factor

There are some truly stunning moments as you make your way through the park.

Whether you’re driving into Yosemite Valley at Tunnel View or enjoying a birds-eye view from Glacier Point, take some time to appreciate this marvelous work of nature.

And drivers, keep your eyes on the road!

To Learn

We’re not going to lie: this is a massive tour with a lot of driving! So we’ve prepared a lot of audio tracks that provide entertaining, and important, context for this American treasure.

You’ll learn about geology, the area’s native history, legends from the local Miwok culture, animals of the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite’s historical figures like John Muir, and more!

By the end of the tour, you’ll be a champ at trivia. 


overview of yosemite valley with hiker standingShutterstock Image

While on the tour, the only things you need to budget for are food, souvenirs, fuel, and the park’s entry fee.

Of course, you should also take into consideration any supplies you may need to purchase before starting the tour, like sunscreen and snacks.

Of course, you can enhance your experience by renting a bike, joining a guided tour, or even rafting down the Merced River. These will cost extra.

  • $35 entry fee per vehicle, good for 7 days.
  • $10-20 per person per meal.

Safety Information

  • Avoid hiking alone.
  • Bring snacks and plenty of water, especially if you go hiking.
  • Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes on hiking trails and give them a wide berth.
  • If you see a black bear or mountain lion, make a lot of noise, pick up small children, and don’t run away. Maintain eye contact as you slowly back away and give the animal space. In the extremely unlikely event that the animal attacks, fight back.
  • Keep to the speed limit, to avoid hitting either wildlife or traffic.
  • Call (209) 372-0200 for current road conditions.

Start Packing!

Here’s our packing list. What you take depends on what you plan to do on the tour.

  • Phone charger/mount (very important!)
  • Sneakers
  • Hiking clothes. Layer up.
  • Hiking shoes
  • Jacket
  • Hat/sunglasses
  • Lawn chairs, for soaking in that perfect view
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Canteen/ refillable water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Credit card
  • Tire chains (if visiting during chain requirements)

Leave No Trace

person standing at lembert dome with purple shirtShutterstock Image

Here at Shaka Guide, we promote ways we can preserve special places, like our national parks, for future generations.

Please pick up your trash, leave plant and animal life as you find it, and stick to marked trails.

In this way, generations to come can enjoy Yosemite National Park.

RELATED: Travel Tips for Minimal Impact

download shaka guide's yosemite audio tour guide

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan check out our Yosemite National Park Itinerary.

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