Yosemite National Park Day-Hike Guide During COVID19

Last weekend we went backpacking in Yosemite National Park, and we had a blast. This was my first time visiting Yosemite Valley, which I heard it is a zoo during regular hours.

I wanted to provide tips and tricks how to access Yosemite National Park for a day-hike and backpacking. This is my day-use post.

Yosemite National Park Requires a Permit to Access.

Information can be found on the website: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/reservations.htm

There Are Four Ways to Retrieve a Permit:

1. Day-use permit
2. Wilderness or Half-Dome Permits
2. in-park lodging, camping or vacation rentals
4. Regional transits or tour groups

For Day-Use Permits:

Book your reservation at Recreation.gov. It is best to book at the first of the month versus taking the chances of applying for a permit two-days in advance. Don’t risk it, book it now. It’s only $2 per vehicle . If you cancel your reservation, you will only lost $2, and it goes to the National Parks Services. Just do it. Please book it for the day you will actually visit.

Reservation Website

Step by Step Instructions:

From the NPS Website:
“Beginning at 7 am Pacific time on the first of each month, 80% of day-use reservations are available for arrival dates in the following month. For example, on August 1 at 7 am, day-use reservations for all arrival dates in September will be available.

Beginning at 7 am Pacific time two days ahead of the day-use reservation date, the remaining 20% of day-use reservations will be available. For example, on August 1 at 7 am, day-use reservations for August 3 arrival will be available.

Reservations will go quickly; be sure to have an account, be logged in and ready to get a reservation promptly at 7 am Pacific time.”

Book the Day You Plan to Visit.

This is important. Upon your arrival, you will need to bring your printed online permit in person. When you pay for admission or use your National Parks Pass, you will receive a Pink Pass to place on your dashboard. It will state the date of entry and when it expires, which is 7 days from your entry date.

You have to have this parking pass to legally park in Yosemite.

Blue parking passes is for those who will park overnight.

If you do not visit the day of your permit, it will not be valid. You must show up on the day of your permit. Please consider this when booking your trip.

I’d plan for minimum two days. Day 1: checking in, and getting familiar with the area. Day 2: Arrive early as possible and go for an early morning hike starting from 6-7am and miss out the crowds completely.

How’s Traffic?

Yosemite is limiting the amount of vehicles into the park, therefore regardless of the day you pick it will not be the typical zoo. Be mindful to arrive early on the weekend to avoid traffic.

If you plan to arrive on a weekday, be mindful of the route you choose. Coming from 120 = construction and lots of 1-way roads.

Check out Google Maps and see if there is an alternative route from 120. If you are taking 120, arrive early.

Reminder: taking 120 on a weekday can be madness due to road construction that starts exactly at 8am. Arrive there at 8am to pass it all. It will add another hour. Just plan on it if you don’t arrive at the Park Entrance by 8am on a weekday. We saw 30 cars waiting to enter near the Big Oak Flats entrance. You drive on the 1-lane road for like 5 minutes.

Plan Your Visit

There is so much to see and do. Please have a plan where you first want to visit and park.
Download the NPS Yosemite App or visit Plan Your Visit webpage. It will help plan what time you want to arrive and where to park.

Valley Tips: The Yosemite Valley Visitor Center has the most to offer in a radius. There are plenty of places to eat and a huge store.

Curry/Half-dome Village offers places to eat and two smaller stores. It’s not as crowded since it is not top of the list for people. What is the most popular in that area is close access to the lakes, Upper Pine Campgrounds, Glacier Point and the stairsteps near the waterfall, which is on our list to-do next time. And it is close to the Happy Isles Trailhead, which leads to Little Yosemite Village.


It is hot in the valley. It can get up to the 90’s. Plan your trip accordingly especially if you are only doing a one-day trip.

Example: The Upper Yosemite Falls Trailhead is the hottest trail in the park. If you start after 7am in the summer, it will get progressively worse. It is not the ideal hike to do if you cannot park and hike before 7am.

Plan to hike another trail.

Tuolumne Meadows is a lot cooler since it is higher in elevation, so it is not as much as a concern. TBH we love visiting there since it is not as crowded and the weather is so much better.

Regardless check the weather. It can get hot.


There is plenty of parking available. Best to plan to park in area you want to focus your trip.


Check and see what is open. Most of food options and stores are closed.

Tuolumne Meadows store or grill are closed. There are no food options so pack your lunch and eat your breakfast in the car. This is important so you don’t get out and hike and starve. That includes you should bring your own water bottle since there will be none to purchase outside of the Valley.


You need it. Print out your confirmation. Don’t have a printer? Go to Fedex and print a copy. It may cost 78 cents, but don’t be cheap and do the digital pass. Make your trip as successful and seamless as possible.

You will exchange your email confirmation with a pink-parking pass.

You cannot get in without one. There is no walk-in access.

Information Can Be Found On the Yosemite NPS website.

Do your research. All of this is regurgitated from the website. I wanted to remind people you need a permit and to do your research. This isn’t a spontaneous trip to do in 2020.



Lastly, please remember to leave LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND and leave it better than you found it. Pack your trash. You brought it in, and you can take it out and properly dispose of it.

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