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Home » Yosemite Shuttle Experience: Everything You Need to Know About The Free Shuttle At Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Shuttle Experience: Everything You Need to Know About The Free Shuttle At Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Shuttle bus in green and white colors

Nestled in the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite National Park is a natural wonderland that draws millions of visitors each year. With its breathtaking waterfalls, towering granite cliffs, and diverse ecosystems, Yosemite offers an unparalleled opportunity to connect with nature. To help visitors explore this magnificent park while minimizing their impact on the environment, the Yosemite Shuttle system has been a game-changer. In this blog post, I’ll take you on a journey through Yosemite, showcasing how the shuttle system enhances the visitor experience. I’ll cover Yosemite shuttle routes, schedules, trip planning tips, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

My husband and I love nature but we put off visiting Yosemite National Park for the longest time because we were wary of the crowds and worried if such a popular park would live up to the hype. But last year, we decided to bite the bullet and visit the park for my birthday in the fall. We stayed for an entire week in Curry Village tent cabins enjoying the sunsets at Half Dome from the nearby meadow, stargazing under the clear night sky, eating at the most scenic restaurants, and hiking along the park’s incredibly beautiful trails. It was one of my most special birthdays!

The next part might come as a surprise but we did all of this and more without a car!

A big reason that made this possible was the free Yosemite Shuttle that runs throughout the valley. Whether you decide to drive to Yosemite or take public transportation to get to the park (like us), you’re likely to board the Yosemite Shuttle at least once during your trip. Here’s all the information about Yosemite Shuttle to help you plan well and make the most of your time in Yosemite National Park!

Half Dome as seen from Four Mile Trail
View of Half Dome as seen from Four Mile Trail

Yosemite Shuttle FAQs

Is there a free shuttle in Yosemite?


Yes! Yosemite offers a free shuttle service covering several sections of the national park. There are two main routes in the Valley itself – the Valleywide Shuttle and the East Valley Shuttle. In addition, there are also a few other routes like the Mariposa Grove shuttle which take you to specific parts of the national park.

How do you get to and around Yosemite without a car?


It is absolutely possible to visit Yosemite National Park without ever stepping into a car! In fact, this is one of the reasons why you will see several international tourists including Europeans when you visit the park.

You can take the Greyhound bus or Amtrak train to Merced where you will find a connecting YARTS bus that drops you right in the middle of Yosemite National Park at the Visitor Center.
My husband and I took the train from Oakland, CA to Merced, CA.

Then we hopped on the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) bus from the bus stop located right by the train station building. The bus wound its way through the mountains and dropped us at Curry Village. The entire trip took us less than six hours.

You can book this entire journey (Oakland or SF to Yosemite) directly on Amtrak so that you’re not juggling separate reservations on two different platforms.

Once inside the park, you can take one of the two main Yosemite Valley shuttles or one of the specific point shuttles to get to places like Mariposa Grove. There’s also a Badger Pass Ski Area
ski shuttle in winter.

There are also a few YARTS buses that run in the area – Highway 120 East, Highway 120, Highway 140, and Highway 41. Out of these, 41 and 120E buses get you to the Tuolumne Meadows, Mammoth Lakes, and Wawona Road areas for a fee. Yosemite Shuttle bus at the stop amidst the trees

What are the timings for the Yosemite shuttle?


The Yosemite Valley shuttles run between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day.

How often does the Yosemite Valley shuttle run?


The Valleywide Yosemite Shuttle runs every 12 to 22 minutes and has a total roundtrip loop time of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The East Valley Shuttle runs every 8 to 12 minutes and has a total roundtrip loop time of approximately 50 minutes. This service is currently unavailable.

Does the Yosemite shuttle go to Glacier Point?


No, unfortunately, the Yosemite Shuttle does not go to Glacier Point.

However, you can take the free shuttle to stop #11 and hike the Four Mile Trail up to Glacier Point. This is a challenging trail if you’re hiking it out and back. But it offers incredible views throughout.

There is also a paid, bus tour led by a park ranger to Glacier Point but it is currently not operating in 2023.

What is the best way to get around Yosemite?

This depends on your personal interests, abilities, and goals for the trip. Read below to see which mode best fits your needs.

Public transport: If you’d like to enjoy the valley while leaving the driving to someone else, the free shuttles are the best way to get around the park. Even the National Park Service highly recommends that visitors use this option in the valley to avoid congestion. While this comes with route limitations, it allows you a cheaper and more environment-friendly alternative when seeing a national park. This also allows you to stay longer in the park without worrying about parking, gas, or EV charging.

Bike: Yosemite National Park has paved bike paths and bike rentals making this a great way for active travelers to explore the park without the traffic and public transport limitations.

Car: A car is best for people looking to explore more removed parts of Yosemite National Park like Hetch Hetchy where the shuttles and buses do not go.

Why should I take the Yosemite shuttle?


Here are the main reasons why you should consider taking the Yosemite shuttle.
1. Reducing Traffic Congestion: Yosemite is an iconic destination, and its popularity has led to overcrowding, especially during peak seasons. The Yosemite Shuttle serves as a vital tool to alleviate traffic congestion. By leaving your car behind and opting for the shuttle, you’re not only saving time but also helping to reduce the carbon footprint of your visit.
2. Reduced Environmental Impact: Yosemite National Park is committed to sustainability, and the shuttle system aligns perfectly with this vision. Electric buses are increasingly being used, reducing emissions and minimizing the ecological footprint of transportation within the park.
3. Convenience and Accessibility: Yosemite is vast, covering over 1,180 square miles, and parking can be a significant challenge. The Yosemite Shuttle network, comprising multiple routes, ensures that you can access key points of interest with ease. Whether you want to hike in Yosemite Valley, explore the high country in Tuolumne Meadows, or admire the giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove, there’s a shuttle route for you.

Free Yosemite Shuttle bus exit door
Near the exit door of the free Yosemite Shuttle

Shuttle Routes

Valleywide Shuttle

The Valleywide shuttle runs in a loop and covers several key points in the Yosemite valley from El Capitan in the west to Mirror Lake in the east.

Stops

  1. Yosemite Village Parking
  2. Village Store
  3. The Ahwahnee
  4. Degnan’s Kitchen
  5. Valley Visitor Center and Museum
  6. Lower Yosemite Fall
  7. Yosemite Valley Lodge and Yosemite Falls Parking
  8. El Capitan Picnic Area
  9. El Capitan Meadow
  10. Cathedral Beach
  11. Four Mile Trail
  12. Housekeeping Camp/Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center
  13. Curry Village (Eastbound)
  14. Upper Pines Campground
  15. Happy Isles
  16. Mirror Lake
  17. Lower Pines Campground
  18. Curry Village (Westbound) (This stop is closed at present)

Timings

7 am to 10 pm daily (shorter hours in winter)

Frequency

Every 12 to 22 minutes

Total roundtrip loop time of 1 hour and 30 minutes

Season

All year round


Valleywide shuttle bus stop 11 with Four Mile Trail sign
Valleywide shuttle bus stop 11 for Four Mile Trail

East Valley Shuttle

The East Valley shuttle runs in a loop and covers several key points in the eastern part of Yosemite Valley between Village Store and Mirror Lake. This is back in operation after being out during the summer.

Stops

  1. Yosemite Village Parking
  2. Village Store
  3. Housekeeping Camp/Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center
  4. Curry Village (Eastbound)
  5. Upper Pines Campground
  6. Happy Isles
  7. Mirror Lake
  8. Lower Pines Campground
  9. Curry Village (Westbound)

Timings

7 am to 10 pm daily (shorter hours in winter)

Frequency

Every 8 to 12 minutes

Total roundtrip loop time of 50 minutes

Season

All year round


Yosemite Valley Shuttle System Map showing Valleywide and East Valley Shuttle routes
Yosemite Valley Shuttle System Map. Photo credit: National Park Service
(No claim to original U.S. Government works)

Mariposa Grove Shuttle

The Mariposa Grove Shuttle provides point-to-point service from the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza (near the South Entrance) to the Mariposa Grove.

Stops

  1. Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza
  2. Mariposa Grove

Timings

  • June 9 – September 7: 8 am to 7 pm. The last bus leaves Mariposa Grove at 8 pm
  • September 8 – November 7: 8 am to 5:30 pm. The last bus leaves Mariposa Grove at 6:30 pm
  • November 8 – November 30: Weather permitting, 8 am to 3:30 pm. The last bus leaves Mariposa Grove at 5:00 pm

Frequency

  • June 9 – September 7: Every 10 minutes
  • September 8 – November 30: Every 15 minutes (Weather permitting)

Season

No service in winter. 2023 didn’t have spring service due to road damage.


Badger Pass Ski Area

The Badger Pass Ski Area shuttle provides free connectivity from Yosemite Valley to the Badger Pass area in winter when ski facilities are open. The morning shuttles take visitors from the Yosemite Valley to the ski area whereas the afternoon and evening return shuttles only return to the valley.

Stops

  1. Curry Village Registration
  2. Yosemite Transportation (Across the Village Store)
  3. Yosemite Valley Lodge
  4. Badger Pass Ski Area

Timings

The morning shuttle starts from Curry Village at 8:05 a.m. and 10:35 a.m. Return shuttles depart at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Frequency

Twice a day.

Season

Winter when ski facilities are open.


Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle (Not in operation currently)

The Tuolumne Meadows shuttle provides service throughout the Tuolumne Meadows area between the Tioga Pass and Olmsted Point (including Tenaya Lake).

Stops

  1. Tuolumne Meadows Lodge
  2. Dog Lake Parking
  3. Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center
  4. Lembert Dome
  5. Tuolumne Meadows Campground and Store
  6. Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center
  7. Cathedral Lakes Trailhead
  8. Pothole Dome
  9. East end of Tenaya Lake
  10. Sunrise Lakes Trailhead (west end of Tenaya Lake)
  11. May Lake Trailhead
  12. Olmsted Point

Timings

Between 7 am and 7 pm

Frequency

Every half hour.

Season

 Mid-June to mid-September. Dates vary by year


Shuttle Stops on Google Maps

The map below shows all the stops of Valleywide and East Valley Shuttle.

The purple stops are only on the Valleywide Shuttle and the orange stops are on both Valleywide and East Valley shuttles.


Farha’s Yosemite Shuttle Pro Tips

Here are my pro tips when using the Yosemite Shuttle to help you have a better experience:

  1. Travel in shoulder season: Yosemite National Park is most crowded in the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If you travel during these months, you are bound to be packed in overcrowded buses or wait in line for the next bus if there’s no room onboard. Consider traveling in spring or fall when you will notice a big difference in the crowds. This allows you to focus your energies on enjoying the park’s beauty rather than worry about logistics. My husband and I visited at the end of September and never had to wait in line for the next bus. We even found empty seats on most rides.
  2. Travel during the weekdays: This is an extension of the previous point. Even during our visit in the fall, there was a noticeable difference in the number of people in the park on a weekday versus the weekend. We stayed for an entire week so most of our days on the bus were very pleasant.
  3. Shuttle bus only runs one way (counterclockwise): Remember when planning your day that the shuttle buses only run counterclockwise. So for example, if you’re planning to hike the Four Mile Trail (Stop #11) and spend some time at Cathedral Beach (Stop #10), you’re better off heading to the beach first and hiking second rather than the other way around.
  4. Be prepared to walk: This tip relates to what I mentioned above about the buses running only in one direction. So if you’re able, it’s better to walk shorter distances in the clockwise direction rather than wait for the next bus which can take you more than an hour to return to a previous stop. For example, if you arrive at Lower Yosemite Fall (Stop #6) and then decide to stop by the Valley Visitor Center (Stop #5) for information followed by lunch at The Ahwahnee, you can cover this entire distance in less than half an hour. This is much more efficient than waiting for the bus and riding it in the opposite direction.
  5. Stay inside the park: We had a great time staying in Curry Village with its casual, communal vibe and budget-friendly stay options. Yosemite National Park has several lodges and camp areas which let you stay within the park boundaries and spend less time commuting in and out of the park every day during your visits. The shuttle stops are right at your doorstep if you stay at places like The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Valley Lodge, Curry Village, and Housekeeping Camp.
  6. Check the NPS website for the latest schedules and closures: The National Park Service website details which routes are currently not in operation or which stops are closed depending on the season, construction work, and road closures. While I will do my best to keep this page updated, you should definitely check out the NPS website for the latest information.
Person looking up at the Yosemite Visitor Center
Yosemite Visitor Center – One of the stops along Yosemite Shuttle route

That covers all the highlights, schedules, route maps and FAQs for riding the free Yosemite Shuttle. I know in America we are not used to traveling without a car but I hope initiatives like this can make a small dent in the traffic and environmental impact while also providing us with a more communal travel experience. This guide will tell you everything you need to know before getting to Yosemite National Park, so you can maximize your time and experience on arrival.

Have you been to Yosemite National Park? What are your thoughts on the Yosemite Shuttle? Please don’t hesitate to ask anything else you’d like to know about the place. I’ll do my best to answer them.

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