Following the guidelines below will ensure a safe, enjoyable visit to Yosemite:
Flowing water can look deceptively calm—but beware, even a meandering river can whisk someone away in an instant. Stay well away from slippery rocks by the water’s edge, and never get near the water at the top of a waterfall.
There’s no better way to explore Yosemite than on foot. However, it’s important to know your own abilities and hike within your limits—bringing the right layers, footwear, food and water. Trails at Yosemite range from relatively flat, smooth paths to steep, rocky cliffs with no guardrails. Study the trail maps and plan ahead to keep you and your hiking partners safe. The National Park Service has more hiking safety tips to review as you plan your trip.
Keep food away. That’s the single most important rule about wildlife safety in Yosemite. When you feed the animals, they become accustomed to humans—and may become aggressive in their efforts to access human food. Sadly, rangers are forced to kill bears when they threaten people or break into buildings or cars. Do your part: keep your food away from all wildlife—including storing your food in bear-resistant containers if you’re camping at Yosemite.
- Keep bears in mind. Keep your distance from bears and all wildlife—even if they approach you. Wild bears are rarely aggressive, but learn (add link) what to do if you encounter one.
- Use insect protection. Mosquitoes and ticks can carry diseases, so use a bug spray and reapply as needed.
NOTE: Please obey speed limits in the Park. Each year dozens of bears and hundreds of other animals are hit by cars due to speeding.
It is possible (though unlikely) while visiting Yosemite that you could be exposed to a variety of vector-borne diseases, general information about those diseases are listed below.
Wild animals in Yosemite can transmit numerous diseases, including plague, rabies, and hantavirus. Keeping your distance and your food from wildlife not only protects them, it protects you from injury and exposure to diseases.
Here are some general tips to reduce your risk:
- Avoid contact with wildlife and keep food and trash stored properly.
- Avoid contact with mosquitoes and ticks.
- Use an effective insect repellent.
- Find and remove ticks from your body, clothing, backpacks, children, and pets. Soon after going indoors, bathe or shower, then conduct a full-body tick check using a mirror.
- Avoid sleeping in rodent-infested areas or near animal burrows.
- If you see evidence of rodent activity in your room or other facility, contact park staff (don’t clean it up yourself).
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory disease in humans caused contracted by contact with the urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents.
- Avoid touching live or dead rodents, do not touch rodent nests or dens.
- Keep food sealed tightly and secure.
- When camping, avoid sleeping directly on the ground, use a cot or other sleeping surface that is at least 12 inches above ground.
- Discard all trash in accordance with area regulations.
- Again, If you see evidence of rodent activity in your room or other facility, contact park staff (don’t clean it up yourself).
Lyme Disease. People get Lyme disease when a tick infected with the Lyme disease bacterium attaches and feeds on them. If you are bitten by a tick, and later experience flu-like symptoms, contact your doctor and mention you had a tick bite.
Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF) is a rare but serious illness caused by bacteria that are carried by soft ticks. TBRF typically causes flu-like symptoms that disappear quickly after a few days. This is followed by a return (or relapse) of symptoms a few days later.
Plague is a highly infectious bacterial disease primarily affecting rodents. Humans and other animals can get plague if they visit or live in areas where wild rodents are naturally infected.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. The virus is usually passed to humans via the bite of a rabid animal. If you encounter a mammal, particularly a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote, or bat, behaving erratically, don’t touch the animal. Instead, report the animal to a park employee.
If you encounter a mammal, particularly a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote, or bat, behaving erratically, don’t touch the animal. Instead, report the animal to a park employee.
Keeping You Safe
The National Park Service’s Search & Rescue Team responds to missing, stranded, and injured park visitors ever year. Visit their Preventive Search and Rescue blog to learn about their latest rescues—and how to ensure you don’t find yourself in a dangerous situation.
The Yosemite Medical Clinic, located between Yosemite Village and The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, is staffed with a full team capable of caring for sick and injured park visitors.
Just as you would anywhere else, dial 911 for emergencies of any kind.