Winter Travel Conditions

Winter Travel Conditions

Know Before You Go

Know Before You Go

Winters in Yosemite National Park are known for their breathtaking beauty, snow-covered peaks, and endless array of winter activities. However, the weather here is notoriously unpredictable and can affect roads and transportation all around Yosemite.

Fortunately, the National Park Service at Yosemite operates a 24-hour Road Status phone number, which you can reach by calling 209-372-0200. Select option #1 from both menus for the most up-to-date conditions of Yosemite’s roads. Find more information at National Park Service Yosemite Current Conditions.

Tire chains my be required depending on weather conditions. You must have chains when entering a chain control area even if you are driving a four-wheel drive or rental vehicle. NPS strongly recommends to have chains or cables in your possession during November through March, however, chain requirements can happen as early as September and late as May. Please keep in mind that chains are dependent on the weather condition and not time of year. Find more information at National Park Service Tire Chains. 

Because weather can change so quickly at Yosemite, and temperatures dropped quickly as you gain altitude, it's important to be prepared for any weather you may come across—especially if you’re cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. It's possible to be gliding along in the sunshine one minute and hunkered down for a squall the next. Always bring plenty of layers, extra food and extra water—even if you're just going out for a quick trip.

Winter Entrances

Three of Yosemite National Park's entrances stay open year-round: CA 41 from Oakhurst, CA; 140 from Mariposa; and CA 120 West from Groveland. Due to the amount of snow Yosemite Park gets each winter, certain roads are closed to vehicles until spring. See Road Access below for more information.

Winter Road Closures

From October through May, the following roads are closed:

  • Tioga Road (CA 120 East) accesses Yosemite’s high country including White Wolf Lodge, Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows, Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, Tuolumne Meadows Campground, Lembert Dome and all trail heads along the road. The eastern entrance to the park at Lee Vining Canyon via Highway 395 is closed when the road is closed. Tioga Road typical season is Late May/June through October/November. 
  • Glacier Point Road accesses Yosemite’s most famous viewpoint, Glacier Point, as well as Bridalveil Creek Campground, Sentinel Dome and Taft Point, and Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area Ski Area. When the Glacier Point Road is closed for the winter, the first 5 miles are plowed and maintained to provide access to Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area Ski Area. The road beyond Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area is groomed for cross-country skiing. Glacier Point Road typical season is Mid December through March.
  • Mariposa Grove Road accesses the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. When the road is closed to vehicles due to winter conditions, you are welcome to utilize the road on foot, snowshoes, or skis to access the Mariposa Grove. The distance from the parking lot at the road entrance gate to the Mariposa Grove is two miles.

Public Transportation

Public transportation to Yosemite Valley is available every day of the year, weather permitting. Once you're in the Park, the Yosemite Valley free shuttle bus also operates year-round. Find more information at Public Transportation page.

Road Condition Report:

Wawona Road

(Continuation of Highway 41 from Fresno)

(Information about Highway 41 outside Yosemite)

Big Oak Flat Road

(Continuation of Hwy 120 from Manteca into Yosemite Valley)

(Information about Highway 120 outside Yosemite)

El Portal Road

(Continuation of Highway 140 from Merced)

(Information about Highway 140 outside Yosemite)

Hetch Hetchy Road (Open 8:00 am to 5:00 pm)

Badger Pass Road

Mariposa Grove Road

The Mariposa Grove is closed until spring 2017

Glacier Point Road (beyond Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area )

Tioga Road

(Continuation of Highway 120 through the park)

(Information about Highway 120 outside Yosemite)

Tire Chain Requirements

All vehicles entering Yosemite National Park during winter conditions must carry snow chains. Call (209) 372-0200, 1, 1, for the most up-to-date road info. See Tire Chains below for more information.

In severe winter conditions, using tire chains at Yosemite National Park is a requirement and is determined by the National Park Service. When entering a designated Chain Control Area, federal law requires that you carry tire chains in your vehicle at all times—even if your vehicle has snow tires and four-wheel-drive. The National Park Service can require snow chains on any vehicle on any park road at any time. If you don’t have tire chains, the park rangers will deny your entrance into the park. Traveling without tire chains in your vehicle—or on your tires when required—will result in fines up to $5,000.

There are three categories of chain requirements: R1, R2, and R3.

R1 Chains or snow tires are required on the drive axle of all vehicles. Two-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires that have an M+S rating and a minimum tread depth of 6/32 of an inch are okay to drive without putting on chains.
R2 Chains are required on all vehicles except four-wheel / all-wheel drive vehicles with snow-tread tires on all four wheels.
R3 Chains are required on all vehicles, no exceptions. Including those with four-wheel / all-wheel drive.

Tire chains should be purchased before your winter trip to Yosemite National Park. Chains must be the correct size for your car's tires and installed on the drive wheels: on the front for front-wheel-drive vehicles and on the back for rear-wheel-drive vehicles. For cars with four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, chains must be installed on one axle: either the front tires the back tires. While cable-type chains are acceptable, they don't provide nearly as much traction as traditional chains.

For current road information inside Yosemite call 209-372-0200. Select 1 and then 1 again—or visit the National Park Service’s Yosemite Road Conditions page.

For current road information outside of Yosemite National Park, call CALTRANS at: 1-800-427-7623 (1-800-GAS-ROAD).

Additional Information:

  • Mud and Snow tires are typically designated with a "M+S" on the side of the tire, and must have a minimum tread depth of 6/32 of an inch to be legal. Studded snow tires may be used if the tires are also rated as snow tires. If not, the tires must be chained as studs do not replace chains. Studded snow tires are allowed, but still require chains in R2 conditions. 
  • Tire traction devices (chains) can be link chain, cable chains, and/or spider straps
  • Any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds must chain up—typically this applies to large vans and trucks.
  • All vehicles towing trailers must have chains on one drive axle of the vehicle, even with 4-wheel drive and snow tires.
  • If the trailer has brakes, it must also have chains on one axle.

If the idea of driving on Yosemite's snowy roads is intimidating, you can leave your car on CA Highway 140 outside Yosemite in the town of El Portal at the public transportation bus stop and use the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System to travel into and out of Yosemite.