Yosemite reopens Thursday. What you need to know before you go

Mary Forgione
Yosemite Falls, shown here without any visitors, on April 11 during its closure because of the coronavirus pandemic.  (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Yosemite National Park will reopen Thursday, but don't expect to spontaneously show up for a visit. Like other national parks, Yosemite has devised steps and rules — such as reservations to limit the number of day visitors — in reopening Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, the Mariposa Grove, Tuolumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy and other popular places.

"It's going to be a different kind of summer," acting park supervisor Cicely Muldoon said in a statement Monday. The reopening plan initially will allow half the usual number of June visitors and follow health guidelines set by local and federal health officials in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Not everything will open right away. Upper Pines is the sole campground that will be open, with 50% capacity. What if you have a reservation? Park officials say they are contacting visitors about availability at the campground. Others campgrounds remain closed because of a lack of staff to keep restrooms clean and trash removed, Yosemite's website said.

Lodgings will reopen, but bus tours and park shuttles won't operate this summer. And visitors are asked to follow CDC social distancing guidelines too. Check out the changes at Yosemite's FAQ web page.

Here's what you need to know before you visit:

  • Day visitors must pay the entrance fee online and reserve a vehicle pass. The park will issue 1,700 vehicle passes per day through recreation.gov starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday. "Upon showing proof of your reservation and a matching photo ID at the entrance station, you will be issued a vehicle permit to enter the park," Yosemite's website said. The day-use permit admits visitors between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. and is good for seven days.
  • On Tuesday, most passes for June and July will be available online. Passes will then be issued a month ahead of time. For example, vehicle passes for August will go on sale July 1 at 7 a.m. The cost is $35, which covers the park entrance and $2 handling fee.
  • You'll need a day-use permit to drive through the park on Tioga Road (Highway 120), which will open June 15.
  • Visitors who have reservations to camp at Upper Pines Campground or to stay at Yosemite Valley Lodge, Curry Village or the Ahwahnee don't need a day-use permit..
  • Visitors on a commercial tour of the park and those who enter on YARTS regional buses, on foot, by bicycle or by horseback also don't need a day-use permit.

The park asks visitors to stay at least 6 feet from others, whether on a trail or in a parking lot. If you can't maintain that distance, wear a face covering. Trash pickup and restroom facilities will be limited, so be prepared to pack out what you bring in. The park also is discouraging high-risk activities that may task its search and rescue operations.