Getting to Yosemite without a car

Sometimes it's hard to coordinate with friends who have cars. Or perhaps the driver bailed and you are all ready to go. Or maybe you have a random weekday off and want to hit the slopes with no one else.

You could always rent a car, but it's burdensome and expensive to drive, pay for gas, put on snow chains, etc.You could try carpooling, but there generally isn’t enough critical mass for carpooling to be reliable and safe. And I’m going to assume that a private jet or car hire is not what you’re looking for.

This protip will focus on getting to Yosemite from the San Francisco Bay Area without a car, by public transit. First thing to know is that public transit means two things:

  1. Public charter buses. These comfy buses take you straight to the park. (Note, while there are tours that also take you to the park, we've focused on charter buses that exist to provide transportation, without any included activities once you've arrived.)
  2. Regular public transit. The good 'ol fashioned way, by train and then bus.

We’ll cover both in this protip. Though honestly, for efficiency, we'd recommend the public charter bus option. Please note, not all itineraries are offered daily; there are differences based on high (May through October) and low season. We've included links to help you further your planning & make final reservations. This information is current for 2015/Spring 2016; always plan your trip in advance.

Getting to Yosemite by public charter bus

  • Provides brief overview narrative about the park
  • Provides a much faster/ convenient service direct to the park, meaning a one-day trip is possible (though you won't be in the Park for very long)
  • The two companies that operate buses from San Francisco are:

Getting to Yosemite by regular public transit

  • Takes you to multiple park & non-park destinations
  • Priced much cheaper

Step by step instructions

  1. Take any BART (Bay Area Regional Transit) subway to the Richmond station BART, which conveniently is also an Amtrak station
  2. At Richmond BART/Amtrak take the Amtrak to Merced
  3. Upon arrival at Merced Amtrak, you have 2 options. The main difference is that with YARTS you have 1 less time option, but YARTS will stop at the Yosemite Bug Resort (a popular hostel). Options:
    • Take YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transit System) to the Valley, or
    • Take Amtrak's shuttle service

TL;DR Comparison table

Click to enlarge

Comparison of different ways to get to Yosemite by transit

Remember, once you are in the park, there is a network of free shuttles that take you to the main destinations!

Happy trails!

Thoughts, ideas, questions? Let us know in the comments below! We're Last Minute Gear, and we'll do our best to get you ouside!


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