Yosemite National ParkYosemite National Park gateways are San Francisco, 190 miles west of the park, or Reno, about 215 miles northeast. Figure 31/2 to 4 hours by car from either city. Non-stop flights from Chicago to both are available. American Airlines flies non-stop to Reno out of O'Hare; a recent check found a lowest fare at about $334, but passengers willing to take a a single stop and look around can reduce that fare considerably. American, United and Alaska Air fly non-stops into San Francisco at fares in the same ballpark as the Reno flights (again, one-stops can be an option); checking fares into and out of San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento or Fresno (the closest gateway . . . but it's Fresno) might provide some relief.
GETTING AROUND YOSEMITE
Parking and traffic at Yosemite National Park isn't as problematic in fall as during summer season, though the traffic can thicken during the extended Columbus Day weekend. Most who drive into the park will want to use the free and frequent park shuttles to get around in the Valley and elsewhere, not only because they're more environmentally friendly and eliminate parking problems but because the drivers chatter adds to the experience. Some shuttles are seasonal, so check schedules. Additional paid shuttles link other routes, including popular hiking and climbing destinations.
Most visitors to Yosemite Park either dine at their lodges or self-cater in campgrounds or in kitchen-equipped rooms. The one true destination-restaurant is the semi-formal (at dinner), candlelit Ahwahnee Dining Room (reservations required at dinner: 209-372-1489), in the hotel. Expect dinner for two to set you back $150-up plus beverages and gratuity, and expect to walk out full and happy.
A centralized booking system (559-253-5636; Reservations) handles all on site Yosemite lodgings, including The Ahwahnee, a landmark since 1927 and a classic of its type; in most seasons, if you can get a room at the Ahwahnee, expect to pay around $470-up a night (double occupancy; all rates subject to change and seasonal variation). Other options in the park include the less deluxe but central Yosemite Lodge (from $109), the historic and variable (some rooms have shared bath) Wawona Hotel (with private bath, from $149), and a variety of cabins and tent-cabins with and without private bath (from $135 with, $49 without). Off-site, our choice�Yosemite View Lodge, in El Portal, Calif., near the Arch Rock entrance�made us happy with its cleanliness and good restaurant (from $159, river view [recommended] from $199; 888-742-4371.. Reserve early, as tours and weddings can lock up large banks of rooms. Naturally, this being a national park, there are the usual campgrounds and backcountry options.
Finally, almost everywhere you go in Yosemite Ntl Park is a picture postcard experience, so please play your part and take care not to spoil this national and natural treasure during your visit.
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