Are you a landscape photographer? The Yosemite National Park boasts incredible views across an area of approximately 3,081 square miles.
But, despite how large it is, there are currently just 5 entrances available for visitors to gain access to the National Park from.
In this guide, we are going to be providing you with some helpful information on how to access Yosemite park.
Plus, along with providing travel information, we are also going to be giving you some additional photography advice on how to get the best imagery once there.
Let’s jump in!
How To Gain Entrance To Yosemite National Park
Like we’ve mentioned in a previous point above, Yosemite National Park is huge.
But, given the fact that there are currently 5 Yosemite entrances for you to choose from that are open to the public – you’re going to need to be strategic when planning a visit.
Besides being able to save you plenty of money (as well as helping to ensure that you’ll be able to get there without having spent hours driving to find a place to park) choosing the right entrance will also allow you to focus on the most important part: enjoying the park and getting great photography images!
So, which entrance should you choose to enter Yosemite National Park via? Well, ultimately, this will all depend on where your starting location is, as well as what it is that you would like to see during your time in Yosemite National Park.
That being said, if you are going to be driving to Yosemite National Park from Los Angeles or Sequoia, then the best entrance for you is going to be the South Entrance of Yosemite National Park.
On the other hand, if you are going to be heading in from San Francisco, then you are going to want to enter via the Big Oak Flat entrance.
As for those that are planning to visit the Yosemite National Park from the easy (such a Bishop or Las Vegas) then the only practical entrance for you to enter Yosemite National Park from is going to be the Tioga Pass entrance.
As well as considering what your starting point is, you are also going to want to make sure that you are thinking about what time of year you are going to be visiting Yosemite National Park.
It’s important to note that some areas of the park might not be open during certain times of the year due to seasonal closures and adverse weather conditions.
Along with all of that, you are also going to need to make sure that you are considering what your vehicle is. Do you have a vehicle that is going to be able to handle winding roads and tight turns?
In addition to that, do you have a vehicle that will be able to handle muddy roads and different types of terrain? These are just some of the things that you’ll need to consider.
So, to make sure that you are going to be able to choose the right entrance for you – let’s go ahead and move to our next section to discover each one in more detail.
The Yosemite National Park Entrances: Which One Should You Pick?
From considering what type of vehicle you are going to be driving to the Yosemite National Park, all the way to thinking about what your starting point is going to be – entering Yosemite can be tricky, to say the least.
There are four Yosemite entrances that are situated on the west side of the Yosemite National Park. These are the following: Hetch Hetchy, Big Oak Flat, South Entrances as well as Arch Rock.
Then, we have the Tioga Pass entrance, which is located on the east side of Yosemite National Park.
Let’s break down the Yosemite National Park entrances below so that you can decide which is going to be the best option for you when planning your trip:
Hetch Hetchy Entrance
The first entrance (as well as one of the most popular) is Hetch Hetchy. This entrance is located on the farthest side on the north of the park, and is an ideal option to go for if you want to take images of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir.
Along with the above, the Hetchy Hetchy entrance will also allow you to explore some of the most peaceful areas of the Yosemite National Park, which means that you will be able to enjoy taking landscape photography while also being able to escape the crowds.
Not only that, but there is also plenty of wildlife to spot while at the Hetch Hetchy area of the Yosemite National Park, including the largest North American bat and more.
If you want to access the park via this entrance, you should take Highway 120.
Big Oak Flat Entrance
If you’re from the Bay Area, then you’re going to want to make sure that you enter Yosemite National Park via the Big Oak Flat Entrance.
This is one of the easiest ways to enter the park and can be accessed via the route: I-580 east to I-205, before then taking Highway 120 east via Manteca, California. From there, it will then take you around 45 minutes to get to Yosemite Valley.
From a photography perspective, if you are interested in taking pictures of lakes, then you’ll be making a good choice to enter the park from the Big Oak Flat entrance.
This area of the Yosemite National Park is home to a variety of lakes for you to explore via hiking trails. This includes the Lukens Lake, the Harden Lake, the May Lake as well as the North Dome.
Arch Rock Entrance
The next entrance that you have available for you to consider taking is the Arch Rock Entrance.
If you’re not overly familiar with Yosemite National Park, the Arch Rock Entrance is considered to be one of the alternate routes to Big Oak Flat entrance for visitors coming in from the Bay Area.
That being said, if you’re planning to make a visit to Yosemite National Park via the Bay Area and the Big Oak Flat Entrance isn’t going to be the right option for you, then the Arch Rock entrance is a great option to consider.
Besides being an alternative option to get to Yosemite National Park, the Arch Rock entrance is also an ideal option for those wanting to escape the crowds.
So, if you want to get to Yosemite from this entrance, you’re going to need to take I-580 East to I-205, before hopping onto Highway 140 East. This will take you around 25 minutes to then reach the Yosemite Valley.
Last but certainly not least, the final option that you can consider accessing the Yosemite National Park by is the popular South Entrance.
The South Entrance, as we have already briefly touched upon above, is an ideal entrance for anyone that is planning to visit Yosemite National Park from either San Diego, Los Angeles or other nearby areas.
Keep in mind that, if you are going to be traveling from these areas, you’ll need to make sure that you have prepared for the journey.
Unlike some of the other options we have talked you through above, this is a much longer journey and will take you anywhere from 6-8 hours, depending on the weather and traffic conditions.
The Best Photography Spots In Yosemite National Park
Now that we have covered all the entrances that you can take to gain access to Yosemite National Park, we are now going to be sharing with you some of the best photography locations that you can visit while in Yosemite.
No matter which entrance you use to gain access to the park, you’ll be able to access all of these locations.
However, given just how big Yosemite National Park is, you’re going to want to make sure that you are planning ahead to make sure that you will be able to get to all of the spots you’d like to visit.
1. Nevada And Vernal Falls
One of the most incredible places to visit while in Yosemite (especially, if you want to get great pictures) is Nevada and Vernal Falls! The hiking trail up to this waterfall, despite being challenging, is absolutely worth it for the views.
Both Nevada and Vernal Falls are extremely photogenic and will allow you to capture breathtaking images of some of Yosemite National Park’s most iconic landmarks.
For the best photography results, we recommend visiting during the morning or sunset (see also “Best Sunset Photography Ideas“), as this is typically when Nevada and Vernal Falls tend to be the most quiet.
2. Tunnel View
If you’re going to be in Yosemite National Park for a few days, then you should certainly consider making the hike over to Tunnel View.
From the Bridal Veil Falls, all the way to the Half Dome – there’s so much to see here, which means that you’ll have plenty of photo opportunities!
Keep in mind, though, that Tunnel View is one of the most bustling and busy spots in Yosemite, so you should try and get there early in the morning so you can take pictures without crowds.
No matter whether you’re an experienced photographer or not, you’ll be able to take incredible landscape photography here.
Plus, Tunnel View is also a popular spot for astrophotography, and many people that want to capture images of the night sky tend to come here.
3. Sentinel Bridge
Do you want to take sunset photos of Yosemite’s natural beauty during your visit? If you do, then you are going to want to make sure that you visit Sentinel Bridge during golden hour!
If you decide to pay a visit to Sentinel Bridge while the sun is setting (which many visitors deem to be the best time to visit) you will be able to capture images like no other as the light of the setting sun will cascade illuminated light all across the incredible rock formations.
Landscape Photography Tips
While it’s all good and well to know about the best ways to enter the park, as well as what the best shooting locations in Yosemite are – it’s also vital that you make sure you are able to capture great pictures while you’re there.
Below, here are a few tips we recommend you follow to achieve professional level images that will be able to capture the beauty of Yosemite:
- Use the right lens: When it comes to landscape photography, it is recommended that you use a 35mm to 50mm lens for the best results.
- Take multiple photos: For the best landscape photography results, you’re going to want to make sure that you are taking multiple photos per session. By doing this, you will be able to take many photos at once, so you’ll have plenty to work with.
- Arrive earlier or later to avoid crowds: Last but certainly not least, you are going to want to try and make sure that you arrive early in the morning or later at night in order to beat the busy crowds. This will allow you to capture imagery undisturbed.
We’ve made it to the end of the guide!
If you have read this far, we hope that we have been able to not only give you a better understanding of the various ways that you can enter Yosemite National Park, but we also hope that we have been able to help you decide which entrance is going to be best for you.
Plus, as well as helping you plan your trip to Yosemite National Park, we also hope that we have been able to give you a better understanding of all the top shooting locations in the park so that you can make the most of your time there.
By following the photography tips that we have shared with you above, we’re sure you will be able to capture beautiful images of Yosemite National Park’s natural beauty in all its glory. Thanks for reading, and happy travels!