Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Oakhurst Visitor Center
- Doggie Dos and Don'ts at Yosemite
- Yosemite with Dogs at Wawona
- Wawona Tunnel and Tunnel View
- Exploring Yosemite Valley with Dogs
- Walk to Bridalveil Fall
- Have a Picnic at Cathedral Beach
- See Sequoia Trees in Tuolumne Grove
- Yosemite with Dogs: Tips from Maya
- Making Reservations for Yosemite National Park
A California icon, Yosemite National Park is among the Golden State’s nine majestic national parks – each with unique features. Situated in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite is known for towering waterfalls, massive granite cliffs, ancient Sequoia trees, lush meadows, and deep valleys. With so sensory delights, it’s fun to bring along our furry friends. Can you take a dog to Yosemite? Yes, you can! We did and had a blast. Here’s how how to safely visit Yosemite with dogs, including dos and don’ts and a list of where dogs are NOT welcome inside the national park.
As a California native, I’ve been to Yosemite National Park many times throughout my life. But it was only recently that my husband and I traveled to Yosemite with our dog, Maya. Traveling to Yosemite with dogs is a great experience. However, almost like traveling with a baby, we planned a trip with shorter hikes, rest stops and, in general, a more laid-back itinerary. And we made revisions along the way to accommodate Maya if she was tired or hot.
Prior to our trip, I researched dog-friendly hiking trails and activities in Yosemite National Park, and was pleased to learn we had many options. My main concern was wildlife. Are dogs safe in the park? Rangers assured me that, yes, dogs are safe. While we hoped to see deer and bears (from a distance), we actually didn’t see any. We were disappointed, but, as a ranger told me, seeing wildlife in Yosemite doesn’t happen every day. But it’s a treasure if you do (and we have in the past). If you’re also traveling with kids, they may be interested in earning junior ranger badges.
Overall, Maya was a good traveler and did well on the 4.5-hour drive from our home in Los Angeles County to Yosemite’s south entrance, one of several gateways.
TravelingMom Tip: It’s always a good idea to check a national park’s website for planning your trip with pets.
Oakhurst Visitor Center
We were ready to stretch our legs by the time we reached the Oakhurst Visitor Center, about 37 miles from the park’s entrance. There, I met with Brooke Smith, director of public relations for Visit Yosemite | Madera County, who recommends stopping at the center for maps, information and insider tips before heading to the park.
“You learn how to get the most from your time in a new place, the animals you might meet, and the incredible eco-systems of the land. We can help you safely access the 1.4 million acres of the Sierra Nevada that surround Yosemite,” says Smith.
TravelingMom Tip: Plan before you go. This includes knowing the location of parking lots and trailheads. It will save you time driving the one-way Southside and Northside Drives straddling the Merced River. Also, be sure to stow food, including pet food, in bear lockers at trailheads.
Doggie Dos and Don’ts at Yosemite
At the park entrance, a friendly ranger gave Maya a treat, and handed us a flier with doggie dos and don’ts that included pet-friendly trails. While dogs are not allowed on some of the more popular trails, like Vernal Falls, they are allowed on paved trails, and in Glacier Point. Note: Pets must be on a leash not longer than six feet at all times.
Here’s where dogs are NOT allowed at Yosemite:
- Un-plowed roads covered in snow
- Undeveloped and wilderness areas
- Public buildings
- Lodging areas
- Walk-in campgrounds/campsites
- Group campsites
- Shuttle buses (which are not operating during COVID-19)
Yosemite Hospitality operates a dog kennel in Yosemite Valley from Memorial Day through Labor Day. to board a dog there, you must provide written proof of immunizations (rabies, distemper, parvo and Bordetella). Dogs must be at least 20 pounds. Smaller dogs may be considered if you provide a small kennel.
Yosemite with Dogs at Wawona
Home to a Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia trees, waterfalls and meadows, Wawona is typically less crowded than Yosemite Valley, the hub of the park’s popular natural attractions. In Wawona, we hiked the Chilnualna Fall Trail, comprised of five large cascades. While ambitious hikers can tackle the 8.2-mile round-trip trail, we opted for a shorter trek to the first waterfall. We followed a series of switchbacks where Maya explored as far she could on a 6-foot leash, climbing rocks like a mountain goat and sniffing every tree, her tail wagging excitedly. It was our first time on this lesser known trail and we all enjoyed it.
Later, we also took a leisurely stroll on the 3.5-mile round-trip Wawona Meadow Loop. Although we didn’t finish the loop, it was a beautiful, shaded trail circling a meadow still blooming with wildflowers.
Worth visiting is the Pioneer Yosemite History Museum. On past trips, we explored this area with our three kids, walking through various historic buildings from Yosemite’s different eras. For example, there’s a covered bridge that was built in 1857, and a gray barn that was used to repair travelers’ wagons. In addition, the center has information about Yosemite history.
TravelingMom Tip: Dogs are not allowed in the Mariposa Grove, so we didn’t visit on this trip. In fact, visitors are no longer allowed to drive to the grove. You can either walk the two miles to the grove, or take a shuttle once they begin operating again post COVID-19.
Wawona Tunnel and Tunnel View
An impressive sight, the 4,233-foot long Wawona Tunnel was blasted through solid granite bedrock in 1930, and dedicated in 1933. Upon exiting, be prepared to pull over and park in a lot for one of the most amazing – and most photographed – views looking eastward into Yosemite Valley. This is a must-stop for views of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall.
Exploring Yosemite Valley with Dogs
There are many sights to see in Yosemite Valley so it’s important to have a plan and know where to park. In addition to parking lots, there are places to stop along the one-way Southside and Northside Drives.
If you and your pup enjoy long walks, the approximately 12-mile, mostly flat Valley Loop trail leads to dog-friendly spots, such as Cook’s Meadow, Mirror Lake, and Lower Yosemite Falls. And the views are spectacular! Of course, you can just do a portion of this loop as well.
Since we had Maya with us and the weather was toasty, we drove from one spot to another. Fortunately, traffic was very light. But I think next time, I would like to park in the Sentinel Bridge area and walk to Lower Yosemite Falls, and Cook’s Meadow so we spend less time driving.
Walk to Bridalveil Fall
It’s always exciting to see Bridalveil Fall, which flows year-round. Although the short trail and parking lot are closed for maintenance until 2022, you can park on the side of the road. From there, it’s a short walk to the bridge and creek where you can see the waterfall in the distance flowing between Cathedral Rocks and Leaning Tower.
Oblivious to the waterfall, Maya enjoyed scampering over the rocks in the creek.
Have a Picnic at Cathedral Beach
There are many scenic places to enjoy a picnic in Yosemite. A few times we just pulled to the side of the road or at turnouts to enjoy the views, stretch our legs and eat a snack. Yosemite also has several designated picnic areas with tables, grills and vault toilets. For example, Cathedral Beach has a lovely woodsy picnic area and sandy beach by the Merced River at the foot of El Capitan.
During our August 2020 visit, the river was shallow but still deep enough for me to take a quick dip. But note, unfortunately, dogs are not allowed in the river.
See Sequoia Trees in Tuolumne Grove
While driving along the scenic Tiaga Road (open June – October), we saw a sign for Tuolumne Grove and decided to take a look. Situated about 16 miles from Yosemite Village, Tuolumne Grove is home to numerous Giant Sequoia trees.
The trail, Old Big Oak Flat Road, was paved, so we took Maya for a short stroll. The main trail is dog-friendly all the way to Hodgdon Meadows Campground. Maya’s nose was twitching with all the intoxicating pine and woodsy smells, and she quickly found a big stick to proudly carry on our walk.
Yosemite with Dogs: Tips from Maya
Limit driving. Whether it was the altitude or warm weather, Maya wasn’t her usual energetic self, especially the first day of our two-day visit to Yosement. While Maya usually loves car rides, travel time from our cabin 17 miles outside the park to scenic Tioga Road was at least three hours. On our second day in Yosemite, we primarily stayed in Yosemite Valley. Shorter distances (10-15 minutes) between stops was more relaxing.
Shorter hikes. The dog-friendly trails range from about one – 3.5 miles. For us, two shorter hikes a day worked best.
Stay hydrated. For this we were prepared. We brought Maya’s collapsible water bowl, snacks and several bottles of water in a cooler.
Where to Stay: Pet-Friendly Lodging
We had considered camping with Maya, but couldn’t get a reservation. In hindsight, it worked out for the best. After a day of hiking and sunshine, it was nice to have creature comforts in a cozy cabin.
We stayed at the dog-friendly Pines Resort in Bass Lake. Situated about 17 miles from park entrance, the Pines Resort has two-story chalets with a kitchen, living room, bedroom(s), and outdoor deck with a BBQ grill and table. Bass Lake is a destination in itself. The best part for Maya was swimming in the lake each day.
More Lodging Options
Tenaya Lodge also has pet-friendly accommodations and is located two miles from Yosemite’s south gate.
Yosemite Campgrounds include Upper Pines, and Hodgdon Meadows.
Making Reservations for Yosemite National Park
About a month before our trip, I made an online reservation to enter the park. In 2020, the cost is $35 online. Day-use visitors must book tickets in advance at www.recreation.gov. Note that you must enter the park on the first day of your reservation or it may be canceled.
Once you enter the park, your pass is good for seven consecutive days. If you are unable to get a reservation, check back later. The park releases more tickets two days before each date. Visitors with an overnight reservation in the park (campground, lodging or wilderness permit holders) don’t need a day use reservation.